2001-09-21 - Eisegesis
2 Corinthians 4:1,2 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
I have been spending two hours a day for a while now, reviewing my Greek. They say if you don't review, you will lose it, so it is important to invest the time. Part of my review program involves vocabulary, and this week one word was eis, which translated into English means "into." It is from this word that we generate the English word eisegesis.
Eisegesis is something we all do, and yet something that we should all seek to avoid as best we can. Eisegesis is the process of reading into a text, in our case a text of Scripture, our own ideas and interpretations. The concept of eisegesis means reading into a text what is really not there because of our own predisposed biases and prejudices. As opposed to reading "into" a text, we ought to be looking at the text and seeking to read "out of" the text what the text is saying.
We see this being done all the time among those who lead people astray in the faith. I will use the example of teleevangelist Robert Tilton, whose scam is to get people to pay vows of faith of $1,000.00 so that God will bless them. The idea being that by making the vow to God, and paying the vow to Tilton, God will see your faith and bless you either with healings, money, or any blessing you feel you need. Now Tilton is sly; he uses the Bible and quotes the same verses about paying vows, over and over again. However, Tilton is guilty of eisegesis because he takes verses out of context and reads into them his own interpretation of what they are saying. He then tries to convince his audience that his interpretation is correct and stresses the need to send him money. Rather than reading out of the text what the text is teaching, he reads into the text what he wishes it says.
But remember that I said above that we are all guilty of eisegesis. There is no way to avoid it completely, but if we come to the Bible aware that we have predisposed opinions, thoughts, experiences, and beliefs, we can come to the Bible more honestly. When we come to the Bible, we do not come alone. We come with all our experiences and all our convictions and all our being. This is why it is easy to read the Bible and have it say exactly what we want it to say. Rather than garnishing from the text what it is saying, we often read into the text what we want it to say.
As an example, let us consider the term "Father" in Scripture. God as our Father is a common theme in the Bible. However, the term "father" can stir quite a variety of emotions in different people. Some people have had, or have now, horrible relationships with their fathers. To view God as our Father will stir different reactions and thoughts in each person. Others have had great relationships with their fathers or have had relationships that have been healed with their fathers, and these also will bring specific feelings and dispositions to the concept of God as our Father in Scripture. We can't separate ourselves from ourselves when we come to Scripture and so we come admitting that we have predispositions when we study God's Word. We seek to let the text stand for itself and get ourselves out of the way as much as we are able. This is never easy, but it is one of the keys to understanding the Bible.
Scripture must be part of the Christian's life. But we also must come to the Bible honestly and admit that we bring baggage to it when we sit down to study it. We need to approach the Bible in a manner much like Jerry Bridges advises: "As we search the Scriptures we must allow them to search us, to sit in judgment upon our character and conduct." If we only hear from the Bible what we want it to say, we will never let it seep into our hearts and transform our lives as only it can. May the Lord bless our times in God's precious Word.
Soli Deo Gloria,