How to commit the perfect Exegetical Bible study
In the last “How-to-list” this author discussed ten ways that a person could use so that they could stay in spiritual darkness and would never be able to teach others also. It was a tongue-in-cheek whimsical look at some of the Bible Study “No-No’s” that every Bible student should stay away from even if they have to run away while screaming their lungs out. However, all too often bad exegetical habits are used on a regular basis in an attempt to make the Holy Bible say what that student wants it to say or to affirm what they have already been taught in the past.
In this list, this author will present some of the “Must-Haves” of a complete exegetical study. These steps can be followed no matter what text in the Bible that you are studying. Although it might be beneficial if my readers have a fuller picture of what “exegesis” means. According to Michael J. Gorman, it is
…defined as the careful historical, literary, and theological analysis of a text. Some would call it “scholarly reading” and describe it as reading in a way that “ascertains the sense of the text through the most complete, systematic recording possible of the phenomena of the text and grappling with the reasons that speak for or against a specific understanding of it (quoting from Wilhelm Egger, How to read the New Testament: An Introduction to Linguistic and Historical-Critical Methodology, 1996).
So let us get started.
Steps towards a correct exegetical adventure:
When we begin to study the Holy Scriptures, sometimes we need to get out our Exegetical magnifying glasses so that we can delve deep into the English Scriptures, which is just the first step.
We will be looking at the English word “righteousness.” We need to first ask ourselves if we understand the word in our native language. If not, get out a college level dictionary and look it up. Then we can look at the context in which it is sitting. In this case, did the Lord Jesus use it before in another verse? Does He use it afterwards?
Study aids such as the Greek Scriptures can help us find what the Greek word for “righteousness” is and then we can proceed to look up the Greek word in other study aids such as a simplified Greek lexicon.
The Greek word for “righteousness” is “di-kai-oh-soo-nay” and now that we have the Greek spelling (from the Greek Scriptures, we can confidently use the simplified Greek lexicon to begin our quest.
As we learn to use an advanced Greek lexicon, there is at the beginning of the entry a section that lists other biblical sources, such as the LXX (or Greek Old Testament) or even other sources such as profane literature, which is the non-biblical books, letters and other assorted ephemera from that time period.
As we are studying in the simplified Greek lexicon, we need to ascertain if the Greek word in question is already in its lexical format. In this case as we look at the left side of the page we see the same word that we saw in the Greek Scriptures.
To know if this word is in its lexical format we need to move our finger to the right side of the page entry and just a little bit lower: in this case, the very same word is entered on the right side of the entry. This tells us that the word is the lexical root.
Since the Greek word for “righteousness” is indeed in its lexical form, we need to turn the page back to start at the beginning. As shown in the photo, the lexical form is usually in bold face type. We can now begin to read the English entries as to what this word meant with its ancient meanings.
In the simplified Greek lexicon, there will usually be a relatively short entry with various other Scriptural references where this word has been used in other biblical books. It is always wise to scan quickly down to see if the verse we are studying has been directly mentioned. If it has, then we want to focus on its particular meaning. If it has not been directly quoted, then we can read all of the entries to see what various definitions have been defined.
This photo is from an advanced Greek lexicon and the first section of the entry lists various other places where this Greek word has been used; especially in profane literature, but also other biblical translations; and various Greek manuscripts.
There are multiple entries for the Greek word used for “righteousness” and finally, we come to an entry that directly lists our particular verse, Matthew 5:20. In this case, we want to focus solely on this entry since it will be more closely linked to the meaning that we are searching out.
Well, now you have the sequel to the last article….but this time, we are doing it EXEGETICALLY!
God Bless you richly in your studies of His Word.