"Take up and Read."

 An Introduction to New Testament Interpretation


"Emmaus Icon" courtesy of Jim Forest

Welcome to COS511!

A brief welcome from your instructor, Chris Holmes.

Christopher T. Holmes

PhD Candidate in New Testament

Graduate Division of Religion, Emory University

Email: christopher.t.holmes@gmail.com

Welcome to the Course of Study 511 interactive syllabus. Please take time to familiarize yourself with the information on this page, and keep checking back for additional resources that will be added in the coming weeks.

Though there are multiple objectives to this course and the preceding New Testament course, the overall objective is that students would become more confident, careful, and creative readers and interpreters of scripture. The course aims to equip students with practices, tools, and theological reflection that open up the New Testament for effective preaching and teaching.

Course Description

This course is the sequel to COS 311, in which the New Testament literature was introduced and explored historically and literarily. This course shifts its focus to interpreting the New Testament literature through sustained attention to exegetical method—how to read and understand New Testament writings.

We will deal with a range of questions:

  • What type of passage are we reading (form, genre, location, etc.)?
  • Where did it come from?
  • What does it say (and not say)?
  • What tools of biblical studies are best for answering these questions?
  • What elements of this text make it hard to understand?
  • How is our understanding of the text related to our own experiences (or the faith community’s experiences)?

Orientation to our Interactive Syllabus

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will:

  1. Deepen their understanding of the various assigned biblical methods
  2. Strengthen skills in using critical methods for biblical study
  3. Explore the various tools available for biblical studies
  4. Relate exegesis with sound hermeneutical methods for the student’s pastoral role
  5. Cultivate and participate in informed and respectful class discussions
  6. Improve their ability to effectively use scripture in the preparation of sermons and bible studies


Photo courtesy of Mark Brannan

Required Textbooks

Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, Third edition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010.

Bailey, James L. and Lyle D. Vander Broek. Literary Forms in the New Testament. Louisville: Westminster, 1992.

Harrelson, Walter J., ed. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003.

Gorman, Michael J. Elements of Biblical Exegesis: A Basic Guide for Students and Ministers. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009.

Whitaker, Richard, John R. Kohlenberger. The Analytical Concordance to the New Revised Standard Version of the New Testament. HARDCOPY. Erdmann Press, 2000.

  • The listing above is the REQUIRED concordance. However, this concordance is typically only available online through independent booksellers on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Alibris.com, Ecampus.com.
  • A functional digital concordance of the NRSV translation of the bible can be utilized at http://bible.oremus.org. Unlike the Whitaker/Kohlenberger Concordance, however, this resource does not identify the various Greek words that may be listed under a single English word.

Commentary: Choose One [1] for Purchase

Newsom, Carol A., Sharon H. Ringe, Jacqueline E. Lapsley. Women’s Bible Commentary, Third Edition. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2012.

Blount, Brian K., Cain Hope Felder. True to Our Native Land: An African American New Testament Commentary. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.

Recommended Textbooks

The following books will be referenced and used during the course. However, Pitts Library will be available for you to use the following resources there. If you have them and would like to bring them, feel free to do so. Or if you do not have them and decide to purchase your own, you can bring them too. However, just be advised these books are not required to be purchased.

Powell, Mark Allan, ed. HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. Rev. and Updated Edition. New York: HarperOne, 2011. (ISBN: 978-0061469060).


Freeman, David Noel et al., eds. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2000. (ISBN: 978-0802824004).


  • The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews – Revelation (Volume 12)
  • Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: 1 Peter by M. Eugene Boring
  • Interpretation Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: First and Second Peter, James, and Jude by Pheme Perkins

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Grading of papers follows the Candler Course of Study Grading Policy (here). Particular attention is paid to the established Grade Grid for papers and class participation

For the multiple choice tests a basic point system is followed. Keep in mind that most conferences require a letter grade of C or better to pass the course.

  • 94–100% is an A
  • 91–93% is an A-
  • 87–90% is a B+
  • 84–86 is a B
  • 81–83 is a B-
  • 77–80 is a C+
  • 74–76 is a C
  • 71–73 is a C-
  • 67–70 is a D
  • 0–66 is an F

Elements of Final Grade

25% Precourse Work

10% Attendance and Participation

15% Exegetical Brief on 1 Peter

10% Presentation

20% Exegetical Paper & Sermon Outline

20% Exegetical Journal

** For description of each element, please see below.

Explanation of Course Requirements

Exegetical Brief

** Exegetical Brief on 1 Peter due before 8am on July 14, 2014**

This assignment stems from your reading of a NT composition. The purpose of the exegetical brief is for you to give your "take" on a NT composition based on your own close reading of it.

