Exegesis Paper: Complete an exegesis of a passage paper from the New Testament.

Exegesis Paper

The paper should be 2500 words in length and follow MLA style.

Complete an exegesis of a passage from the New Testament (employing methods of interpretation and perspectives, such as literary and historical context, literary form, and structure).

Exegesis means to expound upon a text, to unpack a text of its many meanings. Elements of various types of criticism will be employed to further develop your ability to interpret the Bible.

The paper should be 2500 words in length and follow MLA style.

Selected passage as the basis for exegesis paper: Matthew 6:9-13

Follow the outline below and answer the questions in each section using recommended sources. Keep the outline headings below as the subheadings of your exegesis.

  1. Literary Criticism

a. Context: What follows and precedes your passage? Are your pages affected by this context?

b. Form criticism: What is the literary form of your passage? Are there other places in the Bible (or related text) where this form is used and which help to interpret this passage?

c. Structure: Do you detect any particular structural pattern (e.g., parallelism within your assigned book of the Bible)? Describe the parts of your passage.

d. Redaction criticism: Has your passage come through an editorial process? What changes have been made? Explain why certain changes have been made.

e. Key words: What are the theologically important words in the passage? Do these words evoke any other parts of the Bible? Are these words used in a new way by the author of this passage? What do these words mean?

  1. Theological Analysis

a. What does this passage say about the relationship with God?

b. What questions might this passage have addressed in the community for which it was originally written?

[Some of the ideas above are adopted from A Guide to Biblical Exegesis by G. Landes and W. Wink (unpublished.)]

You should document your exegesis carefully. Be sure to use some material from the bibliography in the course Doc Sharing area for your exegesis, especially the biblical reference books. Below are some hints for successfully completing the paper:

  1. Look up your passage in the New Testament.
  2. Consult a general commentary (such as The Jerome Biblical Commentary, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, or The Collegeville Bible Commentary).
  3. Consult specific commentaries (see the course bibliography in Doc Sharing, e.g., Harrington¡¦s Matthew¡¦s Gospel, Fitzmyer¡¦s The Gospel According to Luke).
  4. Conduct a periodical search (through EBSCO) of your passage, limiting search to full-text, peer-reviewed journals.

Use the checklist below to ensure that you are following the format properly:

  1. Are all ideas documented (including page numbers)?
  2. Are all quotations documented (including page numbers)?
  3. Is there a works cited page?
  4. Do the notes and bibliography include sources recommended by the syllabus?
  5. Does the format include the headings from the syllabus?
  6. Does each sentence make sense?
  7. Does the ¡§form¡¨ section clearly name a literary form?
  8. Does the redaction section contrast the assigned passage with Mark¡¦s version (except for infancy narrative and Lord¡¦s Prayer)?
  9. Does the key word section include more than one key word?
  10. Does the key word section refer to Old Testament material?

An Exegesis Paper focuses on what the author was trying to get across to the ORIGINAL audience. THAT’s where the focus of the paper needs to be. If you ignore the specific problems and concerns facing that audience and merely talk about what anyone, anywhere, might think about your passage, you’re barking up the wrong tree. As a result, in the main sections of the paper, anything you write about what the author is trying to tell “US” or about how “WE” should spiritually respond to this material is inappropriate. I invite you, though, to ADD at the end of the paper any “devotional reflections” about how the passage affects you, your faith community and our contemporary situation; “devotional comments” earlier in the paper, though, are completely inappropriate for an academic Exegesis Paper.

As a guide to yourself, use the headings and the subheadings that are specified in the instructions for the paper in the syllabus. That will help keep you from omitting any of these key items. If you omit any element, your grade goes down. More information about the particular methods that are specified for the paper is available in Cory 46-49. As you deal with EACH of the elements listed under “Literary Criticism” in the paper instructions, show how EACH helps show what the author is trying to do. For example, in talking about “Context,” it is not enough simply to identify what comes before and after your passage, but rather you must show how the author’s positioning your passage in its present location affects how your passage would be understood by the original audience.

