I believe that as a collegiate minister or college pastor, one of our greatest responsibilities is to help our college students live out 2 Timothy 2:15,
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.“
As we lead our students to a saving faith and in turn equip them to read and understand God’s Word, we must give them the skills and the knowledge necessary to properly exegete the Bible for themselves."As we lead our students to a saving faith and equip them to read and understand God’s Word, we must give them the skills and the knowledge necessary to properly exegete the Bible." @jstock Teaching Gen Z How to Read the Bible: 5… Click To Tweet
The word “exegesis” literally means to “bring out.” The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church explains exegesis as:
“the act of explaining a text. The explanation may include translation, paraphrase, or commentary on the meaning. Its purpose may be either to describe the author’s meaning or to apply that meaning to a contemporary situation.”3rd ed., rev., p. 588
As we go about making disciples of all nations there is an inherent responsibility for you and I to equip our students to read and understand Scripture in such a way so that God is honored. Below are 5 “markers” to teach our students and help them stay on the road for a good, scriptural exegesis of biblical text.
5 Markers for Biblical Exegesis
- The Grammar Marker – God used human authors as the means through which He wrote Scripture. And in doing so God used their languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) to convey to us His revealed Word. These languages, like all languages, have certain structures and follow certain rules. Because of this we must interpret the Bible in a manner that is consistent with the basic grammatical rules of these languages.
We must teach our college students that as they examine Scripture, a large chunk of it consists of identifying key words and defining them accurately. Definitions are basic to understanding the passage as a whole, and it is important that any key word be defined according to its original intent and not according to modern usage.
As the students do this, they will find that many of the words of the given passage have grammatical relationships. Help them to find parallels and determine which ideas are primary and which are subordinate.
- The Literal Marker – Help the student to understand and learn that each word in a passage of Scripture has a normal, literal meaning, unless there is good reason to view the word or phrase as a figure of speech. We should not go out of our way to spiritualize or allegorize (interpret or represent symbolically). Words mean what words mean.
So, if Scripture mentions a “stone,” it means “a stone.” When the Bible speaks of the Promised Land, it means a literal land given to Israel and should not be interpreted as a reference to heaven.
- The Historical Marker – As years pass, culture changes. Perspectives shift and languages morph. We must help our college students guard against the temptation of interpreting Scripture according to how our modern culture views things. This means that we must help them understand and learn to put Scripture in its historical context.
Help your college students to understand that geography, customs, current events, politics and such played a role in the how and why the passage was written when it was written. Most of us do not have an in-depth understanding of ancient Jewish culture. But we do have access, now more than ever, to Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and books on history. These resources can help us understand the historical context of the passage and allow us a better and deeper understanding of what is being read.
- The Embedded Marker – I was told many years ago that the best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture itself. We must teach our college students to examine a passage of Scripture in relation to the verses surrounding it, to the book it is found in, and to the entirety of Scripture itself. The Bible does not contradict itself. Any theological statement in one verse can and should be harmonized with theological statements in other parts of scripture. Good Scripture interpretation relates any one passage to the total content of scripture.
- The Application Marker – Once our college student has properly examined the passage to understand its meaning, then it is time for them to apply it to their daily life. When we were told in 2 Timothy 2:15 to “rightly handle the word of truth”, it means that it is more than an intellectual exercise; it is a life-changing event. It is time to live it out in a real and genuine manner. Whether we are being called to love, forgive, honor, leave, abandon, or celebrate someone or something, a mark of a serious disciple and true believer is obedience.
Don’t Give Up Teaching Your Students Biblical Exegesis
Living out and teaching these markers is challenging. It will take time, diligence, and sacrifice for you and for your students. Some won’t be up for the challenge – but many college students will be.
College pastor, train them. Campus minister, equip them. Spend time calling and investing in your students so that they may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. It will take time, but in the end it will be worth it.