Properly Interpreting the Bible

There are two ways of handling a Bible passage.

The first is called exegesis. The word means “to draw out.” In proper exegesis, the reader looks at the passage in context. They examine the overall book in which the test was written, any large subdivisions, the remaining chapter, and the verses before and after it. The words are examined closely, and then all the pieces are put together to draw out the passage’s meaning.

Another way to read the Bible is called eisegesis. In this form of interpretation, the reader has arrived at theological conclusions and reads them into the text. The reader knows what the Bibles says in other places, and so this passage must fit into our already arrived at conclusions.

Every definition I could find online of these two approaches to God’s word clearly explains the failing of eisegesis. Reading the Bible that way opens the meaning to the reader’s interpretation, presuppositions, and agendas. There is no honest way to explain the difference without seeing enormous flaws in improperly handling the text.

And yet, a casual stroll through social media will reveal that most people handle the scripture with eisegesis. Most people come to the Bible with all these preconceived ideas about God, Jesus, and how the world is supposed to work. After all, most of us heard a few stories as kids, attended a VBS, or have been in Church for most Easter and Christmas celebrations. We have reached some well-established conclusions; all we need now is a verse to back it up.

Today my advice is straightforward and yet nearly impossible to do. Here it is: Never read a Bible verse. Never read one verse without context. The moment you read it without the proper context, you are committing eisegesis. You bring all your thoughts, experiences, agendas, and misunderstandings and place them on that passage. Sure, you might get the meaning correct, but you also might be way off the mark.

Believers need to be people who properly handle the word of truth. If we do not do it correctly, then we are setting a terrible precedent for those who are not believers. I know you love that verse, but my question is, do you love it because of what God wants it to mean or because of what you want it to mean?

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