Writing for Biblical Studies


Biblical Studies papers at Westminster are of several types, serving the discipline ofbiblical theology.At one end of the spectrum is the straightexegetical paper,which simply requires an understanding and unpacking of the meaning of a particular passage of Scripture. Only exegesis is required.
At the other end of the spectrum is thebiblical-theological paper,which starts from the foundation of exegesis but devotes itself most of all to the exploration of certain themes as they develop throughout the entire Bible. While there is a certain amount of overlap between the exegetical and biblical-theological paper, there are also significant differences.

In between the exegetical paper and the biblical theological paper are others – usually assigned in OT classes – that are largely devoted to exegesis but also involve significant exploration of how a particular passage fits in with the rest of the Christian canon. Your professor will make clear what exactly he expects, and using the Guide to Writing Exegetical Papers will help you through the process from start to finish.

What is Exegesis?

Exegesis is simply the close, careful reading of a text that attempts to uncover its meaning. While there are various tools for and critical approaches to exegesis, all of these are intended to aid in understanding what the text is saying. Central to exegesis is the exercise of asking questions of your text. In an exegetical paper, the student argues that the text means what he has found it to mean through his own careful study.

What is Biblical Theology?

Westminster understands biblical theology in the tradition pioneered by Geerhardus Vos, that is, as the study of the historical aspect of God’s dealing with humanity. The Bible discloses to us that God has chosen throughout history to speak to different individuals both at various times and places and in diverse ways (Heb 1:1). This speech has been accompanied by and coordinated with God’s action to redeem fallen humanity from sin.

This redemptive activity of God and the self-revelation of God that attends it have a historical dimension that is everywhere present and inescapable. This means that any particular section of Scripture should be understood against the background of the outworking of the plan of God in history.

The major concern of biblical theology, therefore, is to understand how a particular text is related to the historical unfolding of God’s redemptive revelation in other portions of Scripture.

What Is a Biblical-Theological Paper?

A biblical-theological paper explores the thematic connections between one biblical passage and the entire canon of which it is a part.

  • It first examines the passage on its own terms, identifying its major structural and thematic elements.
  • Then it moves to consider how the specific elements, images, themes, and concepts of the passage are developed in both testaments and have their fulfillment in the person and work of Christ.

Particularly important is the progressive nature of that development. By locating the passage within the development of biblical revelation, the biblical-theological paper highlights the contributions made by that particular passage to the entire story of God’s redemptive revelation.

What Are the Differences between Exegetical and Biblical-Theological Papers?

A biblical-theological paper differs from an exegetical paper in scope. The purpose of a biblical-theological paper is to explore the multitude of connections between a passage and the rest of Scripture, specifically highlighting how the elements found in a particular passage develop and change as God’s redemptive plan progresses.

By contrast, an exegetical paper limits its focus to a particular passage, probing deeply and carefully into the details of grammatical-historical analysis. Because a biblical-theological paper is broader, there is less space available for discussing exegetical minutiae – an abbreviated exegetical overview is usually sufficient. Most of the paper will be devoted to tracing thematic connections between your passage and the rest of Scripture.

The Montogmery Library and the Center for Theological Writing provide additional biblical studies resources, including organizational writing and research timelines and other guides for the writing process. If you are a Westminster student, please access to CTW Courses site for sample papers and other helpful resources.

In this section:

Approaching the Biblical Studies Paper

View/download the CTW's Guide to Writing Exegetical Papers


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