Get ahead of the dictionary.  Here are two good words to know and use (taken here from “KIDS”–the Knapp International Dozen Seconds Paraphrase).  They’re both real words, though the second one’s hard to find.

(1) exegesis – [eks – uh – GEE – sis] (n.) Explaining what a text (usually a Bible text) actually says.

(2) eisegesis – [eye – suh – GEE – sis] (n.) Reading into a text (usually a Bible text) something that isn’t there, often a desired personal opinion. [also spelled “eisogesis”]

[Related forms:  exegete (n., v.), exegetic or exegetical (adj.), exegetically (adv.).  Sim. treatment for eisegesis…]

Eisegesis isn’t even found in the relativistic, nonjudgmental Scrabble Dictionary 4th edition, that honors almost any marginal word possibility unless it’s something creative on your rack that you’re wanting to play.  Let’s change that!


Here’s an example of what I mean: When Paul says in Romans 13:14, “Make no provision for the flesh” does this mean a person should not think about getting insurance?  If someone up front with an open Bible declared, “This means buying insurance isn’t necessary,” then most would (correctly) say they are reading into the text an interpretation that isn’t there.

Of course, explaining what a text is really saying–especially if you consider it to be God’s Word–isn’t easy. But a common error practiced in many churches and Bible fellowships is that the person up front often “hijacks” a Bible text to support something he believes for other reasons. Much, much more, of course, could be said about this.

One idea I would suggest, however, is to expand the meaning of EXEGESIS and EISEGESIS by using them in other contexts because they’re such rich and powerful words. People who claim that there are two important “books” from which we obtain knowledge, the BIBLE and NATURE,  should be careful to EXEGETE both books carefully, being as objective as possible as to what each book “declares,” and not EISEGETE  them and make them say things that were never intended.  For example, as someone might say, this Bible says such and so which means so and so (correctly), a geologist should, or could, say “The decreasing grain size of quartz grains in sedimentary sandstone layers show that the water that laid them down came from the east (or wherever increasing grain size “pointed”),” and not eisegete  the “message” of the layers by saying they came willy-nilly from every direction.  (“Where did that crazy idea come from?” you can say you first heard about it here.)

The idea of the “book” of nature appears as early as the 16th century in the Belgic Confession.

Author: John Knapp

2 thoughts on “#011…WORD: “EISEGESIS”

  1. Well said! Thanks for helping me with my next post. I’d better define that word before its core meaning wanders away.

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