This is a fancy word that bears some discussion. Am I guilty of eisegesis? Is the Watchtower? What’s this $20 word even mean?

eis·e·ge·sis [ahy-si-jee-sis] noun, plural -ses

An interpretation, esp. of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter’s own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text.

So that’s the definition. At the end of this post some of the Wikipedia entry has been included. Do we do that? Am I doing that with this site? Trying to fit a scripture into a preconceived idea or notion is something condemned in more than one Watchtower, and rightly so. A good example is the Trinity doctrine. An unbiased, sincere Bible reader would never in a million years “come up” with the trinity teaching
of his own accord. Eisegesis must be used to make the doctrine fly.

Interestingly, the antonym of the word is exegesis, which means to read a text without bias and seek the author’s intent alone.

What percentage of topics have elements of eisegesis when you do a Watchtower library search and pull an article up? 0%? 5%? 10%? Or more? This topic could spin off into a dozen places from here so I’ll quit while I’m ahead…

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From Wikipedia:

Eisegesis (from Greek εἰς “into” and ending from exegesis from ἐξηγεῖσθαι “to lead out”) is the process of interpreting a text in such a way that it introduces one’s own ideas, reading into the text. 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.

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11 Comments on Eisegesis – interpreting a text

  1. The Lingdow says:

    This is extremely hard not to do. It is something I am struggling with at this time. Trying to learn how to read the Bible without preconceived ideas. For example every time the phrase “Holy ones” appears in scripture to not automatically think 144,000. Just trying to get the writers intent alone is a goal I am striving to reach.
    It seems that when most WT are written they have to be eisegesis to keep the ‘unity’. This is a big problem because just like a house built on a sandy foundation it will eventually fall apart.

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  2. BB says:

    Eisegesis and exegesis are both part of a proper.

    Hermeneutics (English pronunciation: /hɜrməˈnjuːtɨks/) is the study of interpretation theory, and can be either the art of interpretation, or the theory and practice of interpretation. Traditional hermeneutics — which includes Biblical hermeneutics.

    For the most part each text should have ONE meaning (the Author’s intended meaning ) and many applications.

    There is a GREAT freecourse in Hermeneutics at a site I will list below. I’m sure you can find others, but I really enjoyed the way each principal is covered using various passages of Scripture.Take for example Eph 2:8 compared with James 2:20

    Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

    James 2:20 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

    One passages says ( Eph 2 ) says That Salvation is by grace through faith and that it has nothing to do with ourselves (what we do )it is a free gift from God or else if we had a part in by works we would have something to boast about.

    Then James says that faith is dead without works.

    Is this a contradiction? No. If one believes that God is the Author of all Scripture is He contradicting Himself?

    No!

    There are many passages that say that Salvation is a gift from God and not something that man needs to earn.

    The Key here is the James passage and it’s surrounding context when cmpared to what the rest of scripture teaches. Is it saying one must work to be saved? No.

    I will show you my faith by my works. ( this is it perhaps best paraphrased ” A faith that works ” When some one has true Salvation it will produce good works not doing good works to be saved but doing good works because one is saved!!

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    • dudley cook says:

      I will show you my faith by my works. ( this is it perhaps best paraphrased ” A faith that works ” When some one has true Salvation it will produce good works not doing good works to be saved but doing good works because one is saved!!

      Thanks, BB, for that constructive observation on James 2:20 by which you show how God’s word harmonizes when it is viewed with respect. The NWT rendering of this verse is good to note too:
      “But do you care to know, O empty man, that faith apart from
      works is inactive?”

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  3. Amos says:

    About 18 months ago, I started to do my own completely independent studies into God’s word, as I was dissillusioned by the many errors in all religious systems that I looked at. I was determined to get the true meaning of any given text, exegesis. I now have a very substanial library, including over 30 different translations, including the first NT direct from the GReek, Tyndale’s, & the first complete bible from original lang. Geneva, along with the Latin Vulgate, etc. I also have many reference works, such as Strongs, Youngs, Vines, etc.
    The main diffuculty that I experienced was my own paridigms, due to previous erronious beliefs, eisegesis.
    As the verse states, “seek & ye shall find, knock & the door shall be opened.”

    Amos.

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  4. BB says:

    I realized I forgot the link so here is is.

    http://www.growingchristians.o.....utics.html

    As well here is a list of good principals for Biblical interpretation.

