GUIDELINES FOR EXEGETICAL PAPER (ENGLISH
This paper contains the primary steps to be taken in a full-blown exegesis of
a Biblical passage. When it is completed, you should be ready to add the homiletical
components of sermon preparation and then to preach the sermon.
The paper must follow the following steps, in order. In
your paper, please give each heading and then do the work asked for. This paper
is not a typical term paper in the sense of having an ordered
introduction, statement of purpose, development of thought, and conclusion.
These are not needed. You should begin on the first page with the "Text" section and proceed through the paper according to the outline below. The final
product will be a collection of the separate sections below, but they are all
ordered in a logical sequence that should help in sermon preparation. (For more
instructions on the mechanics of producing the paper, see the last page.)
In grading the paper, I will not in most cases be looking for one "correct" exegesis of a passage. What I will look for is a rigorous text-based
approach. That is, I will expect to see support, from the words and sentences
of the text, for any assertions made. This means including chapter and verse
references liberally in the paper, especially when referring to other parts
of Scripture (i.e., the equivalent of footnoting when referring to outside works).
This also means rigorously rejecting the temptation to speculate about authors'
or characters' interior motives, or the reasons for arguments or events unfolding
as they do, unless the text itself gives specific clues into such motives
or reasons. Be careful here: some (many?) commentaries will include such
speculations; however, just because they do this does not mean it is legitimate
as a tool of exegesis.
Note that the work going into this paper will undoubtedly be more than you
will have available to you week-by-week for sermon preparation. However, in
doing this in-depth exercise, you should learn the essential steps for a proper
exegesis. The more you do this, the easier it will become and the more it will
be second nature to you. Enjoy!
- Text. Write out the text of the passage chosen, single-spaced, including verse numbers and indications of your own paragraph divisions,
from one of the following translations: KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NIV,
NJPSV, REB, RAB, NLT. Please indicate which translation you have chosen. (1/2 - 1
page) NO COMMENTARY NEEDED.
- Historical Context. Focus here is on information not directly
gathered from the text itself or its literary contexts (i.e., things such
as dates, international situation, larger setting within Israel's history,
etc.). Outside sources (such as Bible commentaries, dictionaries, encyclopedias,
or histories) should be used (and footnoted) here. (1 page)
- Literary Context. (1) Discuss the placement of the
passage in its immediate and larger contexts within the book, and (2) justify
the paragraph divisions you have provided above. Look for clues in the immediately
preceding and following contexts that show how the passage you are considering
fits into its context (i.e., why it is where it is). In this process, you
should carefully examine the surrounding paragraphs and then the surrounding
chapters (or, perhaps you might find it easier to reverse the process, going
from the larger chapter level to the more immediate paragraph level). Be as
specific as you can here. NO COMMENTARY NEEDED. (2 pages)
- Paragraph Analysis. Identify the theme of each paragraph in
one sentence per paragraph. This may be a key sentence taken directly from
the text or a statement in your own words of the paragraph's theme.
Justify your judgment in each case (i.e., give your reasons for it).
NO COMMENTARY NEEDED. (1 page)
- Verse Analysis. Comment here on important features of individual
verses. (In a longer passage, focus on each paragraph instead of each verse.)
Do not merely summarize each verse (or paragraph) or re-state the obvious.
Do comment on the flow of the argument or story-line from verse to
verse (or paragraph to paragraph), including commenting upon why certain things
may be stated in the particular way that they are, why certain statements
are included where they are, why there may be omissions of expected materials,
etc. Comment as needed on important theological words or ideas. Notice where
else in the book or in other Biblical books certain words or ideas are found.
You may use concordances or theological wordbooks here, including any cross-referencing
guide you like (such as that found within most Bibles themselves), but
you may not use a commentary here. Do your own work here. NO COMMENTARY
NEEDED. (2-3 pages)
- Theme. Provide a one-sentence statement of the theme of the
entire text (i.e., what is the author's main point in this text?). This should
be based upon the various stages of your detailed analysis above, especially
building upon your statements of theme for each paragraph. Please explain
the basis for your decision. NO COMMENTARY NEEDED. (1/2 page)
- Exegetical (Historical) Outline. This is an "exegetical" (or
"historical") outline of the text, reflecting the theme. This is the type
of outline you will find in most commentaries, i.e., historically oriented
to the arguments or events of a text. Include verse numbering for every portion
of the outline. NO COMMENTARY NEEDED. (1/3-1/2 page)
- Homiletical (Sermon) Outline. This is a "principlized"
outline, expressed in timeless terms, not historically oriented to the text.
However, it should derive from the exegetical outline and, like that outline,
it should also include verse numbering. That is, all the main and subsidiary
points, including the boundaries of each section, must correspond to the points
in the exegetical outline. Please also include a one-sentence restatement
of the theme (point "f." above), statements about the target audience and
a desired audience response, and a concluding challenge. NO COMMENTARY NEEDED. (1/2 page)
Note: Page numbers here are suggested guides only. They
may be adjusted as needed, provided the asked-for material is covered
adequately within the confines of 8-10 pages.
Further Note: The model here - of several discrete steps comprising
an exegesis of a text - comes in significant part from the following work, which
students are encouraged to consult:
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Exegetical Theology. Grand Rapids:
Style and Formatting Guidelines for Papers
The papers are to be neatly typed, doubled-spaced, using no larger than
a 12-point font; dot-matrix printers are strongly discouraged. Please number
the pages, use a "ragged right" margin (i.e., not justified right),
and staple the pages together.
Any standard scheme of footnotes, endnotes, or text notes found in Kate L.
Turabian'sA Manual for Writers is acceptable, but it must be used consistently.
Full and proper documentation must be provided for any sources used, including
a separate bibliography of any works consulted at the end of the paper. Study
Bibles and Bible handbooks are not adequate resources for graduate-level papers
and should not be cited. All listings should be by author and title of book,
commentary, or article [not editor!], with the series name and editor
appearing at the appropriate place.
Use commentaries and outside sources judiciously, and only where asked for.
You will be penalized if you refer to a commentary where not asked for, or merely
to state the obvious.
Standard academic writing procedures must be followed, including the following:
- You must write in your own words.
- You must give proper credit when quoting from another work-or even when
simply referring to material you have gathered from that work.
- You must write in good English. Students who may have trouble with writing
of English are expected to have their paper proofread by someone conversant
in English writing skills prior to the production of the paper.
Failure to pay attention to matters in this section will adversely affect
the paper's grade.
David M. Howard, Jr.