How I Study (in pictures and text)

I am currently doing exegetical work on the text of John’s Gospel and I thought I would share a bit of what it looks like.

I have taken two Greek exegesis courses at school with Stanley Porter and have benefited greatly from the method I developed for submitting my exegesis. We were required to translate and make notes on the Greek text (language and textual variants), theological issues, translational issues, etc. and any method that would show that interaction with the text was acceptable. I have found my approach to that so helpful that I continue to use it. Here is what the first page of hundreds looks like, this one being from my exegesis course on the Gospel of Matthew.

In order to get to this point I use several resources. The first, of course, is the Greek text. I consult two modern editions (NA27 and UBS3/4) and will consult the ancient manuscripts as needed. The modern editions alert me to where there are variants in the text and I have to make decisions about what text I think is original.

In addition, I have the OpenText.org analysis open on my Logos Bible Software which also houses more Greek texts, English translations, and Greek grammars. The OpenText.org analysis (www.opentext.org) is immensely beneficial for understanding the syntax of the Greek text, among other things.

Logos Bible Software (www.logos.com) is a wonderful piece of software that allows me access to thousands of resources at the click of a button. As an example, it allows me to select the verse I’m working on (e.g., John 1:1) and immediately pull up all the Greek grammars that refer to that verse. Or, I can select a word from the text (e.g., λόγος) and immediately pull up all the Greek lexicons I own that have an entry for that lexeme. That’s a small snapshot of what it provides me with.

One other thing I do, is try to track the aspect of the verbs and other linguistic devices (genitive absolutes, temporal markers, etc.) to see how the author is structuring their text. This gets me creative with making notes in colours and boxes and helps me note the structure and flow of the text.

Finally I also consult commentaries, books, and articles on the text to see what others have said. This step is important since I can’t claim that I will see everything there is to see in a text or ask all the right questions. I use print commentaries and ones on the Logos software as well.

After these steps I will be writing the studies you find here on this blog. All of this is, of course, bathed in prayer, seeking out God for understanding (2 Tim. 2:7).

So there you have it. My study in a nutshell.

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5 comments

    • Andrew Rozalowsky

      That’s a difficult question since I don’t have a specific methodology for handling application, and I’m not sure there can be one. The meaning of the texts are so varied and our 21st century culture so varied and different that I’m not sure there can be a one-size-fits-all approach.

      Once I’m done my exegetical work and I feel I have a handle on what the passage is saying, sometimes the modern application just comes naturally. Sometimes it is more difficult. Understanding today’s culture is inevitably part of that. There needs to be a fusion of horizons between the 1st century reader and the 21st century reader.

      Do you have any thoughts on how that’s done?

      (I’ve also updated the post to at least mention prayer as part of study).

  1. Andrew Rozalowsky

    A friend on FB had this to say: “If it takes a significant ‘move’ then you might be focusing too much on the text.”

    I have a few thoughts but will wait in case anyone else wants to chime in. Then maybe I’ll make a new post on the subject if this conversation doesn’t continue.

  2. Caleb Christina Suko

    I’m not sure I agree with the friend you quoted, after all we live with a 2,000 year gap between us and the original readers. My feeling is that we ought to spend at least as much time on thinking through application as we do on finding the meaning. I’d like to write more on steps towards application but right I’m teaching all day tomorrow so I’d better focus on that.

  3. Andrew Rozalowsky

    I would look forward to hearing further thoughts when you have the time, Caleb.

    I agree there is a gap between us and the original readers. There is at least a linguistic gap, a historical gap, and a cultural gap.

    None of us are native Hellenistic Greek speakers so we have to do linguistic and grammatical work (or if we can’t do it ourselves someone has to do it for us in the form of translation and commentary). We are also not natively familiar with Greco-Roman and Jewish rhetoric and literature such that we must work at these things. Apocalyptic literature is a case in point. We don’t write apocalyptic today so it’s essentially a dead genre. So when I come to parts of Daniel, Zechariah or Revelation (though we might say it is a mixed genre) I have no prior categories for making sense of it. I have had to study a lot to become familiar with the genre and its implications for meaning in the text.

    In addition, none of us are first century Jews, Gentiles, Jewish Christians, etc. from Palestine or Asia Minor or Rome and so we don’t share the same cultural assumptions. This requires background work, in the formal sense.

    I would say a majority of scholars today speak of two horizons, that of the author/text and that of the reader. In the 21st century these two horizons have less in common than they did in the 1st century and so a greater gap exists which needs to be bridged. The original meaning of the text is, in the first place, culturally located so that we cannot make the assumption that 1st century meaning = 21st century application. Some conservative scholars advocate an objective way of reading the text (ala E.D. Hirsch) which essentially removes the reader from the equation but I don’t think this is sustainable. We all bring presuppositions and prior understandings to the text which influence our readings of it. It’s not to say that those presuppositions and prior understandings can’t be reformed in the light of God’s Word, they can, but they exist nonetheless.

    I can share my personal story, however, that leads me in the direction of a single horizon hermeneutics, which strangely enough my advisor has lately written about and is advocating for discussion (http://www.mcmaster.ca/mjtm/13%20MJTM%2045-66-Porter-Single_Horizon.pdf). I have never focused much on what is traditionally been considered “application” because I’ve found (a) I’ve rebelled against how so many Christians overdo it and fail to spend much time with the text in context and (b) my greatest growth in maturity as a Christian has been a result of Spirit led study of the Word that seeks the meaning of the text and since the Bible continues to form my “new” worldview and points to Christ, the very getting to know him in the 1st century text has easily translated to 21st century personal “application.”

    I have to think some more about this though.

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