AskDefine | Define eisegesis

Dictionary Definition

eisegesis n : personal interpretation of a text (especially of the Bible) using your own ideas [also: eisegeses (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Etymology

Greek eis, into + English exegesis.

Noun

  1. An interpretation, especially of Scripture, that reflects the personal ideas or viewpoint of the interpreter; reading something into a text that isn't there. Compare exegesis.

Extensive Definition

Eisegesis (from the Greek ; 'to lead in') is the process of interpretation of an existing text in such a way as to introduce one's own ideas. This is best understood when contrasted with exegesis. While exegesis draws out the meaning from the text, eisegesis occurs when a reader reads his/her interpretation into the text. As a result, exegesis tends to be objective when employed effectively while eisegesis is regarded as highly subjective. An individual who practices eisegesis is known as an eisegete, as someone who practices exegesis is known as an exegete. The term eisegete is often used in a mildly derogatory fashion.

Eisegesis in biblical study

While exegesis attempts to determine the historical context within which a particular verse exists - the so-called "Sitz im Leben" or life setting - eisegetes often neglect this aspect of biblical study.
In the field of biblical exegesis scholars take great care to avoid eisegesis. In this field, eisegesis is regarded as "poor exegesis."
While some denominations and scholars denounce biblical eisegesis, many Christians are known to employ it - albeit inadvertently - as part of their own experiential theology. Modern evangelical scholars accuse liberal protestants of practicing biblical eisegesis, while Mainline scholars accuse fundamentalists of practicing eisegesis. Catholics say that all Protestants engage in eisegesis, because the Bible can be correctly understood only through the lens of Holy Tradition as handed down by the institutional Church. Jews counter that all Christians practice eisegesis when they read the Hebrew Bible as a book about Jesus.
Exactly what constitutes eisegesis remains a source of debate among theologians, but most scholars agree about the importance of determining the authorial intentions. Still, to determine the author's intent can often be difficult, especially for books which were written anonymously.

Further reading

Exegesis, Biblical Erwin Fahlbusch and Geoffrey William Bromiley, The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leiden, Netherlands: Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill, 1999-2003). 2:237.
eisegesis in German: Eisegese
eisegesis in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Eisegese
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