I've been looking at some of the thoughts on eisegesis and it seems that the general tone is always negative when the term comes up. However, when we read the bible in an Exegetical way in order to expose the text we must understand those words we read and phrases used through a biblical lens; thus in some capacity this is an eisegetical application that comes from foundational exegesis able to be factualized by proof of witness from the Scripture alone. Therefore, is it not correct to say that we use both Exegesis and Eisegesis in our approach to understanding Scripture and that this is a positive use of the term? Thanks

  • Questions may at times seem negative because people are looking for answers with the hope of getting a positive answer. – Perry Webb Nov 24 '18 at 0:25
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    @NigelJ help centre: “unless they are about hermeneutical approaches.” Asking if the framework of exegesis is eisegetic is a damn fine question precisely about hermeneutical approaches. – Samuel Russell Nov 24 '18 at 3:41
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    @SamuelRussell Yes, you've got a point there. NigelJ please note this issue was brought up here: hermeneutics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/3579/36 I'm re-opening this because the close reason is completely bogus given our explicitly stated site scope. – Caleb Feb 13 '19 at 6:26

All reading involves a projection of the reader into the text. This is because the meaning (demonstrably) exists only inside the reader. I know what words mean and I know what they mean together. They don’t mean these things while dead on the page, the meaning only comes into being during reading.

Reading is then a series of propositions being proposed by the reader onto a text.

We could say that this is eisegetic in form.

However in exegetic reading we rely on a hypertext. We rely on every other work we’ve previously read to produce a context of meanings. We rely on the Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic corpus, and in particular on the corpus that make up the canonical and non-canonical texts. We establish agreed rules of reading and agreed purposes for reading. We establish these amongst a community of fellow readers. We inspect each other’s readings.

And in a group like this dedicated to exegesis we agree to privilege the corpus over “inspired” personal opinions.

So yes, there is an eisegetic function in all reading, and an eisegetic function in establishing the “rules” of exegetic reading. But the exegeses themselves are meant to contain no further eisegesis. Additionally the eisegeses involved in establishing an exegetical hermeneutic technique are arbitrary. Most eisegeses are either accidents of reading, or deliberate attempts to enact divine will (ie “inspired.”). The eisegetic choices behind “text primacy” exegesis do not rely on inspiration. An atheist will come to the same conclusions as a believer if they read the same texts with the same techniques. Unlike most religious eisegesis, we don’t need to claim we are inspired in order to agree to read in exegetic manners. The texts themselves exist, and command reading because they are interesting to read. No “higher” command is required.

Further reading:

Post-structuralist discourses in language and meaning; particularly useful in demonstrating the hermeneutic gap at the word / sentence level

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  • That is a good answer, complex but practical. It seems the trouble often times is that eisegesis has a bad rap from those who don't know what it means outside of a simple comparison between eise & exe-get. I was hoping to get an informed and non bias response here... Glad to have found this stack. – Lowther Nov 26 '18 at 0:53

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