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December 03, 2020, 09:50:06 am

Author Topic: How to write an exegesis  (Read 7141 times)  Share 

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heids

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How to write an exegesis
« on: December 12, 2014, 02:28:34 pm »
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Highlighted words
Firstly, according to VCAA:
Quote
As part of your exegesis, you must comment on the meaning and significance of the highlighted words and phrases in the context of the passage.

Highlighted/bolded words are 4-6 phrases from the passage the examiners choose; NEVER leave them out.  Fit them in your writing where it seems most relevant, but don't just stick them on the end - you'll get far better marks if you can fit them in your flow.  All you have to do is explain something of significance about it, generally under one of VCAA's dot-points quoted below; e.g. it could be a person/place/group/event in history that you might need to explain the background to; it could contribute to a literary technique; it could have taught the audience a specific lesson.  Highlight/underline the phrase in your writing it so that it stands out to the examiner and they know you’ve covered it.

Structure
On the exam, there’s a list of dot-points of what you need to cover:
Quote
In your exegesis, you should comment on:
 - context
 - literary forms and/or techniques
 - historical or sociocultural setting, including, where appropriate, references to people, places and historical material of significance
 - meaning and significance for the original community.
At our school, we wrote a paragraph under a heading for each dot point (I don’t think everyone does it this way); it ended up split into 4-5 paragraphs.  This isn't the 'right way'; there are other ways.
e.g.
Intro para: same as the 'context' paragraph below.
Bodies (as many as you want): analyse the passage chronologically, commenting on highlighted words, and discussing literary techniques/forms, historical/sociocultural background, themes and meaning for audience as you go.
Conclusion: draw out the overall messages/significance of the passage to the original audience.

But, you MUST MUST MUST cover all these.

Context (what comes before/after the passage)
  • In the first sentence, locate the passage in the wider text; i.e. what section of the text is it in (for Luke, the Infancy Narratives, the Journey to Jerusalem?; in John, the Book of Signs etc.), and outline what this section is about.  [For each section of the set text, memorise a nice outline of what it’s about – this gets you off to a good start].
    e.g. Luke 1:39-56 is placed in Luke’s Infancy Narrative, a section presenting the messianic identity of Jesus and the in-breaking of the kingdom through the annunciations, births, hymns, and growth of John and his superior Jesus.
    If possible link this passage to the general theme of the section.
  • Summarise what happens in the passage in one sentence.
  • Summarise what happens in the last three or so passages before the chosen passage: 'Preceding this passage/pericope/unit', 'prior to this passage', 'this passage directly follows'.  If you can find a thematic link, e.g. this is part of a series building up Jesus' identity, explain it.  If you find a literary link - 'this passage serves as a narrative bridge between...', put it in!  Try to avoid just listing, the point is the literary/thematic links, the idea being that the passage is developing the book's literary or thematic structure.
  • Do the same with the three passages following the chosen passage: ‘This passage precedes’, ‘following this passage’.
  • Finish off with 1-2 nice profound sentences on the themes, ideas, significance and meaning of this passage.  (or just skip it, time pressures! :()
Historical/sociocultural background
  • Intro it (not essential), e.g. Understanding the sociocultural background of the era/passage illuminates its significance to the Lucan audience.
  • Go through the passage chronologically, picking out anything that might need an explanation; because of exam time pressures, don’t cover everything (you may need much more detail in SACs), stick mainly to the highlighted words with brief explanation of anything else important.
  • In your explanations, explain the background of people, places, groups, worldviews, events – e.g. in Luke, if something mentions David, it probably has something to do with Jesus’ identity as the Messiah, since David received promises in 2 Samuel 7 and the Messiah was expected to be a king like David; or you might have to explain handwashing rituals, or who the Pharisees were.
  • When you’ve explained something, try to show how it’s significant – either mention what it would have shown to the original community/audience, or link it to a theme.
  • Include very brief summaries of what’s happening through the passage to link it together, otherwise it just jumps from highlighted word to highlighted word (this is probably the hardest thing about exegesis – flow).
Literary forms & techniques
  • What form is it?  i.e. what literary type/box do scholars put it in? a parable, miracle story, annunciation?  Often there are multiple which work together. 
    ‘This passage comes in the literary form of a ....., combined with a ...’.
  • Briefly explain what these forms are or their typical structure; you could do this in brackets.
    This passage comes in the literary form of an annunciation (where an angel announces the birth of a special child...)
  • Explain how this passage fits into these forms – I think you can do this in dot-points.
    This passage follows the typical annunciation structure, with
         •   angelic appearance: Gabriel appears
         •   fear, and told not to fear: Mary is told ‘Do not be afraid’
         •   ...
  • You could outline the structure/how the passage is split up, if that is very obvious or has a significant message.
  • Techniques: like for English Language analysis, pick out techniques (foreshadowing, repetition, contrast, etc.), explain how they are shown, and then the impact on the audience/how it helps convey the author’s message.
Summary:
1.  Precisely name specific form/technique.
2.  Describe its structure/details and exactly where it is shown in the passage.
3.  Draw significance from that technique (link to themes/messages).

