Beginning N.T. Exegesis
last update 18 October 2006

  1. Choose a pericope of appropriate length and difficulty for the type of exegesis and length of paper you intend to write. For a 6–10 page paper (= approx. 1500–2500 words), try to stay as short as possible, to a maximum of 6-8 verses.
  2. Consider  these questions while researching your text:
    1. Are there any important textual variants? (Check this by consulting the NA26 or UBS4 Greek New Testament, Funk's New Gospel Parallels, Throckmorton's Gospel Parallels, Meek's The Writings of St. Paul, or the footnotes in your translation.) Or, if you want some help with this, see the TA or Dr. McGinn.) If so, where? Which is the better reading and why do you prefer it?
    2. Are there any significant variations in translations? (Check this by comparing several modern ones, e.g., RSV, JPS, NAB, NJB, NEB, NASB, and NIV.) If so, where and why? Which is the better translation (or amalgam thereof) and why do you prefer it?
    3. What are the basic introductory assumptions about the book in which this pericope is found?
      1. Author
      2. Date
      3. Provenance
      4. Audience
      5. Purpose
      6. Anything else we know
    4. What is the source of this pericope (e.g., Mark, Q, M, L, John, Paul). How do you know this?
    5. What form (Gattung) is this pericope? How do you know this? Are there signs that this form has been invaded (i.e., did an editor merge two forms or insert one in the middle of another)? If so, where are these signs, and what do they mean about how to read the pericope?
    6. What role does this pericope play within the book in which it is found? How so?
    7. What are the important persons, objects, institutions, and theological terms in this pericope? Based on your background reading in reference works, what is the significance of each of these?
    8. What are this pericope’s Sitzen im Leben with respect to:
      1. Jesus?
      2. The followers of Jesus who transmitted this tradition?
      3. The evangelist/author?
    9. In one or two sentences, what would you say is the basic meaning of this pericope for the original author and audience? How do you know this?
    10. How has the author edited this pericope to serve her/his purpose? What literary and/or rhetorical tools has the author used?
    11. In light of what this text meant to the author and the original audience, what can it mean for people today? How can this text be taught or preached to your chosen audience?
  3. Once you are satisfied with your research on the topics mentioned above, turn to these questions to make sure you have covered all the bases and to organize your essay.