Basics of an Exegetical Paper
A exegetical paper is an essay, not a report. A report is a presentation of information gleaned from research, whereas an essay is a reasoned investigation that makes definite assertions and supports and defends those assertions. Some marks of a good paper are: clarity of expression, rigor in argumentation, correctness in form, balance in judgment, fairness in handling opposing views, breadth of coverage, discipline in focus, and plausibility of conclusions in light of all the relevant evidence.
The exegetical paper follows standard academic writing procedures (this does not mean it must be boring). This means that the paper is written in your own words, with proper credit given when quoting or referring to words or ideas from another person. The paper should also be written in good English, which includes proper spelling and grammar as well as prose that is free from informal English (slang, appeals to the reader, contractions, etc.). The text should be clear, coherent, and as concise as possible—wordiness does not equal scholarliness.
Elements of Exegesis
This section seeks to lay out the process of writing an exegetical paper, not the exegetical method itself. For a discussion of how to do exegesis, or the questions to ask in exegesis, see either your professor or one of the many good books explaining the process, such as these:
The writing of an exegetical paper typically entails the following phases:
- Preparation – choose a text.
- Exegesis – Explore and interact with the text itself. This stage involves your interaction with the text, not with secondary sources (e.g., commentaries, articles, etc.). Observe before interpreting and responding. Always let the text speak to you as you prayerfully yield to it.
- Research – Explore secondary sources on your text. Create and explore your bibliography of sources – reference works (Bible dictionaries, theological dictionaries, etc.), commentaries, articles, essays from collected volumes (polygraphs), other books that deal with your passage, genre, form, or topics raised by the passage and identified in your exegesis.
- Consolidation – Correct, refine, and confirm your exegesis based upon your research. Finalize your thoughts, claims, and conclusions regarding the passage. Develop the outline for your paper as the final step of consolidation – bring your thoughts to paper and begin to think about how it all fits together.
- Writing – Write your paper following all the steps of good writing. Make sure to leave time to edit your paper and to have someone else (e.g., your professor, your committee chairman, the Scribe: Covenant’s resource center for theological writing) look at it.
Outline of an Exegetical Paper
The typical exegetical paper is comprised of the following five sections:
- Introduction – The introduction of an exegetical paper serves the same purpose as all introductions and yet has some features that are unique to this genre. In addition to the general introduction (giving the text being studied, thesis, etc.) the introduction of an exegetical paper must also introduce the text. Components often included are:
- Literal translation
- Literary context and flow of thought
- Literary genre – of both the larger text of which the passage is a part and the passage itself
- Literary forms – found within the passage
- Structure of passage
- Commentary – This is the verse-by-verse comments upon the passage. Constantly ask is this observation relevant for interpretation and explanation—it is not necessary to comment upon everything in a passage. Components often included are:
- Grammar and syntax
- Semantic analysis
- Socio-historical background
- Motif-historical background (e.g., OT themes, other influences)
- Literary analysis and figures of speech
- Interpretation – This section returns to the passage as a whole and seeks to interpret the passage in light of the information given in the preceding sections of the paper. It is here that meaning is given to the information previously presented, including:
- Main theme/key thought
- Theological significance
- Conclusion – In the conclusion, tie all of the information presented together and return to the thesis presented in the introduction.
- Bibliography – Lastly, list all of the sources that you cited in your paper.
Format of an Exegetical Paper
Unless your professor requests otherwise, the following conventions are recommended.
- The paper should be typed and double-spaced using a clear, non-ornamental, serif font. Examples of acceptable fonts include Times New Roman or Palatino. The text of the paper should be set in 12-point type with footnotes in 10-point.
- Margins are typically 1″ on all sides.
- Page numbers should be included on all pages in a place that remains consistent throughout the paper (i.e., top right on every page, bottom center on every page, etc.).
- Only one space (not two) should be placed after the terminal punctuation of a sentence.
- Titles of books and other longer works should be italicized, not underlined. Titles of articles, essays, parts of longer works, or other shorter works should be enclosed in quotation marks.
EXEGESIS PAPER GUIDELINES
REL110 / Introduction to Biblical Studies / Dr Michael Andres
Exegesis Paper Research Due: November 19
Exegesis Paper Due: December 8
In this paper, you will interpret a biblical passage utilizing various biblical study resources. This is a formal research paper. You are expected to use sources, to document their use, in Chicago Style of Citation for Humanities, and to include a bibliography. Papers that are not adequately documented will be graded down substantially. Papers will be graded on both content and form. Final papers should be 2500 words max. See Submission Guidelines for correct format of paper. Please note that papers should be submitted hard copy to instructor at class time and also electronically to the drop box on the course synapse page ('calendar' or 'assignments' section for Dec 8). Late papers will be graded down one-half letter grade per day. A typed rough draft showing research conforming to all minimum requirements below is due on Nov 19. This early draft should be organized, readable, and include full citations, but need not be in paragraph form. This rough draft will be given a mark of satisfactory or unsatisfactory and returned to student (no score toward final grade), but no final paper will be accepted on Dec 8 unless research is turned in on Nov 19.
