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Eisegesis can be defined as

the process of interpreting text in such a way as to introduce one's own presuppositions, agendas or biases. It is commonly referred to as reading into the text. It is often done to "prove" a pre-held point of concern, and to provide confirmation bias corresponding with the pre-held interpretation and any agendas supported by it.

Eisegesis is best understood when contrasted with exegesis. Exegesis is drawing out text's meaning in accordance with the author's context and discoverable meaning. Eisegesis is when a reader imposes their interpretation of the text. Thus exegesis tends to be objective; and eisegesis, highly subjective.

The plural of eisegesis is eisegeses. Someone who practices eisegesis is known as an eisegete ; this is also the verb form. "Eisegete" is often used in a mildly derogatory way.

Eisegesis can actually be defined in relationship to its opposite - exegesis which is derived from the Greek ἐξήγησις from ἐξηγεῖσθαι meaning "to lead out" meaning from the text.

It is often suggested 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.

In these instances, was Jesus in fact practicing eisegesis, or something else? If something else, what was it and how does it not qualify as type eisegesis also?


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.

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    Can an author be guilty of eisegesis? Jul 18 '17 at 16:16
  • Can someone who comments on a text, implying that it has been altered, be guilty of eisagesis? He seems to have challenged the authenticity of a lot of things. Jul 18 '17 at 20:18
  • "Context" is a dangerous and risky concept.Full of doctrinal risque, a trigger word used to enforce a biased perspective. "Context" is a concept used as excuse to give doctrines an appearance of respectability and authoritativeness. Frequently "contexts" are conjured based on predetermined doctrine, rather than allowing doctrine to be conjured from biblical texts. Jul 20 '17 at 9:01
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    Context is unavoidable. If you don't interpret things in the original context, then you merely interpret them from your own context. You are either cognizant of this fact and try to correct for it, or you don't (Or I guess in Jesus case, you are aware, don't correct for it and use it to say something new altogether). Jul 20 '17 at 15:07
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    St. Augustine defines it very well in his "De doctrina christiana": Holy Spirit spoke through prophets, but prophets themselves did not and could not understand all implications of their own words; but after the Pentecost, with the more intense saturation with the same Spirit was possible to understand deeper implications. Jesus, as uncreated Logos possesses the infinity of the Spirit completely and infinitely, not in a portioned way like humans, so He can give greater and deeper implications than implied by the prophets themselves. This is divinely legitimised, divinely sovereign eisegesis. May 31 '18 at 21:44
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Midrash and PaRDeS


One aspect of Jesus ministry often centered around demonstrating his authority and credibility above and beyond that of other rabbis like the Pharisees. At the time, Jewish scholarship was developing midrashic tradition that would eventually coalesce in the Mishna working with Oral Torah and the Halakha.

In order to assert his authority and demonstrate his superiority as a Rabbi, Jesus necessarily needed to demonstrate a proficiency in these same scholarly methods and endeavors - to superior effect and in a way superior to the pharisees.

This means that Jesus likely practiced a PaRDeS hermeneutic involving the following 4 methodologies:

  • Peshat (פְּשָׁט‎) — "surface" ("straight") or the literal (direct) meaning.
  • Remez (רֶמֶז‎) — "hints" or the deep (allegoric: hidden or symbolic) meaning beyond just the literal sense.
  • Derash (דְּרַשׁ‎) — from Hebrew darash: "inquire" ("seek") — the comparative (midrashic) meaning, as given through similar occurrences.
  • Sod (סוֹד‎) (pronounced with a long O as in 'soda') — "secret" ("mystery") or the esoteric/mystical meaning, as given through inspiration or revelation.

This means then, that to the extent that the use of Remez (רֶמֶז‎) and Sod (סוֹד‎) in interpreting the Torah involve eisegesis and to the extent that Jesus used Remez (רֶמֶז‎) and Sod (סוֹד‎) when teaching about Torah, Jesus practiced eisegesis.


Examples where Jesus used Remez (רֶמֶז‎)


David Bivin explains Remez (רֶמֶז‎) and gives some examples of Jesus use:

One of the basic, Jewish techniques of teaching in the time of Jesus involved the use of רֶמֶז (remez), which is the Hebrew word for “hint” or “allusion.” Jewish teachers, instead of fully quoting verses of Scripture, commonly alluded to the passages upon which their lessons were based. By using the remez technique, a teacher conveyed a great deal of information with remarkable brevity, in much the same way a poet can express complex ideas through metaphors.

The rabbis could teach in this manner because most Jews of the period—and certainly all disciples of sages—were well-versed in the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings. The substance of an allusion sometimes was found in a passage immediately before or after the verse at which the teacher had hinted. To quote the entire passage was unnecessary since most in the audience had learned large segments of Scripture by rote. The moment a teacher made an allusion, the whole passage flashed across the mind’s eye of the biblically literate listener.

