What is Exegesis Anyway?

Posted By on November 21, 2012

Words like “exegesis” and “exegetical” are thrown around by biblical scholars all the time. Those not in the guild or who haven’t taken courses in biblical languages or hermeneutics might wonder what the terminology means. If that’s you, I recommend reading this short post by Jeff Krantz over at the Logos Bible Software blog. The post takes you through several steps that are pertinent to “doing exegesis” in a biblical passage. The sample is easy to follow (and make sure to watch the short video in the post as well), so I think it does a good job of introducing readers to some components of the exegetical task.

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11 Responses to “What is Exegesis Anyway?”

  1. Sue says:

    Hi Mike,

    I am interested to see all the features of Logos, especially the dictionaries. However, I feel that far too much is read into the fact that “thanking” is a participle. Since Greek greatly favours hypotaxis, it is perhaps better to translate this simply as “and thanked him.” I am not sure why the exegetical guide says that it is a participle showing manner. This is hardly the manner in which the man fell to the ground. It seems odd to me. I guess users realize that this is just an opinion, and most translators do not think that this is a participle showing manner but a typical case of hypotaxis.

    Ultimately, this tool seems to suggest that those translations, which, like the ESV, translate a Greek participle into an English participle, are revealing some important truth by doing so, when of course, we know they are not. Lots of times it is actually impossible to translate a participle in Greek with a participle in English and maintain meaning.

  2. Sue says:

    Hi Mike,

    I just wanted to comment on the exegesis guide. I was wondering whether the participle would not be better interpreted as “and thanked him” rather than as a “participle of manner.”

  3. Sue says:

    Sorry, I now see my earlier comment still lined up. Pardon the repeat.

  4. Sue says:

    “For my part, I’d rather see how Runge would handle this:”

    Who is Steve Runge and what does he know that I don’t? Yes, Wallace, Nida, and many others have remarked on the use of hypotaxis in Greek, and parataxis in Hebrew.

    Here are some examples –

    Ἐγερθεὶς ἆρόν σου τὴν κλίνην καὶ ὕπαγε εἰς τὸν οἶκόν σου. Matt. 9:6

    Ἔγειρε καὶ ἆρον [c]τὸν κράβαττόν σου καὶ περιπάτει; Mark 2:9

    I hope that nobody will claim that these are two different statements, and reveal different truths.

    Matt. 2:13, Ἐγερθεὶς παράλαβε τὸ παιδίον καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ φεῦγε εἰς Αἴγυπτον

    Who would suggest that this means “Sleep all you want, but after you have awoken, take the child and mother, and flee.”

    Or perhaps this example, from the Spartans to the Persians,

    μολὼν λαβέ

    Would this sound best in a movie as “once you have come, take our weapons.”

    Or as a challenge “Come and get them!”

    I deeply regret that the exegesis tool may lead people astray, and reinforce the dubious notion that the ESV is a superior version.

    On other topics, I have been away from writing, work, and so on for a year or so, things happen, but now I am back at work, and thinking that perhaps if I can squeeze in time after work, I might write.

    I now have access on the internet to the Pagninus Bible, and to Erasmus Latin text. This is a big help. I also have some unpublished articles sitting around but no time to do anything with them. How about you? Are you writing novels?? Or is that my imagination?

    • MSH says:

      Steve Runge is fast becoming a leading grammarian in the biblical languages. He has thoroughly critiqued the work of Porter and others, and has (finally) succeeded in applying linguistic data and method to the grammatical study of the biblical text. Wallace wrote the forward to his recent grammar. Buist Fanning has taught his grammar at DTS for several years now, as have others (Peter Gentry and Sam Lamerson come to mind at the moment). His approach has been vetted on B-Greek for the past several years. In short, if you aren’t familiar with his work, you’re behind when it comes to Greek grammar. He’d be happy to read your review of his work (many have, and Steve thrives on the interaction) or chat with you via email.

      • Sue says:

        I am soooo sorry to be behind when it comes to Greek grammar. I know its terrible, I agree with the way Tyndale and Luther translated εὐχαριστῶν, and not the KJV. Luckily I also agree with many other modern translations including the NET Bible on this one.

        Actually, I am trying to figure out if you are saying that Runge wrote the exegetical tool, or if he is important because of where he works or exactly how he comes into this discussion.

        It isn’t clear to me that anything in the backgrounding discussion of Runge’s applies to the post you linked to earlier. I somehow don’t see a connection.

        I am not saying that participles cannot tell us something about the discourse. But I disagree with the discussion displayed in the exegetical tool in the post that you linked to.

        Have Steve look at the post. Does he really think that “thanking him” only has a supporting role, or an adverbial role. I just don’t see it. And does he really think that “thanking him” was the tone in which the Samaritan fell to the ground? Come on!

        Of course, participles tell us something about Greek discourse – but what? Here is an example from the Septuagint.

        και αποστρεψαντες εκειθεν οι ανδρες ηλθον εις σοδομα
        and after the men had turned away from there, they went to Sodom

        וַיִּפְנוּ מִשָּׁם הָאֲנָשִׁים, וַיֵּלְכוּ סְדֹמָה
        And the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom

        Now, I know that the NETS translated this with a participle in English, but I think that was because Pietersma particularly wanted to showcase in English the differences between the Hebrew and Greek discourse structure. That is, he was interested in the extent to which the LXX was translationese, and when it was not.

        But, I don’t think that this would justify us now reading into the participle in Luke 17:16 some particular “nutsy botsly” spiritual message from the Greek syntax.

        Just ask Runge if he thinks that εὐχαριστῶν is a participle of manner, or if it is better represented in English as a main verb, as are many of the other participles in the examples that I already gave you.


  5. Sue says:

    I forgot, the NETS translated Gen. 18:22 with a subordinate clause, not a participle. It was the NETS that I included, but I had transferred this from somewhere else and lost the connection.

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