Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Terminology Tuesday: Exegesis, Eisegesis

Exegesis, Eisegesis: Literally, "drawing meaning out of" and "reading meaning into," respectively. Exegesis is the process of seeking to understand what a text means or communicates on its own. Eisegesis is generally a derogatory term used to designate the practice of imposing a preconceived or foreign meaning onto a text, even if that meaning could not have been originally intended at the time of its writing..1

Highly recommended book on reading the Bible: How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart.

1. Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 49.


Anonymous said...

Reading the Hebrew word "tanniyn" as "dinosaur," or interpreting Ezekiel 29:3 or Job 40:15-24 as indicating anything like a dinosaur, would be an example of eisegesis, then, no?

Anonymous said...

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth and the companion (also by Fee and Stuart) How to Read the Bible Book by Book are great Bible study guides every believer should have at their disposal, IMO.

MaryLou said...

I agree, Anonymous. Fee and Stuart's books are great. Everybody should have them on their shelf. When I read them, I recognized some of the mistakes I made in approaching the Bible as well as mistakes of others. They really improved my understanding of Scripture a lot.

I think both the Mormons and the Jehovah Witnesses offer great examples of eisegesis. Each religion established its theology and then went to the Bible to look for verses to back that theology up, misinterpreting them to make them fit their beliefs. The JWs even went so far as to write their own version of the Bible to jive with what they taught.

One simple example of eisegesis is the Mormon's take on baptism on behalf of the dead. They misinterpret 1 Corinthians 15:29 which says, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?”

Paul isn't saying that people can and should be baptized for the dead. He is saying to the Corinthians, "You people are doubting the resurrection, but yet you baptize people on behalf of the dead so that they will be resurrected. Well, if you don't believe in the resurrection, why on earth are you baptizing yourself on behalf of the dead?"

All he is doing is pointing out the inconsistency in their beliefs. He is not promoting baptism on behalf of the dead at all. But that's how the Mormons interpret it to justify baptisms for the dead.

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