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Tutoring Service: Writing an Exegesis

Overview of the Avondale University Tutoring Service.

Purpose of an Exegesis

The purpose of an exegesis is to interpret a Bible passage by carefully analysing its content. In other words, an exegesis is the process by which you obtain meaning out of a text (rather than reading meaning into a text). An exegesis paper explores a passage in terms of its original context. This original context is explored through the historical and literary framework. An exegesis paper should also provide a thorough linguistic analysis of the biblical passage you are exploring.

Step 1: Read, read, read

Before you can write an exegesis paper you must become closely acquainted with the biblical passage you are exploring.

  • Decide on what translation of the Bible you will use for your passage. If your lecturer has not instructed you on which translation to use, consider using one that has a more literal translation as this may assist with your analysis.
  • Read the biblical passage through several times.
  • Write a summary of the passage.
  • Make note of any initial questions/thoughts you may have.

Step 2: Analyse the Language

  • In what language was the text written?
  • Are you rereading the original language or looking at a translation?
  • How are various translations different?
  • Do some words/phrases seem significant to you?
  • Are there any intertextuality elements present?
  • Are the words meant to be read literally or not?
  • Have you taken advantage of the resources of Logos, particularly that of the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament? This is an important tool to use in accessing the meaning of the original language of the text.



Step 3: Analyse the Literary Elements

  • What rhetorical devices are being used?
  • What is the structural form—for example, is the passage a narrative or a dialogue?
  • What genre does your passage sit within—for example, is it prose, poetry, an epistle, a parable, or a psalm?

Step 4: Consult Scholarly Writing

  • What do experts in this field say about your passage?
  • Journals like Journal of Biblical Literature and New Testament Studies, and Bible commentaries will be helpful in expanding your knowledge.

Bible Passage

Begin by providing the complete text of the Bible passage you have selected for exegesis. Make sure you format the text correctly.



(5% of word count)

Your introduction is a brief guide to your paper and should explain:

  • the context/focus of your exegesis;
  • the key areas to be covered (and in what order);
  • and your thesis statement—the central claim about what your Bible passage means.

Contextual Analysis

(20% of word count)

The contextual analysis of your paper should be covered into two main parts—the historical context of your Bible passage and the broad literary context of your Bible passage.


Detailed Linguistic Analysis

(50% of word count)

This section is the most significant part of your paper and it will generally make up half of your exegesis. Here you should provide a detailed verse-by-verse analysis of your passage by including word studies, and an analysis of the form of your passage.


(20% of word count)

Now that you have analysed what the Bible passage means through contextual and detailed linguistic analyses, use this section of your paper to develop the theology of your passage with regard to the rest of the Bible. It may be helpful to include a comparison to both the Old and New Testaments.


(5% of word count)

Don’t be tempted to rush your conclusion. Keep in mind that it is the last part of your paper to be read before it is marked. In your conclusion you should:

  • draw together the main points you have made in the body of your paper, without introducing any new ideas.
  • restate your thesis statement.
  • look at your conclusion as an opportunity to make a final, good impression on your reader.




An accurately referenced and formatted bibliography is a critical part of your paper. Make sure you format according to the referencing style guide preferred by your discipline.

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Historical Context

The historical context of a Bible passage looks at the authorship of the passage and the contemporary world of the passage. When analysing the historical context of a Bible passage. Look for answers to the following questions:

  • Who wrote the passage?
  • When was the passage written?
  • Who was the original audience?
  • Why did the author/s write the passage?
  • What was happening at the time that may illuminate why the author/s wrote this passage?
  • What was the author/s trying to say?
  • What is the broader cultural context of this biblical passage?
  • How did society function at that time?
  • What was the status of women, children, or slaves in the culture?
  • What religions existed at the time?
  • What were the main cultural values at the time?
  • Are there aspects of day-to-day life that illuminate the passage?
  • Are there any geographical features of the author’s world that illuminate the passage?



Literary Context

The literary context of a Bible passage looks at the structure of the passage. You should consider the following:


  • What marks the passage out as a distinct unit from the material around—in other words, why do you begin and end the exegesis where you do?
  • How does the passage fit in with the rest of the particular book of the Bible?
  • What is the internal structure of the passage?
  • How is the passage divided up and what is the relationship between the parts?
  • Look out for clues such as a change of time/scene, a change of speaker, a change of grammatical subject, and a change of voice (first-person, second-person or third-person).
  • Rhetorical questions may indicate a significant shift in argumentation and therefore point to conclusion of one section or beginning of next.


What genre would you consider the passage to be? At the most basic level, is the passage poetry or prose? If the passage is prose, it is important to note that Hebrew poetry emphasises parallelism or rhyming ideas more than rhyming sounds.

Figures of Speech

Are there any figures of speech present in your passage?

Figure of Speech



A casual or passing reference to something.


A digression in the form and address


Two nouns connected by and instead of a noun and modifier.


Obvious and intentional exaggeration


Application of word/phrase to an object/concept it does not describe; for example—A mighty fortress is our God.


Use of name of one object/concept for that of another to which it is related.


The attribution of human nature or characteristic to inanimate objects/abstract notions.


Two distinct things are compared by using like or as; for example—She is like a rose.

Linguistic Context

A crucial part of exegesis is analysing the meaning of individual words and phrases within the passage. When analysing the linguistic context you should:

  • identify the original language of the text;
  • identify the range of meanings of key words in the original language;
  • consider whether you are reading the original language or looking at a translation;
  • consider how the different translations vary;
  • use analytical concordances, theological dictionaries, lexicons, and indexes to lexicons to help you understand what you are reading;
  • focus on uncommon words and words that reoccur throughout the passage;
  • identify words/phrases that seem significant to you;
  • consider the syntax (the grammatical relationship between words) of the original language;
  • identify any intertextuality elements present—either through direct quotation or indirect allusions;
  • and consider whether the words are meant to be read literally or not.



This resource page has been developed to help you write an exegesis, however, your lecturer may have specific ideas of what should and shouldn't be included in your assignment. Always ask your lecturer if unsure.