There It Is!

Perhaps you have sat in Bible studies where this has happened.  The text being studied might be something like Ephesians 2:21.  The next question in the booklet asks something about the term “temple.”  It also has a string of cross-references with it.  So the leader assigns references to different ones in the group.  One by one these are read out.

“Ok, I’ve got Matthew 12:6, ‘I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.’ Yep, temple, ok.”

“Ok, I’ve got Revelation 7:15, ‘They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in the temple’ – yep, temple, there it is.”

“Ok, I’ve got Acts 2:46, ‘And day by day, attending the temple…” – ok, yep, temple!”

“Ok, I’ve got John 2:14, ‘In the temp…’ there it is!”

These may have been carefully selected cross-references to provide helpful insight into the meaning in Ephesians 2:21, but they have served no purpose other than giving people a chance to practice finding Bible references and play a game of word recognition.

Maybe, like me, you have found yourself sitting through moments like this, wondering what the point of it all is?

Where does this come from?  Let us assume for a moment that the person who wrote the Bible study questions had a plan in their selection of cross-references (this is an assumption).  Then surely the value will come from taking at least a moment or two to recognize more than just the presence of the word?  Surely it should involve some thought as to the use of the term in that context and how that might influence our understanding of the focus text for the evening?

So where does this practice come from?  Is it, perhaps, the example of preachers who use cross-references essentially as time-fillers, failing to make any sense of why they have gone to the verses or what differences they make to the understanding of the target text?

As I have written before, there are not too many reasons to go to other passages when preaching.  (Here is my low fence post, and here is part 1 and part 2 of a post on cross-referencing.)

When you do go to another text, make sure it is clear what you are looking at and why.

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2 thoughts on “There It Is!

  1. What a joy to find a preaching site that agrees with my unspoken dislike of cross-references in sermons.

    I confess that when I have had a sermon foisted upon me that was chock-full of unexplained, unexegeted cross-references, the only thing it ever added to me was the suspicion that the preacher had just recently figured out how to use a concordance.

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