Correct biblical exegesis is the second most vital aspect of studying and understanding God's Word second only to illumination of The Holy Spirit and prayer.
Exegesis is drawing from God's Word what is in it. Eisegesis is reading things into it not present to give artificial credence to the doctrinal inventions of men and sometimes men inspired by the demonic (such the Unification Church of Korean cult leader Sun Yung Moon, ultra Calvinism, the Mormon cult, the Jehovah's Witness cult, the hyper faith heresies of the Kenyon, Hagen, Copeland deception, the virtual docetism of George Canty of the Elim movement, and the Apostate Church of Rome).
Much eisegesis is rooted in gnosticism; claiming a subjectivist mystical insight without reference to the grammatical ? historical context of the passage. This normally takes the form of the spiritualisation of texts out of context.
This is common among hyper charismatic extremists and ultra Calvinist replacementists and has been seen most visibly in movements like Promise Keepers and with post millenial replacementists and reconstructionists and the Dominion theology proponents, and among restorationists. Other forms of eisegesis are simply bad exegesis, reading into the bible things not there such as cessationism and infant baptism, post millenialism, clericalism, and ecumenical unity with the non regenerate and churches which are not biblically Evangelical.
While Moriel agrees solidly with the Judeo Christian hermeneutics and exegesis of the early Jewish church following the Judeo Christian authors of The New Testament, and in agreement with many of the Puritan scholars, The early Plymouth Brethren, and many Evangelical theologians today we affirm the New Testament's use of typology and midrash. But never as a basis of doctrine ? only as an illustration and illumination of it. The first step in exegesis is always the inductive approach explained in the following article.
'A text out of context and isolation from its co?text is always a pretext.' JJ Prasch
In our study on Hermeneutics, we touched briefly on principles involved in doing an exegesis. In order to avoid duplication, we will not cover this material again. You will learn how to reference other sources in order to find out specific information. What we will be doing in this lecture is to come up with a method of exegeting Scripture and interpreting Scripture directly from Scripture. You will find that this method is
quite comprehensive and time?consuming, but it will be well worth all the effort! Let us begin by defining the meaning of exegesis again.
Exegesis literally means “An explanation of scripture” Collins Dictionary According to Terry Miethe
“From the Greek meaning ‘Interpretation’, from ‘ex’ out, and ‘hegeisthai’ to guide. Exegesis is a method of attempting to understand a Bible passage. The reader of scripture studies the word meanings and grammar of the text to discern what the Holy Spirit is communicating, drawing the meaning out of the text rather than reading what he wants into the text. It attempts to elicit the true teaching of a biblical text for spiritual growth in Christian living”
Exegesis involves applying various rules of interpretation to a given text in order to expound and reveal the truth contained in its message. We seek to try and discover what the author meant when he was writing the particular portion of Scripture, what events led to his writing, what circumstances prevailed during his time of writing and so on. As we have seen in our study on Hermeneutics, this will greatly affect the way we understand and thus apply the text to our lives.
Remember: Incorrect observation will lead to an incorrect interpretation which in turn will lead to an incorrect application. If our starting process is not thorough and disciplined, the end result could differ vastly from what the author intended!
We will be following an inductive method of observing Scripture, and will touch on interpretation and application as well.
One method of Exegesis that we will not have time to cover here is Jewish Exegesis or ‘Midrash.’ We must remember that the Bible was written primarily by Jews and for Jews as a whole and therefore to interpret scripture without their world view would be an injustice to the original authors meaning. I have included in the appendix at the back a short work on Midrash and I hope it aids your understanding.
Inductive study involves three main facets of study;
Although we will be more concerned with how to observe Scripture correctly, I believe it is important for us to know how to interpret and apply Scripture as well. We have concentrated more on interpretation and application during our study of Hermeneutics, but we will consider interpretation and application in the light of inductive study in this lecture.
Observation involves learning to see precisely what the passage says. In other words, we are asking ourselves the question: "What does the passage say?"
Interpretation involves finding out what the page means.
Application involves putting into practice what we have observed and interpreted.
Application is an essential and compulsory part of Bible Study. If we learn without having application as our final goal, we learn amiss! When we discover the various truths in the Scriptures, we are accountable to put them into practice!
