Chris' Corner -- Sunday, June 6, 2021
Perhaps the most significant problem with the way people approach Bible study is eisegesis. This term describes the process of reading scripture with the presuppositions or biases a person has. They have come to the study of the Bible with their minds already made up. Eisegesis is trying to make the Bible say what they want it to say—pressing a meaning into a passage that is not original with the text.
Speaking of some of Paul’s writings, Peter said, “as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). “Twist” means to pervert or torture, put to the rack. The Pharisees had no problem doing this to the Law of Moses. “Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:7).
Paul was grieved in his heart over his Jewish brethren for their mishandling of scripture. “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:2–3).
The Jews searched the Old Testament writings (John 5.39), yet most would not accept Jesus as the Christ. Paul later comments, “But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart” (2 Corinthians 3.14, 15).
Christians and members of the Lord’s church can be guilty of this very thing. In writing to the Galatians, Paul said, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (1:6–7). The apostle condemned anyone who would do such a thing (1:8-9).
In his excellent book, D. R. Dungan’s Hermeneutics: A Text-Book (published in 1888), Dungan stated, “The Bible is not a book with which to prove doctrines; it is doctrine itself.”
The opposite of eisegesis (and the correct way to study the Bible) is exegesis. When we approach the scriptures intending to get the meaning from the passage, we make critical analysis and proper interpretation of the text in question. We should never insert or press our own thinking into the Bible’s message to make it say what we want it to say. Rightly dividing the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) is cutting straight or dissecting the text, gleaning from it the meaning God and inspiration intended when it was written.
What a great example we have in the Bereans. “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
These terms, exegesis and eisegesis, may sound technical and unfamiliar, but they are vital in our everyday Bible study methods. We may not say these words often, but we must understand the principles as they apply to our searching the scriptures. We must focus on the proper way to study the Bible. After all, it is God’s Word, not ours!