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!

  1. 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.

  2. 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)

  3. 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)

  4. 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)

  5. 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)

  6. 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)

  7. 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)

  8. 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: Baker, 1981.


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:

Failure to pay attention to matters in this section will adversely affect the paper's grade.

David M. Howard, Jr.