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Exegetical paper

Topic: Exegetical paper
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Exegetical Paper
Dear writer, for to write this paper you need to read clearly the instructions below. You must select a passage within the pentateuch (first 5 books of the bible) and write an in-depth explanation or interpretation of the text. If you have any question please feel free to contact me. below is the detailed instructions of the paper.
Rather than an audio-visual project the student may choose to write an exegesis from the Pentateuch. The following instructions describe the process of this type of paper. The process of exegesis has been defined in various ways, but all the definitions come down to the following: “the process of determining and expressing the meaning of the text as written by the authors (human and divine).”
In practice this means exegesis is a process of extracting in a careful and systematic manner the key theological truths that the authors include in a passage, both as a primary thrust of the passage and as supporting arguments. In other words, Exegesis is the process of stating the author’s main point of a passage of Scripture in a succinct sentence, and then showing how the rest of the passage supports that. The extraction of these truths, however, is not the final goal of exegesis. Rather, it is the application of these truths to a present day situation. This application may be done through preaching, teaching, or even through personal devotions. Normally, however, the process of exegesis is thought of as the first step in solid, Biblical preaching.
Process and Conclusion
Exegesis begins with solid inductive Bible study. As such, the process of exegesis can be very demanding. It demands time. It demands dedicated study. It demands the development and use of a number of tools. In reality, it is a lifelong process. But it is also one that has many lasting rewards.
Bible Study and exegesis are both arts and sciences. They are sciences in that they follow a methodology. They are also arts since they require the ability to correlate and make application creatively. Since exegesis is somewhat of an art, the following steps (which are extracted from guidelines I give during “Inductive Bible Study”) are designed to provide an outline that may be altered depending on experience and skill level. For example, once you do a word study for one passage, you do not need to redo the study when the same word appears in a new passage, but you can draw upon the work already done. Likewise, the depth of a word study depends on the linguistic tools you have at your disposal.
1. Select a passage. When you are doing a series of studies on a book, this is less of a problem. For class papers, we tend to take passages at random. In either case, look for natural breaks in the text to indicate the limits of the passage for which you are working. This section is often called a pericope. For class purposes, a passage or pericope of 5-10 verses is generally adequate. When you are preparing a sermon, you will find that this is also adequate in most cases. In narrative material, especially in the OT, longer passages may be necessary, depending on the depth at which you wish to work.
A. Make sure that the passage has clearly developed limits. Is it part of a larger section? If so, how is it related? In this process, do not get hung up on chapter and verse divisions.
B. Observe how the selected passage fits into the larger sections around it. To do this, you need to know something about your passage. Sometimes this relationship is rather clear. For example, Joshua 1:1-9 serves as a bridge between the end of Moses’ command of the people (Deut. 34), and Joshua’s period of command. At other times, the incident is not so clear. For example, the case of Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar (Gen 38) seems to be not only out of place but purposeless. It is not until we reach the chronology in 1 Chronicles 4-15 that we realize that this is the ancestry of David, and thus, also the ancestry of Jesus. It is only at this point that some of the true significance emerges, although there are lessons that can be drawn from Gen 38 regarding honesty before God, and faithfulness to one’s word.
C. Make careful note of this “literary context.” I would begin with the overall context of the OT. Where does this fit into the Bible? Following this, we ask where the passage fits into the book with which we are working, and finally within the larger context of historical narrative or other literary genre.
2. Read the passage. While this seems obvious, this is too often the stage where many of us fall down. This stage is Observation, or in terms of our Bible study methods finding the Plot (or the What). The goal is to become thoroughly familiar with every nuance or detail of the passage.
A. Read the passage prayerfully, asking God for insight. Read the passage, slowly savoring every word. Read the passage repeatedly. Read the passage in its context (at least the immediate context, although the entire book should be read if possible). Read the passage after being away from it for a while. Some exegetes have stated that they read the passage at least 25 times at this stage.
B. Make sure you do your inductive study as you work through the section.
C. Read the passage in several modern translations. The most significant for this purpose are the New American Standard Updated, the New International, and the Revised Standard Versions (or even better, the New RSV). Some enjoy using the Amplified Version, or a paraphrase (such as the Living Bible) or two, but a word of caution must be noted here: translator interpretation is much more evident in these, and our goal at this stage is to avoid someone else’s interpretation.