One finds numerous examples of remez in the Gospels. Many Christians, however, lack the scriptural background such a technique assumes. As a result, they run the risk of missing the subtler aspects of Jesus’ teachings.

John the Baptist used remez when he asked Jesus, “Are you the coming [one]?” (Luke 7:20; Matt 11:3). John hinted at “The Coming One” of Malachi 3:1 and Zechariah 9:9. Jesus responded in like manner: “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are brought back to life and the poor have the good news preached to them.” Jesus’ answer contained hints at Isaiah 29:18, 35:5-6, 42:7 and 61:1.

Ordained minister Ray Vander Laan, founder of That the World May Know Ministries and creator of the Faith Lessons video series with Focus on the Family, and chair of biblical cultural studies at Holland Christian Schools in Holland, Michigan also notes several helpful examples of Jesus use of Remez (רֶמֶז‎)

The great teachers (rabbis) during Jesus' day used a technique that was later called remez. In their teaching, they would use part of a Scripture passage in a discussion, assuming that their audience's knowledge of the Bible would allow them to deduce for themselves the fuller meaning of the teaching. Apparently, Jesus, who possessed a brilliant understanding of Scripture and strong teaching skills, used this method often.

For example, when the children shouted "Hosanna" to him in the temple and the chief priests and teachers of the law became indignant (Matt. 21:15), Jesus responded by quoting Psalm 8:2: "From the lips of children and infants, you have ordained praise." The religious leaders' anger at Jesus can be better understood when we realize that the next phrase in the Psalm reveals why children and infants offer praise, because the enemies of God would be silenced. The religious leaders realized that Jesus was implying that they were God's enemies.

Jesus used this teaching method again when speaking to Zacchaeus. "For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost," Jesus said (Luke 19:10). The background to this statement is probably Ezekiel 34. God, angry with Israel's leaders for scattering and harming his flock, stated that he would become the shepherd and would seek the lost ones and save them. Based on this, the people of Jesus' day understood that the Messiah to come would "seek and save" the lost. By using this phrase, knowing that his listeners knew the Scripture, Jesus communicated several things. To the people, he communicated, "I am the Messiah and also God." To the religious leaders, whose influence kept Zacchaeus out of the crowd, he said, "You have scattered and harmed God's flock." To Zacchaeus, he said, "You are one of God's lost sheep and he still loves you."

Jesus best fit the type of rabbi believed to have s'mikhah, the authority to make new interpretations of the Torah. Whereas most teachers of the law could only teach accepted interpretations, teachers with authority could make new interpretations and pass legal judgments. Crowds were amazed because Jesus taught with authority (Matt. 7:28-29), and some people questioned his authority (Matt. 21:23-27).

And James Prather (M.Div) provides an additional example of Jesus referencing Jerimiah.

Vander Laan's example in Psalm 8:2-3 is a pretty clear example of Eisegesis. Psalm 8:2-3 was never intended to refer to the Pharisees, but instead to King David's enemies and understanding that text in this way clearly imbues this text with new meaning for understanding within Jesus more modern context - the very definition of Eisegesis. This fits with Vander Laan's statement that

Jesus best fit the type of rabbi believed to have s'mikhah, the authority to make new interpretations of the Torah.

I would suggest s'mikhah is always eisegetical.


Examples where Jesus used Derash (דְּרַשׁ‎)


Dr. Shalomim Halevi states in his book "Growing Intellectually, Spiritually and Prophetically in the Hebrew Israelite Culture and Faith" that

The next level of Hebrew scripture interpretation is known as the Drash which means "to search." This is when we use the homiletical, topological and allegorical application of the Texts. We search the text as it relates to the rest of the Hebrew scriptures, life or a personal experience or other literature. This deals with eisegesis, or the reading of the text.

Dr. Donna J. Stundahl concurs in "Finding Freedom: Five Weeks in the Life of Moses" stating

Drash or midrash (meaning "search") is used to search the text for a relationship to other biblical or nonbiblical text as well as an allegorical or homiletical application of the text. Drash requires eisegesis, reading one's own thoughts into a text, as well as exegesis.

And James Prather notes Jesus' use of Derash (דְּרַשׁ‎) in Matthew 21:19-22 by giving a homily supported by using Jeremiah 8 as an allegory. Furthermore, Jesus uses several scriptures in this manner during the Sermon on the Mt. by rhetorically extending several commandments beyond their original scope.1


Conclusion


In summary, Jesus was an expert in the use of the above techniques and used them frequently. He was not just able to teach, but had reached a level of rabbinical scholarship and authority that he was qualified to practice eisegetical midrash. While many view eisegesis as pejorative, the fact is that Jesus read new meaning and perspectives into the Torah, so eisegesis fits here - Jesus did, in fact, practice eisegesis.

