Tag Archives: context

Did he say “Bible extra Jesus”?

by Katie Hynd

How is an exegesis paper different from a research paper? Why do we write these “extra Jesus” papers in Bible classes, anyway? These are two questions I asked last year as I began my post-graduate teaching internship with the Religion Department. I was determined to find answers.

Essentially, an exegesis paper is a research paper. The Religion Department uses the word “exegesis” instead of “research” because there are specific requirements for papers in Bible classes that a typical research paper doesn’t include (or that a research paper requires that an exegesis paper foregoes).

An exegesis paper does not argue a thesis statement or answer a research question. It is guided by a Bible passage.

In Bible classes the word “passage” is used frequently. A passage is a short selection of Bible verses. This short selection can be as short as one line from the Bible, or it can be up to five or six Bible verses. The length is up to you and your professor.

You will become very familiar with the Bible passage you select. After selecting your passage and reading the surrounding text, your exegesis assignment sheet will ask you to answer questions about the literary, social, historical, and theological context of this passage.

The word “context” can seem complicated, and it threw me off when I was writing my exegesis. Don’t let it derail you! Context simply means the surroundings or setting. So, when you are given the prompt to research the literary context, you are being asked to analyze the text that comes before and after the passage you’ve selected—the surroundings. Similarly, the questions about your passage’s social and historical context are asking you to share the setting of your passage. And finally, the questions about your passage’s theological context are asking you to analyze how God is referenced in the surrounding text and how He is portrayed in your passage.

While there are lots of differences between an exegesis paper and a research paper, in both you are expected to write an introduction and a conclusion. The intro and conclusion give you the space to tell your professor what you thought about your passage before you started researching and what you think about it now that you have written a complete paper.

Recently I was surprised when chatting with a few of my friends about their experiences writing an exegesis paper. They told me they enjoyed the space to research a Bible passage. They liked learning more about how to use Bible resources and what to do when they have questions about Bible lesson selections.

So if you choose a passage that deeply interests you or bothers you or you simply want to learn more about, researching and writing an “extra Jesus” paper can be fruitful. Wishing you all the best!

If you want to learn about the root of the word “exegesis” or why religion papers use Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) style or what to do if you are lost and confused in the research process, please see Exegesis Paper FAQs.

Katie Hynd is the post-graduate intern in writing for the Principia College Center for Teaching and Learning. Last year she interned for the Religion Department.

Reining in your creative genius

by Samantha Bronkar

Have you ever had writing moments when thoughts flowed directly through your fingertips onto paper? Rather than letting the flow of inspiration stop so you can find a perfect word or phrase, you can be free to express ideas as easily as they enter your mind.

The kicker? Revision.

If a writer wants to embody joyous, inspired thoughts on paper, she must also take on the task of reviewing her ideas individually and collectively. She must evaluate her ideas for validity, clarity, and flow.

Below are three questions that can guide your editing process:

How can I say this sentence more clearly? Take this question one sentence—one phrase, even—at a time. First drafts are often full of cluttered and unclear sentences. Once you stumble across a confusing or long-winded sentence, try breaking it down into its basic elements. Figure out what it was you were trying to say in the first place. When you understand what you wanted to say, simply say it! In the words of Jack Kerouac, acclaimed American novelist and poet, “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” Rough draft thoughts can be messy. Revision is the time for tweaking and refining; this is the step when useless words, phrases, or sentences can be removed.

Does this sentence (or thought) help my argument? Look at your paper as a whole. First, decide what your thesis or purpose is in the paper. Next, take on the introductory sentence for each paragraph. Your introductory sentence should guide the rest of the paragraph. If you come across a sentence that seems to counter your main purpose, or sidetrack from it, the sentence may belong somewhere else in the paper, or the thought is irrelevant altogether. Tying each point back to the original thesis can help determine a sentence’s importance (or weakness).

Does this paragraph make sense in the context of my entire paper? (Is it being a good neighbor?) Does it prove my thesis? Some paragraphs can be complete and insightful on their own. However, they must also work with the other paragraphs to prove the thesis. Start with one paragraph. Read through it and decide the purpose it serves in your entire paper. With that overall goal in mind—your thesis—move on to the paragraph following it. The following paragraph should build on the material from the previous one, and both of these—along with all the others—should work together to prove your original thesis or point.

Help yourself out by leaving plenty of time to revise. In your rough draft, you should feel free to be messy, ask big questions, and take leaps of faith. Let your inspiration flow! Before the final is due (and hopefully not the night before), take the time to re-evaluate your initial thoughts and refine them. Remember, revising should be the largest part of the writing process!

Samantha Bronkar is an English major, and she is a member of the women’s soccer and softball teams at Principia College.

A problem-solving approach to introductions

by Shamus Jarvis

I find it helpful to think of writing as a vehicle for problem solving. But before I can offer a solution to any given problem, I have to first gain a reader’s attention; otherwise I have no audience that can respond to the solution that I provide. The most effective way to ensure that a paper will both engage a reader—be it a fellow student or a professor—and establish the foundation for any claim or solution that a writer will defend in the body of the paper is to provide an intriguing and thought provoking introduction. The late Joseph M. Williams, in Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace, insists that an introduction should include three primary components: shared context between the writer and the reader, a description of the problem, and the writer’s solution or claim.

By establishing a shared context with the reader, the writer explains why the reader is or will be affected by the problem presented within the paper. If the reader perceives that the given problem is unrelated to his or her own life, it is unlikely that that reader will be interested in reading about a solution to a problem that he or she does not perceive as a threat. The writer must convince the reader that he or she has something to gain or lose that is related to the central issue. This concept of gain and loss is related to a problem’s cost.

According to Williams, a problem is some event that is associated with a perceivable cost. If a condition, situation, or event has no cost, then no problem exists. Every problem has at least one or more consequence(s) that results in some unwanted or unintended result. Within a paper, it is important for the writer to present the consequences of an event in order to explain why that event should be recognized as a problem. As much as possible, the writer should endeavor to relate the consequences directly to the reader. Remember, if the reader believes that he or she has nothing at stake, there is no reason to continue reading. Imagine a reader asking, “So what?” after being presented with a problem. It is the writer’s job to answer the reader’s hypothetical inquiry in a way that clearly identifies the consequences of a problem and how they affect the reader.

Additionally, it is important for a writer to recognize whether he or she is attempting to solve a practical or a conceptual problem. When dealing with a practical problem, the writer will encourage the reader to execute a specific action that will either totally resolve or at least mitigate the problem. Conceptual problems often lack solutions that require specific actions. Instead, solutions are typically theoretical and require the reader to understand the larger context of the issue. Within the college environment, students are commonly asked to solve conceptual, rather than practical problems.

After the writer has presented a problem and its significant consequences or general cost to humanity, he or she should provide a solution or claim that addresses at least one of the problem’s consequences without introducing any additional ones. Obviously, the proposed solution should not magnify the intensity of the original problem. The solution or claim serves as the foundational point which the body of the paper will aim to support.

(Works Cited: Williams, Joseph M. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. 9th ed. New York: Pearson Longman,    2007. Print.)

Shamus Jarvis is a junior at Principia College studying theatre and English. Hear him sing aboard the Titanic on November 14, 15, and 16 in Cox Auditorium.