D. Having done your inductive study, develop a thesis statement that summarizes the theme of the passage. How you do this depends upon your inductive method. What you are looking for is the primary idea the author was trying to get across.
3. Evaluate the Word Usage. As you read the passage, note the word usage.
A. As you read through different translations, look for wording or grammatical differences. These may be indicators of exegetical problems. For example, note Psalm 8:5. The KJV states, “thou hast made him (man) a little lower than the angels.” The NAU says, “You hast made him a little lower than God.” The NIV says, “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings.” The RSV says, “Thou hast made him a little less than God.” Obviously this is a wide spread of interpretations, and indicates a subject that may require a word study (i.e., an in depth analysis of how the Bible uses a specific word).
B. Isolate and analyze significant words. These come through as you look at different translations. Are there words that will clearly make a difference in the meaning of the passage? Are there any repeated words? Are there any theologically loaded words? An exhaustive word study is very time consuming, and should only be done for the more crucial terms.
You will notice that up to this point, your entire work (except for a word study) has been in the text you are studying. It is only at this point that you are really ready to go into the secondary tools. You now know what your questions are. You also have a feel for the difficulties of the text. You now know what to look for.
4. Research the historical and cultural background. Until now, you have tried to work with just the literary context and the broad-brush stroke understanding of history that you have gotten from your overview courses. That allows you to place the passage in an approximate time frame. Now you want to get a more specific historical context for the issue at hand. There are a number of works that can help here, including the specific commentaries on the book you are studying. First, you should be sure you have a very broad understanding of the entire Ancient Near East, and the history of Israel, but these are not issues that we should explore every time we enter a specific passage.
A. Date the passage. This is especially important for any passage that relates historical events. Is there anything in the passage that gives it a historical date? In the case of poetry, we are more concerned with the date of its composition. For example, Psalm 3 begins with the observation that it was composed during the Absalom revolt. On the other hand, Psalm 1, which is characterized as a wisdom Psalm, is virtually undatable. In the case of prophetic literature, we are interested in the date it might have been delivered by the prophet. If there is not a clear date, try to bracket the pericope by setting an earliest and latest possible date. For this course, most of the material (Exodus through Deuteronomy) dates between the period of about 1450-1400 BC. The book of Genesis dates earlier, but the earliest dates that we can have any confidence of are those of Abraham who was born about 2166 BC.
B. Now, ask about the historical background. The question is, how does this historical background help you to understand the passage at hand? For example, when we look at any of the material in Exodus and Leviticus, it was given while Israel was at Mt. Sinai being converted into a nation. This has to be kept in mind when we look at any specific passage.
C. Third, look at the social or cultural setting. Are there cultural elements that affect the text? We have addressed some of those throughout the course, such as the distinction between OT law and the laws of the nations around Israel.
D. Research the historical foreground. The foreground includes elements directly impinging on the issue at hand. Here, we ask the question, what is happening? Here we might use the illustration of Deuteronomy. The nation is on the plain of the Jordan River, poised to cross over, but waiting for Moses to transfer the mediatorship.
E. Research the geographical setting. Is the passage localized in any way? What, if any, significance is that? For this you should consult a good Bible Atlas, of which there are a number.
5. Define the literary context. Now that we have a better feel for the historical context, we need to return to the literary aspect of the book.
A. What function does the passage serve? Is it part of a grouping that has a discernible beginning, middle, and end?
B. Examine its placement. How does it fit within the Bible, OT, division, book, and section that you are dealing with?
C. Analyze the detail. Is there any special perspective to the text? If so, what?
D. What about the author? Who is viewed as the author and why?
6. Examine form or structure. The structure or pattern that the author followed may be of significance. For example, the fact that Deuteronomy is structured (i.e., has the form of) a suzerain-vassal treaty is highly suggestive. Likewise, the fact that the last section of Hosea is structured in the form of a divorce proceeding is also very suggestive.
A. Identify the general literary type or genre. Is the text historical narrative, a story embedded in narrative, a saying, a song, a parable, or even a law?
B. Suggest a life setting (Sitz im Leben). In essence, this places the account within a specific aspect of the life. For example, the account of David and Bathsheba begins with the Sitz im Leben of David as King who is supposed to lead his troops in battle. Again, this may be of somewhat marginal usage although it is sometimes very helpful to help recall the exact issues involved.
