Continuing in this mini-series on sentence diagramming, I want to keep the focus on two things: (a) make it as simple and understandable as possible and (b) explain why this is important to the disciple-making process. There are more technical ways for breaking down texts of Scripture, but I will leave that for your Greek syntax and exegesis class in seminary. :) The goal behind this mini-series is to help disciple makers employ a very practical method for training believers to handle Scripture, consequently bringing greater confidence and consistency in applying it to their lives.

In the previous post, I explained the basic set up for sentence diagramming. In this post, I want to explain propositions and their relationship to one another. Remember, a proposition is simply a phrase that makes an assertion or point, and a verse may have several propositions therein. Coordinate clauses are propositions of equal importance. Subordinate clauses are propositions that modify or explain the lead proposition. Knowing the difference between the two will determine how you diagram a sentence and learn the thought flow of the text. To be clear, we are not seeking to diagram the grammar of the text (relationship between words); rather, we are diagramming the concepts/ideas in the text (relationship between propositions).

Once the document is set up (see part 2), the fun begins.

  1. Start with putting the main clause/proposition in the upper left hand corner of your document/paper.
  2. Indent all subordinate clauses.
  3. Line up all coordinate clauses.
  4. Connect related main clauses.
  5. Finally, explain the relation between clauses/propositions.

One point should be made here. You are going to have to make subjective calls on whether propositions or subordinate or coordinate clauses. The important thing is that you are consistent throughout your diagramming and focus on the flow of the text (there is no inerrant or perfect sentence diagramming!). The benefit of using a word processor is that you can make changes rather easy in the diagramming process. Once the propositions are diagrammed by coordinate and subordinate clauses, the next step is to determine the relationship between them.

Before we jump to learning the various types of coordinate and subordinate clauses, let’s revisit 1 John 1 from my last post and update the sentence diagramming. What you will see is how I determined coordinate and subordinate clauses.

So that I don’t unload everything all at once, part 4 will focus on explaining the relationship between clauses now that we have the idea/thought flow diagrammed.