Distinctions of Exegesis & Exposition
Interpreting Scripture Accurately
The Distinction of Exegesis & Exposition
Is there a difference between exegesis of the Bible and exposition of the Bible? Let’s look at the relationship between these two vital disciplines of Christian understanding.
There is a basic distinction between the two terms. Exegesis can be practiced only in the original languages of the Scriptures.
Exegesis carefully analyzes the following:
#1. Sentence structure of the Greek sentence.
#2. Syntactical relationships between words
#3. Grammatical forms
#4. Word meanings
#5. Cultural and Historical background of the passage being studied.
Exposition does the following:
#1. Exposition builds on the results of sound exegesis
#2. Exposition expresses the meaning of the passage in one’s native language
#3. Exposition may add both illustration and/or exhortation.
Now let’s consider an example of exegesis.
One must consider and recognize a genitive absolute to be a competent exegete; but this phenomenon, presented in these terms, would baffle most English readers or listeners.
Exposition of the Bible should always seek to take the technical and necessary exegetical research/analysis and present them in such a way that the reader or listener understands the information. This requires some skill and hard work, in marrying the two concepts of exegesis and exposition together and becoming a competent exegete-expositor. Yet this is what is required of a competent pastor.
If a pastor is not a competent exegete-expositor then there can be no real spiritual food given to the congregation and without that spiritual food, a congregation starves spiritually and there is little or no spiritual growth for those who attend.
As an example of exegesis, this commentator has many resource tools for textual study and analysis of the Greek texts of the New Testament, including not only the Greek text itself but Greek-English lexicons with extensive research on the meanings of words and variations on word meanings in some instances.
There are also Analytical Concordances of the Greek text with a lexical emphasis and another with a grammatical emphasis. Such a reference can aid in finding how a given word may be used elsewhere in scripture. There’s a vocabulary of the Greek Testament that provides extra-biblical word meanings showing how people living in the first century used a given word in secular life.
Additional background can be garnered from research books like “The Life and Times of Jesus, the Messiah” by Dr. Alfred Edersheim for background on customs and culture of the first century times of Jesus. Another example might be Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament in 10 volumes. It can provide additional background on the original Greek text.
In using these tools as an author and commentator/expositor I must be careful and thoroughly exegete to understand the meaning of a passage as it was originally intended. This brings to mind the old saying: “A passage can never mean what it never meant.”
Of course after the exegetical aspect is achieved, it must then be expressed in a way that the English reader/listener of any age can understand.
So in conclusion, exegesis gives us the analysis of a Scriptural passage and the exposition of a passage explains it for understanding and this is the difference between exegesis and exposition.