C. Are there any figures of speech that need to be analyzed? Figures of speech are one of the more problematic issues of Biblical studies. Everyone recognizes that they are there, but there is controversy over particular items. Most figures of speech used in the OT are familiar from English usage (e.g., metaphor, simile, hyperbole, irony, etc.), although there seems to be more extended usage of figures of speech in the Bible than we commonly suppose.
7. Analyze the Structure. The question you should have here is do you have a good feel for the flow of the passage – where does it start, where does it end? How does it get to its destination?
A. Outline the passage. As you do so, look for new subjects, issues, changing scenes and speakers. Much of this information you will already be aware of from your inductive study. As you do this, think through the sections and ask how they support the thesis you have developed. As you do this, you may find yourself “tweaking” your thesis – which is perfectly legitimate, and even to be desired.
B. Look for patterns such as reversals, contrasts, repetitions. Also note any changes in subject matter that signal a new movement or sub-theme in the passage. Look especially for transition words such as “therefore,” “for,” “but,” etc.
C. As you look for patterns, evaluate the intentionality, i.e., is that pattern intentional and used by the author to prove a point, or co-incidental?
8. Check out the Biblical Context. Is the passage used elsewhere in Scripture? If so, how? (I.e., is it used by quote, allusion, parallel or by some other means?) What else hinges on how this passage is understood elsewhere? This is especially valuable when working with NT quotes of the OT, but there are often places where the OT writer makes allusions to earlier OT writers. For example, Ecclesiastes seems to have a number of allusions to Gen 3 and the fall.
9. Evaluate Your Theme or Key Point of the Passage. Before you go on to the theological issues and the secondary literature, you need to stop and reevaluate the main point of what is being said. Based on the data already developed, by this point you should have a good feel for what you see as the key theme for the passage at hand. As you do so, you need to recognize that this is still somewhat tentative because you will want to check it against the work of other writers. Since your theme has been developed inductively, your work now serves as a check on what you read from the work of others – i.e., you have now reached a point where you can fairly evaluate their conclusions. (Of course, at the same time, their work can serve as a check on yours.)
10. What are the Key Theological Issues? Prior to examining what others have to say about the passage, you need to evaluate what the passage suggests about the nature of God and man’s relationship to Him. These issues should have become apparent as you developed your principles, but by placing this step here, we ensure that we indeed have looked at those issues. Again, this point has been developed inductively, so your work here serves as a check on what you read from the work of others.
A. Locate the passage theologically. To what general doctrine can you relate the passage?
B. Identify the specific issues raised or solved by the passage. Does the passage directly address theological issues, or do they arise as side issues of the main point?
C. Analyze the theological contribution of the passage. Weigh the passage.
D. Develop the options to key “exegetical questions.” After weighing the options, make a tentative choice. You may discover new issues as you read the commentaries. You may also change your position. In your paper, you should include the most significant exegetical or theological issues at the appropriate places, giving the most significant options, and the one you prefer (and of course it should be substantiated).
11. Use of Secondary Literature. At this point, you are finally ready to start reading what others have to say about your particular passage. Some bibliography should have been developed as you have done your preliminary work, but more of it will be developed now.
A. Commentaries. Begin with exegetical (i.e., not devotional) commentaries. A good way to begin is with a single volume commentary such as The Bible Knowledge Commentary or The Wycliffe Bible Commentary. These works will probably only have a paragraph or two on your particular passage, but that paragraph will put it within a context, and thus give you a quick initial check for the direction you are going. Many of these also have good bibliographies. After this, use commentaries on single books. There are any number of these, depending upon which Bible book you are looking at. The desire here is to get a number of different perspectives, so you should make sure that you include both “liberal” and “conservative” commentaries. As a rule, liberal commentaries never look at conservative works, while good conservative works do address the more significant liberal ones.
B. Other items. As you read, you will find other works that address your passage or key aspects of it on which you can then draw. These include journal articles, whole books, or sections of books. Check Scripture indices for references to your passage.
12. Write Your Paper. Properly done, exegesis “almost writes itself.” What I mean by this is that your thesis statement has been developed for you (i.e., it comes from the theological main point). The outline you have already developed is the primary outline of your paper, although you still need to develop your introduction that consists of three parts – stating the problems of your passage, as well as the purpose and the procedure of your paper. The meat of your paper is the material you have developed explaining each verse, showing how it supports your thesis, and exploring the most significant theological and grammatical points you have found.
