building materials fire smoke

Building an Exegesis

Webpage designed by Kevin Hatcher ('07) in consultation with the Biblical Studies Department in July 2007.

Building Material Overview


One of the most important elements involved in creating a fire is the material used as the foundation and fuel. This is necessary in order for the fire to exist. It wouldn't make sense if there was a fire yet no fuel for it to burn. In the same way, the "Building Material" section acts as the fuel and foundation for the exegesis. This research helps shape the basic context that the passage is coming from.

The following illustration shows the relationship of the background building materials and your passage. Your passage is located within a book within the Bible. This book was written by someone, to someone, about something. This information from the book helps shape your passage. Your passage also connects to other books and passages with similar literary styles, themes, or backgrounds. Understanding these connections helps shape the meaning of the passage as well. All of this information helps give a good snapshot of what the world of the text looks like and how your passage fits into this world.

Without this information, it is much more difficult to understand what the author originally meant to say in a passage. Here's an example: let's say you just read Romeo and Juliet without knowing any background information. You might have enjoyed it, but a lot of it is really difficult to understand. However, if you knew that William Shakespeare wrote it in England back at the end of the fourteenth century and was intended to be seen by an audience mostly consisting of commoners, then you would probably begin to understand what the author originally intended to say and mean.

The same applies to Scripture passages. This information helps you understand what the author really intended the passage to say because you know a little bit more of the introductory matters in which the author wrote the passage. It helps to know that Matthew was written to Jews, Daniel is considered apocalyptic literature, and that Acts is a continuation of Luke. Knowing what the writing's background is can make it far easier to find out what the original message of a passage is.

One final suggestion about the Building Materials section. You need to work through the following pages in the order in which they are given. Jumping into the middle will make it more difficult to research unless you have completed the previous sections - although not impossible. Good luck with your work as you start laying the foundations for your exegesis!


1. Selecting A Topic

This section focuses on helping you identify what Scripture passage you want to study and guides you on how to read your passage initially.
  • Choose a Scripture passage from the list provided by the instructor
  • Read the passage in its original language
  • Read the entire book or letter (at least a major portion if exegeting a passage in Psalms or other longer books)
  • Read different translations

2. Researching Introductory Components

This section directs you in researching the background information profile of the book or letter your passage is in.
  • Author
  • Date of the document
  • Place of writing
  • Destination
  • Audience
  • Life setting

3. Examining Literary Issues

This section explains how to find other connections in Scripture which appear on the more subtle literary level.
  • Identify the literary genre, subgenre, and style
  • Identify major emphases or themes of the work
  • Identify other Biblical passages that parallel your passage

Last updated July 18, 2007