A Handbook of New Testament Exegesis

Written by Craig L. Blomberg with Jennifer Foutz Markley Reviewed By Carl Park

NT teachers and students, along with pastors seeking a refresher, stand to gain from this recent overview of biblical exegesis jointly authored by Craig Blomberg and his former research assistant Jennifer Foutz Markley. Blomberg and Foutz Markley sketch a historical-grammatical approach that squares well with exegesis classes taught in evangelical seminaries. Their contribution to the field of exegetical handbooks and introductions is a readable and comprehensive primer housed in a step-by-step methodological framework: it starts with text criticism, then moves to selecting an English translation, historical-cultural context, literary context, word studies, grammar, interpretive problems, outlining, theology, and ends with application and sermon-crafting.

The best comparison, as stated by the authors in their introduction, is Gordon Fee’s New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors (3rd ed.; 2002). The authors describe their textbook as an expansion of Fee’s book, with more description and examples, repetition being the underlying pedagogical strategy. That expansion makes the book suitable as an introductory text, whereas Fee’s requires prior knowledge of exegetical methods. The most obvious difference is in style and format; Fee’s outlined text reads much more like a manual or a quick-reference tool, with content easily presentable in a single flow-chart, while Blomberg and Foutz Markley’s chapters are sequential essays supported by sidebars and tables. This prose form, though, does not impede their methodical approach or the ease with which they can summarize the material in a checklist, which appears in an appendix.

The first chapter on textual criticism serves as a good sample of what the book offers. The authors start with the most basic premise of the discipline: “the [extant] copies do not agree, hence the need for textual criticism” (p. 2). They go on to discuss the types of extant manuscripts (e.g., Greek papyri and Latin translations) and the unique challenges of biblical text criticism over against other subjects of text criticism. They also describe text types (e.g., Alexandrian), the apparatus of the UBS and Nestle-Aland New Testaments, and guidelines for making textual decisions (according to a “reasoned eclecticism”). Along the way, they present a sidebar summarizing guidelines for evaluating external and internal evidence, one extended test case from Scripture alongside a continuous peppering of brief Scripture illustrations, and a discussion of implications of textual criticism for pastoral ministry. In contrast, the corresponding section in Fee’s text generally assumes basic knowledge of variants, text types, and apparatuses, and it dovetails with the current work only at the point of guidelines for evaluating evidence.

With the substantial number of similar works in this field, it may be helpful to note comparisons to two other recent works, the first being Darrell Bock and Buist Fanning’s Interpreting the New Testament (2006). Blomberg and Foutz Markley’s book differentiates itself by its explicitly step-by-step approach and a stylistic continuity that the other, being a collection of essays by various scholars, misses. Their teaching strategy differs as well, as they utilize brief illustrations throughout the explanatory text, whereas Bock and Fanning give long single test-cases as their own separate chapters. The other comparable book is Richard Erickson’s A Beginner’s Guide to New Testament Exegesis (2005), which also expresses indebtedness to Fee’s work but is less comprehensive than Blomberg and Foutz Markley’s book and is written in a much more colloquial style.

Blomberg and Foutz Markley occasionally foray into broader issues of hermeneutics such as social-scientific approaches (pp. 85–91), theological interpretation (pp. 227–31), and the role of presuppositions in the act of communication (pp. 244–49). As a rule, though, they fix their attention on the more specific task of author- and text-focused exegesis, that is, “determining the original meaning of a biblical passage” (p. 117). Still, some readers might appreciate more discussion of broader hermeneutics as well as deeper discussion of application, issues that may be increasingly important to the students and pastors for whom this book might be most helpful.

Clear writing and a steady stream of examples, along with a wide breadth of issues addressed in each exegetical step, make this book a promising resource for students, teachers, and pastors. It demonstrates well the necessity of rigorous, self-aware, and thoughtful exegesis for followers of Scripture. 

Carl Park

Carl Park
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Deerfield, Illinois, USA

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