A. Structure. Exegetical papers should generally follow the university standards for a quality research paper. That is, the paper should be of the prescribed length and follow standard guidelines regarding margins. It should have an introduction that draws your reader in, presents the thesis, and transitions to the main body of the text. While you will want to incorporate many of your conclusions regarding the background or introductory matters (i.e., author, historical background, etc.,) this should not be the focus of your paper. As a rule of thumb, these preliminaries should cover no more than one fourth of the overall paper. The introduction and conclusion should be no more than another fourth, which means that your discussion of the details (i.e., the points you derived as you read through the text) should be at least half of the paper. You should include a Bibliography showing all works you consulted at the end of the paper. While I am aware that some style books assert you should only list the actual works you cite, I maintain that for college work you should show everything you looked at. The reason for this is that your professor will probably want to see if you had at least considered the works of given individuals (especially the more significant figures in the field). While you may have rejected the ideas of a given writer, you should indicate that you have at least looked at them (and of course if they expressed any views that you directly contradict, you should also acknowledge their perspective and show why you reject it).
B. Style. An exegetical paper, like any formal paper, should adhere to the standards set forth in any English textbook or stylebook. That means it should be “typed (double-spaced),” it should have a title page, pages should be numbered correctly, and all sources should be properly documented (NOTE: these are the same standards taught in expository writing or standard basic composition courses). The two most dominant styles are Turabian and MLA, and many professors will accept either, although you should check for each course. Once a style has been chosen, follow it meticulously and consistently. DO NOT GUESS! If you are unsure regarding how to make a bibliographic or footnote entry, look it up. (A wise investment would be a copy of the style manual you plan on using.)
C. Grammar and Syntax. As you write your paper, you must be critically aware of the good English composition skills developed in expository writing courses. Areas which historically have tended to create problems include: areas of agreement (including subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent), consistent verb tense, possessives and plurals, sentence fragments and run-on sentences, and spelling (if your word processor does not do automatic spell-checking, run your paper through a spell-checker – it only takes a few minutes). One issue of style that is not often addressed is the issue of pronouns referring to God. Current style books still recommend that when you refer to God, He, His, Him, etc., should be capitalized.
14. Conclusions. An exegetical paper is the core of solid Bible teaching, especially a good sermon. That is, your outline is the skeleton, and the explanations of the various verses are the sinews, cartilage, and meat. The main thing you need to add to move towards a good sermon would be pertinent, powerful illustrations to demonstrate your points (continuing our metaphor, these would be the skin, i.e., that which covers the other work and makes it attractive). As such, your paper should have a smooth flow to it. While we have followed a step by step process, the final result should appear “seamless,” with each section flowing smoothly into the next. Here is one of the areas where exegesis is an art. The final point that you should include in your exegetical paper is some form of application.
With the submission of your exegetical paper as per the written assignment, you will have completed this overview of the Pentateuch. Congratulations on your completion. I trust that you will understand how it lays a foundation for the rest of the Bible. I also hope that you will have a better understanding of some of the issues involved in these books, while I do recognize that we have not completely resolved many of them. If you have any further questions or suggestions, I would appreciate hearing from you.
Specific Assignment
Write a 10-12 page “exegetical” paper on a passage in the Pentateuch as outlined above. In addition to the guidelines listed in this lesson, the following criteria will be expected.
A. The final paper should be no less than 10 pages, double-spaced, typed, plus bibliography. The bibliography should show that you consulted at least 6-8 works beyond the Bible and the textbooks. Use Times New Roman or Courier New 12 point font.
B. Spelling, grammar, and syntax will be considered in the paper grade. Since the paper is NOT a conversation, it should be written in a formal, scholarly style. This requirement precludes the inclusion of contractions, colloquial wording, and a paper that has obviously not been proofread (Use a spell and grammatical checker).
C. You need to give proper credit for information taken from other works. A guideline to follow is that any time you quote, it must be credited. Other information or perspectives should be credited if they are unique to one or two sources. These citations may follow Turabian, MLA style, or your school’s style manual, but style should be consistent and correct. Footnotes are preferred, but endnotes are acceptable.

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