I use the terms from time-to-time Exegesis vs Eisegesis. I slightly vary the definition from time to time to help it make sense. Exegesis is the process by which you attempt to find meaning in the text by understanding to whom it is written, when it was written, and why it was written. Or, what you can pull from the text. Eisegesis is the process by which you take a current application and assume that is what was meant by the author. Theses may seem like big words and that Jesus never read scripture from that perspective. To say he did would be eisegesis. But to quote his response at times to the Sadducees and Pharisees it would become clear he did understand the original meaning of the authors, not because he was the Son of God, but based upon what the scripture actually said, an exegetical interpretation.
Let’s take the subject of the resurrection. He could have said there is eternal life because “I know so and say so” as the Son of God. He could have said “because I prayed and that’s what the Holy Spirit said so.” But instead, he said:
- Matthew 22:31-32 NASB – 31 “But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 32 ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
Let me give you a modern day equivalent; the process of turning a book into a movie. Someone once said that the only way to faithfully turn a book into a movie was to put the book in front of the camera and turn the pages. Everyone has a different view in their mind of how the movie should be made. Though we all have different interpretations, the movie will be different than what we imagined it to be. But great book movies are able to bring forth the essential elements from the book that we can all agree upon (sounds much like the church).
The unspoken theology is that we can close our eyes and imagine God to tell us scripture means what ever pops into our head next.
The Lord of the Rings movies by Peter Jackson is a Classic Example. For true Tolkien geeks, there is a comment made in the extras for the Fellowship of the Ring where they discuss the writing of the script. The script writers remark that “the further we got away from the book, the more the script was in trouble.” The movie despite interpretive differences was a huge overwhelming success.
Now on the other hand you have The Hobbit movies, also by Peter Jackson. It was not so well received. He padded the movie with so much extras that it basically resembled the book in theme only. Though visually impressive, it made the viewer constantly go “Huh, I don’t remember that being in there.”
In the first example is good exegesis. Though his interpretation varied slightly, he attempted to stay as true to the book as possible. The second example is eisegesis. Because Jackson by that point was considered an expert on Tolkien, he took great liberties much to everyone’s dismay. A common review to save face was “Peter Jackson stretches his legs in Tolkien’s Universe.” He changed the story for a variety of reasons. One huge reason was he needed to stretch it over three movies. Changing the essentials is never a good thing, no matter how creative you think you are being. He was trying fit his situation on the movie instead of the movie fitting the book. So I ask the question in jest but with intent, in terms of making the same movies, what would Jesus do?
As always my friends, love much . . .