Crafting a Structural Outline and Developing a Working Thesis for Your Exegesis Commentary

This post is part of a series on illuminating Scripture through personal study that follows biblical exegesis methods. Read the Introduction article: Illuminating the Scriptures: A Comprehensive Guide to Biblical Exegesis.

In our journey through biblical exegesis, having explored both the “World in Front of the Text” and the “World Behind the Text,” we now structure our insights and arguments. This phase involves creating a detailed structural outline of your passage and developing a working thesis statement. These elements are crucial for organizing your thoughts and presenting a coherent analysis in your final exegesis paper.


This step provides a clear framework for your paper, ensuring your analysis is well-organized and logically presented. The structural outline serves as a roadmap for your paper, while the working thesis statement encapsulates your main argument or interpretation of the passage.

Creating a Structural Outline:

  1. Break Down the Passage:
    • Start by dividing your passage into smaller sections or pericopes. This can help identify the central ideas or movements within the text.
  2. Identify Key Elements:
    • Note each section’s key themes, characters, actions, and theological insights. This step will help highlight the structure and flow of the narrative or argument.
  3. Organize Logically:
    • Arrange these sections in a logical order that supports the progression of your analysis. Ensure that each section naturally leads to the next, building your argument cohesively.

Developing a Working Thesis Statement:

  1. Interpretation and Method:
    • Reflect on your annotated text and research to specify one or two significant concepts you believe are central to the passage. Articulate your interpretation of the passage and how you plan to demonstrate this through your analysis.
  2. Application:
    • Consider why your interpretation matters. How does it contribute to our understanding of the text, its historical context, or its relevance today? This reflection helps in framing the significance of your thesis.
  3. Drafting the Statement:
    • Combine your interpretation, method, and application into a concise statement. This working thesis should guide the development of your paper, clearly stating what you aim to prove and how.


For a passage like Exodus 4:24-27, an outline might begin with Moses’ encounter with God, followed by sections detailing the sign of the covenant, Zipporah’s intervention, and finally, the reunion with Aaron. A working thesis could argue that this passage underscores the importance of covenantal symbols and mediating roles within the Israelite community’s foundational narratives.

Challenges and Solutions:

  • Challenge: Feeling overwhelmed by the breadth of the passage.
    • Solution: Identify the central theme or action in each section to simplify the structure.
  • Challenge: Formulating a clear thesis statement.
    • Solution: Discuss your ideas with peers or mentors to clarify your thoughts and refine your thesis.


A well-crafted structural outline and a clear working thesis are indispensable tools in writing a coherent and insightful exegesis paper. They help organize your analysis systematically and articulate your argument effectively.

Next Steps:

With your outline and thesis in place, you’re ready to delve into the writing phase of your project. The following post will guide you through incorporating past scholarship and commentary into your analysis, enriching your paper with scholarly dialogue.

Want to Go Deeper?

As you work on your outline and thesis, share your process or any insights you’ve gained. Use #BiblicalExegesisProject to join the conversation online. Whether you’re wrestling with structuring your paper or refining your thesis, remember that this step lays the groundwork for a compelling and academically rigorous exploration of your biblical passage.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *