No, not Jesus…Gesis. I am talking about exegesis and eisegesis. I know this doesn’t sound like beginner material but let me assure you that you need to have a handle on these terms if you are going to be a student of the scripture. The reason I believe understanding the ideas behind these two terms is that important is because these are two labels to describe two fundamentally different approaches to how one reads the Bible and only one of them is the one you want.
Eisegesis – reading my meaning into the text. The text says what I want the text to say. This puts the reader as the authority.
Exegesis – finding the meaning in the text itself and drawing it out. The text means what it means. The meaning is embedded in the text waiting for the interpreter to come and understand what is there. The meaning is not imposed on the text but is brought out of the text. This puts the text as the authority.
When we study the Bible we want to do exegesis – to believe the meaning is in the text and that the text has something to tell or teach me to inform me rather than me believing that I know what the text is supposed to say and working to find a way to make it so. You don’t come to the Bible to win an argument. You come to the Bible to be won by the Bible’s argument. The Bible informs us. We don’t inform the Bible. We submit ourselves to the meaning of the text (exegesis) not the other way around (eisegesis).
Far too often I encounter people who are doing eisegesis rather than exegesis and the way you see eisegesis expressed most frequently is through prooftexting. More on that next!