Check-Sheet for Exegesis Papers



Are there spelling or grammatical problems?

Be sure to proof-read your paper!  If you are not fluent in English, ask a friend who is to help you edit your paper.  In academic writing casual contractions are to be avoided.  Use “does not” rather than “doesn’t” and “is not” rather than “isn’t,” etc.  You might want to review some common formatting and stylistic errors.  If you are unsure of which prepositions go with which English verbs (not unusual) I recommend consulting a Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs (look up the verb and see which prepositions go with it).  Find out about the most common grammatical errors: Site 1, Site 2, Site 3.

Is the writing consistently clear and coherent?

If you need editorial help, get it. 

Is the paper paginated?

It should be!

Is the paper too long or short (correct margins/fonts)?

Do not change margins from 1 inch or use other than size 12 font (Times New Roman or equivalent).  Footnotes should be single-spaced with size 10 font (adjust Greek and Hebrew to be equivalent). 

Does it follow The SBL Handbook of Style?

The SBL Handbook of Style is the standard for work done for the biblical studies division of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (with some minor variations).  Check out style for footnotes, bibliographies, etc., in The SBL Handbook of Style.  Many examples can be found at SBL Handbook Standards.  The footnote and bibliography standard is similar to that given in Turabian (cf. the Turabian quick guide) but note that in SBL style virtually anything that comes between the book title and the page numbers (book editors if an essay is being cited, place, publisher, date of publication, etc.) is kept between parentheses.

Are references to dictionary and journal articles properly formatted?

Titles of articles in journals are put between quotation marks, the name of the journal (or an abbreviation of the same) are italicized.  Dictionary articles should cite the author of the article and give the article title in quotes. 

See The SBL Handbook of Style or Guidelines for Footnote and Bibliography Entries.

Is the Bibliography in proper alphabetical order? 

By last name.  See the SBL Handbook for examples.

Does the paper show familiarity with both primary and secondary sources (including advanced grammars and lexicons, periodical literature, monographs, theological dictionaries, and critical commentaries on the original texts)?

This is where you show the level of research you carried out.  Ask the library staff for help in finding articles or monographs on your text/subject.  Consult lexicons such as BDAG (for a detailed explanation of how to use BDAG, see the introduction by Rodney Decker, especially pp. 10-25), Louw and Nida, Liddell and Scott; theological dictionaries such as TDNT (we may search vols. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10) NIDNTT, EDNT, and TLNT (for the OT consider TDOT [we may search vols. 8,  9, or 12] by G. Johannes Botterweck, et al), NIDOTTE, TLOT, and TWOT). 

When using commentaries, focus on those that discuss features of the original text (critical commentaries).  Check more advanced commentaries such as the Word Biblical Commentary (WBC), the New International Greek Text Commentary (NIGTC), the International Critical Commentary (ICC), the Anchor Bible (AB), Hermeneia, the New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT), the Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC), etc.  Of course there are many important commentaries that are not part of such series. 

Your paper should reflect not only secondary sources (books written about the ancient texts) but primary sources as well (careful examination of ancient biblical and related texts).  Do not depend upon (or cite) popular-level commentaries, one-volume commentaries on the whole Bible, concise Bible handbooks, etc.  They have an important place in the world, but not as significant sources for serious exegetical work.

Does the discussion of boundaries and coherence mention specific linguistic evidence in favor of the proposed text division?

Do not list those who divide the text one way or another.  I don’t care who, I want to know why.  Give specific evidence for or against possible divisions.  Review the handouts that discuss different kinds of evidence.

Is the translation overly free or overly wooden?  Does it have inappropriate parentheses or brackets?

You must decide on the original text and whether to provide objects, etc., or translate “brother or sister.”  See further guidance for polished translations.

Do text-critical discussions provide brief but sufficient detail (primary support for each variant, perhaps in footnotes)?

In a brief footnote for each significant variation unit you should briefly mention the most important witnesses for each variant and the most important reason why you decided in favor of the one you did (perhaps by explaining the origin of the rejected variant[s]).  Do not merely refer to a chart, since most charts only depict external evidence.  You need to consider both external and internal evidence.  Consult Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2nd edition. London & N.Y.: United Bible Societies, 1994) for insight on particularly difficult or important text-critical issues in your passage.  If the apparatus contains Latin terms you do not recognize, try using the Perseus Latin site.  More advanced commentaries (esp. WBC, NIGTC, ICC) will have discussions of text-critical issues.

