One of the problems facing Christianity ever since its inception has always been the misinterpretation of its religious text known as the Bible.
Various methods have been used or adopted by those who set themselves aside to study Christianity as a course in the higher institutions of learning. And one of the methods they have adopted is known as exegesis.
This article will therefore aim to help us have a better understanding of how exegesis relates to the Bible.
What is exegesis?
Exegesis is simply the art and science of trying to interpret the bible and clarify its texts.
But even though biblical exegetes try to avoid this definition by claiming that their goal is to reach an informed understanding of scriptural texts, they adopt the same method of exegesis.
In the bible and exegesis, one of the factors influencing its study maintains that the bible was originally addressed to ancient readers.
And that none of us was involved in the original communication events as either senders or receivers.
They use Paul’s letter to set an example; since they were written to early Christian communities and individuals. And when we are reading them we must have it at the back of our minds that we are reading other people’s mail.
And because of this factor, they go on to conclude that; when we try to interpret the ancient bible writings, we must know that we are doing so from a third-party perspective.
That is to say, someone who is over-hearing and trying to understand an earlier conversation.
But how I wish those who are influenced by this factor have the understanding that the attributes and forms of one culture are always and often manifested in diverse cultures.
And in that light, it is wrong for one to rely on the literal texts of the scripture but rather to always make substitutions and fit in the words and ideas as they correspond with that of his own present culture.
Knowing that whatever was written in the bible, as the scripture shows, was intended to set an example for the generation of God’s people yet unborn:
“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition upon whom the end of the ages have come.(1 Corinthians 10:11).
My argument against using exegesis to interpret the bible.
The faith of the centurion.
Now after seeing the faith of the centurion Jesus was very amazed and said in Mathew 8:11-12 that he has not seen such faith in the land of Israel.
He said this because he knew that the ancient centurion was a Gentile yet he believed in Jesus.
The reader of this passage who will try to apply hermeneutics and exegesis while trying to interpret the bible will discover in the literal sense that; Jesus was making reference to the ancient Gentiles who will believe in Him and embrace Christianity – as many who will come from the east and west to sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
While the ancient Jews who will refuse to do so are the sons of the kingdom; who will be cast out into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
But such a one will never understand how to apply this text in modern settings if he doesn’t realize that:
- First, there were still many ancient Jews who wouldn’t give up their Jewish doctrines; and wholly embrace that of Christianity as Paul observed in (Titus 1:10-16)
- Secondly, accepting Christianity is putting the teachings of Christ into practice as Jesus made it clear in the preceding chapter (Mathew 7:21-23)
Thus if such a reader has the above knowledge, he will understand that he needs to substitute the ancient Gentiles for the modern unbelievers who will later repent of their sins and practice the words of Christ.
While the ancient Jews will be a substitute for the modern believers who do not put the teachings of Christ into practice.
Other factors affecting exegesis and the bible.
Other factors influencing the bible and exegesis maintain that the bible was composed of ancient languages which developed over time.
Today’s readers are separated from the original authors and readers of the original text by an enormous cultural, historical, or chronological gap.
And that collective authorship and gradual growth of biblical traditions are clearly evident in the bible, especially in the OT.
They also maintain that the oldest manuscripts of the Old and New Testament we possess are copies that were made long after the original copies were written.
But the same bible in (2 Kings 22:8) shows us how the Old Testament was once lost but later found in order to prove that whatever comes from God can neither change over time nor get lost.
It is worth noting that while engaging in exegesis, the exegetes classify the questions that arise in his mind under different kinds of what they term criticism.
What is criticism in exegesis?
The word criticism in exegesis refers to the study, evaluation, and interpretation of biblical texts.
Different types of criticism are: textual criticism, which seeks to discover the original words used by the biblical authors.
Types of criticism.
- Historical criticism tries to uncover the setting of the texts in time and place.
- Grammatical criticism seeks to discover the language used by the author of a text.
- Literary criticism searches for the composition and rhetorical style of the text.
- Form criticism, which seeks to understand the genre i.e. writing style and life setting of the text.
- Tradition criticism seeks to discover how various traditions in the bible understand its text.
- Redaction criticism deals with the editing and final draft of a text.
