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Exegesis Paper
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Exegesis Paper

Exegetical Writing Assignment

The term exegesis comes from a Greek word meaning to lead/bring out. It is a word we use in Biblical studies to refer to the process of bringing out a meaning of a passage of Scripture. We say bring out because we want to let Scripture speak for itself, rather than read our own meaning into it (called exegesis). Exegesis involves collecting everything we know about a Biblical text (history, literary context, language, etc.) and bringing it together in a process of determining what it can mean (and what it cannot!).

For your writing assignment you will choose a verse or passage from the book of Exodus that you find interesting. You will follow the steps provided below to research and fill in information about the text. You will then conclude by stating what you believe is a good meaning of the text based on the research you found.

The paper should be no less than 2000 words and no more than 2500 words in the body of the paper (too short or long will incur penalties). The word count does NOT include the title or bibliographic information. It also does not include footnotes or other reference information. It is a short paper, so be concise. Keep the fluff in your pillows and out of your papers.

The process for the paper is:

Step 1: Find your topic.

Choose a verse or paragraph from Exodus that you find interesting and would like to know more about. Read it several times. Read the paragraphs and chapters surrounding it several times to get a sense of how it fits within its literary context.

Step 2: Take notes as you read.

What are the concerns of the author? What does it seem to be about? What words and concepts keep appearing? How does the passage relate to the writing around it? How does it relate to what you know about the rest of Exodus? The rest of the Bible?

Step 3: Do some research.

You must reference a minimum of 5 academic sources in your paper. By this I mean that you need to either quote or reference information from 5 different experts in your paper. As you read, take notes about what they say regarding the passage. Also note how they agree or disagree with each other (disagreement happens quite a bit!). Do you agree or disagree with them? Why?

NOTE: Go to a library, search the online journals, ask a pastor for his/her books, etc. Your sources need to be academic, meaning they are written by experts in the field with actual qualifications and peer-reviewed in a publishing process.

Acceptable sources include:

  1. Academic, published sources like Bible commentaries or books from experts on the passage you are studying.
  2. Just because it has commentary in the title does not make it academic. Avoid any online commentaries. Please also do not use the Matthew Henry Commentary.

UNacceptable sources include (i.e. WILL NOT count toward your 5 sources):

  1. Websites, blogs basically anything ending in .com/.org/.edu etc.
  2. NOTE: you may access a reputable journal or book through the internet (e.g. JSTOR, EBSCOHOST, etc). This is different from a website.
  3. Dictionaries, or encyclopedias
  4. Sermons
  5. Lecture notes
  6. Textbooks for this class
  7. The Bible

Unacceptable sources may help your research and inform your thinking. If you do use them, be sure to cite them. However, they will not count towards your 5 required sources. Also, the Bible itself does not count as one of your 5 sources. The 5 need to be commentaries, books, or academic journals. Failure to include 5 academic sources will result in a significant penalty (no matter how good your argument may be)! If you are not sure about a source you are encouraged to ask me about it.

Step 4: Write.

Only after taking in as much information as we can (i.e. learning), should we then begin to synthesize it and produce our own thoughts. We should NOT begin with what we want to say and then look for research to support it. That is exegesis.

Writing should be clear, concise, and have an easily identifiable flow to the logic. Anyone can drop convoluted thoughts onto paper, but it requires time and skill to write well. Some tips–developed from common mistakes made–in writing a good academic paper include:

1)         Writing is not an exercise in saying everything you know and think. Sometimes good writing involves leaving out interesting information if it is unnecessary or irrelevant to your argument. Know your point/argument and stick to it.

2)         Know your reader. Do not assume your reader already accepts your premise(s) or is approaching the subject with your same knowledge. As in high school math class you need to show your work.

3)         Have someone you trust read your work and give you feedback. Ask them what they think you are arguing.

General information on how to structure a paper:

Your paper should have four parts: 1) introduction, 2) main body, 3) conclusion, 4) bibliography. Part 1: The introductory paragraph is just what it sounds like. It is one paragraph introducing your reader to your paper. It usually includes a very brief statement of your topic and your thesis (i.e. what you are ultimately arguing).

Part 2: The main body of your paper should contain all the major content of your paper and will be the longest part. It should lead your reader through your thought process including any evidence you are using to support your thoughts and your responses to arguments that are different than yours. Make sure to break your thoughts and arguments into paragraphs.

Part 3: In the conclusion you will take a stance on your topic and state what you ultimately think. In this paper, you will state what you ultimately think the Biblical passage is about. The conclusion is usually only 1-2 paragraphs.

Part 4: The bibliography is a list of all the sources you used to write your paper, whether you cited them in the paper or not. If a source influenced what you think about the topic, it should be included here. The Chicago/Turabian or SBL style of citation is required for this paper.

Plagiarism is taken very seriously at universities, even if it is accidental. You cannot take the work of someone else and present it as your own. If you take thoughts or information that you previously did not know from a source, you MUST cite (i.e. make a note) of where you found it. The exception to this rule is any information which is commonly known (e.g. Judah was destroyed by Babylonians in 586 BCE)


If you are unsure about anything with the above process (e.g. finding proper resources, how to structure your paper, citation) there are several options for you to remedy the problem. I am available throughout the semester to answer your questions through office meetings or email. The Academic Success Center in the Moody library building has coaches to help you and are available through the semester as well. If you do need help, do not wait until the last minute before the assignment is due! At the university-level, you are responsible for your learning. We as the faculty and staff work hard to make the resources available, but we cannot help you if you do not ask. We do want you to succeed, but you need to be proactive.

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