    Meditate, Pray, Obey and Be Open
    Assume the Clarity of Scripture
    Stress the Priority of the Original Language
    Look at the Literary Context
    Remember the basic unit of Scripture
    Let Scripture Interpret Scripture
    Avoid Confusion Between Truth and the Inspired Record
    Never Determine the Doctrine from the Illustration
    Check out the Historical and Cultural Background
    Aim for One Interpretation with Many Applications
    Always Proceed from Then to Now
    Be Careful about Spiritualization
    Allow for the Fuller Meaning of Scripture
    Determine the Teaching Intention of the Author
    Distinguish Between the Cultural and the Transcultural
    Discern what is More Critical and what is Less Critical
    Recognize the Fact of Progressive Revelation
    Comprehend the Biblical Covenants
    Differentiate Between Israel and the Church
    Separate Between the Rapture and the Return
    Submit to the Hierarchy of Scripture
    Know the Different Types of Literature
    Understand the Use of Language
    Highlight the Theme of Salvation
    Appreciate that all Truth has not been Revealed
    Acknowledge that the Finite Cannot Completely Fathom the Infinite
    - Beware of Pride and Prejudice
    - Watch out for Hobby Horses and Pet Peeves
    - Respect the Insight of Other Christians
    - Consider the Historical Interpretation of the Text

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  5. Jolly Roger says:

    Maybe it was “Eisegesis”, but the other night I was listening to Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” (St. Elswhere album). I think he was singing a chronicle to all of us who have ever been seriously associated with the Truth.

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    • JJ says:

      Awesome song….
      ———————

      I remember when, I remember
      I remember when I lost my mind
      There was something so pleasant about that place
      Even your emotions have an echo
      In so much space

      And when you’re out there without care
      Yeah, I was out of touch
      But it wasn’t because I didn’t know enough
      I just knew too much

      Does that make me crazy?
      Does that make me crazy?
      Does that make me crazy?
      Possibly

      And I hope that you are
      Having the time of your life
      But think twice
      That’s my only advice

      Come on now, who do you
      Who do you, who do you, who do you think you are?
      Ha ha ha, bless your soul
      You really think you’re in control?

      Well, I think you’re crazy
      I think you’re crazy
      I think you’re crazy
      Just like me

      My heroes had the heart
      To lose their lives out on a limb
      And all I remember
      Is thinking, I want to be like them

      Ever since I was little
      Ever since I was little
      It looked like fun
      And it’s no coincidence I’ve come
      And I can die when I’m done

      But maybe I’m crazy
      Maybe you’re crazy
      Maybe we’re crazy
      Probably

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  6. bruceguth says:

    All of this having been said on this word brothers, there is one thing that always compels me to just speak my mind as I have the gift. That is, any gift in men. Any soundness of mind that vigilance in prayer will bring. (1 Peter 4:7)

    Today, May 24th 2011, news media is reporting that the decision has been made that N.A.T.O. is taking control in the warring region. Not to worry, as Jesus had said.

    But here is the point:

    When one gets beyond the “WTS-think” screen, one may see that the King of the NORTH could be a reversal of power blocks from what a drunken false prophet would declare. (Isaiah 56:8-12)

    This is not a personal judgment call, but just something I am watching.

    At any rate, let us “Keep on the watch…” (Matthew 24:42)

    Philia,
    Daniel

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  7. Ruth says:

    dudlley cook,l loved what you said here.

    When some one has true Salvation it will produce good works not doing good works to be saved but doing good works because one is saved!———————–

    Its so true! when we become real born again Christians our works are not organised. The works that produce fruit are deep from within our hearts. They look around and see what they can do to help others. Their hearts are like Christs in caring and sharing. They do not exspect but are very grateful
    when they see the Fathers personality in anyone who shows a kindness and a genuine christian affection.
    Sis Ruth.

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    • Rupunzelsawake says:

      Nice words Ruth!! What comes to mind is, “This is good and it pleases God our Saviour, who wants everyone to be saved and come to know the truth” NOT “wants everyone to come to know the truth and THEN be saved” (which is how WT interprets it). Christ’s spirit with in us produces the fruitage of the spirit, our works. Aint that the truth!

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    • dudley cook says:

      Ruth, thanks! but I don’t think your encouragement belongs to me!! The beginning of my comment to which you referred was a ‘cut & paste’ quote from a prior comment by ‘BB’, and my comment was meant to applaud HIS neat way of looking at Jas 2:20. You might want to scroll back upstream to BB’s entry and give him your nice comment. I’ll be glad to hear from you anytime, Ruth. — Dudley :D

      Ruth: dudlley cook,l loved what you said here.

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