Are you stuck, spiritually speaking? Do you have a hard time understanding the Word or seeing how it applies to your life? That may be because you’re reading your Bible all wrong.
In this two-part series, I’ll share different ways that we can approach God’s Word. Some of these ways are beneficial, while others are not-so-helpful or even downright wrong.
In or Out?
In today’s post, I want to point out one of the biggest no-nos. I’m talking about the way we approach our Bible study, whether it’s using eisegesis or exegesis. Don’t be put off by these Greek words, though! The ideas behind them are quite simple.
- eisegesis (ahy-si-jee-sis): interpreting a text in such a way that you introduce your own beliefs, presuppositions, agendas, and biases into the text. Referred to as reading into the text.
- exegesis (ek-si-jee-sis): interpreting a text in a critical way using the text itself to provide explanation, without introducing your own beliefs into the text.
Exegesis is all about drawing out (ex) the true meaning of the Word, while eisegesis involves putting your own understanding into (eis) the Word.
You’re probably wondering who would ever try to insert their own understanding into the Word…and yet we all do it from time to time. Our beliefs and experiences shape our understanding of the world, so it makes sense that they would also affecting our understanding of Scripture. But when those Scriptures fail to line up with what we believe, we find ourselves in crisis.
We can either:
- Skim over the text and forget we ever read it
- Make excuses for why the text doesn’t align with our beliefs (e.g. it was a different context, it involved a different culture, it doesn’t apply to me or my circumstances)
- Change our understanding based on what we read in the Scriptures
Obviously, option three is the appropriate way to go. Still, change can be hard, especially when we’ve grown up believing something different…and it doesn’t even have to be a life-shattering change.
A New Understanding of an Old Story
I remember one such instance from Bible college. We were reading about Joseph and his multi-colored coat in one of my classes. Here’s the text in the NAS version:
“Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic” (Genesis 37:3 NAS).
However, the Hebrew word for “varicolored” really means “flat (of the hands or foot).” This most likely means that the sleeves of Joseph’s coat went all the way to his hands; it was a long-sleeve coat, not a multi-colored coat. And this makes sense because back then, laborers wore shorter-sleeve garments while overseers wore longer sleeves. By giving Joseph a long-sleeve coat, Israel was effectively promoting him over his brothers. No wonder Joseph’s older brothers were mad at him!
This short Bible study provides greater clarity into this well-known story, but when I first learned the true meaning behind the text, it upset me a little. I had always been taught that Joseph had a beautiful, multi-colored coat. I’d even heard powerful sermons using the multi-colored coat as imagery for the various talents within the Church Body.
But the truth is the truth. And God’s (real) Truth is always better than our (make-believe) truth.
The Lessons of Truth
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NAS).
It’s not easy to change our beliefs or see things in a different way, but we must approach God’s Word with a willingness to do just that. We have to humble our hearts, accepting any reproof or correction we receive from the Word, which is our training for righteousness. If we don’t, then we eventually turn away from God’s Truth, make our own religion, and go our own way. No wonder we end up feeling spiritually stuck!
This week, I encourage you to humble yourself as you read your Bible. If you come across a Scripture that differs from what you’ve believed, ask the Lord to help you understand what it means and how to apply it to your life today. If you have to change your way of thinking, then do it. You’ll never regret aligning your life—and your beliefs—with God’s Truth.
Have you ever had to change a long-held belief because you learned it didn’t line up with God’s Word? Was it a struggle for you? How do you feel about it now? I’d love to hear from you! Just leave a comment below.
[Click to Tweet: True Bible study involves changing our beliefs to match what we read in the Word…not changing the Word to match our beliefs.]