- Structuralist criticism seeks the universals of a text.
- Canonical criticism seeks to recover the sacred text of the synagogues in Judaism and churches in Christianity.
Permit me to throw more light on one of the above types of criticism. And that is the redaction criticism.
Because it deals with the biblical text as we physically have it today i.e. the final wordings we are presently using in the bible.
After studying and observing differences in similar stories as told by two authors; the exegetes conclude that one of them might have chosen to either omit or add something to the story.
This might be true for other texts but not biblical texts.
Because every word that the Holy Spirit inspires several authors to use in relaying their stories must either mean the same thing or be related in some way.
Who moved David to number Israel?
For instance, let us study the two passages below that seem to tell the same story but use different words.
Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “go, number Israel and Judah.(2 Samuel 24:1)
Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.(1 Chronicles 21:1)
As we can all witness the first text refers to God moving David while the second refers to Satan; and as we were all born to know; Satan and God are two opposing forces.
And so the exegete is faced with the question: who really moved David among these two entities?
But a child born of the Spirit will quickly discover that even though the first text made reference to God; it was pointing to the opposing force that He wills which corresponds to the entity Satan i.e. ‘the anger of the LORD’.
And with this knowledge, the spiritual child quickly understands that both texts are saying the same thing.
Because whenever the anger of the Lord rises against anybody who disobeys Him, the work of Satan, which is destruction and death, always accompanies such a soul.
To properly analyze the above passages; the spiritual child goes on to give examples of how God’s anger aroused on people in the bible and what consequences always accompanied it.
The anger of God aroused against Saul.
In 1 Samuel 15, we read about how God commanded Saul to go and make war with the Amalekites; and completely destroy every person and thing: men, women, children and babies, cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys.
And He was strictly warned not to bring anything back to the land.
But Saul disobeyed God by bringing king Agag of Amalekite alive to Israel, including the best sheep, cattle, calves, lamb, and anything else that was good.
And because of this disobedience, God rejected Saul as a king and sent Samuel to anoint a young and inexperienced shepherd as a king.
Immediately Samuel anointed David as God commanded; the Spirit of God departed from Saul and was replaced by an evil spirit that always tormented him every now and then as recorded in 1 Samuel 16:13-14.
Now was that evil spirit from God not the working of satan?
King Ahab kills Naboth.
Another instance is in 1 Kings 21, where king Ahab killed Naboth and took over his vineyard. And God sent the prophet Elijah with a message of doom to him.
When it was time for God’s anger to arouse on Ahab and devour him, he prepared to go to war with king Jehoshaphat.
And upon consulting 400 prophets of God to inquire about what will become of the war, a lying spirit from the presence of God influenced the 400 prophets to prophecy lies to Ahab as Micaiah reveals in 1 kings 22:19-23.
And in verses 29-37, we see how the work of Satan was fulfilled in the life of Ahab when he died on the battlefield as Micaiah prophesied.
As we already know, the children of Israel were fond of disobeying God every now and then.
So even though the surrounding verses of those two passages did not state what the Israelites did for God’s anger to rise against them.
We can go on to conclude that whenever God was angry with people He will give Satan the chance or authority to inflict whatever pains on those people.
We can then better understand that through these words He spoke through the prophet Isaiah:
“Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is My indignation. I will send him against an ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, to seize the spoil, to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.(Isaiah 10:5-6)
Now aside from God’s anger arising on mankind for the works of Satan to manifest, we can all witness in the book of Job 1:6-12, and 2:1-9 how Satan received permission from God to test Job.
And with Job’s example, we can finally draw a line on the fact that once God orders or gives Satan permission to work in any man’s life, either in His anger or as a test; it is no error if the writer of a biblical text mentions or cites the hand of both God and Satan in the act.
So in connecting 1 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1. We can, without any reasonable doubt; understand that it was God who gave Satan permission to go and number the Israelites.
Reasons why I disagree with hermeneutics and exegesis on how to interpret the bible.
Being a scholar myself, I strongly disagree with what exegetes say about how to interpret the bible and can prove to you beyond reasonable doubt that hermeneutics and exegesis; by whatever definition they go by, goes against what the bible plainly teaches about how to interpret the bible.