How to Read the Bible: Introduction
by Herman Newtics
Today I would like to talk about how to read the Bible. I was prompted to write this article because of a post on facebook, where a friend of a friend stated that the recent defacement of monuments was a sure sign of the imminent return of Christ. When I challenged him on where this was in scripture he got insulting, which is what many people do when they can not answer your questions. Go figure.
How we read and interpret the scriptures makes all the difference in how we understand them. The science of the theory and method of interpretation is called “hermeneutics”.
Hermeneutics is derived from the Greek word ἑρμηνεύω (hermeneuō, “translate, interpret” and can sometimes be used interchangeably with exegesis, which literally means “to lead out”. In using EXEGESIS as our method of interpretation we TAKE OUT of the text what it is saying. We let the text interpret itself. By using the exegetical method of interpretation you are finding out what the author was actually saying, when it was said, and to whom was the author speaking. This is the correct way to read the Bible.
The opposite method of interpreting the Scriptures is called eisegesis. Eisegesis means “to LEAD INTO”. In this method you start from a basis of a per-conceived idea or notion and then try to make it fit into scripture. Exegesis and Eisegesis are conflicting methods of interpretation. In exegesis you take out of the text what it is saying about itself. In eisegesis you read thoughts and ideas INTO the text. For example, the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation were actually written to real churches that existed in the first century. They are not meant to be taken as allegory, but in fact this is how most preachers teach them. Unfortunately, most false doctrine today is based on the eisegetical method of interpretation.
In 2 Timothy 2: 15 the writer tells us to use the exegetical methods: “Present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” We must strive to be an exegete, allowing the text to speak for itself.
Eisegesis can easily lead to error, as the reader attempts to align the text with his own preconceived notions. Exegesis allows us to agree with the Bible; eisegesis seeks to force the Bible to agree with us.
When using the exegetical method we must ask ourselves the following questions:
What does the passage actually say?
To whom was it said?
When was it said and what is the timing of the text?
What does the passage mean?
How does the passage relate to the rest of the Bible?
How should this passage affect my life?
Eisegesis, on the other hand starts with a pre-conceived idea, such as a future fulfillment of prophecy, and then tries to fit the text into your idea.
A good question to ask yourself is, do you read FROM the Bible, or do you read INTO the Bible, and do you know the difference.
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11