On the Plains of Moab Blog
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July 14, 2012, 8:11 AM

It Ain't Eisegesis

eis·e·ge·sis [ahy-si-jee-sis]

noun, plural eis·e·ge·ses
An interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter's own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text.
This is a word that preachers hate to hear, especially when someone uses it to describe their sermons!  We are supposed to be exegetes, not eisegetes.  Exegesis, as you might guess, means mining the text for its own meaning...not the preacher's own ideas and or persistent fantasies.  Supposedly, now, we go to seminary and learn the original biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek - or at least attain a working knowledge of those languages.  We sit through preaching classes and learn from the local "experts" in pulpit craft.  We endure the harsh criticism of our preacher wannabe classmates as we clumsily develop our preaching skills in front of them.  We write numerous exegetical papers to demonstrate that we are learning well how to use the tools of language and hermeneutics.  And then, upon graduation, most preachers get in the pulpit and preach what they want anyway, to the abandonment of all those good habits learned in seminary.
Mind you, this is not confession time for this preacher!
So, the long and short of it is, you never want a eisegetical preacher.  However, as I think about tomorrow's sermon, I'm not sure what it is - I pray it ain't that dreaded eis- word.  Let me give you the skinny:  I am preaching on the scene in John's Gospel (20:19-22) where the disciples are holed up in the upper room, terrified becuase they don't know what's going to happen to them.  Jesus is gone, so they think.  Perhaps they will suffer the same fate as the Master?  They just don't know, and they don't know if they can even handle it.  Their world has come crashing down upon them.
And then, Jesus shows up, out of nowhere - seemingly.  He calms them down.  He says, "Peace be with you."  Don't be afraid.  He gives them a measure of the Holy Spirit and then sends them out into that world of which they were moments before trembling at the thought.  We know the rest of the story.  How they were brave.  Courageous.  Unafraid of death.  Determined to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.  That was the story of the early witness of the followers of Jesus.
Now, what I am doing tomorrow is talking about overcoming restraining, paralyzing fear; getting out of our own personal comfort zones and getting on with ministry - ministry that we never could have pictured ourselves doing before, just like the original disciples!  However, I think this -- while good stuff for sure -- is a tangental thought to the passage.  I don't think John had any interest in helping us to become psychologically healthy and missionally fit here.  I think he did want to demonstrate that the gospel was moving on and out in the power of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus had promised.  He wanted to demonstrate that Jesus was indeed who he claimed to be.  That Jesus was none other than God's anointed.  And, that we could indeed believe in him.  This is the underlying fabric of John's Gospel, (cf. John 20:31).
But, often, there are interesting details: biographical, psychological, and tangental thoughts, that present themselves along this basic, gospel story-line.  And they are worth mining from time to time.  So, I don't think I'm going to be engaging in eisegesis tomorrow.  But, I do think that this is a good spark from the story that we need.  And, we can certainly use it in the life of our church here and now!

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