1 Matt 5:21, 5:27, 5:31, 5:33, 5:38,

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  • This is your second thread on this subject in a week :) I can only repeat what I said last time: it all depends on definitions. None of your examples above constitute eisegesis as far as I can see. Eisegesis is not the same as application. Jul 22 '17 at 3:17
  • @PeterKirkpatrick - That is because people were mostly concerned with this topic instead of the actual question in the other thread - So I spawned this question to give an outlet for that. I'm not sure what you mean by "eisegesis is not the same as appication", however if you think you can put together a solid answer to explain that and demonstrate how these examples above do not constitute eisegesis, I would welcome your perspective. Jul 23 '17 at 23:40
  • An example of eisegesis: People have said "the last days" began at a certain point in recent history. (eg 1947 with WW1, or 1948 with the foundation of Israel as a nation state.) But to do this we have to take a term that has a specific meaning in scripture (It refers to the period of history from Jesus incarnation onwards: see eg Hebrews 1:1-4 and Acts 2:14-21) and give it a different and contradictory meaning. Jul 24 '17 at 5:02
  • An example of application: Paul uses the same expression in 2 Timothy 3:1. Here he is looking ahead to the moral culture "in the last days". It's as if he is imagining the world coming to its climax and both good and evil are reaching their climax and fulness. If a preacher takes that image and discusses the fulness of good and evil in our time, I would take that as a fair application of the meaning of a historical text to a new setting. The details may be new, but they are consistent with the meaning of the original text. Jul 24 '17 at 5:04
  • Yes - not all quotes of the OT in the NT are eisegegesis and some are are consistent with the original intent and meaning. But some are also eisegesis - and I believe the ones I have selected are examples of eisegesis. Some applications are exegetical and some applications are eisegetical. But again, if you think you have a good argument that Jesus never practiced eisegesis, type your thoughts below in to the box labeled "Your Answer" - the comments aren't really the best place for this and may be lost. Jul 24 '17 at 5:30
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Though Jesus sometimes appears to use the Midrash PaRDeS methods, Midrash [5] alone IS eisegesis as demonstrated by the rabbis who practice it and have no standard of truth concerning the results. [6] If that's all that Jesus did, he was certainly authorized to do so by being the "Ghost writer" of the Old Testament. But this is not the case.

Jesus taught his disciples how to read the OT properly.

The proper genre: The OT is a literal history. It contains historical artifacts such as prophecy, poetry, biography, etc. But it is ALSO a parable [1] wherein every part participates in the mystery which was hidden from the beginning. [2] God used the lives of people as the words to write his mystery.

Jesus said that those who would enter the kingdom/teaching must come as children. [3] The mystery of God is hidden in childish riddle. [4]

The primary tools which Jesus used were childish word-play such as punning, and notarikon. These tools are used elsewhere in SE Biblical hermeneutics referred to as methods of sensus plenior Jesus also used the methods of PaRDeS which are constrained by his rules of sensus plenior. It would appear that the author of the Gospel of Thomas was familiar with the techniques of prophetic riddle and captured them, perhaps as a study guide to learn the methods of Jesus. The Gospel of Thomas is not a Gnostic work, but a riddle book.

Eliezer ben Yose HaGelili has formalized many of the methods of riddle in his 32 rules.

A comparison of the Gospels reveals the proficiency of the authors in using the methods of interpretation and may indicate a sequence of authoring at 10-15 year intervals as snapshots of doctrine being taught in the Hebrew churches to bring the Greek churches up to date on discovers produced through their continuing studies of scripture as guided by the Holy Spirit.

Mark is the least proficient with most of his correlations being fairly literal. He began the story of Christ with the preaching of John the baptist.

Matthew uses puns and notarikon with his use of 'Yeshua' meaning 'Emmanuel' , and Jesus being called a Nazarene. He writes in an interesting analogy to the Old Testament. The OT is literal history (with the lives of the people being used as the words required for the mystery) , with a hidden picture of what God was doing underneath. Matthew appears to write side by side. In four blocks he records what Jesus said, then what he did. He records that Jesus went up the mountain and taught "Blessed o\are the poor in spirit", then came down the mountain and records that Jesus healed a leper, as an example of blessing one who was poor in spirit. Matthew starts the story of Jesus with Abraham, pushing the parable of history to an earlier time.