The format is optional, but should at least give consideration to the composition's (1) structure, (2) exegetical or literary features, and (3) religious or theological insight.

Exegetical Journal

Students will complete the daily assignments on their exegetical text in the form of an exegetical journal.

The completed journal will be submitted to the instructor as a Word Doc file on Friday, July 25 via email before 8:00am

Paper & Sermon Outline

4-page (double-spaced) Exegetical Paper + 1-page (single-spaced) Sermon Outline

Due the second week of class on Friday, July 25 via email before 8:00 am to christopher.t.holmes@gmail.com as a Word Doc file.

Coherence, exegetical soundness, focus, and clarity of thought are major points of concern in this project


Exegetical Briefs

*** There have been problems downloading some of the links below. I'm looking into resolving those problems. For the time being, here is a link to the files below in a GoogleDrive folder.***

Course Schedule: Summer 2014

Week 1: July 14–July 18

Monday, July 14:

  • Topics: (1) Introduction to course; (2) "Take and read..."; (3) What is Exegesis?
  • Homework: (1) Select a primary text for exegetical analysis (5–10 verses)—email to professor BEFORE 8am on July 15; (2) Complete study bible comparison assignment; (3) Read Gorman, pp. 35–59.

Tuesday, July 15:

  • Topics: (1) Review; (2) Working with Translations
  • Homework: (1) Exegetical Journal ("EJ" hereafter)—translation comparison; (2) Read Gorman, pp. 63–68 and 69–81

Wednesday, July 16:

  • Topics: (1) Review; (2) Element #1: Survey; (3) Element #2: Contextual Analysis: Historical, Literary, and Canonical Contexts
  • Homework: (1) EJ—Survey Text; (2) EJ—Contextual Analysis; (3) Read Gorman, pp. 83–100

Thursday, July 17:

  • Topics: (1) Review; (2) Element #3: Formal Analysis; (3) Dictionaries
  • Homework: (1) EJ—Formal Analysis; (2) EJ—Dictionary Exercise; (3) Read Gorman, pp. 101–25

Friday, July 18:

  • Topics: (1) Review; (2) Element #4: Detailed Analysis; (3) Concordances
  • Homework: (1) EJ—Detailed Analysis; (2) Read Gorman, pp. 127–38 and 139–66

Week 2: July 21–July 25

Monday, July 21:

  • Topics: (1) Review; (1) Element #5: Synthesis; (2) Element #6: Reflection; (3) Sample Presentation
  • Homework: (1) EJ—Synthesis; (2) EJ—Reflection on Text; (3) Read Gorman, pp. 167–172

Tuesday, July 22:

  • Topics: (1) Review; (2) Element #7: Expansion and Refinement of Exegesis; (3) Commentaries

  • Homework: (1) EJ—Consult 2–3 commentaries to address questions and test your reading of the text; (2) Prepare for Presentations and Final Papers

Wednesday, July 23:

  • Topic: Presentations
  • Homework: Prepare for Presentations and Final Papers

Thursday, July 24:

  • Topic: Presentations
  • Homework: Prepare for Presentations and Final Papers

Friday, July 25:

Topic: Presentations
Homework: Prepare for Presentations and Final Paper

**** Submit Final Paper with Sermon Outline and Completed Exegetical Journal before 8:00 am ****

July 14: Activity 1: Take Up and Read

Think about as you read:

  • What role does READING of scripture play in this passage?
  • How is scripture READ?

In groups of two or three, discuss the following:

  • General observations/questions
  • The nature of reading in this passage

FINAL Passage Selection

Jack Gibson 1 Peter 2:11–17

Jerry Sharpe 1 Peter 2:11–17

Danny Coffelt 1 Peter 2:16–25

Eddie Conaway 1 Peter 2:18–25

Ann Hatcher 1 Peter 3:8–17

Richard Rogers 1 Peter 3:8–17

Melissa Reynolds 1 Peter 3:15–22

Scott Veroneau 1 Peter 4:7–11

Mike Dunbar 1 Peter 4:12–19

Jason Estes 1 Peter 4:12–19

Becky Smith 1 Peter 4:12–19

Sherry Williams 1 Peter 4:12–19

Assignment #1: Study Bible Comparison

Please see the instructions for completing the first assignment to the right. Below that, you will find scanned copies of 1 Peter from four different study. If you cannot access the scanned copies to the right for any reason, you can find the identical files in this shared folder.

