In Robert Chisholm’s wonderful book on exegesis, I’ve come to the chapter bringing all the tools together and giving examples. I can’t recreate it all here, but I did appreciate the exposition after seeing all of the rigorous language work that went into it. For those that wonder about the process that preachers go through, here are the general steps, and perhaps it will be instructive:
Step 1: Viewing the Forest
When working in Hebrew narrative, mark out the literary unit and then develop a tentative outline of each literary unit’s structure/paragraph divisions. When working in a poetic text, develop a tentative outline of the psalm or speech.
Step 2: Entering the Woods
When working in narrative, develop a working translation of the passage and then outline the basic structure of each paragraph. When working in poetry, develop a working translation of the passage ad then identify the type of parallelism in each verse.
Step 3: Looking at the Trees
Now we move to the verse/sentence level. Isolate the nouns and adjectives/participles. Isolate all pronouns, including suffixes. Take note of all articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. Isolate all infinitives. Parse every verb form. Determine the precise contextual nuance of each word and/or phrase. Isolate key words that are repeated or important. Examine the text-critical problems listed by BHS. Identify subordinate clauses and analyze those that are important and/or nonroutine. Study several up-to-date translations of the passage and read two or three good critical commentaries on the text.
Step 4: Synthesizing Observations
Make any needed revisionin the conclusions you developed in steps 1-2. Translate the passage in a modern, up-to-date style.
Step 5: Looking Beneath the Surface
Explain how every detail of the text fits its context literarily and contributes to th emessage of the passage. Explain how metaphorical language contributes to the rhetoric and message of the passage.
Step 6: Leaving the Woods
When working in narrative, develop the plot structure of the story or episode. summarize the main literary/theological theme and lesson of the story. In texts such as prophetic, summarize the main point of each thematic unit and then relate such units to its immediate and following contexts. Summarize the main theme.
Step 7: Viewing the Forest Again
Relate the literary/theological theme of the story to the surrounding context and/or developing larger story. In anthological texts, relate the theme of the literary unit to the overriding theme of the anthology as a whole.
Personal note: It seems almost as if the themes are quite a bit easier to develop than the language work. In reality, while it may take less time, I think it is equally important and must not be de-emphasized. I find myself glossing over it, and the examples given in the book illustrate the importance of tying the themes together. In later posts I’ll explain.