Remember that our main goal in observation is to find out what the text says. This is probably the most important part of Bible Study, since incorrect observations will result ultimately in incorrect application!
Where do we begin?
Begin with Prayer
Apart from the leading and working of the Holy Spirit, we will simply have learnt a method without relying on the One who will lead us into all truth. Read John 16:13
Ask the 5 W's and an H
Who, What, When, Where, Why, How For example Read 1 Peter ch 5
Who is the "I" that is doing the speaking? It is Peter. To whom is he speaking? He is speaking to the elders. What is he speaking about?
When did these things occur? Where did all of this happen? Why is Peter saying this?
These are questions that you should ask yourself as you make your way through the text. Try and exhaust all the options for each word.
Each time you work through the Bible, try and see if you can answer the five W's and a H.
Obviously you won't be able to answer these questions for each portion of Scripture since the Bible is made up of different kinds of literature.
Mark all key words and phrases
A key word is one that is essential to the text. Or in other words a key word is one which, when removed, will make the passage unclear.
The author will often repeat key words, he does this in order to make his point of purpose for writing clear.
Key words may be repeated in a single verse, in a chapter or throughout the book as a whole. The only way we can discover key words is obviously to mark key words in specific ways as we read through the various books of the Bible. At the end of our marking, we will be able to see at a glance which words are key words.
How do we find key words? Read through a book or a chapter a few times. What words did you find that were repeated quite often? As you work throughout each chapter slowly again, mark these key words.
Let us look again at 1 Peter chapter 5. Quickly browse though the chapter and see if you can identify any key words.
Other believers are suffering You will suffer
Suffering perfects, confirms, strengthens and establishes the one who is suffering.
Obviously you would have to consider all the forms of this word. They will have to be marked in the same way.
We can mark key words by using symbols, colours or a combination of both. By doing this, you will not only be reading the text thoroughly, but you will be unveiling the author's very purpose for writing in the first place ? and what is more, you will be doing this for yourself! That is what makes this method of exegesis so exciting!
Look at the following symbols as examples:
GOD, LOVE, LAW, REPENT, GLORY, CHRIST, SUFFERING, GRACE
Remember that whatever symbols and colours you may choose, you should try and use the
same symbols and colours in other books of the Bible as well.
REMEMBER: AS YOU MARK EACH KEY WORD, ASK YOURSELF THE 5 W'S AND AN H!
For example: Our key word was suffering. You would then ask yourself: Who was suffering? Why were they suffering? What caused their suffering?, What were they to do in their suffering, and so on. Remember to try and ask all the questions you can think of and see if you can find the answer FROM THE TEXT ITSELF!
Look for Lists
The next step is to look for lists. What does this mean? Try and find and form a list on all that the author says about a particular subject. Let us take suffering for example. We have identified this as a key word in chapter 5. Now write down all that Peter tells us about suffering in this chapter. (Look at vv1,9,10).
List on suffering:
Note and mark expressions of time.
We can draw a simple clock face in the margin of your Bible each time we come across a verse that uses an expression of time. In this way, we will be able to apply the principle behind the teaching when it is applicable and yet keep the information in tact. An example would be some of the promises God made to Abraham or to the Israelites for that matter.
Many of these promises were not only made specifically to these people, but also took place at specific times! Take the command of the Lord to the Israelites to march around Jericho. If we did a thorough exegesis, we would come to the conclusion that this was a specific command which was to take place at a specific time and is not something each Christian should be doing today! Can you see how following some simple steps can lead to a good exegesis (explanation of Scripture) which will in turn help us to interpret and apply the truths of Scripture correctly in our own lives!
A NOTE OF CAUTION : You may be thinking to yourself, "This is a lot of hard work!" and you would be correct! It is! But remember that we are to be men and women who "rightly divide the Word of truth" (2 Ti 2:15), and that requires hard work and discipline on our part. The effort that we put into making a correct and thorough observation will never be wasted effort!
Let us use these principles to find out all that we can about God in 1Pe 5. Take 10 minutes in your group and then feed back.
He suffered for us
He is our chief shepherd He is mighty
He is the one on whom we are to cast our cares He cares for us
Note all terms of Conclusion and Contrast
These will usually follow an important thought and will be made up of words like therefore, for this reason, finally and so on. Do the same with contrasts which will usually be marked by the word but.
