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Most hermeneutical approaches are heavy on exegesis which is derived from the Greek ἐξήγησις from ἐξηγεῖσθαι meaning "to lead out". Conversely, eisegesis means the opposite — to read meaning into the text. This term is typically used pejoratively, yet sound practice or otherwise, it falls under the classification of a hermeneutic method.

Famously, it is often claimed that Jesus practiced some eisegesis by quoting the Torah out of context and imbuing it with new meaning beyond the scope of intent of the original author¹. John the Baptist is also alleged to do this². Furthermore, some have suggested that fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy might be a kind of eisegesis. Some wonder about the role of the Holy Spirit in hermeneutics while others believe that eisegesis is appropriate for confirming revelation, words and influences from the Holy Spirit.

Clearly (however frowned upon, dangerous, or misused) eisegesis is a hermeneutic methodology. What reason do scholars give for frowning upon and cautioning against eisegetical methods? In what circumstances (if any) is eisegesis a preferred or acceptable hermeneutic method?

¹ See e.g. Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4, Matthew 4:7 and Luke 4:12, Matthew 4:10 and Luke 4:8; Matthew 15:1-6 and Mark 7:10; Matthew 19:4–6 and Mark 10:6-8; Matthew 22:31–32, Mark 12:26, 27 and Luke 20:37-38; John 8:12-13, 17-18; Matthew 9:13 and Matthew 12:7; Matthew 13:14–15, Mark 4:11–13 and Luke 8:10, Matthew 21:13, Mark 11:17 and Luke 19:46; Matthew 26:31 and Mark 14:27; Luke 22:37; John 6:45; Matthew 21:16; Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10-11, Luke 20:17; Matthew 22:43–44, Mark 12:36, Luke 20:42-43; Matthew 23:37–39 and Luke 13:35; Matthew 24:15–16, John 10:34-36; John 13:18; John 15:25; and finally Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34.

² See Matthew 11:10 and Luke 7:27.

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    Christ and the Apostles do frequently treat texts in this manner, yet for them I think it was most often still thought of as 'exegetical' in the looser sense, as it was interpreting the authority of the original text to speak to the current situation. Modern exegesis typically asks 'what was the author's intent in this text?', whereas New Testament exegesis typically asked 'what was the Author's intent in this text?' The NT and Patristic sources consistently handle the scriptures in this manner, but I'd still say most of these instances can be fairly considered "exegetical" in terms of intent.
    – Steve can help
    Jul 13, 2017 at 15:29
  • If I, who am not Jesus an Apostle were to quote Hosea 6:6 the way that Jesus did in Matthew 9:13 and Matthew 12:7, I'm pretty sure I would be accused of eisegesis. So far though, comments and answers have been about whether Jesus was eisegeting or not (fine, call it midrash instead.) This is not really that relevant to the question other than to suggest there might be times where it is appropriate (and a good answer might conclude that it is OK for Jesus and we are not Jesus.) and to record why this is considered "bad" hermeneutics according to scholarship. Jul 13, 2017 at 17:41
  • Please note that this question is not about whether or not Jesus practiced eisegesis. For those interested in exploring the idea that he did or did not use eisegesis, please see this question here Jul 18, 2017 at 15:54

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Here are some reasons why eisegesis is discouraged. In fact, I even saw it called The Eisegesis “Virus”:

  1. Distorts Original Meaning: by imposing subjective interpretations that wasn't the author's intended message or the historical context in which the text was written.
  2. Undermines Objectivity: by reflecting the interpreter's biases, beliefs, and agendas, leading to a lack of objectivity in interpretation. This subjectivity can hinder accurate understanding and can lead to all sorts of misinterpretation.
  3. Lacks Accountability: When employing eisegesis, interpreters may not hold themselves accountable to the constraints of the text or the principles of sound interpretation, such as linguistic analysis, historical context, and literary genre. This can result in careless or irresponsible interpretation.
  4. Leads to False Doctrine: Being in the digital age this one may be the biggest hitter. Eisegesis can contribute to the propagation of false or at least misleading theological doctrines by reading into the text ideas that are not supported by the biblical context.
  5. Disregards Authorial Intent: by imposing external meanings onto the text, eisegesis often disregards the author's original intent and the communicative purpose of the passage. This undermines the integrity of the text and the authority of the author as the primary communicator.

Here's limited circumstances in which eisegesis may be considered acceptable:

  1. Devotional Purposes: Perhaps in personal devotional reading one may engage in eisegesis to derive personal meaning or application from the text that speaks to their own walk.

Let me give an example:


Sarah, a young woman struggling with anxiety and fear has an experience where she felt overwhelmed by uncertainty and doubt. There she cried out to God for help. In that moment she feels God's presence and peace. Later, Sarah turns to the Psalms for comfort during a difficult time in her life. She reads Psalm 23. As she reads she recalls the peace she felt when she cried out to God. Perhaps just as the psalmist did.

