A Beginner's Guide to New Testament Exegesis: Taking the Fear out of Critical Method, By Richard J. Erickson

A Beginner's Guide to New Testament Exegesis

Taking the Fear out of Critical Method

by Richard J. Erickson

A Beginner's Guide to New Testament Exegesis
  • Length: 239 pages
  • Published: September 15, 2005
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 2771
  • ISBN: 9780830827718

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Let's face it. Just the word exegesis puts some of us on edge. We are excited about learning to interpret the Bible, but the thought of exegetical method evokes a chill. Some textbooks on exegesis do nothing to overcome these apprehensions. The language is dense. The concepts are hard. And the expectations are way too high. However, the skills that we need to learn are ones that a minister of the gospel will use every week.

Exegesis provides the process for listening, for hearing the biblical text as if you were an ordinary intelligent person listening to a letter from Paul or a Gospel of Mark in first-century Corinth or Ephesus or Antioch. This book by Richard Erickson will help you learn this skill. Thoroughly accessible to students, it clearly introduces the essential methods of interpreting the New Testament, giving students a solid grasp of basic skills while encouraging practice and holding out manageable goals and expectations. Numerous helps and illustrations clarify, summarize and illuminate the principles. And a wealth of exercises tied to each chapter are available on the web.

This is a book distinguished not so much by what it covers as by how: it removes the "fear factor" of exegesis. There are many guides to New Testament exegesis, but this one is the most accessible--and fun!

"Written in a conversational and witty style, A Beginner's Guide to New Testament Exegesis introduces newcomers to the whole field of biblical interpretation, from the techniques of exegesis and the resources in support of it to broader issues of genre, style and analysis of New Testament texts, including a chapter on interpreting the book of Revelation. For me, Richard Erickson's greatest achievement is shifting the emphasis away from exegesis as a mechanical task to the formation of the mind and spirit of the person doing exegesis. He helps his readers become exegetes rather than simply do exegesis!"

Rev. James R. Edwards, Professor of Biblical Languages and Literature, and Chair, Department of Theology and Philosophy, Whitworth College

"Don't let the light-hearted humor and user-friendly approach of this book fool you! This is a superb introduction to the classic exegetical method that deserves to be ranked with the very best books on the subject. What separates this book from the others is its stunning clarity. Erickson, himself an experienced scholar-teacher-pastor-exegete, has the gift of making the intrinsically difficult readily accessible to the average person. Beneath the sugar-coating is an exceptional wisdom and maturity of judgment. In this book you will find all the requisite information, instructions, techniques, examples (and encouragement too!) that you need to put yourself on the road to becoming a responsible and reliable interpreter of Scripture."

Donald A. Hagner, George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Richard Erickson entitles his book A Beginner's Guide, but he's wrong on that: anyone who absorbs this Beginner's Guide will find that he or she will not begin with it but live with it, for it will shape the home that is built upon it. Here is a book to begin with and to live with--for your entire life."

Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University

"Using a pastoral style, Erickson provides a thorough primer to New Testament exegesis that is seasoned with humor and anecdotes. Beginning students who are intimidated by the exegetical task will find this a welcome and engaging book."

Karen H. Jobes, Gerald F. Hawthorne Professor of New Testament Greek Exegesis

"Having read Erickson's Beginner's Guide, I am excited about this book. It is clear, concise, yet covers the bases. It is up to date with the most recent scholarship but retains its character as a guide for beginners. Its many examples increase both its clarity and student interest. This work makes Greek exegesis come alive, while guiding students away from its pitfalls. I predict that this Guide will not only be useful for students but also for teachers who wish to explain exegetical concepts more clearly. My one regret is that I have taught exegesis for thirty years without being able to put this tool into the hands of my students."

Peter Davids, Biblical Studies for the Good of the Church

"At last! A truly helpful and realistic book on how to do exegesis of the Greek New Testament! Richard Erickson is a skillful and sympathetic guide who has a knack for explaining the process and encouraging beginners to persevere through the necessary steps, methods and approaches required to do responsible exegesis. This is a first-rate book."

