Interpreting the New Testament Text: Introduction to the Art and Science of Exegesis (INTT) is a seminary-level textbook edited by Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) professors, Darrell L. Bock and Buist M. Fanning. The two editors collate contributions from fellow DTS professors and former students of current DTS professor Harold W. Hoehner (pp. 9, 18). The book is somewhat of a festschrift in honor of Dr. Hoehner and his years of faithful exegesis and Bible teaching ministry. The purpose of INTT is “to discuss the methods of exegesis that make it a skill that can be taught, while also giving samples of exegesis that reveal what exegesis looks like in the hands of mature practitioners” (p. 24).
Exegesis is defined in INTT most broadly as “a high-definition form of reading and studying the Bible” (p. 17). More specifically, exegesis is defined as “setting forth the authors’/text’s meaning by interaction with the original language through the use of sound hermeneutics with a view to applying the text to the contemporary church and the world” (p. 24). INTT summarizes the product of exegesis in three different outcomes: (1) to understand the message of the text, (2) to articulate why one thinks that is the text’s message, and (3) to prepare for application(s) rooted in that biblical message (p. 27).
Do you exegete? Perhaps an evaluation of the primary tools you use each week would be helpful in answering this question. INTT suggests the following as essential tools for proper exegesis:
The tools of exegesis include the Greek text, multiple translations (to surface options and exegetical disputes), a concordance (for word study), grammars and grammatical aids, extrabiblical texts (to help gain an understanding of the historical and cultural setting), lexicons and theological word books (to help with terms), and commentaries, especially technical commentaries (to serve as discussion partners about what the text means) (p. 27).
INTT does a very good job in presenting a textbook that will inform the interested student in the details of exegetical methodology, and in suggesting the specific tools that will help diligent students accomplish the goal of accurate exegesis of the New Testament text.
The book is organized into two major parts. The first is a series of “introductory essays on key elements of exegetical method” (p. 19) written by current faculty at DTS (pp. 17-18). These essays include issues related to grammatical analysis, diagramming, lexical analysis, background studies, narrative, and epistolary and apocalyptic genres. This first portion also reviews effective theological and applicational analysis.
The second portion of the book provides a series of articles given to serve as examples of the methodology espoused in the first part of the book, written by scholars around the world (p. 19). Notable contributors include I. Howard Marshall, Edwin M. Yamauchi, E. Earle Ellis, and Herbert W. Bateman IV. Most New Testament genres are covered in this section (nothing on apocalyptic which would have been helpful).
INTT has a number of helpful contributions to the subject and practice of exegesis. First, I am thankful that the authors stress the essential nature of working with the Greek Text of the New Testament, if what we are doing is to be considered genuine exegesis. I am afraid too much that is propounded as “exegesis” is really nothing more than rehashing expositions (even good ones) of English text commentaries. “Exegesis has generally been reserved for those who can interact directly with Greek. Knowledge of the language allows one a direct access to the expressions of the text and its lexical, grammatical, syntactical roots that working through a translation does not permit” p. (25). Perhaps the most important reason I attended seminary was to be trained in using the biblical languages. Having pastored for 8 ˝ years before seminary and being ten years removed from my first year of seminary, I can attest to the grave difference between exegetical study and expositional study. This is not to disparage those who do not know or work closely with the Greek text. I would like to think that I did a fair job with the biblical text before seminary. However, I had few resources to really evaluate the exegetical conclusions being purported in many of the commentaries I was reading.
Another positive contribution of INTT is the methodical and clear approach each essay (especially in part one) provides in applying exegetical skills. While the text is a seminary-level book (it virtually demands that the reader have some working knowledge of New Testament Greek), it also provides simple and straightforward descriptions of how an exegetical skill can be developed and utilized in the process of study. One particularly helpful section to me was the chapter on diagramming. The author described the pros and cons of line, block, and exegetical diagramming and provided a plethora of good examples.
All of the authors aim at finding the author’s intended meaning of a text (i.e., p. 137). The section on lexical study was also quite useful, not only in its discussion of a helpful methodology, but in its suggestion of key resources to utilize. The book also gives good advice on how to resolve exegetical problems (p. 159). It has one of the better and more consistent exegetical approaches to handling apocalyptic texts.
Perhaps one of the drawbacks of INTT is that it is a seminary-level textbook, making it less accessible to serious students who have yet to gain formal language training. However, I still believe a serious-minded reader can and will glean much from the clear-cut manner in which each exegetical element is presented. I personally do not hold to the book’s espousal and promotion of the documentary hypothesis of the Gospels (Q theory pp. 208-209, 321). Furthermore, the exegetical examples at the end of the chapter do not necessarily maintain the same methodical manner in applying the exegetical principles as they were described in the first part. This is not to say that the second part contradicts the first. However, the exegesis conducted in the second section is not described as clearly and methodically as the first part. Therefore, I found the essays less helpful in providing solid examples.
Overall, INTT is an exceptional book, especially when compared to some other texts on New Testament Exegesis (i.e., Erickson’s A Beginner’s Guide to New Testament Exegesis). I would highly recommend it for those who want to broaden and deepen their skills in exegesis. – Bret Capranica, Christian Book Previews.com
With the explosive increase in availability of English Bible translations, the question can easily be asked, “Why bother with the hard work of biblical exegesis?” Computers can translate foreign languages and our English texts can take us very close to the original meanings, so why exegete? Answer: because the deepest truths of the Bible are found through the deepest study.
This book teaches the principles, methods, and fundamentals of exegeting the New Testament. It also has examples of textual exegesis that clearly and helpfully show the value of exegeting a text well. Any serious student of Scripture would benefit from utilizing this book in the study of the Bible.