Now Sarah begins to reinterpret the psalm in light of her own experience. She reads verse 4, which says,

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."

Because of her own struggles with fear, Sarah interprets the "darkest valley" as her own moments of anxiety and uncertainty. She sees God's "rod and staff" as symbols of His protection and guidance, providing her with comfort and reassurance.

In her devotional reflection, Sarah applies this interpretation to her current situation. She finds solace in the belief that God is with her even in her darkest moments. She meditates on the verse, repeating it as a mantra during times of stress and uncertainty. Through this personal interpretation, Sarah finds strength and courage to face her fears and trust in God's presence.


Here, Sarah engages in eisegesis by interpreting Psalm 23 in light of her own experiences and emotions. While the original context of the psalm may have referred the experience of the author, Sarah reinterprets it and applies it to her own struggles with anxiety and fear. However, this personal interpretation allows her to find comfort and strength in the words of Scripture, making it meaningful and relevant to her own life. I believe the Holy Spirit can speak to us in such a way.

  1. Preaching as Eisegesis: In preaching (or teaching contexts), pastors may use eisegesis as a way to show how God's word, like in Sarah's story, spoke specifically to them. Provided, it has to be done responsibly and in accordance with sound theological principles and in a way that does not lead people to misinterpret the verse outside of it's context. In other words, people should clearly know that it's eisegesis being preached!
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It probably depends on one's definitions. I would disagree with the OP assumption that Jesus quoted OT texts out of context. To take the first listed example, why is Luke 4.4 an instance of eisegesis? I would say that Jesus is applying that sentence in a way consistent with its original meaning. In Deuteronomy 8.3 the point is that Israel must rely not on physical wealth ("bread") but on God's word. In other words, their blessing comes from submitting themselves to God's revealed will. And is that not exactly what Jesus is saying in Luke 4? I will not use my divine powers to meet my needs, but will obey God's purposes and will for my life.

It's true that the historical context is different. But it doesn't follow that every application of an OT text to the new historical setting is eisegesis. It's not about giving the original text a new meaning. It's about applying the truth of the original text to that new setting. There are many facets to this issue, so it's hard to give a full analysis. But in general terms I would say that this is what the NT writers are doing. They describe the new work of God in Christ, using the language and the text of the OT but without doing damage to the original meaning.

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The definition from Meriam Webster of eisegesis: " the interpretation of a text (as of the Bible) by reading into it one's own ideas "

Bringing one's own opinions into the scriptures (eisegesis), using a world view or preferred belief system to apply to the scriptures is not a hermeneutic practice. There is not any circumstance where that is acceptable.

There is a humorous post on "The Eisegisis 'Virus'" by Ken Ham at here that concludes that the leaders of churches today are infecting the message of the gospel of Christ with their own opinions and belief systems, and that the vaccine for it is exegesis.

Eisegesis [ < Greek eis- (into) + hègeisthai (to lead). (See 'exegesis'.)] Definition: A process where one leads into study by reading a text on the basis of pre-conceived ideas of its meanings. It is rare for someone to be called an 'eisegete', because eisegesis has a well-earned negative reputation.

Eisegesis is what's being done when someone interprets the Bible according to notions that were born outside of the Bible. In eisegesis, we read stuff into Scripture. For instance, the idea of the United States as a "Christian Nation" is the creation of egos who gloat over being powerful. It has no basis in history or fact, but more important, it has no basis in the Bible. Thus it arises from eisegesis. Yet some leading US politicians and pastors interpret the Bible through this notion.

To some extent, eisegesis is unavoidable. We don't come to the Bible with a blank slate. A lot of living and learning went into each of us. If we really bring our whole selves to the study of the Bible, all that stuff in us will and should have an impact on how we learn from the Bible. Here's where prayerful obedience and discipline come in, for the Spirit rewards hard work and harder prayer. The hard work of exegesis uncovers what the Bible is telling us, and our obedience sets aside the ideas we cherish so that we may take on the Bible's vision. The same living and learning that would have driven us to do an eisegesis of the text, instead becomes the raw material for re-visioning our lives and thoughts (through hermeneutics) in the light of what the Spirit reveals in Scripture (exegesis)." Source: here

Christ did not use scripture in a new application. He was fulfilling scripture, and explaining the original intent of the scriptures to those who applied it for their own desired belief system, much as many are doing today.

The accusation of using eisegesis comes out whenever someone opposes a commonly taught belief system, because the majority "interpretation" will not be challenged to review what they have always been taught. Therefore eisegesis becomes a matter of opinion over imposed opinions of the scriptures.

Matt. 27:46 was a direct quote of Psa. 22:1 which was the complete fulfillment of David's cry for help, and was prophetic of his savior's need. As the son of David, Christ fulfilled that prophesy on the cross.

