Exegesis vs. Eisegesis: What’s the Difference?

Exegesis and Eisegesis: Setting the Stage

Have you ever dug deep into a Biblical text, trying to better understand its meaning? If so, you’ve likely ventured into two Biblical interpretations called exegesis and eisegesis. But what exactly are these terms, and why do they matter? This article will explain these two interpretations and the differences between each.

exegesis vs eisegesis

The Roots of the Terms

Exegesis: Definition and Origin

Exegesis, derived from the Greek word ‘exēgeisthai’, means “to lead out.” In essence, it’s the process of interpreting a text based on what it actually says. Think of it as extracting the original intent of the author.

Eisegesis: Definition and Origin

On the flip side, eisegesis, stemming from the Greek word ‘eis’, means “into.” It’s when you read into the text, inserting your own ideas or biases. Imagine putting on colored glasses and seeing everything in that hue.

Key Differences

Approach and Methodology

Exegesis is like a detective meticulously piecing together clues from a scene. It’s systematic, relying on context, history, and the text itself. Eisegesis? It’s more like an artist, painting over an existing artwork with their own colors.

Purpose and Goal

While exegesis seeks the author’s original intent, eisegesis often serves personal agendas. It’s the difference between understanding a message and twisting it.

Common Pitfalls

Eisegesis can be tempting. Who doesn’t like to see their beliefs validated? But it’s a slippery slope, leading to misconceptions and misunderstandings.

Why Does It Matter?

The Importance in Religious Studies

In religious contexts, exegesis ensures scriptures are understood as intended, preserving their sanctity. Eisegesis, however, can lead to misinterpretations, causing rifts and divisions.

The Role in Academic Research

In academia, exegesis maintains the integrity of research, while eisegesis can discredit work and lead to false conclusions.

Real-life Examples

Exegesis in Action

Consider a historian studying ancient texts. They’d rely on exegesis, cross-referencing with other sources, ensuring they grasp the true essence of the text.

Eisegesis in Action

Ever heard a song and felt it was just about your life? That’s eisegesis! You’re overlaying your experiences onto the lyrics.

John 1:1 Example of Exegesis vs. Eisegesis

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

John 1:1

Exegesis of John 1:1

Contextual Analysis:
The Gospel of John starts with a profound theological statement about the nature of Jesus Christ. This verse parallels the opening of Genesis, emphasizing a new beginning through Christ.

Historical Analysis:
John writes in a context where there were various beliefs about Jesus. By stating that the “Word was God,” John affirms the divinity of Jesus, countering any claims that Jesus was merely a prophet or teacher.

Linguistic Analysis:
The term “Word” (Logos in Greek) was significant in both Jewish and Greek thought. For Jews, it could denote God’s action in the world, while in Greek philosophy, Logos could mean the rational principle governing the cosmos. John uses this term to bridge cultures, presenting Jesus as the divine, governing principle.

Theological Implication:
This verse establishes the foundation for the doctrine of the Trinity, emphasizing that Jesus (the Word) is distinct from the Father (“was with God”) yet fully divine (“was God”).

Eisegesis of John 1:1

Personal Interpretation:
“In the beginning was the Word” makes me think about the power of communication. Maybe John is highlighting how essential it is to speak our truth, just as God did.

Modern Application:
The “Word” being with God and being God feels like how we live in a digital age. Our online persona (the “Word” we present online) is with us, and for many, it has become who they are. It’s a reminder of the power and influence of our digital identity.

Selective Emphasis:
The repetition of “Word” stands out. It reminds me of the importance of consistency in our message and actions. If we say something, we should stand by it, just as the “Word” is consistently identified with God in this verse.

Exegesis vs. Eisegesis: Which One to Use and When

While both exegesis and eisegesis have their places, it’s crucial to know when to use which. Just remember exegesis is an interpretation of the original meaning and eisegesis is a personal interpretation based on modern day application.

When using exegesis, consider the historical context, type of literature, who is the object of the text, and prescriptive nature of the text. Dr. Frank Turek calls this the S.T.O.P. method. This method will help contextualize the scripture first, to set the stage for your exegetical interpretation.

Tips and Tricks

  1. Always consider the context.
  2. Cross-reference with other sources.
  3. Be aware of personal biases.
  4. Seek feedback from peers.


  1. Is eisegesis always bad?
    Not necessarily. It’s just essential to recognize when you’re using it.
  2. Can one text have multiple exegeses?
    While the goal is to find the author’s intent, different scholars might have varied interpretations.
  3. How can I practice exegesis?
    Start with familiar texts, research their backgrounds, and cross-reference with other sources.
  4. Why is exegesis crucial in religious contexts?
    It ensures scriptures are understood as intended, preserving their original message.
  5. Are there tools to help with exegesis?
    Yes! Commentaries, lexicons, and historical records can be invaluable.
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Bryan E. Robinson

Bryan E. Robinson is a U.S. Army veteran and founder of Scriptures.blog, 316Tees.com, and ChristianQuotes.info. Bryan is a spiritual warrior whose goal is to get God’s Word in front of as many people as possible through digital channels.