Preparing to Write a Biblical Studies Paper
Research in biblical studies at Westminster is focused upon understanding what the Bible says and means. Because students often come to seminary with a prior familiarity with the Bible, careful attention to what a text says and means can sometimes seem too elementary or simple.
To read well is a difficult and delicate art, and to read the Bible is to read a unique book—a divinely inspired book telling a unified story with many different parts, genres, and authors, spanning centuries of oral and written transmission, and compiled in due time according to the providence of God.
To study a biblical text well requires paying attention to its specific details and subtleties in an effort to listen carefully to everything that a particular passage has to teach. The detailed study of a text most easily proceeds by means of the focused exercise of asking questions of your text. Ideally, you will translate the passage from its original language and use the tool of discourse analysis to generate deep, grammatically-focused questions of your text.
As you seek to answer these questions, you will inevitably find yourself using secondary sources to fill in gaps in your knowledge and to familiarize yourself with ongoing scholarly discussions.
These are the first steps toward responsible and careful exegesis. But, these alone will not help you to understand the fullness of what your passage means in God’s larger redemptive plan. For help connecting your passage to the larger narrative of the whole Bible, see tips for biblical-theological papers.