Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Exegesis - more than Scripture

Have any of you ever heard the term exegesis? It was batted at me a few years ago by an academic, to explain the process she thought I was going to follow for my Masters: ie, that I was going to do some research, write a book, publish it, then wrote my Masters thesis as an exegesis of the process.

I had a dictionary trawl to try and get some full meaning on this, but they were surprisingly silent on this word. My Collins Dictionary suggested that it meant "explanation or critical interpretation of a text, exp. of the Bible" (Collins, 1994, p. 542).
Howjsay kindly had the word to listen to, but that didn't help me find out where it came from.

So when, a couple of weeks ago, Michael Quinion of World Wide Words posted a piece on the etymology of the construct "lookshurry" (as in <Yorkshire accent> "Luxury").

I dropped Michael a line, explaining that dictionaries seemed to associate exegesis with religious studies only. 

He replied "Curiously, the Oxford English Dictionary's entry for this has examples in the sense of a gloss or explanatory note from much earlier than that for the interpretation of scripture. The examples suggest that the word was taken over by religious studies in the latter part of the eighteenth century. In recent times, as a result of the decline in bible study, it has certainly moved back towards the former sense, at times with an undertone of pedagogical or pedantic exposition".

So now we know.


  • Collins English Dictionary (1994). Definition of xegesis (Third Edition). UK: HarperCollins Publishers (p. 542)
  • Quinion, Michael (29 September 2013). Quick Query: can you explain how exegesis should be used? [Personal Correspondence].


No comments :

Post a Comment

Thanks for your feedback. The elves will post it shortly.