Douglas Stuart on OT Exegesis

Douglas Stuart in his primer on Old Testament Exegesis writes:

To do OT exegesis properly, you have to be something of a generalist.  You will quickly become involved with the functions and meanings of words (lingustics); the analysis of literature and speech  (philology); theology; history; the transmission of the biblical writings (textual criticism); stylistics, grammar, and vocabulary analysis; and the vaguely defined yet inescabably important area of sociology.  Natural intuitive skills are helpful but no substitute for the hard work of careful firsthand research.  Exegesis as a process can be quite dull.  It’s results, fortunately, can often be exciting.  Exciting or not, the results should always at least be of genuine pratical value to the believer or somthing is wrong with the exegesis.  While this book is a primer, and hardly an exhaustive analysis of exegetical presuppositions or techniques, it ought to serve you well if your reason for learning exegesis is eventually to apply it’s benefits in Christian preaching or teaching.

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So what is the goal of either OT or NT exegesis?  That’s right!  Application!   Without it your preaching or teaching will be empty, dull and pointless.  Without application points your sermon or teaching will not be a sermon or teaching – it would just be meaningless empty talk.   Stuart states later that he intentionally leaves out some parts of the exegetical process to the focus can remain on application, as it should be!

So what are some ways to draw out application points in OT Exegesis?

List the life issues: this means we try to draw out the most important (transferrable) life issues in the passage compared to the secondary or less important issues.  Are these life issues still a concern for us to day and if so, what are the implications?

Clarify the nature of the application: do the applications inform or direct the reader?  A passage the describes the love of God primairly informs whereas the passage that commands the love of God primarily directs.

Clarify the possible areas of application: does it promote faith or action? While these should remain together, they are distinct  and any given passage may focus on one more than the other. 

Identify the audience of the application:  There are two audiences of application: the personal and the corporate.  Is the passage dealing with individual issues or corporate ones? 

Establish the categories of application:  is the matter primarily personal or interpersonal?

Determine the time focus of the application: it is past, present, future?  Is the call immediate or is a more steady response needed?

Fix the limits of the application: it is often as valuable to explain how a passage does not apply as how it does apply.  In general, it is safest to limit potential applications as much as possible.  Limit applications to what the passage itself implies or leads to.

So that’s it folks!  Let me know what y’all think!

Gordon Fee on exegesis

Mark put up a post I want to copy here from Grdon Fee that he titles “a word of advice to bibliobloggers”:

I want to say with great vigour that even though the first task of the exegete is the historical one (to determine the biblical author’s intended meaning), this first task is not the ultimate one.  The ultimate task, and now I repeat myself, is the Spiritual one, to hear the text in such a way that it leads its reader/hearer into the worship of God and into conformity to God and his ways.

(Gordon Fee, Listening to the Spirit in the Text, WB Eerdmanns Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2000, p.11)

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Here is a question I have:

If exegesis does not lead us to the worship of, and a deeper more intimate knoweldge of, God, is it then an idol, something that sets itself against the knowledge of God? 

Now, I know this is not always the case but I wonder if it could be the case for some people in some instances?   Could some be more interested in knowledge of the Bible and it’s teachings than necessarily the One to whom the Bible points? 

I would assert that, yes, some are more interested in knoweldge of the Bible for it’s own sake and that for them the task of exegesis is not a spiritual one by any means but a strictly historical or literary one and so therefore it does not lead them to a deeper worship and or a more intimate knoweldge of the Holy One. 

So for these, yes, exegesis is a kind of idolatry.