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This Guide was created as a joint project of the Academic Resource Center and the William H. Hannon Library.

Writing in Theology

Some helpful tips when writing for theology classes:

  1. Know what kind of paper you are writing.
    • If it is a spirituality/reflection paper, you can use first person.
    • If it is a biblical studies/analysis paper, use third person only.
  2. Be extremely clear.  Theological writing is very academic. If it helps, state what you will be doing or the purpose of your paper directly in the thesis/introduction.
    • In this paper, I will _______.
  3. Read sources carefully
    • Be able to understand what the author is saying and summarize it in your own words.
    • Read footnotes.
    • Make use of sources frequently in your paper.
    • When including a quote, make sure you explain it and incorporate it into the sentence.
  4. Useful sources
    • Commentaries: analyses on scripture
      • Good for: exegesis, passage analysis, biblical studies
      • Examples: Anchor Bible Commentary
    • Practical sources: applying theology to the public sphere
      • Good for: ethics, philosophy, history, spirituality
      • Examples: St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Reinhold Niebuhr, H. Richard Niebuhr, Catholic Church catechisms
  5. How to cite
    • The standard citation for theology is the Chicago Style, with notes and bibliography.   Use footnotes.
    • See the ARC handout on Chicago Manual of Style

Theology Cheat sheet

Basic vocabulary:

  • Concordance: An index of principal words in the Bible that contain references to every passage where the word occurs
  • Exegesis: Critical analysis or interpretation of a text
  • Eisegesis: An interpretation that expresses the interpreter’s own bias, rather than the meaning of the text


  • Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures): Foundations of Judaism
    • Contains: Creation stories, Abraham, the exodus (Moses), laws, the prophets, Wisdom literature, and more historical books such as Nehemiah and Maccabees
  • Torah (Pentateuch): The first 5 books of the Hebrew Scriptures containing Jewish laws and ethical codes that according to Jewish tradition, God gave Moses on Mount Sinai
  • Septuagint: The Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the version the New Testament writers used)
  • Covenant: Agreement between God and the people of Israel (i.e. Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic)


  • New Testament: Foundations of Christianity
    • Contains: The Gospels, Acts, Pauline epistles, Catholic epistles, Book of Revelation
  • The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John): The life of Jesus Christ
  • Synoptics = Matthew, Mark, and Luke
  • Acts of the Apostles: Apostle’s ministry after the death and resurrection of Christ, the rise of Paul
  • Pauline epistles: Letters written by Paul to Christian communities. Authorship by Paul debated (Deutero-Pauline epistles, Pastoral epistles)
  • Christology: The nature of Jesus
    • High Christology: More Godlike
    • Low Christology: More humanlike
  • Sacrament: A visible sign of inward grace
    • i.e. Eucharist: consecrated elements of the Holy Communion (bread= body, wine= blood)

Links to other resources