Illustration: Noah's Ark. Geneva Bible 1608. Principia College Archives and Special Collections
Exegesis Paper FAQs
1. What is an exegesis?
The word “exegesis” comes from a Greek word that means “to lead out” or “to draw out.” The purpose of our exegesis paper is to bring out the meaning of a Bible passage by researching what the original author of the text intended to communicate with his or her readers. This requires you to utilize several perspectives and lenses. These are “translation and word study,” “literary context,” “social and historical context,” “theological and ethical reading of the passage,” and an “application and conclusion.” An exegesis paper does not argue a thesis or answer a research question. It is guided by a Bible passage.
2. What is a scholarly source and why do I have to use 10 in my exegesis paper?
A scholarly source is a discipline-specific, credentialed and peer-reviewed text that is written by a scholar with a high level of qualification who has researched and responded to a specific Bible text.
The religion department wants to expose you to a variety of strong academic perspectives. The scholars’ different points of view will give you a sense of where the field of biblical studies is on a specific topic. They do not want you to be led astray by an individual’s agenda or perspective, such as a minister without in-depth graduate training who is representing his, or his denomination’s, take on the Bible. They want you to utilize the best scholarship.
3. How do you cite?
You cite your resources using the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Guide. This citation style requires footnotes, except for the Bible, which is cited in text. For guidance, read through the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Citation Guide for Papers in Biblical Studies Courses. This can be found on both your course’s blackboard page and on the Library’s website in either the Citation Guide or Course Guide tabs.
4. Why do we use the SBL Guide instead of MLA or Chicago?
SBL is the discipline-specific citation guide for religion papers. It also has examples for the sources you will use to write your paper. It should make citing specialized Bible sources easier. SBL is comparable to Chicago but with examples for specialized Bible sources.
5. What is an “exegesis passage” vs. a “Bible verse” or a “chapter?
An “exegesis passage” is a group of consecutive verses from the Bible, less than a chapter, which forms a cohesive unit. An example of a chapter is Genesis 1. Within this chapter are verses, such as verse 26. A passage is a combination of verses and could be Gen 1:26-28. These verses can be analyzed together as a literary unit and can be researched for its social, historical and theological context, etc.
6. Are there certain books of the Bible that make sense for me to utilize when selecting my exegesis passage?
Ask your instructor for guidance and recommendation, which will alter based on which course you are taking. When you are contemplating a passage, make sure you can easily provide information for each section of the paper. Some books of the Bible, such as Psalms, are very difficult to date and will pose a problem for the “historical context” section of the paper. Also, some passages will not have significant word differences, making it difficult to complete the “translation and word study” section of the paper.
7. What is a “context”?
“Context” is a word that means what surrounds a text. A helpful synonym is “background.” The exegesis guidelines use the word “context” for the literary section of your paper to help you explore the verses immediately surrounding your passage and see how your verses fit into the chapters that surround it. This will help you analyze how the Bible’s literary context sheds light on your passage. The “social and historical context” section of the paper will help you look at when and where your passage was written in order to understand the meaning of your passage and how your passage addresses the time period in which it was written.
8. How long does each section have to be?
Each section of the paper does not have a word count or page length, but it is imperative that you address the required components of each section. This means that you should think about the prompts and then make sure that you thoroughly research and address each section heading whether it be the “translation and word study” section or the “theological and ethical reading of the passage” section.
9. What if I can’t find much information about a certain heading?
a. Ask for help from a librarian, your instructor, the religion post-graduate teaching intern, or a writing tutor.
b. Check multiple sources. For example, if one commentary doesn’t address when your passage’s book of the Bible was written, check another one.
c. Compare in your paper what you do or do not find from various sources.
d. Helpful tip: While you must thoroughly address the larger topics and issues of each section heading, many of the questions found beneath each section heading are prompts and suggestions of topics that you’ll want to address in that section of the paper. Do your best to address each section heading and its prompts, but do not fret if your passage does not allow you to address a section in-depth.
e. Remember, the religion faculty wants to help.
10. What resources can I use if I am lost or confused?
If you are lost or confused, don’t worry. You are not alone. Nearly everyone in a 100-level Bible course has never written an exegesis paper. If you need help you can:
a. Ask a librarian, your instructor, the religion post-graduate teaching intern, or a writing tutor for assistance.
b. Check out your course’s blackboard page for an exegesis tab that may contain sample papers and other resources like rubrics, exegesis guidelines, and citation guides.
c. Find the library website’s course guide page and click on your course’s title for helpful tabs about biblical resources.
d. Reminder: the library’s reference room will be your best friend as you work on your exegesis paper.
11. Will my grade be docked if I don’t reach the page length?
If your professor has included a page length on his/her exegesis paper guideline sheet, then your grade will be docked if you do not reach that length. If the minimum requirement is six pages, then your paper must reach the end of the sixth page using the required font type and size.
12. How much of the exegesis should be original thought vs. research and quotations?
Your exegesis paper should be grounded in research. As a rule of thumb, your paper should be no more than 15% direct quotations. In order to strengthen your paper you can share your perspective after quoting or citing an idea from a source. While your paper should be grounded in scholarly research, it should not be a string of quotes. Along with quotes you can paraphrase and summarize your sources. Your insights are welcome, and you can share them in either first or third person.
13. Do I need to write a conclusion paragraph? Should it wrap up the entire paper?
Yes, you should write a concluding paragraph because your exegesis needs to be brought to a conclusion. It should give an overview of the big discoveries and takeaways from the paper. While it should not cover everything that you have discovered, it should integrate your findings and leave the reader with a sense of the most important discoveries about the meaning of the passage.
Compiled by Katie Hynd from interviews with Mike Hamilton, Barry Huff & Heather Martin