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UBBL317 (Ruth & Esther): The Exegetical Process - Part 3

This guide is intended to help those in UBBL317 begin their research on Ruth or Esther. Rev. 6/2022, Sharon Ralston

Question and Answer Prompts

Now that you have identified the literary elements and outlined your pericope, from the list below, note any and all questions you think are pertinent and begin to formulate some preliminary answers to those questions. You may also add additional questions of your own. List each question you choose and your proposed answers on a separate, single page, single-spaced, and submit them to your Instructor. Note whatever seems puzzling to you as well as what seems relevant.

Choose just a select few of the following elements about which to generate preliminary answers [focus on the elements that are most promising for generating meaning]:

1.   Context

  • How does this pericope relate to the material before it?
  • How does this pericope relate to the material after it?
  • Is the context significant for meaning?

(As a general rule, read at least 3 chapters before and after your assigned pericope)

2.   Characters

  • Who are they?
  • Do they have a function to help get at meaning? If so, what is it?
  • What category would you place them in?
  • Do they develop or stay static? Why?
  • Are they significant for meaning? How? Explain.

3.   Audience and Narrator

  • Is the audience or narrator significant for meaning?

4.   Genre

  • Is the genre significant for meaning? 
  • If so, how? Explain.

5.   Setting

  • Where (in what geographic location) is the narrative or event set? 
  • Is the narrative a travel narrative? If so, where are they travelling FROM? Where are they travelling TO?
  • Is the setting significant for meaning? If so, why?

6.   Time

  • Is time a significant factor? Time of day? Season? Year? 
  • Is there any reference to past events (retrospect)?
  • Is there any foreshadowing of future events (anticipation)?

7.   Key (and/or repeated) phrases/words

  • In a concordance or lexicon, look up the key words you found 
  • What is the word’s meaning in its context in the pericope?
  • What is the word’s meaning in the ancient socio-linguistic system?
  • Is the word used literally or figuratively? Are you sure?

HINT: A repeated word or phrase almost always means that the meaning in one context within the pericope is the same as the meaning in the other context within the pericope.

8.   Key Themes

  • Can you find a reason for the presence of any key themes you found?
  • How are they significant for the meaning of the pericope?

9.   Historical Background

  • In a Bible Dictionary or Encyclopedia (see Course Bibliography), look up any historical elements that you noted. 
  • Are those elements significant for meaning?

10.   Socio-cultural Elements

  • Are there any social institutions (e.g., kinship, patron/client, honor/shame system) that are being praised?... any that are being criticized? Why? What might be causing the praise or criticism?
  • Who is in the “in” group and who is in the “out” group? Why? What makes them “in” or “out”?
  • How is kinship, ethnicity, and/or gender being constructed? Who has power? Who doesn’t?
  • How might any of this be significant for meaning? Explain.

11.   Intertextuality and/or Synoptic Parallel(s)

  • Is there a synoptic parallel? If so, is it significant for meaning?
  • Does the text quote or allude to another reference within the Hebrew Bible? LXX?
  • If it does, compare and contrast the quote in your pericope and elsewhere in the Bible
    -  Read both in their contexts
    -  Do you see any change in meaning from what it meant in its context elsewhere in the Bible to what it means in your pericope? Comment, if you do.

12.   Structure

  • Did you identify a recognizable structure?
  • If so, that means that the parallel elements are meant to inform each other's meaning.
  • List any parallel elements you found in your outline. 
  • Does one of the parallels helps shed meaning on the other and vice versa?

The goal here is to bombard the text with any and all questions you can think of. Everything depends on how intently you read. In short, the better your questions, the better your research, and by extension, the better will be your final exegetical paper.

NOTE: It is imperative that you do not use commentaries at this point. They will only serve to short-circuit your exegesis and rob you of the joy of discovery. If you let them do the thinking for you, you have not actually performed exegesis. Instead, you have provided a catalog of what others have said.