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REL 3715: Biblical Interpretation: Guide for Doing Exegesis


Guide for Doing Exegesis

1) Establish the context of the passage in the biblical book as a whole.

Look at the scholarly notes and introductions in a study Bible for clues on interpretation. [Use the Oxford Biblical Studies Online]

2) Compare different English translations of your passage. 

Start with the Oxford Biblical Studies Online, or use a website such as New Testament Gateway Note that Bible Crosswalk ( ) is one of the few public sites that includes the NRSV. There are good print parallels that accomplish this as well such as The Layman's Parallel Bible [ASU main Stacks BS125 .B5 1991] and The Precise Parallel New Testament, [ASU Main Stacks BS2025 1995 .K63]. Note any differences in the ways various words have been translated.

3) Get a feel for the historic and cultural context of your passage…

… through Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, and atlases. Some are found in Oxford Biblical Studies Online] but many of the best are not available online, but can be found in print: Anchor Bible Dictionary, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, etc. Other useful titles, not specifically geared to the Bible, are available online through the Library Catalog including: Encyclopaedia Judaica, Encyclopedia of Religion, etc.

4) Consider the literary style of your passage.

Does the grammar and vocabulary it employs conform to what you know of the time and place it was written? What are the text's outstanding features? Does it employ any rhetorical or poetic devices?

5) Explore the commentaries available in the library.

Critical commentaries are scholarly works that discuss the background, context and interpretation of a section of scripture. They can be entire books (found in the ASU Library Catalog) or articles in journals (found in the ATLA database).

6) You may want to consult a concordance.

It allows you to identify a particular word in Scripture, learn its root in the original language, and trace its use throughout the Bible, thereby identifying important themes. They are keyed to a particular version of the Bible, so confirm that you have the right concordance for the translation you use.

7) Think about your ideas concerning the passage.

What thoughts are emerging as you consider it? What questions occur to you? What are the theological implications, if any, of the passage?

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