I am willing to bet, that everyone who just read those two words just went huh? And that is ok, because that is exactly what I said when I first heard those two terms. However, they are important to understand when studying the Bible, so an explanation of what they mean, and how to apply them are also equally important, and this article will attempt to do just that.
Exegeses is a “critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, especially of the Bible” according to Dictionary.com. For the rest of this article, I am going to assume that we are discussing the terms in relation to studying the Bible, and not any other text. This is the term for a type of study is usually used by people who read the Bible in a straightforward natural manner. And it is pretty straightforward. You read the passage and take it at face value, and then begin to unpack it. You can also look at other passages to see what they say in relation to that one, which is what the cross-reference section in your Bible is really good for. It also helps sometimes to study the culture at the time that the passage was written, so that you can really understand what a passage may be referring to. This type of study helps you to see what the passage means, without your bias, or opinion leaking into your study very much. You can actually get quite in depth if you really wish to, and begin to study Hebrew and ancient Greek to really get a feel for the words and the grammar used by the writer of the passage too. All of these things can be included in this type of study. The way I had exegeses explained to me was that this type of study enables you to read what God said, and meant in the passage of Scripture that you are reading. It also ensures that you also do not read anything into the passage. What the passage says, is exactly what it says.
Eisegeses is, “an interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter’s own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text” also according to Dictionary.com. This type of study can be pretty dangerous, as it allows the bias of the reader to color what they are reading. Rather than reading what God said, this is the reader reading their bias into God’s Word, and that can be rather dangerous. It can lead to some very wrong or horribly wrong theology as well. Using this type of study, mankind has already done some pretty horrible things and used the Bible to justify what they had done. History is littered with cases of this. People who are involved with helping women get out of sex trafficking have said that the men who had taken them had read them the Bible to prove to them that what they had done, and what they made the women do was right before God. Obviously, this abysmal twisting of Scripture did not help the rescued women either. They would not listen to what the Scripture actually meant because they had heard it all twisted around, and not the way it was meant to be heard, or spoken. They turn away and remain lost. Many people have died, because they followed someone who interpreted the Bible with an eisegeses point of view. Eisegeses is not a good way to study the Bible, because, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9. Man is not God, and should not read into God’s Word the things that are not there.
Both of these interesting and opposite terms are used by everyone to study the Bible. One place that a lot of people regularly use eisegesis is the first eleven chapters of Genesis. A lot of people try to read into God’s Word the things that are not there so that they can read into it whatever they wish it to say. This is how we get theistic evolution, and cosmic temple theory, etc. God, in the first eleven chapters of Genesis does not say that He used millions of years, and all kinds of impossible changes, and random chance to build the universe and everything in it. God says that He spoke, and the universe and everything came into existence. He formed man out of the dust of the earth, and woman from man’s side. They did not start out as ape-like creatures. God’s Word does not say any of these things. Man has read, or has attempted to read into God’s Word all of this extra stuff, that is all myth and untrue. Man has used a lot of eisegesis on Genesis, and it is not good.
I hope that this explanation of these two interesting and opposite terms helps you in your study of God’s Word, and I hope that you keep reading the Bible. I would encourage you to use exegesis in your study too.