An exegesis is an essay focused on a particular biblical passage. A good exegesis presents logic, critical thinking, and secondary sources that deepen the understanding of the text. You may need to write an exegesis in your Sunday School Bible, or just to sharpen your understanding of the Holy Scriptures. The first step is to read the passage and take notes in order to prepare an outline. Then add your interpretation to the research done. Finally, do a review and make sure you have done your best.
Part 1 of 3: Starting exegesis
Step 1. Read the Bible passage aloud
Read the passage aloud to yourself a few times, paying attention to each word.
Check out different translations of the same text in order to get a general sense of the text. You'll choose one of them to base your exegesis on, but when looking at other translations, you stand to gain
Step 2. Take notes from the reading
As you read the passage, write down any words you don't know, and look them up in Bible dictionaries and glossaries, trying to understand their use in context.
- Take into account the grammar and syntax of the passage. Note the sentence structure, the verb tenses, and the cohesive and coherent relationship between all elements of the text.
- For example, circle words like "sow", "root" and "soil" if you feel they are important.
- You may notice that the passage ends with the expression "He who has ears let him hear" which often appears at the end of Bible parables.
Step 3. Read external texts related to the passage
Inform yourself about the subject also from secondary sources, such as theological articles and commentaries in newspapers and books. Use a Bible dictionary as a backup, go to a religious bookstore, and read periodicals online. You will likely find material on the subject.
Look for articles, essays and commentary on the literary genre of the passage, as well as themes and ideas that permeate it
Step 4. Make an outline of your essay
Every essay must have an introduction, development and conclusion. Before beginning composition, make a five-part sketch. An example would be:
- Part 1: Introduction.
- Part 2: Notes from reading.
- Part 3: Interpretation of the text.
- Part 4: Conclusion.
- Part 5: Bibliography.
Part 2 of 3: Writing exegesis
Step 1. Introduce the Bible passage
Transcribe the entire passage and put it in context, not forgetting to specify the part of the Bible in which it appears.
Mention the literary genre. It may be that the passage is, for example, a hymn, as in Song of Solomon, or a parable, as in Jesus
Step 2. Include a thesis statement
The statement will serve as a guide for reading the exegesis, and its purpose is to summarize the main arguments of the essay in a single sentence. Put it at the end of the text introduction.
Here is an example thesis statement: "In this biblical passage, we learn about the value of roots and tradition for healthy inner and outer growth."
Step 3. Review the verses of the passage one by one
Read the passage carefully, focusing on grammar and syntax, and talk about the language and structure of the text's components. Observe and present how the literary genre of the passage influences its meaning.
For example, if you are writing about Matthew 13:1-8, comment on the word choice and phraseology in the parable. Mention how the passage uses nature as a metaphor for personal growth
Step 4. Interpret the passage as a whole
Reflect on the salient themes in the text, taking into account common biblical teachings. Discuss the theological meaning of the passage, and ask yourself, “How can I apply this teaching in my life? What does this passage say about my faith?”
If you like, include in the essay a reflection that encompasses a broader context, including the historical and social meaning of the text. Read and quote thinkers, theologians and academics
Step 5. Add quotes to exegesis
Use direct quotes to strengthen your arguments. Look for reputable sources and cite them to add value to the essay.
If writing the analysis for a class, ask the teacher which citation style to use
Step 6. Make final statements and complete the essay
Finally, comment on the passage as a whole, make the closing remarks, and repeat your thesis statement. Now is not the time to add new ideas – but to complete what has already been presented.
Step 7. Make a bibliography
Exegesis must have a bibliography containing all consulted sources. The format must contain the author's name and the title of the article, journal or book, as well as the publication date.
The teacher may specify a specific type of bibliography formatting
Part 3 of 3: Perfecting Exegesis
Step 1. Review the essay, checking spelling, grammar, and punctuation
Read the text aloud to catch possible mistakes, correct punctuation errors, and carefully observe spelling and grammar. Otherwise, exegesis can lose points of confidence and appear to have been rushed.
Read the exegesis backwards to find spelling mistakes. This method works as you will have to pay attention to each word individually
Step 2. Ask others for their opinion
Before handing out the text, show it to friends, classmates, and teachers. Inquire whether the exegesis is clear, organized, and detailed enough. Be open to constructive criticism.
Step 3. Review the exegesis for clarity and size
After hearing the opinion of trusted people, do a final review. Note that the sentences are cohesive with each other, and that the reasoning is easy to follow. Cover all aspects – general and specific – of the passage.