Hermeneutics, Exegesis, and Eisegesis

Hermeneutics and Exegesis

Hermeneutics requires the rules of exegesis, aiming to establish the principles of biblical interpretation. Exegesis on the other hand aims to fix the meaning of the biblical passage.41 James Orr points out that if hermeneutics is the science of interpretation, exegesis is “the practical application” of this science.42 Bernard Ramm relates hermeneutics with exegesis in the same way a rulebook stands for a game. The “rules are not the game; and the game is meaningless without the rules.” Likewise, hermeneutics is not exegesis; but exegesis is “applied hermeneutics.”43

Exegesis Versus Eisegesis

The word “eisegesis” comes from the Greek words, eis (“into”) and egeisthai (“to lead”).44 It literally means, “to lead into.” Eisegesis is the act of reading “information into a text that is not there.”45 It refers to the tendency of “reading into the text what it does not say.”46 Exegesis seeks to draw out the meaning of the text. On the contrary, eisegesis is the tendency to read one’s own interpretation into the text. If exegesis interprets the text objectively, eisegesis does it subjectively.47 Orr notes that if the interpreter “adds anything of his own thoughts” to the text, then it already constitutes eisegesis.48

A case in point is Rom. 8:26: “For we do not know what we should pray as we ought: but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Some think that the “groanings” here refer to praying in tongues. This interpretation adds an idea that is not there. First, the Spirit intercedes in groans with the Father, not the praying believer. The verb, “intercedes,” is third person singular.49 This means that it is not we, but the Spirit, who does the interceding. As the present indicative verb form indicates, the Spirit repeatedly intercedes for us with groans.

Second, such groans or sighs (Gk., stenagmois) “cannot be uttered” (Gk. alaletois).50 This adjective describes the groans as “cannot be expressed in human words.”51 The human tongue cannot speak or verbalize these groans.

Third, the context tells us about the groans of creation and of believers, for “the redemption of the body” (Rom. 8:22-23). J. Schneider wrote, “In the NT sighing [groaning] takes place by reason of a state of oppression which causes suffering and from which there is the desire to be free.” Paul then relates about the groans of the Spirit (Rom. 8:26). Thus, due to some great trial, we sometimes do not know what to pray (John 12:27-28; Phil. 1:22-23). Yet, the Spirit intercedes to God on our behalf with groans. These sighs “cannot be expressed or grasped in human words, but which God understands.” It is the divine language of the Trinity (1 Cor. 2:11). Clearly, Paul is not implying praying in tongues in this text.52

Eisegesis adds views that are foreign to the text, thus altering its meaning and message. However, the Bible clearly condemns adding and subtracting from God’s Word (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Jer. 26:2; Rev. 22:18-19). “Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (Prov. 30:6, NKJV).

Therefore, the job of the biblical interpreter is to determine what the text says (exegesis), not what he thinks it says (eisegesis).53 Hence, exegesis requires researching what the words mean against the context of the text. It includes verifying the tense, mood, grammar, syntax, root words, derivates, history, and theology of those words.54

_______________

38 R. Fowler White, “Does God Speak Today Apart From the Bible?” Cited __ Online: <http://www.the-highway.com/God_Speak.html#34.
39 White, “Does God Speak Today?” Cited __ Online: http://www.the-highway.com.
40 Gunn, “Sola Scriptura.” Cited __ Online: http://www.grovergunn.net/andrew/2ti0301.pdf.
41 WDT, s. v. “Exegesis,” by Everett F. Harrison (ed. Everett F. Harrison, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Carl F. Henry; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1960).
42 ISBE, s. v. “Interpretation.”
43 Bernard Ramm, “Protestant Biblical Interpretation,” in “Interpretation of the Bible.” Cited __ Online: http://www.theopedia.com/Hermeneutics.
44 Hugo McCord, “Eisegesis or Exegesis.” Cited __ Online: http://www.hevanet. com/jamoran/ChristianArticles/Articles/McCord/Eisegesis%20Or%20Exegesis.htm.
45 TDNT, s. v. “Eisegesis.” Cited __ Online: http://www.carm.org/dictionary/dic_e-f.htm.
46 TDNT, s. v. “Eisegesis.” Cited __ Online: http://www.carm.org/dictionary/dic_e-f.htm.
47 “Biblical Exegesis.” Cited __ Online: http://www.answers.com/topic/biblical-exegesis.
48 ISBE, s. v. “Interpretation.”

49 Timothy Friberg and Barbara Friberg, Analytical Greek New Testament. Bible Windows CD [CDRom] V5.0. Edited by Paul Bodin. Cedar Hill: Silver Mountain Software, 1994.
50 James Strong, Strong’s Greek Dictionary [Public Domain] in Power Bible CD [CD-Rom] V3.0. Edited by John Gilbertson. Bronson: Online Publishing.
51 Barclay M. Newman, Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (United Bible Societies, 1971) in Bible Windows CD [CD-Rom] V5.0. Edited by Paul Bodin. Cedar Hill: Silver Mountain Software, 1994.
52 TDNT, s. v. “stenagmos” by J. Schneider.
53 McMahon, “Interpreting the Bible.” Cited __ Online: http://www.apuritansmind/Pastoral/McMahonInterpretingBible.htm.
54 McMahon, “Interpreting the Bible.” Cited __ Online: http://www.apuritansmind/Pastoral/McMahonInterpretingBible.htm.

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