Themes and meaning for original audience
This can be split into two paragraphs on themes then meaning, but in the exam you’re generally running out of time by this point.  I tended to write a couple of sentences on a theme, then the message to the audience from that theme/related stuff, then back to another theme.
  • Intro it: The major Lucan themes of ..., ... and ... dominate this passage, and would have held great significance to Luke’s original community.
  • Themes: pinpoint your themes from this list: http://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/Documents/vce/txtraditn/VCE_TextsTrads_Works_List-2015.pdf for 2015 in the passage, and find examples of each.  Explain what the passage shows about the theme.
    For Luke, I had nearly the same themes as you have this year.  In every exegesis, I rolled through the list in my mind using THIK DUPP, (table fellowship, holy spirit, ID of Jesus, KOG, discipleship, universal salvation, prayer, prophecy and fulfilment).  You have Women added; I suggest every time you get to the themes section to think T-H-W-I-K-D-U-P-P, and note down in the margin the letter for any theme that feels applicable to the passage.  It just makes it quicker to figure out what to write about.
  • When you get to the original audience bit, you should have learnt some of the issues they were facing.  Inject these facts into your writing.  Here are some examples I put into exegeses:
    this would have encouraged/reassured/inspired...
    this would be particularly poignant to...
    Luke’s primarily Hellenistic audience, who like the [outcast in the passage] were used to being excluded from God’s salvific plan...
    suffering intense persecution from the Jewish and Roman authorities...
    flagging in evangelism...
    facing the unexpected delay of the Parousia... [thus beginning to doubt the reality of Jesus’ identity, etc.]
    struggling with how to relate to Judaism...

    The point is, the author presumably wrote with their issues in mind, aiming to address them; also, like Christians nowadays, they were trying to figure out how to act and what to believe based on these passages.  People have always used passages as jumping-off points for their beliefs and priorities, so your aim is to explain what the audience would have got out of the passage, especially in the light of the major issues of their era.
This section is the crux of the exegesis, worth 1/3 of the marks!  FOCUS ON IT.  DO IT IN DEPTH.  DON'T SKIM IT.  OR I WILL COME, I WILL SEARCH YOU DOWN, I WILL FIND YOU.  (lol what am I even writing? :P)

Probably the greatest exegesis skill is learning NOT to put information in, no matter how well you know it!

How to prepare for exegesis in the exam
Write notes, drawing from commentaries and teachers' resources
Firstly chop up special chapters into passages/small sections (generally 10-18 verses) - it's often clearly defined.

Read your teacher's notes and/or a couple of commentaries (check out Google Books for commentary previews if you don't have any handy) and pick out things that seem important in explaining the passage; then write out notes, either chronologically or arranged under headings (context, historical background, literary, themes, messages).

I printed out each passage on a blank page and beneath it handwrote notes, and redid it before the exam.

Under 'background', I picked out words I thought important, highlighted them pink in the passage above, and wrote notes on them.  For literary, I searched for form(s) and then techniques, highlighting in green in the passage where they occurred.  For themes/meaning I listed the themes in the passage, highlighted where they were evident in the passage using colour-coding for themes (e.g. ID of Jesus yellow, Discipleship blue...), and noted how they were evident in the passage and the impact on the audience.

I had 13 passages I learnt really well for the exam; my notes were so concise and rigorous that I often learnt various sentences off by heart for these passages, which really helped me in my exam timing.

Should you learn every special chapter passage thoroughly?
In the exam, you choose from 3 passages - normally one from the beginning, one from the middle, and one from the end of the set text.  Thus, as long as you thoroughly thoroughly know the first half of the special chapters, you should be fine; it's not important to write an exegesis/learn the notes for every single passage.

But, from experience: I knew very little about one of my chapters.  This didn’t hurt me for exegesis.  BUT one of the extended responses was based entirely on 2 verses from this chapter, which talked about a couple of minor OT characters – a horrible question!  (Thankfully, my general knowledge stood up to the test.)

Brief rant
Why do I always spend so long learning things that weren’t on the exam, and then have to fall back significantly on general knowledge/invention in the exam!!!  T&T is extra-painful in this way, because while in many subjects you have so many different short questions to answer that you get to show off something of most parts of your knowledge, in T&T there are only five questions... and after learning SO much, you only show one tiny part of it.  >:(

So from experience, this is what I’d suggest:
Write notes from a couple of commentaries on every special passage.  Later in the year, decide on the passages you find easiest; rewrite notes, referring to MORE commentaries, and learn these passages inside out.  Go briefly over any passages you’ve chosen to avoid (yes, avoid some, so you can learn your favourites really well and get a great score on them) so you have the details okay, but don’t stress too much over them, and don’t bother reading more commentaries.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2015, 11:12:38 am by bangali_lok »
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anat0my

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Re: How to write an exegesis
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2014, 02:51:52 pm »
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Wow this is a really helpful comprehensive guide, well done! :)

nerdmmb

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Re: How to write an exegesis
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2014, 03:07:45 pm »
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This is an amazing guide! I really wish someone had told me this at the start of the year! :)

heids

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Re: How to write an exegesis
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2014, 04:05:15 pm »
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Wow this is a really helpful comprehensive guide, well done! :)

Thanks so much, I have to say I don't feel confident this is the best way to do it as I'm not a good authority...