Do grammatical discussions show linguistic care and sophistication?

Be sure to refer to at least two intermediate or advanced grammars (e.g. those by Daniel Wallace and Blass, Debrunner and Funk).  It would be wise to both 1) read about unusual uses of cases, moods, tenses, etc., that are in your text, and 2) consult the Scripture index to see if some issue in your passage is directly addressed in the grammar.  Grammatical help can also be found in A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament by Max Zerwick and Mary Grosvenor, especially by following the embedded references to relevant paragraphs of Zerwick’s Biblical Greek.  Avoid making statements about verbal aspect in non-indicative verbs that are not properly supported (check to see if the verb has a default usage or distinctive meanings with different tenses in non-indicative moods).

Do word studies reflect knowledge of primary and secondary texts, show lexicographical care and avoid word-study fallacies? 

You should perform a more thorough, inductive study of 2-3 words for your paper.  Your inductive study of these words should be supplemented by consultation of secondary literature, but there should be evidence that you have gone well beyond merely consulting secondary literature for these special words.  See further guidance for word studies.  For bibliographical help see the page of Sources for Word Studies.

Are background and theological issues sufficiently investigated?

If your text cites the OT be sure to study that text in context and other ancient interpretations of the same.  If you text mentions concepts that are based on OT background (e.g., “Son of God,” “Son of Man” or “sin came into the world through one man,” etc.) be sure to explain how that background informs your text.  For important suggestions regarding potential Old Testament or Jewish backgrounds to New Testament texts be sure to consult Vetus Testamentum in Novo (edited by Hans Hübner and on reserve in the Goddard Library).  These volumes point to possible linguistic parallels in the OT and Apocrypha, laying the texts out in parallel columns.  So far there are volumes dedicated to the Gospel of John and the Pauline letters.  Explain how your text relates to key theological issues faced by the early church and/or our own.  See class handouts for bibliography related to background issues. 

Is the structure of the passage made clear?


You should provide a Semantic Structural Analysis (sometimes called a Discourse Analysis), a form-critical or narratological analysis as an appendix, depending on the text and your training.  The structure of the passage should be made clear in an introductory section or as the commentary section goes along.

Is there a clear conclusion discussing the Idea/Purpose/Relevance-Application of the text?

Be sure to include your proposed Subject and Complement (not “Compliment”) for the passage, as well as your Exegetical Idea.  Make sure your Exegetical Idea is formed by a strict fusing of your Subject and Complement.  Do not leave out or add more information when moving from your Subject and Complement to your Exegetical Idea. Be sure to explain the author’s purpose in terms of behavioral or other changes that should take place with the readers (e.g., “[Paul/Matthew] hoped that after this text was read the hearers would …”).  Do not keep to verbs that refer to the actions of the author.

Defend your proposed idea and purpose statements. 

Explain why your text was relevant to the original readers and discuss its relevance in our day as well.

Other technical issues: 

Be sure to acknowledge your sources!  Always, in every section.  Do not use authors’ words without quotation marks!  Be sure you understand the examples regarding proper and improper citation from the Indiana University Plagiarism Webpage.

Is the paper securely stapled with this sheet attached at the back and with your name and box number on the cover sheet?  Please do not use special covers or folders.  Please do not use paperclips (they slide off too easily).

Be careful not to incorporate Greek words or phrases into English sentences improperly.  To have a coherent sentence you may need to use infinitive or nominative forms of Greek words rather than those used by the author.  Although your word may have a grave accent in the text, it will not have one when cited in isolation in your paper.  If you do not have access to software with the Greek New Testament you might want to copy the text of your passage from the NA28 website.  I recommend the SBL Greek font.

The OT Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha are both diverse collections of writings.  Do not make general statements like “according to the Pseudepigrapha” since the collection does not reflect any unified community or viewpoint.  Refer, instead, to specific works within the collection, as in “according to the Apocalypse of Moses and the Psalms of Solomon …”

When citing from the electronic version of Brill’s DSS software program do not cite the book paragraph numbers.  They do not represent any formal, recognized reference system.  Find the column and line numbers (and, where applicable, fragment number) by scrolling up to find the first line of the column where the column number will be found.

If you get stuck, be sure to contact your professor or the teaching assistant for the course.  They are there to help you learn the material!