You can also watch a brief tutorial on using a study bible in exegesis here.

July 15: Class Materials and Activities

Resources for 1 Peter

1 Peter: Important Information (from class discussion)

Author, Date, and Genre:

  • Author: attributed to Peter (1:1); most agree that it was not written by Peter; possibly dictated by Peter; role of Silvanus (5:12); follower of Peter; anonymous
  • Date: likely written after Peter's death; 64–67 CE to the last ten years of the 1st century;
  • Genre: a letter; a pastoral letter; parenetic letter; one of the most beautiful books of the NT (New Interpreter's Study Bible)
  • Pauline style or influence of Paul


  • A letter: greeting (1:1–2); blessing (1:3–12); body (1:13–5:11); closing (5:12–14)
  • Body: Christian experience (1:13–2:3); church as temple (2:4–10); church in world (2:11–4:11); conceding exhortation (4:12–5:11)
  • Coherent thought; various topics pulled together
  • reminder of past; exhortation; how to live a Christian life
  • teaching aid related to catechesis; previously viewed as a baptismal homily

Purpose/Theological Voice:

  • Purpose: a how-to book: how to live, etc; ENCOURAGEMENT (5:12)
  • Theology: God in every form: creator, savior, Holy Spirit (1:12); creation, return of Christ (4:7)
  • Exiles, sojourning, dispersion; connection between what the gentiles do (in the Flesh) and what Christians should do in the spirit (4:1–6)
  • Babylon as a symbol for Rome in early Christian tradition
  • Judge the living and the dead (4:5); death and life;

Assignment #2: Translation Comparison

Please see instructions in the document to the right. Also, I have created a template for creating a comparison chart using four columns in Word; this is also posted to the right.

Links for acquiring bible translations:

July 16: Class Materials and Activities

Modeling Elements #1 and #2:


  • blending of action & identity in each paragraph: (1) prepare minds and holy people (vv. 13–16); (2) live reverently and ransomed people (vv. 17–21); (3) love one another and new birth (vv. 22–25)
  • Initial thesis: This passage interweaves central characteristics of Christian identity with specific actions done in response.

Contextual Analysis:

  • Literary context: it builds on what precedes—"Therefore" in 1:13; the author describes the nature of Christian salvation in 1:10–12; also, v. 25 mentions again the "good news" that the audience received. There is another "Therefore" in 2:1, which signals a new section.
  • Other contexts: LOTS of OT allusions and citations; religious/cultural contexts: holiness; being ransomed; power of blood; significance of baptism

Assignments #3 and #4

Please see the instructions for assignments #3 and #4. Assignment #3 is shorter, and should be easier to complete than Assignment #4. We've already done some of the "survey" steps with the exegetical brief and study bible comparison assignment.

Assignment #5: Complete for Friday

Assignment #6: Detailed Analysis (Element #4)

Please see notes of Gorman's Element #4 to the right and instructions for completing assignment #6.

Assignments #7 and #8: Synthesis and Reflection (Elements #5 and #6)

These two elements in Gorman's exegetical method are closely related and they have been assigned together accordingly.

Here is a link to the Google Presentation that I created summarizing Gorman's discussion of theological interpretation.

Assignment #9: Expansion and Refinement of Exegesis (Element #7)

Other Resources for Exegesis and Preaching

Online resources:

  • Workingpreacher.org: Description from site: "We're here to inspire better preaching by offering timely, compelling, and trustworthy content for working preachers -- all for free."
  • Textweek.com: Purpose from "About" section on the site: "The purpose of this website is to provide links to resources for study, reflection and liturgy which correspond to the RCL readings you may be using for study, teaching & preaching."