The tempter's taunts of Christ in the wilderness was our example of how to resist the temptations that come upon us. The devil (tempter) had a short time (Rev. 12:12) to stop God's plan of salvation. He knew who Christ was, and he knew Christ's power. Turning those stones into bread was not the objective, but instead he attempted to turn the objective away from God's will toward fulfillment of selfish desires. Christ's response corrected the devil's desires. Christ did not introduce anything new, nor make application for His convenience.

I find the use of eisegesis everywhere today in most views and "interpretations" of the Bible. People argue that there are many different opinions of the Bible and that how one person reads it doesn't make it wrong for that person. To which I politely reply - "Hogwash".

The New Testament, or the new covenant is not NEW. It was promised beginning with God's promise of the seed to Eve in Gen. 3:15; to the promised seed of Abraham (Gen. 22:17; 26:4); the branch of David (Jer. 33:15) for the salvation of all who will call on Him.

Christ quoted the OT to those who heard Him in the first century AD, correcting their eisegesis. They had developed an incorrect belief system, namely that a Messiah would come to restore a physical, earthly kingdom to make the Jews rulers over all the earth. (Acts. 1:6) And, they still do not understand His word even today, as they are still trying to force that earthly rule upon Christ.

They do not understand that He rules from heaven, and coming back down to earth for a mere earthly kingdom as Satan lied and tempted Him with in Matt. 4:8-9 was never the objective.

So, eisegesis is not acceptable. A great many are practicing eisegesis today, using the scriptures to make application for their own expectations, and then turn around and accuse others of doing the same whenever their taught systems of belief are challenged.

Our attitude should always be "what does the word really say?". That is exegesis.

Excerpt from Dr. Richard J. Krejcir's article:

"This is using a presupposition or a pretext as in what we want so we can arrive at the meaning we want by ignoring the language, context, and culture in which it was used. Thus, "eisegesis" lends one "to lead in" or "read into the Scriptures," in contrast too, good biblical interpretation takes out what is really there whether we like it or not. Eisegesis means we input and plant the seeds of what we want it to say, gleaning just weeds later on, when with good exegesis, we harvest the good crops of what God is plainly saying." Source The Problem of Eisegesis here.

2 Cor. 4:2,

"But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." (KJV)

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  • This doesn't really answer the question. You have not answered "what reason do scholars give for frowning upon and cautioning against eisegetical methods." While I suppose it does anemically take a position on when it is OK to do (never; though I would prefer better support), your answer is more a knee-jerk reaction to the idea that Jesus (arguably) may have read meanings into text. This question isn't about that. Jul 18, 2017 at 15:43
  • These added references are just a few of those available on the negative aspect of eisegesis. I don't think this was a knee jerk response.
    – Gina
    Jul 18, 2017 at 22:01
  • The Ken Ham reference begs the whole question. He's essentially saying that those who disagree with his reading of Genesis 1 must be doing eisegesis. but that's only true if his interpretation is correct, and many people would deny that. Jul 19, 2017 at 13:10
  • I think it is a good example of how so many people are willing to accuse others of eisegesis whenever they encounter a different opinion. They are so unwilling to re-examine their understanding to see if God really said what they think He said. It is very difficult to let go of our learned and preconceived ideas, and expectations to read only what God said.
    – Gina
    Jul 19, 2017 at 22:12
  • well said - answers the Q just fine and with truthful observations
    – Steve
    Aug 13, 2020 at 2:27
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It is never acceptable to use eisegesis because that is adding your idea into the text, and so is no longer the text but is your own idea. Simple linguistics shows that what the author wrote is what the text means, not what a reader wishes to add. If you are adding something the author did not mean, it is not the text. If you are seeing something that is in the text and drawing it out of the text, it is exegesis not eisegesis. Read any and every document to see what the author wrote and meant, and if you want to say your own thing write your own book. Just as we are talking about these words (exegesis and eisegesis) based on what they mean, not what we want to add to the meaning, so written language is about what the words and the author's assembly of words means, not what we want to add. What you add is not from the author, so is inappropriate for understanding what the author meant.

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Scholars shy away from hermeneutical methods which are fundamentally unfalsifiable.

Take this passage from Lamentations (3:1):

אֲנִי הַגֶּבֶר רָאָה עֳנִי

This literally means "I am the man who knows affliction". Nearly all translations agree on that, and it fits within the immediate context. What if I told you that this verse is not speaking about a "man" but a "rooster", specifically a rooster who is about to be killed by a farmer in Ohio in the year 2024? גֶּבֶר (gever) also means "rooster" in Hebrew. How would one disprove such a claim?

Choosing to read back into Lam 3:1 an application to a rooster today is obviously a case of eisegesis. But what if my religious tradition demands that this verse means "rooster"? There is no way to falsify a claim like this without using a conflicting hermeneutical principle. It's essentially a logical mud trap, and of little use to scholarship.

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