Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Eisegesis VS. Exegesis


I recently came across these two words in a fantastic book that I am reading and because I am certainly not a theologian I had to dig further into just exactly what this means. I know that I have at times been guilty of trying to fit God's word into my point of view. I just felt the need to share this in case I am not the only one who needed a "heart conviction" today! What are your thoughts?
2 Chronicles 27:1-2

“Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. . . . He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Uzziah had done, but unlike him he did not enter the temple of the LORD.”

EISEGESIS
First, the interpreter decides on a topic. Today, it’s “The Importance of Church Attendance.” The interpreter reads 2 Chronicles 27:1-2 and sees that King Jotham was a good king, just like his father Uzziah had been, except for one thing: he didn’t go to the temple! This passage seems to fit his idea, so he uses it. The resulting sermon deals with the need for passing on godly values from one generation to the next. Just because King Uzziah went to the temple every week didn’t mean that his son would continue the practice. In the same way, many young people today tragically turn from their parents’ training, and church attendance drops off. The sermon ends with a question: “How many blessings did Jotham fail to receive, simply because he neglected church?”

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with preaching about church attendance or the transmission of values. And a cursory reading of 2 Chronicles 27:1-2 seems to support that passage as an apt illustration. However, the above interpretation is totally wrong. For Jotham not to go to the temple was not wrong; in fact, it was very good, as the proper approach to the passage will show.

EXEGESIS
First, the interpreter reads the passage and, to fully understand the context, he reads the histories of both Uzziah and Jotham (2 Chronicles 26-27; 2 Kings 15:1-6, 32-38). In his observation, he discovers that King Uzziah was a good king who nevertheless disobeyed the Lord when he went to the temple and offered incense on the altar—something only a priest had the right to do (2 Chronicles 26:16-20). Uzziah’s pride and his contamination of the temple resulted in his having “leprosy until the day he died” (2 Chronicles 26:21).

Needing to know why Uzziah spent the rest of his life in isolation, the interpreter studies Leviticus 13:46 and does some research on leprosy. Then he compares the use of illness as a punishment in other passages, such as 2 Kings 5:27; 2 Chronicles 16:12; and 21:12-15.

By this time, the exegete understands something important: when the passage says Jotham “did not enter the temple of the LORD,” it means he did not did not repeat his father’s mistake. Uzziah had proudly usurped the priest’s office; Jotham was more obedient.

The resulting sermon might deal with the Lord’s discipline of His children, with the blessing of total obedience, or with our need to learn from the mistakes of the past rather than repeat them.
Of course, exegesis takes more time than eisegesis. But if we are to be those unashamed workmen “who correctly handle the word of truth,” then we must take the time to truly understand the text. Exegesis is the only way.

5 comments:

Stachia said...

I had to look these words up to see what they meant but you are right Exegesis is the way to go.

Nutrition in fruits said...

HI
I used to study and read a lot of theology, but somehow it slipped away, although it still really interesting whenever I read about it.I'm really glad that you posted this.
Thanks

Purple Cow said...

I'm not a theologist - but I am Greek so I know exactly what those words mean... I think its funny that you want an exegesis of the word exegesis and you used an eisegesis to get it! Take care!

Duane Scott said...

Love the quotes on the side. I will be back to your blog when I get to my laptop. For some reason, the text of your posts is difficult to read on this page. Take care!

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