Eisegesis and Exegesis: Let’s Make it Simple

Eisegesis and Exegesis: Let’s Make it Simple

Ever heard the terms Exegesis or Eisegesis?

They come up a bit when discussing Biblical study, and put very simply, Eisegesis, meaning “to lead into” is when someone essentially approaches a text with their own notions, and makes that text fit their point of view. Exegesis, on the other hand, is when you interpret the text with careful, interpretive analysis, and the word essentially means “to lead out of”.

Why does this matter?

Well, eisegesis is extremely easy to fall into, without realizing it, and not just when it comes to Biblical study (though it’s particularly common here as well). You may have heard of a similar practice called “proof texting” where an individual picks and chooses passages out of context that directly support their point of view in order to justify belief, behaviour, or position. This is why context is extremely important!  Many times, particularly when Jesus is speaking, the whole of the message cannot be captured in just one or two passages, and really requires the full context of the entire exchange to comprehend and grasp what’s going on!

Eisegesis is directly avoided by following a couple of simple guidelines:

Consider nearby passages.  Do they agree with your understanding of the passage?

Here’s an example.  Let’s say you read the following sentence:

“Running is good” he thought to himself, “Running is good.”

Seems innocuous, right?

Consider it again with the following context:

Ralph was in trouble. His mother was going to come home soon and see the mess he had made of his grades. He didn’t know what to do, just knew that he had to get out of there before his whole world came crashing down. Dashing out the door, he began to run.

“Running is good” he thought to himself, “Running is good.”

Not so great after all is it?  With just a limited view of the context surrounding the sentence, we can’t get a full picture of what is really happening.

Is your observation groundbreaking? Then it’s probably not.

This is not always true, of course! Martin Luther essentially staked (ha!) his life on a ‘different interpretation,’ but that was after careful consideration and noted abuses by those in power. If you think you’ve truly come up with something new, it’s best to discuss this observation with peers and experts (elders, pastors, etc) before nailing your own 99 on someone’s door.

Are you studying exclusively on your own?

One of the best ways to avoid prooftexting or eisegesis is to be engaged in a Bible study or small group with other believers where you are comfortable sharing your experiences and point of view. Not only will you grow in your own study, you’ll be able to help others who might find themselves thinking about things incorrectly as well!

Can you show me an example in the Bible?


Consider, for a moment, :

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”, NASB

A rallying cry, right?  I mean, doesn’t that just get you fired up to go take on that sporting event/triathlon/big test/job interview? HE strengthens me, and I can do this! Except…

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.
11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be acontent in whatever circumstances I am.
12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.


is coming from a standpoint of contentment – being content in all things, even things as bad as being stuck in a prison,  having lost everything, and getting by on the day to day. Paul is speaking directly to the fact that he is OK with where he is and that he can get through it because God strengthens him. He is not saying “I will break out of this prison, because God’s strength is behind me” he is saying “I will endure, and be content, because God’s strength is behind me. There is nothing that can take that away from me.”

And in this author’s opinion, that is so much better. Knowing that amidst the bad, there’s a loving Father standing by, caring for me, making sure that all things work together for my good, because I love Him…

Oh, wait.

Yea, that one’s wrong too =D

That is one condensed nutshell!

So there you have it – a basic overview of Exegesis, Eisegesis, and how to avoid the second.  I’d like to challenge you to give extra consideration to what you read in the future in order to limit your own cross-interpretation of the Word!  What are some other passages you’ve found that are commonly interpreted incorrectly?  Share them in the comments below!

Excellent album of the moment: The White Album (Remix Project) By Hillsong

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13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (ESV)

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (ESV)

13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (ESV)