Print Resources:

  • Feasting on the Word: Description from the site: "Feasting on the Word products are quickly becoming the go-to resource for not only preachers, but also educators, worship planners, and individuals. Offering focused resources for sermon and worship preparation, education, and personal devotion, most of the resources utilize the biblical texts assigned by the Revised Common Lectionary, while providing an equally accessible resource for nonlectionary readers through the use of extensive Scripture indexes." A sample entry on 1 Cor 9 can be found here.
  • Here is a link to suggested commentaries produced by the biblical studies faculty at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Guidelines for Presentation

Because most of you have already taking a preaching course through COS and have experience preaching regularly, the format for the sermon outline and presentation are open. Essentially, you are sharing with your colleagues your "persuasive interpretation" of your passage. As such, I have listed to the right things that you may try to incorporate in your presentation.

As stated earlier in class, the format is open. You can create a PowerPoint; you can provide a summary of your exegesis of the passage; etc.

Things to consider:

  • A concise statement containing your "persuasive interpretation" of the passage
  • The main points of the passage and how they support your interpretation
  • The place of your passage within in 1 Peter as a whole and within its immediate context (How does it relate to what immediately precedes and follows?)
  • The claims of the passage: what does it claim about God, about the church, about the world? What claims does it make on the reader/audience?
  • Areas of connection with your faith community—how does it apply to them? how might it challenge them? how does the passage lead to the community's ongoing transformation?

Presentation Schedule:


1. Sherry

2. Scott

3. Jerry

4. Eddie

5. Jason


1. Ann

2. Jack

3. Richard

4. Becky


1. Danny

2. Michael

3. Melissa

Dictionaries and Encyclopedias for Use in Exegesis

The resources below may be helpful in helping you address questions that pertain to the historical, social, cultural, literary-rhetorical, and religious backgrounds of the NT compositions.

Dictionaries and Encyclopedias:

One-volume, very readable:

  • Achtemeier, Paul J. , et al., eds. The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. Rev. ed. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997.
  • Freedman, David N., et. al., eds. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Grand
    Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000.

Multiple-volumes, more in-depth articles:

  • Freedman, David N., ed. Anchor Bible Dictionary. 6 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
  • Sakenfeld, Katherine D., et al., eds. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. 5 vols. Nashville: Abingdon, 2006

Other Valuable Resources:

  • Aune, David E. The New Testament in Its Literary Environment. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1989.
  • Klauck, Hans-Joel. The Religious Context of Early Christianity: A Guide to Greco-Roman Religions. Minneapolis: Fortress; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2003.
  • Malina, Bruce J. The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology. 3rd rev and exp. ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001 (1981).

Tips for Using Dictionaries and Concordance

Using a Dictionary:

  • Skim the article as a whole, paying attention to headings and subheadings
  • Make a guess of those sections that will be most helpful to you
  • Restate/remind yourself of your central question(s)
  • Read article
  • Record reflections on how (if) the article helps address your question

Using the NRSV Analytical Concordance:

  • Keyed to NRSV and up-to-date critical edition of Greek NT (UBS 4)
  • Words are listed in alphabetical order; all verb forms (-ed, -ing, -s) are listed under a simple form ("fill")
  • English words are coded to underlying Greek words (the numbers to the right of the reference); these differentiate words as well as forms of words (verb vs. noun)
  • Analytical considerations: (1) how frequently compared to other books in NT?; (2) other concepts/words that relate to the word?
  • Be sure to look at related words: "like obedient children" in 1 Pet 1:14; see also obedience (1:22); obeyed (3:6); not obey (3:1, 20; 4:17)

Dictionary and Concordance Assignments

Please recall that these do not have a "set" due date, but they must be included in your Exegetical Journal. The overview and instructions are meant to provide guidelines for completing the assignment, but you should feel free to complete it in whatever way makes sense for you.

The samples provided for each are not intended as the "goal" of the assignment. Rather, they are meant to provide an example of one way of doing it. Some will find this helpful and do something similar; others will not, and they will do something different.

Although these are numbered sequentially, the order is not set in stone: it may be more effective for some to start with the concordance exercise and then do the dictionary exercise.

Final Day of Class

Please remember that the following are due on Friday, July 25:

  • Final Exegesis Paper (4 pages, double-spaced) --- Due before 8am on 7/25
  • Sermon outline (1 page, single-spaced) --- Due before 8am on 7/25
  • Exegetical Journal (collection of Assignments completed earlier in class) --- Due before 5pm on 7/25
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