This is an amazing guide! I really wish someone had told me this at the start of the year! :)

Thanks!  Sorry I never replied earlier in the year... but I wasn't even a member of atarnotes and felt so unqualified to answer anyone's questions anyway - I was in the same boat as you.
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dessil99

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Re: How to write an exegesis
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2015, 09:31:46 pm »
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Hi!
First of all, excellent guide! It really helped me a lot throughout this year, so many thanks for that.
Also, I wanted to ask if anyone had any tips on how to write a good Thematic essay?
Does it generally take a similar structure to an Exegesis, or should we go for a  full English style essay?
Thanks in advance!
2015: Text and Traditions [??]
2016: English [??] | Specialist Mathematics [??] | Chemistry [??] | Mathematical Methods [??] | Physics [??]

heids

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Re: How to write an exegesis
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2015, 04:05:34 pm »
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Hi!
First of all, excellent guide! It really helped me a lot throughout this year, so many thanks for that.
Also, I wanted to ask if anyone had any tips on how to write a good Thematic essay?
Does it generally take a similar structure to an Exegesis, or should we go for a  full English style essay?
Thanks in advance!

Welcome :)

It's nothing like exegesis at all, more English style.

Remember to meet the VCAA criteria
•   Discussion, understanding and/or interpretation of the idea, themes, literary structures and/or individuals of topic
•   Management of topics, using the various parts of the question to support an interpretation
•   Selection and use of textual detail and evidence significant to the discussion and/or interpretation
•   Understanding of sociocultural, religious and historical influences on foundational text and/or significance to original community
•   Use of scriptural and theological terminology appropriate to the topic and textual passages used

Intro
- introduce topic
- outline key points you'll cover
- state contention

3-5 bodies
- what to discuss in each para: ... well up to you.  It's free-for-all and flexible, maybe even more so than English, just be logical in breaking it up into different ideas that support your discussion; and try to acknowledge different points of view.  If the question says to discuss three examples, that's easy because you structure each para round an example, but it's rarely like that.  Give it a go and get feedback (teacher or here!)
- follow TEEL
- T: have crisp, forceful and to-the-point TSes that summarise the thrust of your argument so it's clear what you'll discuss
- E: cite multiple pieces of evidence; quote specific quotes rather than paraphrase; ideally put references in brackets, or at the very least, a chapter number
- E: don't just list evidence, remember to evaluate/explain significance, what that piece of evidence shows, and how it contributes to your point (can, but don't have to (I didn't), cite scholars' interpretations of evidence here)
- L: round it off by discussing what this shows about the overall topic

Conclusion
- 1-2 sentences - be very brief
- summarise what you've got from your discussion/what you 'proved'/what conclusion you came to
- sound as 'profound' as possible :P

There's a couple more hints in Overview of this amazing subject!, and feel free to ask any more specific questions or post some of your work for direct feedback! :)
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val265

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Re: How to write an exegesis
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2016, 03:38:03 pm »
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Hi I was just wondering what are the different techniques besides dialogue and prayer?

val265

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Re: How to write an exegesis
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2016, 03:44:27 pm »
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Hi I was just wondering does Text and Tradition exam focus on the special chapters throughout each section of the Gospel?

ayesha2011t

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Re: How to write an exegesis
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2016, 06:20:21 pm »
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Hi I was just wondering what are the different techniques besides dialogue and prayer?
Hey, idk if it's the same for what book you are doing; but I usually do historical event (if an event is being articulated), narrative, commandment and parable.

val265

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Re: How to write an exegesis
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2016, 03:38:10 pm »
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Thank You So much!! I am doing the Gospel of Luke

val265

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Re: How to write an exegesis
« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2016, 08:24:05 pm »
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Hi  Since I am doing the Gospel of Luke i was wondering what would the Lukan audience feel during the Prologue?

val265

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Re: How to write an exegesis
« Reply #11 on: August 06, 2016, 09:10:56 pm »
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Hi
Does anyone have any tips for trying to memorize different commentator notes?

heids

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Re: How to write an exegesis
« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2016, 12:11:01 pm »
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Hi I was just wondering what are the different techniques besides dialogue and prayer?

First, there's different literary forms you should learn which often go with specific structures or techniques: miracle story, parable, annunciation, discourse etc.

Then some other techniques include:
- chiasm (an ABB'A' format, if you've seen those?)
- foreshadowing
- repetition
- contrast
- sequences of verbs
- threesomes
... and many more, if you look for them in each individual passage :)

Hi I was just wondering does Text and Tradition exam focus on the special chapters throughout each section of the Gospel?

The exegesis focuses on special chapters only, but the extended responses and essays can come from anywhere in the gospel, so it's good to know the entire book (or at least certain events from the entire book).

Hi
Does anyone have any tips for trying to memorize different commentator notes?

Same as memorising any content, which I talked about here :)
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The Cat In The Hat

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Re: How to write an exegesis
« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2020, 09:34:05 am »
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Thanks Heids! This is my go-to for writing an exegesis, it's so clear and well-written!
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