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explanation or critical interpretation of a text, esp of the Bible
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(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.

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The same report issued by Research and Evaluation that described low participation in Bible study groups also reported a sharp increase in the percentage of ELCA members who believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible. The report found:
To atone for his sins, the 'Batman and Robin' star would fill "his shoes with gravel" and jump "off the top of his bunk bed, but he eventually decided that his interpretation of the bible allowed for self-pleasure.
More seriously she, and her father, are brought under intense pressure by the elders to conform to their edicts and their restrictive interpretation of the Bible. Grace retains her sense of truth and freedom to ask questions during this time and is stunned when her father is expelled and she is punished.
Belief in a literal interpretation of the Bible is especially pronounced among churchgoing Protestants, as two-thirds of Protestants who attend church weekly hold this view.
While various religions and cultures have their own creation myths, mostly written back in the Bronze Age, there are now Creationists who are inventing pseudo-science based on their interpretation of the Bible or other ancient books, and attempting to wedge this into the teaching of evidence-based science.
Among specific topics are the Torah as a norm for redaction and interpretation, allegorical interpretation of scripture as exemplified by Philo of Alexandria, the sermons in the Books of Acts showing how the Old Testament is prophecy about Christ, Christ surpasses the Old Testament institutions in the Epistle to the Hebrews, early rabbinic interpretation of the Bible, the apostolic fathers, and Origen's way of the soul toward perfection.
The issue was interpretation of the Bible. In Wales, Owen Thomas, a Calvinist Methodist, clashed with Rowland Williams over his "Rational Godliness," an article published in Y Traethodydd, a non-sectarian quarterly.
She notes that an exclusively literal interpretation of the Bible is a recent development.
Disagreeing, Coptic activist and writer Jamal Assad faults Pope Shenouda's interpretation of the Bible on the issue of divorce.
Their rejection of rabbinic interpretation of the Bible has led to some odd and seemingly un-Jewish customs, such as prostrate prayer and removal of footwear in the synagogue.
A literal interpretation of the Bible also may be taught alongside the theory of evolution in, for instance, Kentucky, where law states that teachers may tell students "the theory of creationism as presented in the Bible." And in Pennsylvania, the school board authorized teaching "intelligent design" in high school biology classes.
Jenkins's The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South, a continuation of this same research project, refocuses the same phenomenon with relation to interpretation of the Bible.