Q&A: Grammatico-Historical Exegesis

Grammatico-Historical Exegesis

What do we mean by grammatico-historical exegesis?

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Answer

Grammatico-historical exegesis is a way of summarizing, in short form, an answer to the question, how is meaning to be found in a text? We insist that there is meaning to be found, and we insist that meaning is going to be derived from the text itself. Well, how does that happen? Well, the word "exegesis" is simply a word meaning "to explain, to draw out," and we're drawing out meaning from the text. It's not from the author independently of the text, it's not from the reader independently, or even in conjunction with, the text, but we say the text says something. How is that meaning to be drawn out? Well, grammatico — that captures grammar. We attend very carefully the words. What do those words mean, those words in relationship to one another at the very simplest level, word to word? We call those syntactical relationships. And then we expand, we look at clauses and sentences and paragraphs and much larger units of discourse. Historical means that a text is written at a particular place, at a particular point in time, by a particular author, and meaning has to be understood in the context in that historical context that I've just outlined. So we don't read a text as though a biblical text as though it were published in the USA Today yesterday for a modern American readership. We do insist that the Scripture has something to say to readers in all times and all ages, but it had to have meant something to the original audience. And its words, its meanings, its reference, of course, have to be understood in that historical context. And once we come to terms with the grammar and with the historical context, then we're in a position to say this is what the text means, and then we can make application to contemporary audiences.

Answer by Dr. Guy Waters

Dr. Guy Waters is the James M. Baird, Jr. Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary.