Bracketing is a graphical tool used to study the logical flow and discern the main point of a passage.
The way we connect things we say is of utmost importance. Whether I seek to please God in order that he might love me, or because he has loved me will affect my eternal destination. Likewise, discerning the main point of a text is critical to understanding it correctly. But how does one ensure that he/she is seeing the author’s main point in the text and not just his/her own favorite point? Bracketing is a tool that helps achieve these aims by forcing you to consider every clause in a paragraph and account for how it relates to the passage as a whole.
For example, consider what Jesus says in John 12:47-48.
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
What does Jesus mean by saying that he will not judge the person but his words will? The answer is found by paying close attention to the connecting word at the beginning of verse 49.
For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.
“For” is a word that indicates a grounding statement—in this case a grounding statement of explanation. Why is it that Jesus’ words will judge the one who does not keep them even though judgment was not Jesus’ purpose in coming? Because Jesus’s words are the Father’s words. The point is not that Jesus will not judge in any way, for several other passages make clear that he will. The point is that Jesus is not coming independent of the Father to be harsh and supply new reasons for judgement. Jesus came to save, not to judge. Still, we must be careful, for since his words are from God the Father we will have to give account for how we responded to them. But these words are not only a basis of judgment, but also the way to eternal life. Therefore Jesus continued to speak.
And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (verse 50)
Want to learn more? Take an online Biblearc course.