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Steps to Exegesis

Step 1: Read Several Translations of the Passage

Note differences between the translations which might effect your interpretation, and decide which translation to use.

Step 2: Determine the Setting of the Passage

Find answers to the following questions:

1) External context

–By whom was the book written?

–To whom was the book written?

–When was the book written?

–From where was the book written?

–For what purpose was the book written?

–What genre of literature is the author following?

2) Internal context—

If possible, read through the whole book or several surrounding chapters, but at least read the entire chapter which includes your passage.

–What has already happened/been said?

–What will yet happen/be said?

Step 3: Investigate any historical background information which you will need to understand the passage.

Step 4: State the “Central Theme”–create a simple sentence which concisely states the overall theme of the passage and which can hold the various points together thematically.

Step 5: Analyze the Passage

1) Outline the overall form and structure of the passage (how does the passage break down logically into subpoints or themes?)

2) Consult commentaries to discover the opinions of others on your passage

3) Identify parallel passages which support your analysis

Step 6: Application

Identify ways in which the passage speaks to contemporary life.

***Not all of these steps will be equally relevant or necessary for every passage.

Outline for an Exegetical Paper/Lesson/Sermon

Step 1: Introduction

Your introduction should indicate the topic/text you intend to discuss and should state your preliminary thesis/central theme about that topic or passage. It should do this in a way which makes the topic seem relevant or interesting.

***NOTE: In studying the passage, you can’t come up with a central theme until you’ve done steps 1 and 2 on the “Steps to Exegesis” so that you can understand what the author is trying to do. But in writing the paper, sermon, or lesson, you will generally want to put the central theme somewhere in the introduction, so that your audience can see where you’re going.

Step 2: Background of the Passage

Your next several paragraphs should report on the findings of your investigation in steps 2 and 3 of the “Steps to Exegesis.” Discuss the historical context in which the book was written, and then the internal context of the passage to explain how it fits into the overall argument. Explain any historical, cultural, political, or geographical facts which one needs to know to understand the passage which are not include in your discussion of the external background.

Step 3: Analysis

Discuss each section of the passage on the basis of the outline you created at step 5 of the “Steps to Exegesis.” Your discussion of each section should be organized by the central theme from the introduction. Discuss each verse or block of verses individually, using the central theme to hold your remarks together.

As you discuss each section, mention any relevant differences between the translations which might effect interpretation (there may not be any). Also discuss the conclusions of the various commentators and state which view you support and which you reject, and why you support that particular view. Once your own view has been stated, briefly discuss any relevant parallel passages which would support your view.

Step 4: Conclusion

1) Restate the central theme and summarize the conclusions of your exegesis

2) Note how the principles observed apply to our situation

3) Closing remarks

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