Last week I focused on Biblical hermeneutics, the art of interpreting the Bible. It is essential that we seek to interpret, understand and apply Scripture correctly, when following the command of 2 Timothy 2:15.
Today we will continue to dive into this topic, by looking at “exegesis” and “eisegesis”.
What is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis?
“Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study. Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.
The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.
Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text. Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation. Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting. Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.
Second Timothy 2:15 commands us to use exegetical methods: “Present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” An honest student of the Bible will be an exegete, allowing the text to speak for itself. Eisegesis easily lends itself to error, as the would-be interpreter attempts to align the text with his own preconceived notions. Exegesis allows us to agree with the Bible; eisegesis seeks to force the Bible to agree with us.
The process of exegesis involves 1) observation: what does the passage say? 2) interpretation: what does the passage mean? 3) correlation: how does the passage relate to the rest of the Bible? and 4) application: how should this passage affect my life?
Eisegesis, on the other hand, involves 1) imagination: what idea do I want to present? 2) exploration: what Scripture passage seems to fit with my idea? and 3) application: what does my idea mean? Notice that, in eisegesis, there is no examination of the words of the text or their relationship to each other, no cross-referencing with related passages, and no real desire to understand the actual meaning. Scripture serves only as a prop to the interpreter’s idea.” (Gotquestions.org: What is the difference between Exegesis and Eisegesis?).
For the whole article, including an illustration of what this looks like, click here.
Here is a clip of John MacArthur pointing to the error of using eisegesis in the Old Testament:
This clip points out how the use of eisegesis often leads to Scripture being taken out of context (see from .13 seconds to 3.18 minutes)
As Christ followers who seek to ‘rightly handle the Word of truth’, we must beware of sitting under teachers who apply meanings to Scripture to fit “their point”, rather than seeking to ‘draw out’ (exegete) what the verses really mean. There are many celebrity teachers who continue to eisegete (make their own meaning of) the text in their Bible studies. We need to remember that just because someone has a large following, this does not automatically mean that their teaching is sound. We need to be responsible by testing the spirits (1 John 4:1) and and by being Bereans (Acts 17:11). Remember, always check if what you are hearing lines up with Scripture.