New Testament Exegesis, Third Edition
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New Testament Exegesis, Third Edition

A Handbook for Students and Pastors

Gordon D. Fee

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eBook - ePub

New Testament Exegesis, Third Edition

A Handbook for Students and Pastors

Gordon D. Fee

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About This Book

Building on the belief that the task of exegesis is to understand the divine-human intention locked within the biblical text, Gordon Fee provides a lucid step-by-step analysis of exegetical procedures that has made New Testament Exegesis a standard textbook for nearly two decades. Now more than ever, with an updated, newly integrated bibliography and an appendix directly addressing reader-response criticism, this essential, classic guide will assist students, scholars, and clergy in coming to grips with the New Testament.

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This chapter is filled with a variety of aids to exegesis that must be worked in at various points in the process outlined in Chapter I. The purpose for doing this in a second chapter is twofold: (1) to keep the student exegete from getting bogged down with details in Chapter I, lest there one fail to see the forest for the trees; and (2) to offer a real “how-to” approach to these components—how to read the textual apparatus of the Greek text, how to get the most possible good from an entry in the BDAG Lexicon, and so on.
For many, going through this material will be like the experience of a Pentecostal trying to worship in a liturgical church. At the beginning, such a person can hardly worship because he or she doesn’t know when to turn the page or when to kneel. But once the proper kinetic responses are learned, one can concentrate on worship itself. So it is here. These details must be learned. At first they will seem to get in the way or, perhaps worse, seem to be the whole—or most significant part—of the process. But once they are learned well, the times to “stand or kneel” will become more automatic.
In contrast to Chapter I, here I will give several examples of how to go about the process. The various sections of this chapter are intended to function something like a manual; this means the sections are not “easy reading,” any more than any manual is. Each of the sections is written with the intent that you should (1) have “hands-on” experience with the various methods and tools and (2) therefore work with the tools themselves, not simply read about them here.
Those without knowledge of Greek will find they can work with most of these materials, except for Sections 2 and 3. For Section 2, you are encouraged to read carefully the bibliographic items noted at the beginning. If you have learned the Greek alphabet, you should also be able to make your way through this section for yourself—at least to see what actually goes into the process. Section 3 is the one part where you cannot work without knowledge of the language. But again, the section has been written so that if you make yourself well acquainted with grammatical terminology and then read the section through slowly and carefully, you will be able to glean a great deal and especially to have a basic understanding of grammatical discussions in the commentaries as you read them.
Sections 1,4,5, and 6 can all be done by those without Greek. I do not say it will be easy going; but if you wish to learn the exegetical process, you must be able to do these various steps. Hence you might as well learn to do it in the same way as those who work with the original language. Much experience with these methods and materials in the classroom has made it abundantly clear that students without Greek who are intent to learn how to do exegesis do all these steps just as well as those work with the language.
NOTE WELL: In contrast to the way you read most books, where section headings are skipped over to go immediately to the reading of the material, in this chapter you will need to read the titles of each section and subsection with care. In most cases they also serve as the topic sentence for the paragraph(s) that follow(s).
For Sections 2–4, you should also be aware of an especially helpful book that guides you through all the resource tools and shows you how to use them:
Cyril J. Barber, Introduction to Theological Research (Chicago: Moody Press, 1982).



THE PURPOSE OF STEP 4 in the exegetical process is to help you visualize the structures of your paragraph and the flow of the argument, as well as to force you to make some preliminary grammatical decisions (on questions of grammar and how syntax is involved, see below in Section II.3). What you are after here is the big picture, the syntactical relationships of the various words and word groups. In Section 3, below, we will examine the various grammatical questions related to morphology—the significance of case, tense, and so forth (exegetical Step 6).
Since the present process is something of an individualized matter, there is no right or wrong here. But the procedure outlined below can be of immense and lifelong benefit if you will take the time to learn it well. Obviously, you may—and should—adapt it to your own style. Whatever you do must finally be practical and useful to you.
1.1. Make a sentence flow.
Probably the most helpful form of structural analysis is to produce a sentence-flow schematic. This is a simplified form of diagramming whose purpose is to depict graphically by coordination and by indentation and subordination the relation between words and clauses in a passage. One begins in the upper left margin with the subject and predicate of the first main clause and allows the paragraph to “flow” toward the right margin by lining up coordinate elements under one another and indenting subordinate or modifying elements. A sentence-flow analysis therefore will include the following steps (I.1.1 through I.1.5, below), which are illustrated primarily from 1 Cor. 2:6–7.
Those without Greek should be able to follow the process without too much difficulty. For your convenience I have included very literal and “wooden” English “translations.” Thus, even without Greek you should be able to follow the procedure (provided, of course, that you know something about English grammar). You will find this a helpful exercise, even from an English translation, provided that you use one of the more literal translations, such as the NASB or NRSV—although even here some of the syntactical decisions will have been made for you. Therefore, you may find it useful to consult a Greek-English interlinear, where an English equivalent appears above (or below) each Greek word of a provided Greek text. See, as the best example:
J. D. Douglas (ed.), The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament (Wheaton, III.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1990).
[NOTE: You will probably want to do your initial work on scratch paper, so that you can arrange and rearrange the sentences until you see the coordinations, balances, subordinations, contrasts, etc.]
1.1.1. Start with the subject, predicate, and object.
It is usually most helpful to begin at the top left corner with the subject (if expressed) and predicate of the first main clause along with the object (or predicate noun). In most instances, it is helpful to rearrange the Greek into the standard English order: subject-verb-object. Thus in 1 Cor. 2:6 one should begin the fir...

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