Once we understand the importance of Bible study, the role of prayer and personal application, and the centrality of interpretive method, we can embark on the exegetical journey. The 9 Steps for Bible exegesis and exposition are:
(1) Verify Text and Translation
(2) Understand Background and Context
(3) Identify Structure
(4) Identify Grammatical and Syntactical Keys
(5) Identify Lexical Keys
(6) Identify Biblical Context
(7) Identify Theological Context
(8) Secondary Verification
(9) Development of Exposition
Note that the first 7 steps are truly exegetical (drawing from the text itself). We need to be sure we are avoiding eisegesis (reading ideas into the text) throughout these steps. Step 8 is an assessment of our exegetical work, and step 9 is for putting the passage to further use (hopefully, we are already putting the passage to proper use throughout the process of studying it).
(1) Verify Text and Translation
There are three components to this first step: verify the boundaries of the text, verify the best reading of the text, and write a brief passage overview. Keep in mind that at every step some understanding of the original languages is a necessity, because the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The exegete doesn’t have to be an expert in Biblical languages, but one should be able to read at least a little bit and have a working knowledge of available tools and how to use them, because true exegesis can’t be done in a secondary language. Bible software like e-Sword can be very helpful for helping to introduce the languages and is free.
First, verify the boundaries of the passage. Recognize that the passage is a propositional unit and a complete thought. Understand where that thought begins and ends. Dividing a passage unnaturally can cause tremendous misunderstanding. Example: compare the ending of Matthew 16 with Mark 9:1-2. Keep in mind that chapter and verse divisions were not part of the original text but were added much later. Sometimes they are helpful, other times not.
Next, verify the best reading of the text. There are many manuscripts in both the Hebrew and Greek books of the Bible. Consequently there are frequent variants in the text. Usually the differences are not of great significance, but sometimes they can be. A series of external and internal evidences can be helpful for recognizing the best reading. External considerations include age of manuscripts and geographical distance between agreeing manuscripts. Internal considerations include consistency in style, length of reading (shorter preferred over longer) and difficulty of reading (difficult preferred over simpler). Example: In 1 Thessalonians 2:7, consider which word has a higher probability of authenticity: nepioi (small child) or epioi (gentle). Note: if you don’t have any access yet to the Biblical languages, you can simply compare different English translations (like KJV, NASB, NKJV, and ESV) – this won’t give you the precision of working in the languages, but it will help you get used to the process of critical comparison.
After completing these two steps, write a brief overview of the passage including four components: identify and summarize the variants discovered in the text, briefly summarize the passage, summarize your current understanding of the theological impact of the passage, and identify your own doctrinal presuppositions in approaching the passage. Thinking through each of these aspects will help the reader handle the passage with accuracy and open mindedness.
Next up: Step #2: Understand Background and Context