Dr. Larry R. Helyer, professor of biblical studies, Taylor University

This is a very readable and enjoyable beginner?s guide written from the perspective of an experienced teacher for his students. Erickson?s interest shines throughout his engaging book, which will excite readers and help in ?taking the fear out of critical method?. Highly recommended.

Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 2007

Erickson?s Beginner?s Guide is a fine example of substance with style. Using encouragement, humor, personal illustrations, examples, clarity, and an abundance of practical wisdom, Erickson engages readers as a demanding but compassionate guide. His contribution (including the book and the supplemental material on the web) ranks among the very best available for teaching NT exegesis.

JETS, June 2007

Much more than a beginner's guide. It is a systematic, clear and sometimes humorous presentation of the principles of disciplined Bible study and interpretation. Pastors like me who have slipped into habits of rapid Bible study will be challenged to relearn the listening skills that helped us fall in love with God and God's Word.

Lynne M. Baab, Leadership, Spring 2006


Preface: Read Me First!
1 Framing Your Mind, or How to Pronounce ZMRSLINA
1.1 Some Assumptions at the Outset
1.2 An Exegetical Frame of Mind
1.3 A View From the Top
1.4 A Look at What's to Come
2 Texts and Tools: Mowing the New Testament Lawn
2.1 The New Testament Text: Originals, Copies, Translations and Editions
2.2 Textual Criticism: Establishing the Text for Exegetical Purposes
2.3 The Tools for the Job
3 Texts and Their Structure: Walls of Stones
3.1 Synthesis: Structure and the Whole
3.2 Analysis: Structure and the Parts
3.3 Top-down and Bottom-up: Inductive and Deductive Decisions
3.4 Coming Up for Air
4 Syntactical and Discourse Analysis: Some Dis-assembly Required
4.1 Defining Terms
4.2 Analyzing Sentences
4.3 Analyzing Discourse
4.4 Summing Up
5 History and Culture in Exegesis: You Can't Eat a Denarius
5.1 Meaning as a Function of Place in Context
5.2 Two Types of Historical-Cultural Setting
5.3 Biblical Texts as Culturally Determined
5.4 Cultural "Relevance" and Cultural Transference
5.5 Probabilities, Ambiguities and Alternatives
6 Letters: Reading Someone Else's Mail
6.1 Genres and Subgenres
6.2 Historical Context: Who's on the Other End?
6.3 Argument
6.4 A Simplified Procedure for Epistle Exegesis
7 Narratives I: Telling the Old, Old Story
7.1 The Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles as Self-Contained, Coherent Stories
7.2 History or Literature?
7.3 Historical-, Form-, and Source-Critical Approaches to the Gospels
7.4 Redaction Criticism
7.5 Using a Gospel Synopsis
8 Narratives II: Thickening the Plot
8.1 Stories with Plot, Character and Setting
8.2 Type-Scenes and Parallel Accounts
8.3 Old Testament Citations and Allusions
8.4 Speeches and Logia
8.5 Summary Passages
9 Apocalypse: Alternative Education
9.1 What Is It?
9.2 Reading the Apocalypse Now: Avoiding the Extremes
9.3 A Look at Some New Testament Apocalyptic Literature
9.4 Conclusion
10 Moving On: What Do We Do Now?
10.1 Exegesis in Its Context
10.2 Exegesis and the Broader Theological Context
10.3 Exegesis, Preaching and Teaching
10.4 Exegesis for Life

Annotated Bibliography
Subject Index
Scripture Index


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Richard J. Erickson

Richard J. Erickson (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is associate professor of New Testament at Fuller Seminary Northwest in Seattle, where he has taught exegesis to students for over twenty years. Erickson has also taught courses at Lutheran Brethren Seminaries in Kaélé, Cameroon, and Sendai, Japan, at Seminario Bíblico de Colombia in Medellín, at Seminario Teológico Presbiteriano San Pablo in Mérida, Yucatán, and at Tyndale Theological Seminary in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Erickson has published several articles in professional journals and in Faith and Fellowship, the denominational magazine of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren, the church in which he is ordained. He has also presented research papers at professional meetings and is a frequent speaker at various churches and conferences.