Dennis Bratcher's Model for Biblical Exegesis

Essay, 2019

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Brief Biography of Dennis Bratcher

Understanding what Biblical Exegesis Entails


The Process of Exegesis: Asking the Right Questions




The issue of interpretation has been a serious issue over the years; scholars have engaged the Bible with aim of providing different tools and methods for interpreting it. The fact that the cultural-historical background (setting) of the Bible is far-fetched from modern interpreters cannot be denied. The study posits that this simple fact set the platforms for the issue of interpretation and deriving meaning from the Biblical text. The quest for biblical interpretation brings the work of Dennis Bratcher into lime light. Just like many other scholars; Bratcher provides modern interpreters with a structure outline in doing biblical exegesis. Therefore, this study engages in the re-assessment of Dennis Bratcher’s work titled ‘A Model for Biblical Exegesis’ with the aim of ascertaining it importance and usefulness to modern interpreters

Brief Biography of Dennis Bratcher

Before engaging the work of Dennis Bratcher, the research sees the need to observe a little about the person of Dennis Bratcher. It is discovered that Dennis is the Executive Director of Christian Resource Institute (The Voice). He is a retired professor of Old Testament; he has earned the PhD in Biblical studies from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, and has served as a educator in the church for more than 25 years. He is an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene, and has recently served on staff at a United Methodist church (

Understanding what Biblical Exegesis Entails

Biblical exegesis involves the interpretation, explanation, and exposition of the Bible's various books, in relation either to the time of their composition, or to their meanings for readers in subsequent centuries (Gosnell, 1995). The task of exegesis is to determine what the biblical text meant at the very first time and at the very first place that it was used (Jerry and David, 1987). In view of this, exegesis means bringing out the meaning of a text. To simply put, biblical exegesis involves the examination of a particular text of scripture in order to determine what the author intends to convey to his readers. The study notes that exegesis is a part of the process of hermeneutics, the science of interpretation.


The first thing Bratcher addressed in his model has to do with presuppositions. He argued that understanding the perspective from which one comes in doing biblical interpretation is essential. He emphasized that acknowledging how one view Scripture will often determine the exegetical approach. In this argument, Bratcher cites an example from Wesleyan perspective, emphasizing their basic perspectives to approach the interpretation of Scripture.

1. A Wesleyan perspective assumes an incarnational dimension to Scripture. That is, it has a human element and is conditioned by history and culture.
2. Scripture is a Faith document. For Christians, we read Scripture in light of the revelation of God in Jesus the Christ.
3. Scripture is inspired. Without determining exactly how or the manner of inspiration, we assume that the Bible is more than merely human words, and that the Bible continues to function as word of God to the community of Faith.
4. Interpretation is not a matter only of the skill of the interpreter, as important as that is. Interpretation also needs the ongoing work of God through the Holy Spirit to bring that word to life and speak it anew.
5. The Bible is not so much about correct facts as it is about the witness to the work of God in the worlds, past and present.

The study observes that Bratcher limits his explanation to the Wesleyan perspective here; this is due to this denominational affiliation (Methodist). It is not a bad idea for Bratcher to explain his point concerning presupposition using his denomination. Setting aside the denomination Bratcher used to convey his explanation here, the study opine that he addressed an important issue which often affects biblical exegesis. It is important for biblical exegesis to be conscious of their misconceptions and assumptions prior to looking at the biblical text (Hyde, 1974).

The Process of Exegesis: Asking the Right Questions

Bratcher moved on in his model to stating the need for biblical exegetes to ask the right questions which will help discover the actual meaning of the text; this is what Bratcher referred to as ‘the process of exegesis.’ The study notes that Bratcher’s placement of presupposition first signifies the need for it to be addressed first before engaging in exegesis.

I. Questions of Context

Here, Bratcher notes the importance of two contexts; historical and literary. The historical context is in two folds; history in the text and history of the text (Jerry Vines and David Allen, 1987: 309). The former has to do with what the text itself narrates, while the latter deals with the story of the text; how, why, when, where, by whom, to whom and in what circumstances did the text itself originates (Hayes: 47). Modern historical critics apply criteria of historical analysis as a resource for understanding the lives and circumstances of biblical characters and for reconstructing the events that transpired. The study notes that the historical context just as Bratcher notes expressed “historical criticism”. Scholars view the New Testament primarily as an ancient resource for learning about history (McKenzie, 1966). This tool reconstructs the lives and beliefs of significant people (e.g. Jesus and Paul) and understands the origins of Christianity.

