Exegesis is simply a close reading of the scripture so that you can extract the meaning from the text. Before you can preach a text you must understand the text. You can look in a number of places for instructions on how to do a proper exegesis of a text.
Looking For Style In Bible Interpretation
One thing that may not be in those methods is what I call a “stylistic exegesis.” Here you need to look at the text…is there any style in the text? How is the text presented? Is there style in the presentation?
What is the word choice of the author and how does this affect our understanding of the text. What images did the author chose to use and how does that affect our understanding? Often you can see style in the text of the Bible.
Psalms and Style
Look at the Psalms. That is style. They are songs and poems. When you preach a text with style in it, don’t remove all the style that is already resident in the text. Don’t dissect the style out of the text. Don’t dispose of the style while you are exegeting the text. Don’t turn it into dry facts and then try to inject style back into a style-less sermonic manuscript in the preaching moment.
If the Bible says: “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.” Don’t turn this into a historical lesson about shepherds and then attempt to get the people back at the end by whooping. No! Leave it as style. What does the “Lord is my Shepherd” mean? For what purpose does calling The Lord my Shepherd serve? In a stylistic exegesis you start to think about what that picture means. Maybe you might say, the Lord is the roof on the house? Here we took an image and we replaced that image with a modern image. Is it good enough? Maybe, maybe not. But it is our purpose to attempt to re-image the text into our images. I personally don’t think this, so we would continue looking. Well maybe Jesus is my football coach…is that a good image in the context of your sermon? I am not sure…but this lets you know about how you can re-image a text using this stylistic exegesis.
You can do the same thing with the poetry of the Bible or the songs of the Bible. You can even do it with the stories of the Bible. Can you retell a story? This is the way to think when you are attempting a stylistic exegesis.
Does not Replace Traditional Exegesis
Now certainly you will need to do some traditional exegesis. You need to closely look at the text using whatever methodology you use, but what I am hoping you will do is also attempt a stylistic exegesis that helps to retain the style that is already in the text.
Sometimes folks ask how can they celebrate a particular text and the text has the celebration right in it! We will talk more about this in the exegesis portion of the course, but for right now, think about a stylistic exegesis of the text.