Book Review: New Testament Exegesis by Gordon Fee

New Testament Exegesis by Gordon Fee New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors by Gordon D. Fee

What is exegesis as defined by Fee?

“The term exegesis is used in this book in a consciously limited sense to refer to the historical investigation into the meaning of the biblical text. The presupposition lying behind this task is that the biblical books had ‘authors’ and ‘readers,’ and that the authors intended their readers to understand what they wrote (see, e.g., 1 Cor. 5:9-11; 1 John 2:1; see the Appendix). Exegesis therefore answers the question, What did the biblical author mean? It has to do both with what he said (the content itself) and why he said it at any given point (the literary context)–as much as that might be discovered, given our distance in time, language, and culture. Furthermore, exegesis is primarily concerned with intentionality: What did the author intend his original readers to understand?”

This book is for those very serious about exegesis. It’s very broad, but accessible for any student, pastor or anyone serious about studying the Bible.

Although the book was originally written 20 years ago, it has stood the test of time and has been revised in both the 2nd and current 3rd edition to keep it very up to date.

Is it necessary to know Greek to utilize the book?

This is addressed in the Preface to the first edition but also in the Introduction to the 3rd edition:

“A final word to those who use only the English Bible. First, you need to take heart that you can learn to do exegesis as well as anyone else. Knowing Greek gives one obvious advantages in several matters of detail. But the person without Greek who is willing to do a bit of extra work can enter into the full joys of this discipline. You must take seriously the need to learn the Greek alphabet; that will give you direct access to most of the better tools, especially when it comes to the study of words.”

For those who do know Greek the book goes in-depth into using Greek as part of exegesis.

By taking a look at the Amazon link you can “Search inside this book” and start with the Table of Contents to get a good overview of what’s covered.

Fee mentions a wide array of resources for research related to each step. Bibliographic material is mentioned within each chapter in addition to a whole chapter devoted to the material, based on category.

One could easily spend over $2000 on these books which may be a little overwhelming for some. For those without an extensive library of their own, the help of a public library or even at the minimum—the internet, a couple of good study Bibles and a couple of in-depth commentaries covering the passage you will be exegeting—one could get by and do most of the things outlined in the book.

Also overwhelming is the sheer number of steps required in the first chapter, many of which are explained in the second chapter. This is geared to a student who will be writing a paper on a passage of Scripture. The third chapter abbreviates the steps for pastors who have approximately ten hours a week to prepare a sermon.

I thought it would be helpful if the steps in chapter three were directly correlated to the steps in the first two chapters.

It’s important for everyone to carefully read the whole book. For English only readers, reading the portions related to Greek are still valuable. For students, the chapter for pastors is important for remembering application, prayer and reflection so that it doesn’t become only an academic exercise. Pastors will want to be very familiar with the first two chapters so they can tailor the steps to their needs with Fee’s guidance as outlined in the third chapter.

The Appendix, new to the third edition, explains what Reader-Response Criticism is, how popular this has become and how dangerous it is. I see it everywhere and this is not a good thing.

Personal notes:
As noted in the review, the number of steps involved can be overwhelming for a neophyte exegetor. As I was first reading the book I was wondering when the steps would finally come to an end. But once I got through all the steps and read the abbreviated portion for pastors, I could see how I can make it all work. I’m not using the pastor’s chapter as a way to do less work. (I would rather spend more time exegeting and not have to try to write a sermon. Now that’s hard work.) I went through the whole book and wrote down the steps that I can do—not knowing much Greek—along with page numbers and topics so that I can go through it one step at a time. Baby steps.

Another blogger bought this book for me which was on my Amazon Wish List. As one with a small library and small budget, I can’t say how much this is appreciated.

Paperback: 195 pages
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press; 3rd edition (March 2002)
ISBN-10: 0664223168
ISBN-13: 978-0664223168
Book Cover Design: Really cool

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5 Responses to “Book Review: New Testament Exegesis by Gordon Fee”

  1. 1 Nathan Stitt

    This is really cool watching you post very similar (but better written) posts that I wrote last spring when I started spending more time with the bible and Greek. Keep it up!

  2. 2 Scripture Zealot

    Thanks. I’m still working on Greek pronunciation, basic grammar and recognition even though I’m not really learning the language. I love the exegesis stuff.

  3. 3 Robert Jimenez

    Jeff, great review!  Reviews are hard to write – I tend to update them after a while because I realize I left something out that was important.  Oh well.

  4. 4 Scripture Zealot

    Thanks. Yeah they are very hard work to write. And I revised it countless times. I don’t know how Nick can do so many. I want to do more though.

  5. 5 Robert Jimenez

    Jeff, I agree I don’t know how Nick does it either.  I also want to do more, I plan on working a few over the weekend and post them over the next few weeks.  Keep it up, I personally love the book reviews from the blogs that I visit.

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