The Literary Context as Bratcher puts is congruent with the understanding of literary criticism. The tool seek to understand the text as literature by employing traditional or more recent models of literary criticism that are employed in the study of literature (Gorman: 13). Narrative criticism is a sub-set of literary criticism; it is a quest to understand the formal and material features of narrative texts. Hayes (Ibid: 73) argued that literary criticism deals with the composition and rhetorical style of the text; this makes rhetorical criticism a cardinal part of this tool (Funk, 1966). Thus, literary criticism is the task of separating out sources or layers, describing their content and characteristics features and relating them to one another (Barr, 1973). In other words, this tool explicitly focuses on the world of the text, its composition, structure and mood.

II. Questions of Meaning

After the questions of context, Bratcher examines the questions of meaning. The study notes that the questions Bratcher raised are vital and in line with contemporary usage in biblical scholarship. Bratcher presents the questions of meaning in two folds; how does the author communicate his message? What is the author attempting to communicate? How should the text be translated? (Narrative criticism) What is the structure and form of the text? (Form criticism) How should we hear or interpret the language of the text? (Grammatical criticism) The study notes that Bratcher’s opinion here is to seek meaning by engaging the text.

III. Questions of Application

After the question of context and meaning, Bratcher discuss the questions of application. He emphasizes the fact that questions of context and questions of meaning basically centre on drawing out the meaning of a biblical text. What a passage means to anyone other than the original intended reader; but the question of application helps make the meaning of the biblical text relevant to contemporary or modern readers. It is important to note that the application is how the principle or point of the passage applies to the lives of anyone who reads it. What does the text tell us about God, us, and our relationship with God? How does the text apply to contemporary life?


The task of biblical exegesis is enormous; this implies that the biblical exegete has a lot to do in other to adequately come up with plausible interpretations and meaning of biblical texts. In other to achieve this aim, Dennis Bratcher carved out a guide for an exegete; stating that he must be conscious of his own state of mind towards the intended text to be interpreted as well as the historical and literary context of the text. After this are succinctly considered, the discovered meaning of the text is applied to contemporary life. The study notes that Bratcher’s model is a simple and straight-forward model, unambiguous and straight to the point; the study notes that Bratcher’s model is an effective and well-structured means with which modern readers can grasp the message and meaning of the Biblical text. The study posits that Bratcher has done a great job in simply designing and bringing out a pattern for doing biblical exegesis, paying attention to the cardinal things that when an biblical exegesis is devoid of can ruin the interpretation.


Brown, Michael J. 2004. Blackening of the Bible: The Aims of African American Biblical Scholarship Harrisburg: Trinity Press International.

Fee, Gordon D. 1993. New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Http://Www.Crivoice.Org/Aboutcri.Html. Accessed on 11th September, 2019.

Https://Libguides.Stthomas.Edu/C.Php?G=88712&P=573924. Accessed on 11th September, 2019.

Hyde Gordon M. 1958. A Symposium on Biblical Hermeneutics Prepared by the Biblical Research Committee General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Washington, D.C: The Review and Herald Publishing Association.

Hyde, Gordon M. 1974. A Symposium on Biblical Hermeneutics. Washington D.C: The Review and Herald Publishing Association.

Jerry Vines and David Allen, 1987. Hermeneutics, Exegesis and Proclamation in Criswell Theological Review 1.2; 309.

Mulrain, George. 1999. “Hermeneutics within a Caribbean Context,” in Vernacular Hermeneutics. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

Tate, W. R. 2008. Biblical Interpretation: An integrated Approach, 3rd edition; Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Vines Jerry and Allen, David 1987. Hermeneutics, Exegesis and Proclamation in Criswell Theological Review 1.2.

Yorke, Gosnell L. 1995. “Biblical Hermeneutics An Afro-centric Perspective” in Journal of Religion and Theology , Vol. 2, No. 2.


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Dennis Bratcher's Model for Biblical Exegesis
Biblical Studies and Theology
Catalog Number
dennis, bratcher, model, biblical, exegesis
Quote paper
Oladotun Paul (Author), 2019, Dennis Bratcher's Model for Biblical Exegesis, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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