Friday, October 27, 2006

Exegesis:Step 3: Literary Context -

a) identifying the literary type and appropriate interpretation method.

To follow on from the last post I will give an example of how to approach the gospels:

The gospels are complicated because they contain reported speech of what Jesus and others said, but they have also been written from the persepctive of the gospel writer.

Because of this we need to look at two things:
1) What Jesus was saying to the people around him,
2) What the gospel writer is trying to communicate to his readers.

The need for this two pronged approach is made clearer when we look at a gospel story in a synopsis (a book that puts all of the gospel accounts in the same page in a parallel format). Each gospel writer tells the story of what Jesus said and did, however each writer gives different emphasis.

We want to know what Jesus was communicating to the original audience that was listening to him, but we also want to know what particular emphasis any one gospel writer was trying to push in his gospel.

This means that when I am studying Matthew, and I reach step 3 of the exegetical process, I open up a synopsis, and see in which ways his account differs to Luke or Mark.
=> this may help me to understand the main point that Matthew is trying to make.

With this approach we're not then looking at teaching a sermon which involves every single aspect of all of the four gospel accounts, but instead we're looking at the main point that Matthew was making in this story (whilst at the same time looking at the main point Jesus was making).

This part of the process is a bit like being a detective, and is very interesting, and avoids the muddle that sometimes comes when we try to just squeeze all 4 gospel accounts into one sermon.

This is the approach for the gospels, there is a different approach to Acts, the letters, and Revelation.
I won't write about these now, but you can read about them in Fee's book.

I will soon however post a video I have on how to interpret Hebrew narrative, specifically on Genesis. I know this is Old Testament and we're talking about New Testament exegesis, but it will give you a flavour of how much information there is to learn about different genres in the Bible (and it may be helpful with understanding narrative in the New Testament).

Peace D

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