In the preface to Francis Chan’s book, “The Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit,” he differentiates between two approaches to biblical interpretation … “exegesis” and “eisegesis.”
The dictionary defines exegesis as “critical explanation or interpretation of a text, esp. of the Bible.” Chan adds: “… starting with the text and working outward, objectively.”
This appears to be what the apostle Paul admonished his young protégé Timothy to practice: “Be diligent to present yourselves approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
For the first nine years of my schooling (K – 8) all the students at Lockhaven Christian School quoted this verse to conclude every weekday chapel, so it is permanently etched into my brain … although in the words of King James!
The pastor-turned-author, Eugene Peterson, puts it this way in “Eat This Book” … “We enter the text to meet God as He reveals Himself; not to look for truth or history or morals that we can use for ourselves.”
Eisegesis, on the other hand, is “an interpretation, esp. of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter’s own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text.” Chan adds: “Eisegesis … is when you start with an idea or conviction, then search for verses in the Bible to prove your point … The danger in this is that we can take verses out of context to support just about any point of view.”
Besides affecting how we read or study the Bible, how might these two terms impact our daily application of following the teachings of Jesus?
To quote Chan again: “The bottom line is that we can easily pursue just about any lifestyle we desire, then find Scriptures to show everyone it’s all right to live that way.”
What’s a better alternative? Chan recommends: “Start with God’s Word; pray that the Spirit gives (us) clarity; then study to see what the text actually says. The Holy Spirit inspired the writing of the Bible, so who better to help us as we seek to understand it?”
Let’s translate this into the everyday … into a culture obsessed with personal biases and even “fake facts” … What would it look like to “live exegetically”? If we were to start with Scripture and allow it to dictate our actions, how would we then live?
Peterson observes, “Sometimes, we can’t truly understand the Bible until we obey it.”
Ponder these biblical exhortations as you seek to live out the Christian life in daily terms:
- “But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” John 14:26
- “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth …” John 16:12-13
- “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
- “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” 2 Peter 1:19-21
The apostle Paul commends people in the small city of Berea for “living exegetically”:
- “Now these were more noble-minded … for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11
May we all live like good Bereans!
What are some practical tips you practice to “live exegetically”?
Peace & Joy!