Biblical exegesis is a systematic process by which a person arrives at a reasonable and coherent sense of the meaning and message of a biblical passage. Ideally, an understanding of the original texts (Greek and Hebrew) is required. In the process of exegesis, a passage must be viewed in its historical and grammatical context with its time/purpose of writing taken into account. This is often accomodated by asking:

  • Who wrote the text, and who is the intended readership?
  • What is the context of the text, i.e. how does it fit in the author's larger thought process, purpose, or argument in the chapter and book where it resides?
  • Is the choice of words, wording, or word order significant in this particular passage?
  • Why was the text written (e.g. to correct, encourage, or explain, etc.)?
  • When was the text written?

Distinct from hermeneutics

Sometimes the terms exegesis and hermeneutics have been used interchangeably. However, there is a distinction to be made. Bernard Ramm describes the difference as follows:

"Hermeneutics . . . stands in the same relationship to exegesis that a rule-book stands to a game. . . . The rules are not the game, and the game is meaningless without the rules. Hermeneutics proper is not exegesis, but exegesis is applied hermeneutics."^ [1]^ In this sense, hermeneutics may also be seen as the "method of exegesis."

Further reading

  • Michael J. Gorman, Elements of Biblical Exegesis: A Guide for Students and Ministers. Hendrickson, 2001; rev. and exp. ed., 2009.
  • Gordon Fee, New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors, 3rd edition. Westminster John Knox, 2002.
  • Douglas K. Stuart, Old Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors, 4th edition. Westminster John Knox, 2009.
  • D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies. Baker Academic, 1996.

See also