The “form criticism” section of your paper deals with the type (“form”) of literature your particular passage. For those of you dealing with the Lord’s Prayer, the “form” is a “prayer” — and thus you need to understand your passage in relationship to other prayers in Scripture and in Judaism. Commentary resources will help you deal with this. The Transfiguration story is an “epiphany” in form — which provides a lot of the characteristics found in this story, and you need to understand your passage in relationship to other epiphanies found in the same book as your passage (e.g., the Baptism scene or the Empty Tomb scene) or in the Old Testament (especially Exodus 19-20, 24 and 34:27-35; 2 Kings 2:9-14).

The “structure” section is dealing with what holds your passage together as a unit; how is your passage organized, and how do the various parts of your passage relate to the other parts? Those elements drastically affect how the passage needs to be understood.

The “redaction criticism” section is perhaps the trickiest part of the paper, but it is also the most important. In this section, you need to address explicitly how your Gospel author modified/edited his source; “redaction” is just a fancy word for “editing.” This section is dealing with the changes that the author made to make the material appear the way it NOW does in your passage. (For those of you who are dealing with one of the versions of the Lord’s Prayer, please note that this is NOT talking about any changes that have occurred between what your passage says and how you happen to say the Lord’s Prayer today; those changes have NOTHING to do with what you should be addressing in your paper.) Identifying redactional changes is important, because if your author has made a change in his source, that change is a MAJOR hint of what he’s most interested in conveying to his original audience. Whenever you find a change, ALWAYS check for how that change is connected with other major themes and emphases in your particular Gospel, and point out those connections. The more you can show how what’s going on in your passage is related to the rest of this same Gospel, the stronger your paper is in showing what the author was trying to convey to the original audience.

For those who are dealing with one of the Transfiguration Story accounts, the “source” of the version of the Transfiguration story you are using was Mk’s version of the Transfiguration story — so it is CRUCIAL for you to identify ALL the places where your author has changed Mk’s story. Mk’s version is the ONLY version to which you should compare your passage; thus, if you are dealing with Mt’s Transfiguration story, don’t say ANYTHING about Lk’s version of this story – and if you are dealing with Lk’s Transfiguration story, don’t say ANYTHING about Mt’s version of it.

If you are dealing with the Lord’s Prayer, things are a little trickier, because the source that both Mt and Lk are drawing upon is Q. Both Mt and Lk made changes to Q in their own versions of the Lord’s Prayer, though Mt made more changes than Lk did. The commentaries will help you figure out what changes were made by your author. FOR ALL of you, reading pp. 228-236 in Cory, ch. 10, may be of help in understanding this material about Mt and Lk drawing upon other sources. If you have specific questions about this, let me know.

The “Theological Analysis” section should continue to focus on the ORIGINAL AUDIENCE, not on “us” — i.e., on THEIR relationship with God and on THEIR questions/issues/needs. If you ignore what the Cory and Imperato textbooks, as well as my Discussion postings, say about the circumstances of the audience of your Gospel when dealing with these sections, you’re painting yourself into a corner.

A final word about resources: I will send you commentary resources for use in the paper; just email me which one of the following four passages you are writing on: 1) Mt’s version of the Lord’s Prayer (Mt 6:9-13); 2) Lk’s version of the Lord’s Prayer (Lk 11:1-4); 3) Mt’s version of the Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8); 4) Lk’s version of the Transfiguration (Lk 9:28-36). You are encouraged to use other resources as well. However, MOST INTERNET SOURCES — especially those related to a specific “ministry” organization — are usually NOT APPROPRIATE for this paper, because most of them are for “devotional usage,” not “academic” usage. Those “devotional” resources are all over the place, and they are strikingly seductive because they will often tell you “just what you’ve always thought.” If your paper does not demonstrate “critical thinking” skills, your grade will be low.

A key spot for using critical thinking is in how you use commentary resources. The materials I have provided often have different, sometimes even contradictory, claims about your passage. You can’t just “add together” comments from different resources, and expect it to make sense. Wherever there are different views expressed in your resources, you MUST point that out — and then indicate which position best explains what is going on in your passage, giving your reasons for your choice. EVERYTHING you look at should be “distrusted”; if you are gullibly accepting everything that a particular commentator says, you are not functioning the way a student should. DO NOT “cherry pick” the stuff you agree with, and ignore the other positions. Argue for the positions you are taking in this paper.

DO NOT USE the King James Version, the New King James Version, or any “paraphrased” versions of the Bible for this assignment.

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