Lesson 8 | Distinctions and deeper relationships

Not one "right" arc

A question that we are often asked by students is whether there is one right arc. To answer this question well, there are a few different issues we need to address.

Are There Wrong Arcs?

Most certainly—of three different kinds.
One kind of wrong arc would be an arc that implies false doctrine. This is the kind of arc that if the original author saw it, he would be very unhappy that someone was twisting his words to say something untrue. Any of us might produce such an arc, but probably not very often if we are honestly trying to understand the text.
A second kind of wrong arc would be an arc that implies true things, but not the truths from the passage at hand. In this case, the original author would react to your arc by saying something like, “That's true, but that is not what I meant.” The whole reason we arc with others and challenge conclusions is because we know that this sort of error is regularly present in all of our arcs. The hope, however, is that by studying together we will be able to discover many of our mistakes.
The third kind of wrong arc is an arc that is incomplete or that has misunderstood the logical relationships. This of course comes from being new to Arcing. For those with feedback or discussion enrollment, the feedback you have received on your assignments has been primarily focussed on errors of this sort. As we now get closer to the end of the course, these errors should become much less common.

Is There a Right Arc?

Yes, but not an authoritative arc.
If your arc has properly represented the original author's intent (and therefore by extension it represents the Divine Author's intent), then it is proper to call this a “right” arc. But of course this does not mean that there is not more to see in the passage. There most certainly is always more to see! It also doesn't mean that your arc now has inherent value as if it could be thought of as an improvement on the plain text of Scripture. Its value as a “right” arc is found in the fact that is faithfully represents the logical flow of God's invaluable Word.

Can There Be More Than One Right Arc?

Yes, there can.
Because no arc could ever capture all that there is to say in a biblical text, another arc most certainly could capture a different aspect of that text and likewise be “right.” In fact, even if two arcs contain different relationship choices or combine the propositions differently, this does not mean that both cannot be “right.” The reason being that no biblical author had an arc in mind when writing—the authors had meaning in mind. Thus, while we should not expect it to happen very often, certainly there will be times when two different ways of relating a passage via Arcing both capture the singular meaning of the author.