You’re an exegete and may not even know it!

We practice exegesis every day. When we listen to a person’s words, we also merge those words within an overall context.

For example…

  • What was the tone used?

  • Did the person sound angry, resentful, or happy?

  • What was the body language?

All of those factors may confirm the words spoken, or make us somewhat suspicious that they are genuinely expressed. While some of those hints are not available when we study Scripture, we do look at various aspects of what is said. Here are some key areas that we should consider when exegeting the Word of God.

First, consider the genre

“Genre” means the type or category of the writing. The Old Testament, for example, has books of law, history, poetryand prophecy. All of those compose different types of writing.

  1. As a result, we don’t look at Proverbs the way we look at Deuteronomy. As poetry, Proverbs utilizes exaggeration and is not intended to be understood literally (scale a city? Road is a hedge of thorns?).

  2. Law, on the other hand, is to be taken very literally (thou shall not lie).

  3. When studying prophetic books, we need to remind ourselves that these Old Testament prophets were prophesying to a particular nation or people.

  4. When studying historical books, we need to remember that God isn’t just giving us some interesting historical tidbits. Every historical event and conversation are all a carefully constructed tapestry to teach one major moral truth.

Have you ever been in a study of, say, 1 Kings, and all the teacher did was relate one historical event after another? I know I have! The fact is, those books skip over major events in history. They’ll spend little time on some of the “greatest” kings (as far as power and length of reign) and focus on others. Why? Because there are spiritual lessons to be gleaned.

God doesn’t really care if you know what king followed Hezekiah (I wish some of my teachers in college felt the same!). God does care if you understand how every individual, whether great or small, will be judged by the same criteria.

In the New Testament, we also see different kinds of genres.

  1. The gospels are a type of writing that is to be read differently than the book of Acts (which details how the mission of Jesus in the gospel of Luke continued with the church). There are four gospels. Ever wonder why? The answer is, that each gospel has a different audience and a different overall goal. What Matthew is trying to accomplish is not the same as John in his gospel.

  2. The epistles are letters written to churches and individuals. They address specific doctrinal questions and church struggles. It is important that we understand both the sender and the recipient. I recently read an article where the woman writer was bashing Paul as a woman-hating, chauvinistic pig. Do you think her view of Paul is going to influence her interpretation of his epistles? Of course! However, if you believe (as I do) that Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ and that his words were divinely inspired, then you’ll see his writings as those coming from God (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

  3. The Revelation is a type of writing that employs figurative language. That is helpful information! Remember, though, that the figures used still mean something. Our job is to discern the meanings of the symbols used.

Determining genre is easy but oh so valuable! In our next article, we will consider the second key area we should consider when studying the Word of God.

Denny Petrillo
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Denny is married to the former Kathy Roberts.  They have been married since January 1978.  They have three children (Lance, Brett, and Laura) and Six grandchildren (Chloe, Ashlyn, Sophie, Easton, Brelyn, and Kyson).  He has served as the President of the Bear Valley Bible Institute since 2004 and has been a full-time instructor since 1985.  He has preached in Mississippi, Arkansas, Nebraska, and Colorado.  He has taught numerous classes for the World Video Bible School and has authored several books and commentaries.  He graduated from the Bear Valley School of Preaching (now the Bear Valley Bible Institute), received an AA degree in Bible (York College, York, Nebraska), BA in Bible and Biblical Languages (Harding University), and an MA in Old and New Testaments (Harding Graduate School of Religion), and a Ph.D. in Religious Education (University of Nebraska).