The Differences Between Exegesis and Exposition

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TylerR's picture


I don't know of a better way to understand a passage than to translate it. If you can do this, and put the biblical language skills you learned in college or seminary to use, than you literally have to reckon with every single word in the passage. You will know what the passage means, and understand the issues behind every single turn of phrase. The sermon will pour out of you, and there will be a depth to your application that you can't get from a commentary.

For the first time in years, I only have to do one message per week (Sunday School). I have never had so much fun. Instead of four messages, I get to focus all my energy and attention on one passage. I was up early this morning, pondering how to best render five Greek words from 1 Peter 2:7:

  • Should it be, "so, to you who believe, He is precious"
  • Or, is it, "so, this honor is for you - the believers!"
  • Or, is it, "this means the honor is yours, you who believe!"

I'd already settled on option #3 a week back, but as I was writing my notes on this bit this morning, I was completely unsatisfied. Option #3 is vague and somewhat meaningless. I spent 30 minutes on syntax, pondering alternatives, and decided the dative pronoun was expressing advantage, not possession - option #2. Ironically, I consulted a detailed exegetical handbook afterwards, and saw the author recommended several syntax options which also resulted in option #2. I'd mirrored him, before I'd even looked at his work! Very funny.

The point is that I think if pastors used their language tools, they'd have an extraordinarily rich depth of understanding of their passage, and that will translate into much more substantive messages for their congregations. They'll also be able to speak intelligently when folks in their congregations ask them why phrases are rendered completely differently in their various bible translations. They won't stammer and tap-dance; they'll have an answer. 1 Peter 2:7 (above) is a prime example.  

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture


I frequently use an outline method I've seen given a number of different labels. I think "syntactical outline" is one term.

You don't mess with distracting things like roman numerals, letters, or even bullets. The grammar dictates the outline, but not really the grammatical details. It focuses on identifying main clauses, subordinate clauses, modifying phrases.

Some examples:   Here and here and here.  (Some of these are a bit simplified to better fit on a screen... less indenting than my 'real' outline)

As for exegesis vs. exposition, the former is a trip to the hardware store where you gather tools and materials for your project. Exposition is actually building something.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.