Do you remember the first time your were introduced to something new, like a language? In south Louisiana, we are introduced to French sparingly until the ninth grade when it suddenly and without warning becomes a required class. Believe it or not, biblical exegesis is a language. It has rules, fallacies, word play, progression, and a learning curve. Sometimes, you need more than a momentary introduction and a class that you’ll never use again to get the hang of a proper exegesis methodology. Sometimes, you need exercises and incremental baby steps where you practice each new, say, syllable until you are ready to move on. Unfortunately, I never really learned French, although I passed the class with an ‘A’. Mainly because it was not a learning class, but a class to fulfill requirements. Let me bring this around around to New Testament exegesis.
In Seminary, many of us will have introduction to New Testament classes. Regardless of how good our teachers are, we will most like have a paper or two to do but never really get into the full depth of the language of exegesis. We know the oui‘s (the lexicons) but we do not know how to put those words into proper place. Sure, we know how to look up words and look for the differences in translations, but do we ever really go beyond that and examine the original languages, the translations, and how we’ve become indoctrinate to examine this or that word/concept in a certain way? Take the word justification, for example. When we read it in the NLT, we read some variation of “set aright;” yet, in the ESV, we will read “justification.” The cursory examination of the translations will reveal hardly anything different. We aren’t really trained to look that deeply into the words of the text because that would require us to almost step outside of ourselves, out of what we expect the text to say. Thus, because we think we know what we are doing, we begin to speak in odd accents, placing emphasis on the wrong parts of the word — butchering romantic French with a rough Southern drawl if you. Or, we commit fallacy after interpretative fallacy.
What Clayton Croy does between the pages of 13 and 128 is to give the reader — the perpetual student — a wealth of education in how to speak the language of the New Testament exegete. The text is throughly analyzed, but so too is the motivation of the interpreter. Exploring several fallacies and pitfalls along the way, Croy tackles some pretty diverse topics in exegesis. From understanding the words to understand the progression of the story to, and this is important, understand the amount of patina the reader brings to the text (the dumpt truck fallacy). But, there is more. He tackles the issues of intertextuality, context, and backgrounds too! And does so while providing not just exercises, but key bibliographies inside the chapter. No footnotes; no appendixes. The reader is treated to the best method of reading the bibliography — it is right there in front of her. Once the proper examination is done, Croy turns to the theological reflection and then, the synthesis, again accompanied by the tools of learning — exercises, examples, and bibliographies.
No doubt, the length of this chapter may worry the casual observer of the table of contents, what with its over one hundred pages of exegetical goodness; however, it is perhaps one of the best chapters on New Testament exegesis in print. As a user of Gorman’s exegesis work, I am not a Croyian convert.