The primary goal of the final paper is to provide your interpretation of a biblical passage of your choice (a list of possible passages is provided below). I will be looking for how you interpret the passage according to its literary, historical, cultural, theological, and biblical contexts. To facilitate your interpretation of the author’s purposes and the original readers’ understanding of the passage, you should consult various biblical studies resources. Below are the minimum interactions with outside sources that I will be looking for in your papers. These resources should be used to enhance your own interpretation, not a substitute for it. It should be clear how the resources you use aid your interpretation of the passages. Somewhere in your paper you should interpret your passage verse-by-verse or paragraph-by-paragraph; but an overall interpretation should also be clearly elucidated. Your paper will be graded on the basis of your interaction with the passage itself and your utilization of secondary sources.
Bible Dictionary and/or Encyclopedia
Select at least two topics that relate to your passage, and look these topics up in two different Bible dictionaries or encyclopedias. Possible topics could include a key custom (e.g. sacrifice, priest/priesthood, king, etc.), theological term (sin, covenant, wisdom, etc.), person, or place. You should select topics that will help you to understand the passage better. It should be clear why you chose these topics, if two or more sources differed, and how this information helps to better understand the passage.
Pick a key term that occurs in your passage. Make clear why this word is a key term for understanding your passage. Look this term up in an exhaustive concordance (be certain to pick a concordance for the version of the Bible you are using!). There is no need to footnote usage of a concordance. You should make personal note of the following items, but only report information that turns out to be relevant to the interpretation of your passage: How frequently does this term appear in the Old Testament (you should pick a word that occurs at least five times in the OT)? In which book(s) of the OT does it appear most? Does the term appear elsewhere in your book? Read all the passages in your book where that term is used (or in at least five places outside of your book). How does your examination of this word in other contexts help you to understand its usage in your passage?
Select at least two biblical commentaries that deal with this passage. At least one of them should be an extensive commentary on that book. Do not use two one-volume commentaries on the Bible. Read the introductory material in both commentaries concerning authorship, date and place of writing, audience, and purpose of the biblical book in which your passage appears. Then read how each commentary interprets your passage. In you paper, you may want to discuss how the interpretations in the two commentaries agree and how they differ. Does one interpretation convince you more that the other, or would you take a combination of the two, or neither? Give reasons for your opinion. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each commentary (e.g. how do they handle literary and historical questions? Do they attempt any theological or practical application?)
Journal Articles (required for an ‘A’ paper)
Find one or more articles that deal with your passage. These can be found in biblical journals or edited anthologies (i.e. books containing several articles by various authors), but in any case the article must deal with interpretation of the passage (not merely devotional or sermon material). Explain what the major point of the article is and how that affects your interpretation of the passage.
At the end of your paper, briefly describe what you think are the important theological and/or practical implication of your passage as you have interpreted it. Application should only occur after you have interpreted the passage in its original context. Do not jump to practical (or even Christian) interpretation too quickly. Remember – you are trying to understand the passage as its original readers would have understood it.
1. Gen. 39:1-23
2. Ex. 34:29-35
3. Lev. 16
4. Num. 17:1-13
5. Deut. 6:1-15
6. Josh 2:1-24
7. Jdgs 7:1-25
8. Ruth 1:1-18
9. 1 Sam 3:1-21
10. 2 Sam 9:1-13
11. 1 Ki 17:7-24
12. 2 Ki 6:8-23
13. Ezra 10:1-17
14. Neh 4:1-23
15. Job 1:6-22
16. Psalm 45
17. Prov 8:1-7, 22-36
18. Eccles 9:1-12
19. Song of Song 5:9-6:9s
20. Isa 55:1-13
21. Jer 34:8-22
22. Ezek 37:1-14
23. Daniel 9:1-19
24. Joel 2:1-11
25. Amos 4:1-13
26. Jonah 3:1-4:11
27. Malachi 2:17-3:12
SUGGESTED INITIAL STEPS FOR EXEGESIS PAPER
1) Pick a passage.
2) Read passage several times.
3) Read the book passage is in.
4) Read the chapter passage is in several times.
5) Outline passage – according to what you discern to be the main points and sub-point.
6) Identify main point(s) made in passage.
7) Identify several key terms, concepts, and sub-points made in passage.
8) Determine historical, literary, and biblical context—initial step; just find basic facts.
9) With (8) in mind, consider revisions or new insights to (6) and (7).
10) Utilize extra-biblical resources in library (see pgs 1-2) – dig deeper, use resources (e.g. Bible dictionaries, commentaries, etc.) to extend the depth of your knowledge of the passage (e.g. historical setting, cultural context, place in redemptive history, literary features and genre, etc.)