First Testament
Exegetical Essay
last update 29 July 2006

In 2000-2500 words, demonstrate your command of  contemporary critical methods of Biblical study by writing an exegetical essay covering the following aspects of your chosen pericope from the Torah.* Give specific references to the passage to support your conclusions.

Include answers to each of the following questions:

  1. What are the immediate and wider literary contexts for this pericope?
  2. In what way(s) is this an appropriate or inappropriate division for the pericope?
  3. What do we know about the author of this pericope?
  4. Who comprise the intended audience, and what do we know about them?
  5. What is the immediate social context for this work?
  6. What specific event(s) in the life of the author and contemporaries gave rise to this work?
  7. Where and when was this pericope written?
  8. What is the literary genre of the document in which we find this passage?
  9. What is the wider historical context for this work?
  10. If applicable, what was its original (oral) form?
  11. What textual critical issues (including parallels) are raised by this pericope?
  12. How are these textual critical issues or parallels significant?
  13. What sources did the author use in writing this passage, and how were they shaped for this particular context?
  14. What key terms do you find in this passage, and how would the author define them?
  15. What is the central idea of this pericope? (I.e., what should the audience think/believe?)
  16. What is the author's apparent aim in this passage? (I.e., what should the audience do?)
  17. What does the author do (or omit) to make this passage persuasive (or not) to the initial readers?
  18. What in this passage might be persuasive to a contemporary audience? How so?
  19. What in this passage might a contemporary audience find lacking or problematic? How so?
  20. What in your interpretation do you see as particularly "Catholic"—or how might a Catholic interpretation provide a different "take" on the passage than you have done here? (NB: remember that the "Catholic" model for interpretation requires the use of historical-analytical methods of exegesis.)
Nota bene:
  1. This essay is impossible to write without outside research. Hence, there need to be footnotes; follow the Chicago Manual of Style and a "works cited" page will not be necessary.
  2. Give evidence for the claims you are making; they are not self-evident.
  3. Remember not only to use your spell checker but also to proofread and edit your work.
  4. This essay will be graded on content, quality, and clarity of expression.
    1. †Each of the foregoing questions is worth points; any omissions will reduce your score.
    2. Be aware that things such as exclusive language, dangling prepositions, problematic diction, misuse of adjectives or adverbs, subject/verb disagreement all will reduce your grade.
    3. Proper format, grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc., is worth 25% of the grade. See here for more information. click here for the score sheet.
*If you would rather consider a text from elsewhere in the Old Testament, see the instructor for permission.