Here are a collection of basic resources to help you with the process of basic exegesis (understanding the meaning of the text in its original context).
The Basic Process:
1. Encounter The Passage Directly
- Do not read any other resources yet! Do not read anyone else’s sermons! Do not read commentaries or encyclopedias yet! First, pray, be still, and just read the passage and soak in it. Read the context around it too (eg book, chapter) to make sure you have the bigger picture.
- The key here is to get it in your head then relax with it, let it roll around, reflect, pray and meditate on it without any strong focus – invite the Holy Spirit into the hearing!
2. Study The Context
- Who wrote it?
- To/for whom?
- What was going on?
- What is the genre (history, parable, song, prayer, wisdom, prophecy, apocalyptic)
- What concepts need exploring?
- For this part of the process a good ‘Study Bible’ should help.
KEY BACKGROUND RESOURCES:
3. Closer Study Of The Text
- This is where ‘commentaries’ can be very helpful. Reading other’s study of the text can help you see things you would have otherwise missed. But be careful to ‘sift’ the information you find.
- A great place to start with a closer study might be looking at the Bible reading in a number of translations to get an bigger picture
- Some people will study in the original language or use an interlinear (two-language) Bible. This is good but beware of being too clever with original language ideas if you don’t know the language!
- Look at key words
- Explore their meaning through Bible dictionary / commentaries
- NOUNS: Beware that you do understand the subjects and object of sentences
- VERBS: Take a
close look at verbs
- Are they passive or active?
- Are they finished or future?
- Are they a one off or ongoing?
- Using a study Bible
- What links to other parts of the Bible are there?
- This can be very complex and sometimes confusing so don’t stress about it!
- But simply, can you map out the reading on a page in order?
THE BEST ONLINE RESOURCES FOR EXEGESIS
TRANSLATIONS TO EXPLORE FOR EXEGESIS:
- NRSV New Revised Standard Version (Accurate, direct, simple, non-gender specific where appropriate)
- NIRV New International Reader’s Version (Good to see it simpler for lower level readers)
- ESV English Standard Version (Most direct accurate word-for-word translation)
- KJV King James Version (Fun to see how it used to be said and often yields insight!)
- NLT New Living Translation (Not so accurate but may help you see things in a new way)
- MSG The Message (NOT THE BIBLE, but a paraphrase; it might help you understand and is quite quotable!)
- Mounce Interlinear (English-Greek) New Testament (Great for digging into words)
4. Put The Basic Idea/s In Your Own Words
- Don’t be too clever here – don’t draw on some minor or ephemeral ideas.
- If you can’t state things in concrete simple ways, you haven’t got it clear yet.
5. Sit Under The Text Directly – Identify Focal Point/s
- Now return to where you started.
- You’ve done some hard work.
- Now just sit with it again.
- Identify the main things you might feel called to focus on.
Remember that the process may expand or contract depending on context and time. But there’s no reason to omit steps 1 and 5 – you must sit under the text. Until it works on you, you’re not ready to share it!
Warning… if the text has not jolted, surprised, challenged, changed, convicted, hurt, healed, encouraged, or impacted you in some way, then you are not ready to share it with others.