Friday, August 03, 2007

Exegesis or Isegesis

In order to properly interpret biblical literature. We need to first establish the rules of interpretation. Essentially, there are two types of Scriptural renderings. There is Exegesis and there is Isegesis.

The literal interpretation of Exegesis is to "read out of the text." In other words, What is the text saying to it's readers in its literal sense. What was the intent of the author? Who was the Author's audience? What was the cultural and political climate of the day like? How did this impact the Author's perspectives? Isegesis is "reading-into the text." What is the text saying to me personally? How does it relate to my circumstances?

Most Christians practice the latter form of interpretation. Although this is can be a nourishing spiritual experience; It can be very dangerous. For instance, when Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, Peter said, Jesus if it is you, tell me to come." Jesus said, "come." Peter then walked on the water.


There was a case I heard about several years ago of a team of Chinese missionaries who ran into a problem crossing a river that led to where they were ministering. They couldn't get a across the river so one of them qouted the above passage regarding Peter and Jesus. The missionary read into the text (Isegesis) and claimed the verse for himself. Well, the end result was that he drowned. Perhaps if this missionary knew the difference between Exegeting and Isegeting, then he may have not died.

On the other hand, there is a correct way of Isegeting a text. For example. Paul said regarding the subject of Marriage that, "Husbands are to love their wives, and wives are to reverence their husbands." For all practicable purposes, there is relatively no danger in this. It is a simple command to love your wife. Now, don't misunderstand me. You can read into anything just about any way you like. Someone could interpret "loving" your wife as beating her.


So you see, "this is subject to further interpretation." At this point it is fair to Exegete the passage. In other words, who was Paul writing to? What was the culture of the day like? What was the family culture of the day like? For the sake of brevity I won't expand on this, but from a historical perspective the family was comparable to modern day standards.

In conclusion, it is fair to say that proper interpretation of the scriptures involves both Exegesis and Isegesis. Once can properly exegete a passage without isegeting it. On the other hand, it is not proper to isegete without exegeting. As discussed earlier, this form of interpretation can be dangerous. It is my contention that when interpreting scripture, to get the full flavor of it's meaning, one should both exegete and isegete.

source Richard Martinez

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4 Comments:

OpenID Matt said...

I stumbled upon this just today and I think it makes a lot of sense. It is dangerous to take verses out of context and try to apply them to your life.

11:59 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Hi Matt,

I agree with you. Many Christians keep reading in the Bile what they want the Bible to say. It is so sad.

1:03 AM  
Blogger anthony said...

Eisegesis? greek eis means 'into'. greek ex means 'out of'. eisgesis is reading into the text while exegesis is reading out of the text.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Viola Da Gamba said...

If the bible was written by god to communicate his message to humans, why did he make it so confusing? Why would it support slavery and genocide, and include things we know don't exist, like unicorns and witches?

9:57 PM  

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