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McMaster University
Religious Studies
Tristan Carter

Exegesis and Interpretation RS 1D6 September 26, 2011 What is Exegesis? • The term “exegesis” is a technical term most often applied to the task of investigating the meaning of a biblical text or passage. • Comes from the Greek word that means “to guide or le ad out.” • The opposite of exegesis is “eisegesis” which means to “guide or lead in.” • Exegesis means to read with a view to what the text means. • Eisegesis means to “read into” or to find meaning in a text that is not there but is based on the interpreter’s o wn biases. Exegesis versus Eisegesis • “Eisegesis” is generally used pejoratively. • But, as you read the section “The Hebrew Bible interprets itself” in NOAB (2201 -2204) we see that later passages in the Jewish scriptures often “rework,” “reinterpret” early texts to make them fit the contemporary situation. • “This is a natural process; no text can be read purely in the abstract, since we all bring our lives and experiences to the text and often attempt to bring the text closer to our lives” (NOAB, 2201). • Traditionally, however, in the academic study of the Bible, scholars have attempted to remain as “objective” as possible. To engage in exegesis rather than eisegesis. Exodus vs Deuteronomy Exodus 21 Deuteronomy 15 2 “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six 12If any of your people—Hebrew men or women—sell years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without themselves to you and serve you six years, in the seventh 3 13 paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free year you must let them go free. And when you14elease alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go them, do not send them away empty-handed. Supply with him. 4If his master gives him a wife and she bears them liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall winepress. Give to them as the LORD your God has 5 15 belong to her master, and only the man shall go free. blessed you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give and children and do not want to go free,’then his master you this command today. 16But if your servant says to must take him before the judges.[or, “beforeHe shall take you, “I do not want to leave you,” because h e loves you 17 him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an and your family and is well off with you,then take an awl awl. Then he will be his servant for life. and push it through his earlobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. Do the same for your female servant. The New Testament Authors as Interpreters • “Scripture” for the New Testament writers was the Jewish scripture. • “The primary focus of New Testament biblical interpretation is the belief that Jesus is God’s messiah, the agent of God’s eschatological
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