Exegesis, “to lead out” is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, the idea is we try to encounter the text without reading or bringing external things into it.
Whereas eisegesis, is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text. This is commonly referred to as reading into the text.
Yet how we approach the ‘written word’ will effect how we approach the ‘living word’.
In other words when we read scripture, when we encounter God, sometimes we come to him and his word with lenses over our eyes, things that filter how we see and respond.
The truth is probably we all come with ourselves to the text and to God himself, and those who think they don’t are probably are most guilty of eisegesis rather than exegesis.
A great prayer to pray when reading scripture is “let me read and see what is actually there rather than what I think I see there, let me hear you speaking through your word, not just repeating what someone once told me the Bible said”.
We serve a God who made blind eyes see, and yet sometimes our own vision gets distorted, and needs God’s healing hand to enable us to see him and his word clearly.
Sometimes too, we ignore the Bible, or are selective with it because we don’t want to hear what it says, sometimes it says what we don’t always want to hear.
We are called to read scripture in context rather than cherry pick parts of verses and our hobby horses.
Someone once said that “a text out of context becomes a pretext”.
“The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.” Soren Keikegaard.
Although undoubtedly true that sometimes there is a wilfulness in our interpretation of scripture, we need to make sure we not only don’t water it down, but also that we don’t get caught with a legalism the Bible doesn’t endorse.
I am reminded of that great verse and the start of the book of Joshua 1.7
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go”.
We see Jesus correcting many of the scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the law who turned to the right of the law and lost the heart of the law and the heart of God.
More recently theology often is characterised by a turn to the left of the word of God, becoming more liberal in its interpretation.
Yet I would suggest that any turning from scripture whether to be more hard-line or more flexible is still a deviation from God’s word.
My dream is for Christians to actually read the Bible for themselves, to wrestle with it responsibly (so much sloppy theology crops up from people who have been Christians long enough to know better).
So, let’s take sometime to get into scripture, to allow the word and the spirit to affect us and our vision, leaving our baggage aside from the text.
And may we become people shaped more and more by encountering the living word through his written word.