Develop a theme for each chapter.
You may want to place these themes in a chart in order to be able to glance at quickly for future reference. The International Inductive Study Bible is a lovely tool to have on this occasion because not only does it have nice wide margins for notes but at the end of each chapter there is provision made for chapter themes.
Let us quickly summarise what we need to do when observing.
Begin with Prayer
Mark the 5 W's and an H. Exhaust all options
Mark all Key words and phrases
Make a list
Note and mark expressions of time
Note all terms of conclusion and contrast
Develop a theme for each chapter
Observation helps us to accurately understand what the text says. Interpretation takes observation a step further and helps us to understand what it mean.
Many of us go to the Word of God with preconceived ideas and teachings. Very often we will look at the Bible through these preconceived ideas and teachings, which, if not entirely Scriptural, will distort what we see. Instead of allowing the Scripture to define our way of thinking, we may be guilty of allowing our way of thinking to colour the way we understand Scripture!
Always allow the Context to govern
What does this mean? It means that we must allow the context to help determine the meaning of the actual text that we are trying to interpret. To remove any Scripture from its context will inevitably lead to error.
Context means ‘that which goes with the text’ We thus need to consider surrounding verses to: The one we are trying to interpret
The book which we are studying
The Bible as a whole
In our study of Hermeneutics, we learnt that the Bible is God?breathed. Thus we can be certain that no one portion of Scripture will contradict any other portion. If we interpret two particular portions of Scripture to be in conflict, we can be certain that it is because we are misinterpreting one or both portions that seem to us to contradict.
The question we should we ask ourselves when we interpret any portion of Scripture is ‘Is my interpretation in keeping with the theme, purpose and structure of the entire book.’
A misinterpretation of Scripture based on an incorrect analysis of context, that is when we read into scripture our own preconceived ideas is called a ‘Pretext’.
Pretext means ‘to make an excuse or Pretend’.
Remember that our objective is to discover what the AUTHOR intended to say, not what we
think we could add to his meaning!
Look at the Whole Word of God
The Bible is our safeguard against wrong teaching. No one portion of Scripture will contradict another. By saturating ourselves in God's Word, we will safeguard ourselves against wrong doctrine! When we realise just how extensive the danger of false doctrine was in the first century of church history and how frequently we come across warnings against false teaching in the Bible, we should be especially careful to make sure that we are doing all that we can to be sure that what we are taught is true!
Don't form doctrine from obscure passages of Scripture.
Although we have covered this principle in Hermeneutics, it would be wise at this stage to look back what we have learnt. Remember that doctrine should never be formed from obscure passages of Scripture. Often these passages are difficult to understand even when we have applied proper principles of interpretation. You will find that no true doctrine will be based on such portions of Scripture. By conducting a thorough observation, you will soon become aware of which Scriptures are indeed difficult to interpret.
Let me add at this point that there is no danger in referring to Commentaries if you are unclear. But remember: Go to a recognised Commentary only AFTER you have done all your homework!
Let us have a look at an example. Read 1 Co 15:29. If we were to base a doctrine on this portion of Scripture, we would probably start teaching that some people may be baptised on behalf of dead relatives who were not baptised when they were alive! This is a doctrine used by the Mormon cult If we cannot be completely sure what Paul was trying to say here, even after following principles of interpretation, we know that we cannot use this Scripture to form any doctrine!
You may be inquisitive to know what Paul was saying here ? It is my belief that he was referring to something that the Pagans were doing at the time. Notice he uses the term ‘Those; and not ‘You’. So we se that Mormons use this text as a pretext to their erroneous doctrines.
Interpret Scripture Literally
Have you ever noticed that no one book of the Bible contains all truth? I am constantly fascinated by the way God has interwoven His truths throughout the Bible. I honestly believe that He has done this for a purpose: It is the person who is hungry enough to search through the Scriptures who will be rewarded with the deep and intimate truths it contains! Jesus Himself said “seek and you shall find’. There is a joy to be had, when after seeking we find the treasure within scripture.
We need to be careful to always interpret Scripture literally wherever possible. Remember to look at the method of writing that the author has used. This is very important! Obviously we will not approach a Psalm in the same manner as we would approach a parable! Although our principles of interpretation may be the same, we must consider what is being said in light of the literary style used! There will, for example be more similes and metaphors in the poetical writings than there will be in the books of history. Refer to studies on the Old and New Testament Surveys to see which style the author has used for the various books of the Bible.
