Eisegesis: the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one's own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text
Typically eisegesis is used as a pejorative. It's not a good thing to be guilty of it. You can see this manifested most often in the Steven Furticks and Perry Nobles of the world. They'll read what they want their audience to hear (often what the audience wants to hear and what the speaker wants the audience to hear are identical) into the text or they'll shape the text in such a way that it accommodates the particular application they want understood.
This inappropriate use of Scripture is often nuanced and difficult to pick up on. The best way to recognize it is to be familiar enough with the context of the passage, patterns throughout Scripture and the attributes of God. So it's not something we can recognize immediately after we're saved.
But here's the problem: eisegesis isn't reserved exclusively for false teachers. We can all be guilty of it. We don't have to be a teacher to wrongly interpret and apply the Bible. We can each do that in our individual studies. Extrapolate the verifiable meaning before you do anything else.
So what is eiseJesus? I'm not sure who coined the term but I've seen it around for a while. It hasn't reached ubiquity but if you're a dispensational Calvinist like I am, you've seen it.
If eisegesis is reading an agenda or bias into a text, then eiseJesus is reading Jesus into portions of Scripture where He is not supposed to be.
"Uhhhh. Tim? Are you saying the whole Bible isn't about Jesus? Are you saying it's wrong to read the Psalms or read Samuel, Daniel and Genesis and think about Jesus?"
Read carefully because this argument hinges on precise language. If you just glance over what I'm writing, you'll miss what I'm saying. What I am saying is that not all Scripture is about Jesus but all Scripture points to Jesus. Dan Phillips graciously and skillfully elucidated the distinction to me the other day on Twitter after he posted a link to "Jesus on Every Page" by David Murray. I've been wrestling over this for a while because when I'm reading the Old Testament I sure do think about Jesus a lot. But Dan put it this way:
It's a friendly disagreement btwn us (he and Murray). He might say, "The text means this." I might take that same text and thought and say instead, "The text brings this to mind."We can read the Old Testament and have Christ come to mind. I don't know how we cannot. When we read about Abraham and Isaac, what is impossible to not think about? God sacrificing His Son! That passage in Genesis is enlivened by the New Testament but the New Testament wasn't necessary for us to understand what it meant. Is the meaning of the passage that Jesus died for our sins? No. Because He hadn't died yet and the original audience would not have had that information in the same capacity we do. That means they couldn't have rightly interpreted and then never rightly applied that story.
One common example of eisegesis is the story of David and Goliath. Are we David and capable of defeating giants when God is with us? I guess that might be an idea you could take out of it. Some of my reformed brothers have taken that passage and made it about Jesus. Jesus is David and we would be the scared Israelites and Goliath is sin. Jesus defeats sin. Okay. David does indeed foreshadow Jesus as The King and Jesus does defeat sin but is that really what the passage is about? How would the original audience have interpreted it? That is the meaning of the passage. The point of the passage is to affirm David as the new king and that God had chosen him to replace Saul and that God accomplishes His will sovereignly - without human effort.
Eisegesis: You're David and the obstacles in your life are Goliath
EiseJesus: Jesus is David and Goliath is sin
Exegesis: David is David. Goliath is Goliath. God is sovereign and accomplishes every single thing He says He will in the exact manner He chooses using all the people He chose to use.
There are inescapable parallels between the Old Testament and the New Testament. There are vivid foreshadowings of Christ's work on the cross throughout the Old Testament. I mean not to say there aren't. I think juxtaposition is common between the Old and New and serves as a powerful reminder of the detailed providence of God. Along with juxtaposition we also, to some cautious degree, see "types" of Christs. Moses would have been a "type" of Christ in freeing Israel from bondage as Christ freed us from the bondage of sin. I'm uncomfortable with that term. I think it's better to say foreshadow but you're more likely to hear "type" so I wanted to at least make you aware of it.
Many of my favorite preachers and teachers teach that you can't understand the Old Testament without the New Testament. In fact, most of the guys I listen to teach this! It's not the worst thing a person can do but it does end up influencing how you understand the Old Testament, prophecy and the end times.
It is definitely detailed and subtle. I hope it didn't come across as splitting hairs but it establishes a bad, because of it's intricate and somewhat arbitrary complexity, precedent for interpretation so I felt it worthy to discuss for all 7 of my readers!
And this song for your edification just because it's my blog and I can post whatever song I want.