Narcissistic Eisegesis

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Eisegesis (from Greek εἰς “into” as opposed to exegesis from ἐξηγεῖσθαι “to lead out”) is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that it introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, and/or biases into and onto the text. The act is often used to “prove” a pre-held point of concern to the reader and to provide him or her with confirmation bias in accordance with his or her pre-held agenda. Eisegesis is best understood when contrasted with exegesis. While exegesis draws out the meaning from a text in accordance with the context and discover-able meaning of its author, eisegesis occurs when a reader imposes his or her interpretation into and onto the text. As a result, exegesis tends to be objective when employed effectively while eisegesis is regarded as highly subjective.

An individual who practices eisegesis is known as an eisegete, as someone who practices exegesis is known as an exegete. The term “eisegete” is often used in a mildly derogatory fashion.

Although the term exegesis is commonly heard in association with Biblical interpretations, the term is broadly used across literary disciplines.

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The Seeker-Friendly movement within Evangelicalism has led to a basic problem when it comes to the subject of Bible interpretation.
Here is a basic look at Bible interpretation over the 2000 years of church history. Even though this has been oversimplified I think it can help us understand what is happening today.

1. Orthodox – believes that the Bible is the word of God.
2. Liberal – believes that the Bible contains the word of God.
3. Neo-Orthodox – believes that the Bible becomes the word of God. (Seeker-Friendly, Emerging and Emergent)

The result of this Neo-Orthodox style of interpretation leads to Narcissistic Eisegesis:

Narcissistic Eisegesis (“Narcigesis”) = Forcing the Bible to mean something you already want it to mean by superimposing yourself into the meaning of the passage, rather than interpreting Scripture for what it means about God, and letting the Scripture simply speak for itself. The key pointers are sermons where the pronouns I, me and my are prominent. In other words you hear mostly horizontal man centered messages instead of vertical God-centered messages.

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Conversely, seeking to understand Scripture for what it reveals about God is known as Exegesis, and is also sometimes referred to as the “Literal” or “Grammatical-Historical” approach to interpreting Scripture. Example: The Narcissitic Eisegesis version of David and Goliath would be about you fighting your personal “giants” (i.e., problems, difficulties, setbacks, etc.). The Orthodox approach to interpreting David and Goliath would reveal, instead, an historical account of David’s faith and God supernaturally intervening in an impossible situation for his own glory.

“What is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis?”

Answer: Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study. Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.

The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.

Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text. Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation. Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting. Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.

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Second Timothy 2:15 commands us to use exegetical methods: “Present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” An honest student of the Bible will be an exegete, allowing the text to speak for itself. Eisegesis easily lends itself to error, as the would-be interpreter attempts to align the text with his own preconceived notions. Exegesis allows us to agree with the Bible; eisegesis seeks to force the Bible to agree with us.

The process of exegesis involves 1) observation: what does the passage say? 2) interpretation: what does the passage mean? 3) correlation: how does the passage relate to the rest of the Bible? and 4) application: how should this passage affect my life?

Eisegesis, on the other hand, involves 1) imagination: what idea do I want to present? 2) exploration: what Scripture passage seems to fit with my idea? and 3) application: what does my idea mean? Notice that, in eisegesis, there is no examination of the words of the text or their relationship to each other, no cross-referencing with related passages, and no real desire to understand the actual meaning. Scripture serves only as a prop to the interpreter’s idea.

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