Quotes from Toward an Exegetical Theology

Toward an Exegetical Theology by Walter C. Kaiser Jr.I read Toward an Exegetical Theology by Walter C. Kaiser Jr. for my exposition class, and here are some quotes that popped out:

p. 24

“ ‘…there is only one meaning for every place in Scripture. Otherwise the meaning of Scripture would not only be unclear and uncertain, but there would be no meaning at all—for anything which does not mean one thing surely means nothing.’”



“One more crisis must be faced before we begin to suggest some solutions of our own: the crisis in the pulpit. For large segments of the Christian Church it is a truism to say that Biblical exposition has become a lost art in contemporary preaching. The most neglected of all Biblical section is the Old Testament—over three-fourths of divine revelation!”


p. 38

“The question of the relevance of the Old Testament for contemporary homiletics will rest on the answer to another question, what is the Church’s relationship to Israel? Do we in any way share in Israel’s blessing as well as in her judgments? The question is proper and it calls for a penetrating involvement in exegetical and Biblical theology. This question gives more promise of a resolution and shape to a potential solution than does Toombs’s analogical methodology.


p. 40

“… The Lord did not allow the meaning of His revealed Word to become fixed within the narrow confines of the mind-set of the first speakers or hearers, but in the dated work and word of His revelation He also thought of us living in these last days.’”


p. 44-45

“It is the interpreter’s job to represent the text, not the prejudices, feelings, judgments, or concerns of the exegete.”


p. 47

“… hermeneutics may be regarded as the theory that guides exegesis; exegesis may be understood in this work to be the practice of and the set of procedures for discovering the author’s intended meaning.”


p. 49

“We contend, however, that the serious exegete should learn to master the basic principles of Greek and Hebrew grammar and syntax; otherwise most of one’s exegetical insights will necessarily be dependent on the statements of others who profess abilities in these languages.”



“Meanwhile a Jewish believer, Nicholas of Lyra (1270-1340?), began to press the literal sense as the only reasonable basis for exegesis. What an important role he played in the history of exegesis is apparent in the celebrated aphorism, ‘If Lyra had not piped, Luther would not have danced.’”


“‘Origen’s allegories are not worth so much dirt,’ for ‘allegories are empty speculations …. The scum of Holy Scripture.’ ‘Allegories are awkward, absurd, invented, obsolete, loose rags.’”


p. 70

“So the problem is not merely the common error of forgetting or disregarding the immediate context. It is, rather, the more serious error of attempting to atomize or fragment the text and then presuming that meaning can be attributed to phrases, sentences, or even paragraphs in isolation form the rest of the context.”


p. 88

“The grand object of grammatical and historical interpretation is to ascertain the usus loquendi, that is, the specific usage of words as employed by an individual writer and/or as prevalent in a particular age. And the most fundamental principle in grammatico-historical exposition is that words and sentences can have only one signification in one and the same connection.”


p. 116-117

“Let us try to spell out some exegetical principles for approaching cultural terms in the text:

2b. The exegete must determine whether the passage is inculcating a theological principle by means of a handy illustration from the culture of that day. In this case the principle remains regardless of whether or not the illustration continues. For example, the principle of humility remains, though the requirement that rich parishioners be seated on the floors of our churches so that the poor might be seated on the pews does not (James 2:1-7).”


p. 122

“The problem with language is that the average person has only some twenty thousand to forty thousand words available to identify, describe, and discuss literally hundreds of thousands of identifiable parts, experiences, and happenings in his world. Because of this poverty of linguistic units, we begin to say we feel blue and tables have legs.”


p. 143

“…wordbooks are tools to be consulted but they should never be a crutch for the lazy exegete.”

p. 149

“Exegesis is never an end in itself. Its purposes are never fully realized until it begins to take into account the problems of transferring what has been learned from the text over to the waiting Church. To put it more bluntly, exegesis must come to terms with the audience as well as with what the author meant by the words he used.”


p. 185

“One of the signs of a good minister, in the minds of many parishioners today, is that the proclaimer speaks a prophetic word to our generation.”


p. 186

“If exegetical theology is worth anything, it must aid the student and pastor/teacher in bridging the gap between the original situation and the present-day audience.”


p. 197

“Nothing can be more discouraging and disheartening for contemporary believers gathered to hear the Word of God than to listen to a simple recounting or bare description of an Old Testament or Gospel narrative. This kind of preaching is nothing more than narrating a ‘B.C. story’ or ‘first-century A.D. homily.’ This kind of preaching merely strings verses or events together. It does not attempt to come to terms with the truth taught by the writer in that narrative. It is, then, poor excuse for expository preaching.”


p. 198

“Principlization seeks to bridge the ‘then’ of the text’s narrative with the ‘now’ needs of our day; yet it refuses to settle for cheap and quick solutions which confuse our own personal point of view (good or bad) with that of the inspired writer.”

p. 210

“To find God’s meanings and emphases, we must discover what the author’s were—first in the book as a whole and then in the particular section and passage we wish to use for our messages.”


p. 237

“To answer his own question [about how to obtain the aid of the Holy Spirit], Spurgeon told this story: ‘After a visitation discourse by the Bishop of Lichfield upon the necessity of earnestly studying the Word, a certain vicar told his lordship that he could not believe his doctrine, ‘for,’ said he, ‘often when I am in the vestry I do not know what I am going to talk about; but I go into the pulpit and preach, and think nothing of it.’ His lordship replied, ‘And you are quite right in thinking nothing of it, for your churchwardens have told me that they share your opinion.’”


p. 240

“‘To avoid errors of manners and tone, we must be led of the Holy Spirit, who alone teacheth us to profit.’”


p. 244

“How can the power of God be present in that kind of weak and lazy preaching? Paul would have none of it and neither should we.”



“Even more tragic, possession of the Word of God is no guarantee that men and women will respond to it. Israel had three types of leaders, each with a unique type of revelation from God—the priests with the law, the prophets with the word of the Lord, and the wise men with wisdom; yet they did little, if anything, to heal the wound of God’s people. Most amazingly, that law, word, and wisdom failed to evoke any response from these leaders themselves, much less the people. They did not even blush when they heard the word (Jer. 8:8-12). It had become a strictly external word and an intellectual exercise.”


“May God deliver us, the new generation of interpreters, and His Church, from such parochical use of the Scriptures. We cannot be acquitted as scholarly exegetes until we have led the Church to understand how to respond to the very words that we have analyzed most critically and carefully.”

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