Remember that this will affect the way you interpret Scripture. The Historical books of the Bible would not be used to form doctrine. We must approach these books with the realisation that they were written with the purpose of recording history! Although they may contain principles that we are able to apply to our lives, they must be approached in the light in which they were written, or else we will not be able to say that we are certain what the AUTHOR was trying to
say! A typical example in question is the study of the book of Acts. Today we see within many charismatic churches erroneous doctrines taken from what is a history book. Although Acts contains many godly principles it should not be our prime source of doctrine.
Don't look for hidden meanings right away. Look for clear teaching of Scripture. Proverbs, for example contain wise sayings that are true to life situations. However, we can't treat proverbs in the same way we will treat prophecies, nor will each proverb affect all of us all of the time!
One proverb, for example, says that the Lord will even make a man's enemies live in peace with him who pleases the Lord. This may be very true in certain circumstances, but if we were to look at the life of Jesus and some of the apostles, we will see that this was not ALWAYS the case!
Jesus' enemies certainly didn't live at peace with Him! Paul's enemies certainly didn't live at peace with him! Each proverb contains some truth, but not ALL truth! Thus we need to remember the literary style of the book we are studying, as this will greatly affect how we eventually apply its message to our lives!
Look for the authors intended meaning
Always try to see what the author had in mind when you look at any given portion of Scripture. Highlighting key words will obviously help you to do this.
Remember that ascribing a meaning to a passage that the author did not intend is to assume an authority equivalent to that of the author. God is the ultimate Author of Scripture!
Word Studies are important
We learnt the value of looking up the original meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words in our course on Hermeneutics, and so will not delve into this subject again in detail. Go over your notes to refresh your memory.
Cross Reference Scriptures
This will help you to get an overall view of what the Bible teaches regarding any given subject. You will already be doing this when you form your lists. Remember, however to be careful to interpret each Scripture according to its context!
REMEMBER: This is your life! You have in your hands a tool that God can use to transform you completely if used correctly! It is worth studying, and it is worth studying well! Be disciplined ? take the extra time to have God take the extra time on shaping you!
It doesn't matter how much we know about God's Word, even if what we know about it is exactly what it intended to say ? unless we apply its message to our lives, Scripture will not benefit us! Read Jas 1:22? 25 and 2 Ti 3:16,17.
Observation and interpretation involves knowing God's Word. Application involves doing it! The key to application is to be able to apply Scripture in light of its teaching, reproof, correction and instructions on life.
This is another word that we can use for doctrine. When we understand what the Word of God teaches, then we are obligated before God to accept that truth and to live by it! When we identify any false conceptions and teachings we may have believed, we need to be sure to adjust our lifestyles accordingly. This is what applying the Scriptures is all about!
This involves finding out where we have thought incorrectly or failed to do what we should be doing and applying it to our lives by making an active and asserted effort to do so!
This is the next step in application and probably the most difficult. Many times we are aware of what is wrong in our lives, but are reluctant to take the necessary steps to correct it. Read 2 Peter 1:3,4.
Correction often comes by confessing and forsaking what is wrong in our lives. Read Mt 18:15?17.
God equips us through His divinely inspired Scriptures to meet every situation!
Four questions to ask yourself after you have observed and interpreted the text
What does the passage teach?
Is it general or specific? Does it apply to a certain time or people? Jews, for example, were not allowed to eat certain kinds of foods. Obviously this would not apply to us today, since we are not under these ceremonial and food laws.
Does the text expose any area of error in my beliefs or behaviour?
Are there any commandments that I have failed to obey? Are the attitudes and motives of my life in keeping with those required of me in the text?
What is God's instruction to me?
What am I to do as His child that I am told to do in this text but am not presently doing?
Remember to watch out for the following:
Don't apply cultural standards, but biblical standards
Don't try and strengthen your viewpoint by misinterpreting Scripture
Don't apply Scripture out of prejudice from what you may have learnt before! Let Scripture interpret Scripture!
Miethe T, Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words (Bethany House1988) New American Standard Bible, International Inductive Study Version †††