A Rough Guide to NT Gobbets

The Basic Idea…

Passages for ‘Gobbets’ are chosen because they include something of special interest or significance; it is worth asking yourself why an examiner might have thought the passage particularly important. If nothing of special interest springs to mind on a particular gobbet, move on to a different one.

Gobbets are an opportunity for you to give an interpretation from any number of critical angles. Certain basic rules should be followed, but you have a considerable degree of freedom about what you do or do not include. The answer should probably be structured either as given below, or else by following the text phrase by phrase. But there is no one ‘right’ answer or approach.

An Approach


Briefly indicate the literary context, i.e. the place of a passage within the author’s argument (sometimes it’s worth noting to the sequence of gobbets!). Explain unspecified pronouns (‘he’, ‘they’, ‘this’) if necessary. [In the Gospels: mention synoptic parallels (or lack thereof) if relevant; comment on source critical matters may be (but need not be) pertinent.]


This is the main section of your gobbet. Expound the passage, with particular emphasis on any problematic or particularly significant terms or phrases. This can be done either in note form or in continuous prose. Include observations of a historical, critical, or theological nature arising from the text, relating them where necessary to the author’s views elsewhere, to other NT passages, or to OT/general background. A good practical tip is to underline or circle all the critically or theologically salient terms in the passage, and to make sure you cover at least these.


This is the ‘so what?’ section. In writing an essay, you are given a question and have to think of the evidence that is relevant to it; in a gobbet, however, you start with ‘raw data’ and have to relate it to the question(s) or issue(s) to which it is relevant. Why was this passage singled out? I.e., what bearing does it have on our knowledge of the book or author? To which larger historical, critical or theological problems does it contribute? (Or, if you feel very adventurous: what might the examiner’s choice presuppose, and in how far is this justified and/or adequate?) For purposes of a gobbet, the ‘contribution’ aspect can be brief, stating in a concluding sentence or two how the text contributes to the relevant discussion. You need not sort out the whole issue!

You may not want to adopt these mechanically as actual headings, since some texts could leave your answer looking rather thinner under one heading than under another. On the other hand, you should certainly attempt to say something pertinent in each category.

And Finally…

  • Be concise and watch the clock! If you spend too much time on one gobbet, another may suffer. Each gobbet can only carry the same (limited) number of marks.
  • In general it is best not to attempt a gobbet on the same subject that will be covered in an essay. If you can’t escape overlap, do avoid repetition; use cross-referencing instead.
  • Allow a couple of minutes for checking at the end.



M. Bockmuehl, rev. 03/2017