LIBRARY SUBJECT GUIDE:
BASIC ELEMENTS OF BIBLICAL EXEGESIS
Exegesis has to do both with what the author said (the content itself) and why the author
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? Exegesis
is also relevant. It speaks to our circumstances today (e.g. observation, interpretation,
The following material is based on the book New Testament Exegesis located at:
225.601F295n 2002. Follow the steps below to do a proper exegesis of your chosen
passage and write the results of that study and reflection.
Step 1: Study the general historical context.
Look at the entire book in which the text appears. Who is the author? Are there things about
that person that contribute to an understanding of the passage? Who are the recipients?
What were their circumstances when they first received this writing? Was there a specific
historical event or situation which caused the book (and not just the specific text) to be
written? What is the book's overall theme or concern?
Step 2: Determine the boundaries of the text's larger natural setting.
What passage or unit or section contains the text being studied? That is, if there were no
chapter and verse divisions, how much of the surrounding text would belong to your
Step 3: Reflect on issues of wording in the text on which you are going to write.
Do any of the old manuscripts differ in wording? What specific words did the author use (as
opposed to others the author might have chosen with almost the same meaning) and in
what order? Are there words in the passage that do not occur frequently elsewhere in the
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 relationsh