Walter Kaiser’s Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching has proven to be one of the most important books on preaching since its publication in 1981. Indeed, many of the preachers who are currently standing in today’s conservative pulpits and professors who are training tomorrow’s preachers were trained at the feet of Kaiser with this volume in hand. The motivation behind this book is to bridge “the yawning chasm between understanding the content of Scripture as it was given in the past and proclaiming it with such relevance in the present as to produce faith, life, and bona fide works” (p. 18). Kaiser is convinced that seminaries and Bible colleges have failed scores of preachers who have been allowed to pass through degree programs without the being trained in the skills necessary to remain faithful to the text of the Bible and make that text relevant to their hearer. Thus, Kaiser embarks on his mission to equip pastors and Bible students to exegete a text accurately and apply it to the lives of is teachers confidently.
Toward an Exegetical Theology is divided into four parts. In Part 1, Kaiser presents his case for the current crisis in exegesis and presents his hope for the cure—a grammatico-historical exegesis which is sensitive toward the theological truths of the text. In this first part of the book, Kaiser also presents a history of exegesis. Knowing the history of exegesis is profusely important for bible students; knowing the history of interpretation instructs the modern exegete who may be influencing his interpretation.
In Part 2, Kaiser presents the main points of his argument. In this section he addresses the many levels of analysis that are necessary for proper exegesis. Kaiser addresses 1. Contextual Analysis, 2. Syntactical Analysis, 3. Verbal Analysis, 4. Theological Analysis, 5. Homiletical Analysis, and then 6. he offers illustrations of Syntactical and Homiletical Analysis. Thus, in Part 2, Kaiser provides the reader with necessary tools for exegeting a text for the theological truths that can be applied to the Christian who is eager to learn from Scripture.
Kaiser uses Part 3 to instruct the reader in the special issues involved in exegeting Prophecy, Narrative, and Poetry. These genres present special difficulties with regard to expository preaching. Often, the preacher is left confused about the theological truth that is motivating a text of these genres. If the theological motivation behind such texts is unknown, then the sermon will simply deal with peripheral issues and will fail to connect with the listeners. Therefore, Kaiser uses Part 3 to teach the reader the necessary skills for studying and applying these texts.
In Part 4, Kaiser concludes this book with an appeal to the preacher to take his role seriously and to preach with power.
Toward an Exegetical Theology is a worthy book and every preacher should read it. This text is profusely practical in a way that most books on preaching are not. Most books on preaching address the practical issues of preaching such as stylistic and preparatory issues. Toward an Exegetical Theology, on the other hand, addresses the topic of preaching from the direction of the need for thorough exegesis that is focused on teaching the theology of the text. Anyone reading this text will be greatly benefited. The student will be taught the importance of proper grammato-historical exegesis. The preacher will be reminded of the rewards of careful biblical study. The layman will be encouraged by the opportunity to learn important skills for personal Bible study.