Luke is more proficient with the mystery and appears to record the adjustments to the teaching which were taking place in the Hebrew churches, sometimes using Mark's version, sometimes using Matthew's. The teachings are not contradictory, but in some cases Matthew's teaching was a little too 'deep' or hard to grasp by those who were not studying deeply, so the church had reverted to Mark's teaching. Sometimes he adds new material that was discovered through more study during the intervening years. Luke starts the parable of Jesus hidden in history with Adam.

John is the most proficient in his use of the mystery. He uses notarikon and gives the meaning of some of the Hebrew letters. He derives the doctrine of John 1:1-4 from the first three words of Ge 1:1. John starts the story of Jesus with Ge 1:1

There is no further reason to surmise the existence of some Q document. The added content comes from the mystery which was hidden from the beginning as they became more proficient in their studies.

The synoptic problem is solved when the hermeneutic used by Jesus is practiced. There is no eisegesis. Jesus exegeted the OT using methods which eliminate free-for-all allegory, are reproducible, and verifiable.

God wrote in this genre as an analogy of the way he works in the world. We are like fish swimming in the stream. We do what we do, oblivious to the stream. We cannot see it because we are in it. God is all around us. We cannot see him, because if we could we would see nothing but him. Likewise, birds cannot see the air, but fly where they will. God is behind the scenes quietly nudging us to accomplish his will.

The Bible is a history of the fish swimming and the birds flying. Behind the scenes he wrote a book which speaks of Christ, the cross, and his bride, in great detail. When we see the mystery revealed, and recognize how God has worked in it all, we trust that he is behind the scenes working in our lives to accomplish his will, in the same manner.

Added: This is an important point brought to light by the comments: If Jesus did what he did (by whatever name) and was authorized to do so because he is God, then we might not be able to do it, because we aren't God.

But if Jesus did things which he taught to his disciples, and they wrote in such a way as to teach us, then we can do it.

If there is a standard of truth, it weeds out opinions 'put into' the text by the interpreter. The methods of sensus plenior eliminate the Greek debates, and provide a means for collaborative study. It is difficult to solve a riddle. It is easy to validate it. In this way, even children can participate.

Against eisegesis by Jesus:

Though we don't have anyone in the Bible checking to see if Jesus can show his work in the way he uses scriptures, we do have an example of an apostles doctrine being checked for eisegesis. Paul taught the Gospel as taught by Christ, at least he claims to. When he went to Berea, the people there checked his doctrine against the scriptures which they had; the OT. They validated that Paul had nothing new, but what he taught was contained in the scriptures, though they may not have seen it before. Like the men on the road to Emmaus, they now understood the scriptures the way Paul taught.

The secondhand doctrine of Paul (from Jesus) was validated against the scripture. There was nothing there that they could use to accuse him of invention.

(1)De 28:37 And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the LORD shall lead thee.

(2)Eph 3:9 And to make all [men] see what [is] the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

(3)Mr 10:15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

(4)Pr 1:6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings [riddles]].

[5] "Midrash most commonly refers to the famous compilation of Midrash Rabbah, a compilation of the rabbis' comments on each of the five volumes of the Torah." https://torah.org/series/midrash/ ... Though here we are referring to the methods used by the rabbis who produced it.

[6] And as demonstrated in SE in discussions like this: https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/81819/did-adam-have-intercourse-with-animals

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  • I'm a little confused - are you saying that Jesus did not use midrash at all, ever? Your opening phrase "Though Jesus sometimes appears to use the Midrash PaRDeS methods" is throwing me off. I think you're saying "you aren't seeing what you think you are seeing, you are seeing something else which is not-midrash" but wanted to clarify. Jul 26 at 17:40
  • @James Shewey. Midrash has a bad reputation because there is not test for truth. I am saying that the methods of midrash are a subset of the methods for exegeting the mystery. Alone they are insufficient and prone to free-for-all allegory. I just edited a problematic portion to make it more clear. Thanks.
    – Bob Jones
    Jul 26 at 17:43
  • I think there are some problems with your Ven Diagram - PaRDeS includes Exegetical interpretation (Peshat). It also includes Eisegesis (At least Derash). Your argument should not be that Jesus wasn't using PaRDeS or midrash, but that he wasn't practicing eisegetical midrash using Derash or Remez. That is-not all midrash is poorly done midrash. Jul 26 at 17:54
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    I don't think PaRDeS requires the use of all 4 lenses. It is merely to say they exist. I believe you can use one, some, or all 4. I also think your aversion to eisegesis, while well founded normally isn't particularly concerning when the man practicing it is God himself. Jul 26 at 18:03
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    There is no conversation concerning eisegesis by Jesus when it can be shown that all the supposed places he did it were legitimate exegesis using the tools demonstrated by the NT authors. They learned it from him.
    – Bob Jones
    Jul 26 at 18:17

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