Word Wednesday: “Exegesis”

A week ago we began to look at some special words that are used here at the PRC Seminary, especially for the courses that are offered. We started with the word “isagogics”, discovering that this Greek-rooted word refers to a course which introduces the books of the Bible to Seminary students.

ExegesisPicToday we consider the word “exegesis”, another great Greek-derived word. “Exegesis” too is a common word around the Seminary, for we have courses in OT exegesis and NT exegesis (seven to be exact – three in OT and four in NT!). In fact, one of the four main categories of Seminary courses we offer is called “Biblical-Exegetical Studies”, and includes the Greek and Hebrew courses (grammar and reading), as well as courses in Hermeneutics, Isagogics, and OT History and NT History. But to go even further in our understanding of this word and the Seminary courses it describes, it may be said (and I believe I have the backing of the professors on this!) that exegesis is the foundation of all the other studies – Dogmatical, Church-Historical, and Practical-Theological (Can you see why yet?).

But what does this word “exegesis” mean, and what does it tell us about these courses which our Seminarians must take? If you look at the first entry on exegesis (OT Exegesis, course 124) in our Seminary catalog, you will find this key to understand its meaning:

A course in the exposition of selected passages of the Hebrew Old Testament, focusing on the three main genres of Old Testament literature: historical narrative, prophecy, and poetry. The emphasis in the course is on the student’s actual practice of interpreting the Old Testament with a view to preaching.

I highlighted the key words here. Very simply, exegesis has to do with expositing (expounding or explaining) the Scriptures and interpreting them, with a view to preaching them. Our Seminary exists to train and prepare men for the ministry of the Word. What is the chief and central work of a minister? Preaching! And what is preaching? Explaining and proclaiming the Word of God (There’s more involved, of course, but for our purposes, that’s enough.).

So you can readily understand why exegesis is so foundational for the Seminary professor’s instruction and for the Seminarian’s learning. It truly is the basis for all that takes place here! We want our professors and students to be exegetes par excellence! Faithful expositors and interpreters of the Word! So that they can be and will be faithful proclaimers of the Word! Because we, the people of God, do not need or want to hear the word of man (which is powerless to save us and build us up); we want and need the Word of God (which alone is able to save us and build us up in Christ)!

But now, we still have not said why we use that word “exegesis”. As I stated above, it too derives from the Greek, specifically from a verb that means “to lead out, be a leader, go before”, and then, to draw out in narrative, unfold in teaching” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). In exegeting the Scriptures, therefore, one “leads out” or “draws out” of the Bible its meaning, interpreting it properly (according to the rules – that’s hermeneutics, which we explain at a later date), so as to explain that meaning to others.

I also found this helpful summary of exegesis under the heading “Exegetical Theology” in the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (J.M’Clintock and J.Strong, v.III. Baker, 1969 reprint):

Exegetical Theology, that branch of theology which treats of the exposition and interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. …Exegesis (ἐξήγησις) is statement, explanation, from ἐξήγησomai , I lead, describe, explain; and from this, an exegete, ἐξηγητής, , guide, interpreter. The word exegetical then, includes all that belongs to explanation, and Exegetical Theology includes all that belongs to the explanation and interpretation of the holy Scriptures (p.392).


Published in: on February 26, 2014 at 10:22 AM  Leave a Comment  
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The Power of Words (2) – F.Buechner

Room-Called-Remember-150x150Last week Wednesday in connection with “Word Wednesday” I began to quote from a chapter I recently read  in Frederick Buechner’s book  A Room to Remember: Uncollected Pieces (Harper & Row, 1984). The chapter is entitled “The Speaking and Writing of Words”, and in it Buechner has much worthwhile to say about the power of human language.

As I pointed out then, one does not have to agree with all that Buechner writes to appreciate his point about the power of the words we use. E.g., in this section from which I quote today he refers to the evolution of mankind, with which I take issue. But he also talks about the creative power of words in connection with God’s creative work in the beginning, and that is worth drawing attention to.

Here then is another part of this essay of Buechner:

Child. Star. Rain. Death. Cloud. You. This. …They spoke words so that they might be heard and answered. Grunting and gasping at their labors, mimicking the cry of the birds, crying out in grief and joy, they put words to the things they felt and saw because without words the words, without the objectifying, the delimiting, the participating – without, above all, the sharing that words make possible – they could not truly see them or know what they were seeing. ‘And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.’ There was no light until God called it into being by naming it. And insofar as this is true for us too – there is no world for us until we can name the world – words are in a way our godly sharing in the work of creation, and the speaking and writing of words is at once the most human and the most holy business we engage in (pp.168-69).