jump to navigation

Exegesis and Eisegesis September 23, 2009

Posted by TJ Friend in General Principles.
trackback

Hello all. Today we get to talk about two big words used in the field of Biblical Studies. These two words are related and basically opposite in meaning. Understanding these two concepts and there differences is fundamental to understanding the text. Exegesis is the scientific term for studying a book, in this case the Bible. It is reading and studying the text to find out what it is trying to say. If you notice, the word “exegesis” has the prefix “ex” meaning “out”, so you could say that exegesis is drawing out the meaning in the text. This is the task of those who would study the Word. We need to find out what the Bible is trying to say. The authors of the Bible had an idea they were trying to convey through their writing. Our goal is to study the text and try to understand this meaning. As we dig into the text, asking questions and analyzing the words, we can get an idea of the message that is being conveyed. Once the message becomes clear then we can act on it and integrate it into our life.

Eisegesis

Eisegesis is reading into the text our ideas about its meaning. You can see the prefix “eis” on this word which means “in or into”. This is where we have a meaning already in mind and impose it onto the text. This is where we have our own ideas, experiences and philosophies that we believe as true and match the Bible to fit them. Unfortunately, eisegesis is the norm when it comes to studying the Bible. For the most part it is unintentional, but dangerous nonetheless. The biggest cause of reading eisegetically is disregarding context. As I said earlier, the authors of the Bible had a meaning in mind when they authored their books. Our goal is not to impose our own meaning into their text, but to discover what they were trying to say. This is accomplished primarily by reading contextually. It is easy to fall into the trap of eisegesis if you just read one verse and try to interpret it without its surrounding context. We all have our own beliefs and ideas and some, if not most of these are not based on scripture. Although it is impossible to come to the Bible with a “blank slate”, we should try and read it with an open mind and be willing to give up our beliefs if they don’t line up with the word of God.

One Verse Theologies

There are many doctrines throughout the Bible. There are main themes that run throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Because of their repetition there are a lot of ideas in the Bible that are extremely clear and take little exegesis to understand them. As we come across texts that are unclear we need to compare them with these texts that are more clear. The Bible will confirm itself and so, it is not wise to build theologies based on one verse. If a verse seems to be saying something that contradicts clear teachings in the Bible we need to re-evaluate how we are viewing the text. One unclear verse, especially out of context, is not enough to build a belief on. What I am not saying is that we need to disregard scriptures if we don’t agree with them. We simply need to be careful that we do not fall into error by basing our beliefs on something that is not clear. The Bible is not contradictory in its teachings, so if we come to an unclear passage we should use the more clear passages to help interpret the less clear ones, not vice versa. A verse that is less clear should not be used as the standard to conform large texts of clear doctrine.

Ultimate Authority

The basic difference between exegesis and eisegesis is where we are placing our authority. Exegesis puts the authority on the text and tries to discover its meaning and so be changed by it. Eisegesis puts the authority on us, and tries to fit the Bible to mean what we want it to mean. The Bible cannot mean what it never meant. We can’t artificially impose a meaning on the text that disregards the message of the author to the original audience. Our ideas, beliefs, philosophies and experiences are not the ultimate authority. These things can and should be shaped by the reading and application of the Word of God.

A Word of Caution

Although exegesis is the goal of studying the Bible, eisegesis is the norm. We are so inundated with ideas and doctrines that we have lost the truth. We need to read the Bible for ourselves. There is no substitute for engaging with the text for yourself. There are many people out there, both well meaning and evil, who have taken their own ideas and eisegeted verses to back up their beliefs. Unfortunately, most Christians are so Biblical illiterate that we are easily swayed by false doctrine. A pastor/teacher of the word is not perfect and can fall into the trap of eisegesis. It is our duty to fill ourselves with the word of truth so that we recognize false teaching. There was a time when the Bible was not available in the language of the common people. Only those who were highly educated could even read the Bible. Because only a few people had access to the truths of scripture they could use the Bible to get what they wanted. One of the biggest heresies was that people had to give money to the Church in order to be forgiven. If the people would have had access to the Bible they could have seen that this was false. Today we are extremely blessed, to the point that we take what we have for granted. We not only have the Bible in English, but tons of reference tools to help us interpret it correctly. Many Christians have at least one Bible, often times three or four. But even with this abundance we still go to church and rely on the pastor to feed us, taking his word as final without even a thought to whether what was said lines up with scripture. I am not saying that we need to be hyper skeptical of pastors/teachers. They have been given a gift and are placed over us for a reason. For the most part they have more education and are better at exegesis than the average person. What I am saying is that we need to be in the word for ourselves and if something sounds weird we should go back to the Bible and make sure it lines up.

Reflection

Revelation 3 and 4 have messages to different churches. In light of this and Rev. 3:19-22, who is verse 3:20 referring to? Is this verse talking about Jesus desiring to come into the lives of unbelievers? How does this verse fit into its surrounding context?

Advertisements

Comments»

No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: