Thursday, July 1, 2010

Terminology - Exegesis

Well here it is Thursday again and today’s word is one that is often heard from pulpits today but in all frankness while it is being said, its being done is often not.  Now, earlier when defining a word it was actually necessary to define two and we here at The Old Dead Guys became a little light headed as a result of our generosity and nearly missed an entire week.  Well it’s necessary to provide a twofer again and to avoid the light headedness we will write this on our heads so that if the blood goes to our feet it will have an up hill battle.  So here goes…

Exegesis and Eisegesis

From Webster’s 1828

Exegesis – pronounced  x-a-Jesus

–  to explain, to lead [and is an] exposition or explanation/interpretation [of text]

[Exegesis is] - A discourse intended to explain or illustrate a subject.

While exegesis is not found in Scripture per se it is nonetheless represented at least in principle so that anyone treating Scripture properly would not have any issues seeing it.  However this gets to the point which will be developed below. 

The man of God is both commanded to and commended for handling Gods truth correctly (2 Tim. 2:15), and it should be his highest honor to be privileged to do so.  The exegete who relies upon the scriptures, letting them say what they say has great freedom.  There is not a topic he cannot speak with authority on for it is “thus says the Lord” not him.  He speaks on God’s authority not his own.

Exegesis, then, apart from being a skill honed over years of practice, is an absolutely necessary means of honoring the Lord the minister claims to serve.  Some believe and argue that exegesis and all the attendant study that goes into it robs one of the Spirit's work.  However, the fact is, there is no greater spiritual service the minister can render to the Lord and to the flock entrusted to his care than to allow Gods voice to speak with the clarity that only sound exegetical practice can provide.

Now Mr. Webster did not define eisegesis so I went to Princeton edu for an understanding which states:

eisegesis – pronounced i-sa-Jesus
[is a] personal interpretation of a text (especially of the Bible) using your own ideas

Eisegesis from the Greek meaning  "into" opposed to exegesis meaning "to lead out" is the process of misinterpreting a text in such a way that it introduces one's own ideas; that is, reading into the text what is not there.  You would be better served to remember this as guessegesis since rarely will the practitioner have a proper understanding of the text to render his message based upon the authority of God’s word. 

Eisegesis then is reading into a text, in this case, an ancient text of the Bible, a meaning that is not supported by a proper understanding of historical, grammatical, syntax, lexical meanings, and over all context, of the original. 

But the heart of the matter is that the Scripture is not born from one’s own interpretation.  God tells us that we “do well to pay attention” (2 Peter 1:19-21) to His word since it was given to man by God as the Holy Spirit carried the writers along.  So what hope then do the hears have of paying attention to God’s word when in fact His word is not being delivered?  No much.  In fact Peter states that as good as it was to be on the mountain with God and seeing Him transfigured, His word is more sure.  Why would any preacher (so called) deliver anything else?  … Indeed.

Eisegesis then is the opposite of exegesis, where you read out of the text its original meaning by careful attention to the same things, grammar, syntax, the lexical meanings of the words used by the author as they were used in his day (historical) and in his area, and the over-all context of the document.

As common as it is though, it should be something the Christian minister finds abhorrent, for when you stop and think about it, eisegesis muffles the voice of God.  If the text of Scripture is in fact God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) and if God speaks in the entirety of the Bible (Matt. 22:31) then eisegesis would involve silencing that divine voice and replacing it with the thoughts, intents, and most often, traditions, of the one doing the interpretation.  In fact, I venture to say that eisegetical mishandling of the inspired text is the single most common source of heresy, division, disunity, and a lack of clarity in the proclamation of the gospel.

One day I may really tell you what I think of eisegesis, but for now…


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