Biblical Exegesis Paper Instructions
Theology of Missions
"For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to
teaching its decrees and laws in Israel." -- Ezra 7:10
In the Theology of Missions class at Southern Nazarene University, you will write an
"exegesis" paper on one of two passages:
- The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20
"19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them
to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of
- The end-times passage of Matthew 24:14.
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a
testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
Approach your research for this as though you were on a "treasure hunt" in which you are
determined to find important and very valuable things.
Here is some help on how to proceed.
"What did the Biblical author mean? (Exegesis) has to do both with what
he said (the content itself) and why he said it at any given point (the literary context).
Furthermore, exegesis is primarily concerned with intentionality: What did the author
intend his original readers to understand?"
-- Gordon Fee in New Testament
Exegesis. The following material is based on that same book.
In trying to understand Scripture, Bible students often jump immediately to the
hermeneutical question: What does this mean to me?
Sadly, trying to do hermeneutics before exegesis — i.e., making "Scripture's meaning
to me" the first thing I look for — causes people to miss the richness of many
Bible passages. While Scripture has great relevance to our lives, making its personal relevance
the first and perhaps only question we ask may actually keep us from fully hearing God's
Steps of exegesis
Follow these steps to properly exegete the passage from Matthew that you hae chosen. Then,
write the results of your study and reflection.
- Step 1: Research the historical context of the passage.
- Are there things in history and in the society in which Jesus said these words that might
impact how they should be understood? What in the actual historical setting might have
prompted Jesus to say these words? What do we know about the Matthew and his first readers?
Are there things about Matthew that contribute to an understanding of the passage? What were
the circumstances of the readers when they received this writing?
- Step 2: Determine the larger context into which the passage fits.
- What natural unit or section contains the particular text being studied? That is, if Matthew's
Gospel had no chapter and verse divisions, how much of the surrounding text would belong to
your chosen passage? Are there things that happen immediately before and after this text that
may help us understand what these particular words are trying to accomplish? How does this
larger unit relate to what seems to be the major themes and concerns of Matthew's gospel
- Step 3: Reflect on issues of wording in the text on which you are going to write.
- What specific key words did the author use (as opposed to others he might have chosen
with almost the same meaning) and in what order? Are there words in your chosen passage that
do not often occur elsewhere in the gospel according to Matthew?
- Step 4: Try writing the text in your own words.
- As you do so, do you sense that your own theological positions are shaping how you
understand the passage? If so, in what ways?
- Step 5: Analyze sentence structures and syntactical relationships.
- Is there meaning that grows out of the specific way the thoughts are expressed?
- Step 6: Look at the grammar constructions used in the original language.
- Do Greek scholars think some phrases could be read differently if the grammatical
constructions were somewhat different? Are there ambiguities in original language that open the
door to varying interpretations?
- Step 7: Examine key words used in the original Greek wording of the passage.
- What are the nuances of particular words used? Word of caution: Don't let your exegesis
to be just a collection of mini word studies.
- Step 8: Research how to do exegesis.
- What might not be obvious to today's readers? Would what was communicated to the
original First-Century hearers be different than the associations made by today's readers? Which
of those differences might significantly alter the meaning?
- Step 9: Determine the formal character or genre of the passage.
- What kind of saying is the text? Is it an apocalyptic saying? Is it a prophetic utterance?
Does it have poetic elements? Does it employ overstatement?
- Step 10: Since this particular assignment deals with a passage in Matthew, take a look
at how it appears in parallel gospel accounts.
- How does this passage appear in this gospel account as it is related to the other Gospels? Is
similar wording to be found in one or more of the others? Is that wording in the same context in
the other Gospel accounts?
- Step 11: Since this assignment looks at some words of Jesus, consider the life setting of
the ministry of Jesus.
- To whom were these words originally spoken? At what point in Jesus' ministry does the
gospel writer place this passage? Should any significance be attached to the point of time in
which the gospel writers place it?
- Step 12: Consider the biblical and theological contexts.
- What other passages of Scripture help us understand this text? [ other missions-related Bible passages ] Does this passage
affect the meaning or value of other Scriptures such as Genesis 12:1-3? What would be lost or
how would our understanding of God's Word be less complete if this passage did not exist? To
what Christian doctrines, themes and concepts does your chosen passage relate? How major or
minor is the passage's contribution to those doctrines?
- Step 13: Consult secondary literature (commentaries, book studies, and similar
- Investigate what others have said about the passage. Compare, incorporate and
- Step 14: Write the paper. Take the things you found in your "treasure hunt"
and weave them into a top-notch essay. Be sure to document all quotes (verbatim and
paraphrased) and to include a bibliography page of all the sources you consulted.
- Take the point (or the several points) of the passage and turn them into a living word for
your contemporaries. What does this passage mean or what should it mean to those with whom
you rub shoulders day in and day out?
-- Howard Culbertson
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need
to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." -- 2 Timothy 2:16
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