Exegetical Outlines as Creative Work

The exegetical method we teach at DTS involves both analytical and synthetic components. We teach it as a somewhat linear process (although the reality of the process can certainly be different): Complete the analytical spadework, like word studies and grammatical analysis, and then move to synthesis, which involves compilation of the analytical results into particular outputs. The first of these synthetic outputs in our method is the exegetical outline. It is a traditional outline, in that it is designed to show the structure of the passage, but it has some peculiarities that are particular to our exegetical task.

The biggest technical requirement of our exegetical outline is that every line be a complete sentence in subject-complement form. There's obviously a lot that goes into what that means, but the central point is that each line of the outline explain with proper detail the assertions and content of the clause or subsection it represents. When creating an outline with this requirement, the exegete has to think carefully about what to emphasize and what to summarize. It's not easy by any stretch of the imagination, as it requires a thorough understanding of what the author is getting at with each clause of the paragraph.

This is where exegesis becomes a creative endeavor. The exegete has to fashion statements which explain all that's going on in the text, but these statements have to communicate clearly and cohere with one another. This is especially pertinent if we ever use these outlines for communication or teaching. Recognizing this opportunity can breathe new life into what may seem to be a rather mundane exercise.