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explanation or critical interpretation of a text, esp of the Bible


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Exegesis is the science (some would call it an art or method of interpretation) of determining exactly the meaning of a particular passage of writing. This technique is used by all who study any writing, but especially by those who study religious scripture. Scriptures of all religions were written within the context of a particular culture and belief system. No one can write without having a certain frame of reference. Words mean different things to different people. Worldviews change. Even the meanings of words change over the years. Imagine the embarrassment a modern teenager feels when asked to stand up during a youth-group meeting of her peers and read the Kings James version of the Ten Commandments. What will she do when she gets to the part that says we are not to "covet our neighbor's ass"? She would have been on solid ground back in the seventeenth century. But the language is a bit awkward in the twenty-first.

Gabriel Fackre of Andover Newton Seminary has developed a formula that can be used by anyone who wants to do exegesis. This four-part system, outlined in Gabriel and Dorothy Fackre's book Christian Basics, works especially well when dealing with the Bible, but it can also be used by the student of mythology or any other ancient writing:

1. Common Sense: Start with its common-sense meaning—reading it just like a newspaper story.

2. Critical Sense: Next check out the ideas of some of the other students who have studied the passage's background, original language, and literary style.

3. Canonical Sense: Compare it to the rest of the author's writing. Is it consistent with the rest of the story?

4. Contextual Sense: What does the passage mean in terms of personal and contemporary culture?

The system will save the student from arriving at conclusions that might be "contemporary" or "politically correct" but totally at odds with what the original author really meant.

References in periodicals archive ?
The Anchor Bible Commentary (Doubleday) is mixed--there are some excellent volumes in it and there are some not-so-excellent volumes.
The books, for example, range far beyond Bible commentary to include thriller fiction, personal advice and self-help, and the latest political criticism.
Many articles are no more than what the Anchor Bible Commentary offers, with perhaps a Jewish note added here and there.
Appealing to scholars and laypersons alike, JPS's Bible Commentary on the Book of Ruth follows a similar pattern to the volumes dealing with Jonah, Esther, and Ecclesiastes published earlier.
This commentary on First Corinthians is Fitzmyer's most recent contribution to The Anchor Yale Bible commentary series.
In the Global Bible Commentary, Dora Mbuwayesango reads the book of Joshua from her context of Zimbabwe, whose inhabitants experienced brutal dispossession of their land during colonization by white settlers--a disturbing parallel to Israel's conquest of the land in Joshua.
As John Barcay points out in a review of Martyn's Anchor Bible Commentary on Galatians (Review of Biblical Literature, November, 26, 2001), Martyn's interpretation sometimes "appears to stray too far into the realm of speculation" even while it remains "one of the greatest readings of Paul.
Written in English by seventy contributors from twenty-five countries, the Africa Bible Commentary aims to explain the Bible from an African perspective.
This collection of 12 articles describes the essence of his thought, including such topics as his philosophical sources, metaphysics and transcendence, epistemology, philosophy of science, moral theory, political philosophy, jurisprudence, Bible commentary, spiritual life, esotericism and educational philosophy.
Franklin, which pioneered the handheld electronic version of the Holy Bible in 1989, has recently inked a licensing agreement with Broadman and Holman Publishers for the Holman Concise Bible Commentary.
Rowley felt privileged to honor Peake's name and to build on his work by editing, along with Matthew Black, a complete revision of the one-volume Bible commentary Peake had edited in its original edition.