How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth
Jeffrey A. D. Weima

Introduction: Explanation of Key Terms

  • Hermeneutics
  • Exegesis
  • Eisegesis
  • Homiletics
  • The word 'hermeneutics' comes from a Greek word (hermeneia, ἑρµηνεία) meaning 'interpretation' or 'explanation'
  • 11 occurrences of the word in Scripture: Acts 9:36; 1 Corinthians 12:10, 30; 14:5, 13, 26 [2x], 27, 28; 14:27; Hebrews 7:2
  • Luke 24:27 "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he[Jesus] explained (διερµήνευσεν, diermêneusen) to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself”
  • Acts 14:12 "Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker” (after healing lame man in Lystra)
  • Although the word "hermeneutics” comes from a Greek word that literally means "interpretation” or "explanation,” this term is used in a broader sense to refer to a set of rules or guidelines for interpreting the Bible.
"Hermeneutics is often defined as the science and art of biblical interpretation.It is considered a science because it has rules and these rules can be classified into an orderly system. It is considered an art because communication is flexible, and therefore a mechanical and rigid application of rules will sometimes distort the true meaning of a communication. To be a good interpreter of scripture one must learn the rules of hermeneutics as well as the art of applying those rules. (Henry A. Virkler, Hermeneutics, Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981; edition 2007, 16.)

"Drawing up a soundly biblical hermeneutics is one thing; applying such a hermeneutic to a given passage is another. There is nothing mechanical about the process of understanding. Understanding literature and, in this case, understanding the Bible is an art. As art, it is not the mechanical application of a set of rules which would automatically yield uniform results” (Christian Reformed Church, Acts of Synod 1978, page 491).

  • The word "exegesis” comes from a Greek word (ἐξήγησις, exêgêsis, from the verb ἐξηγέοµαι, exêgeomai) that literally means "to lead out.”
  • Thus the word refers to the act of leading or drawing out the intended meaning of a biblical passage.
  • The term "exegesis,” then, is used in a narrow sense to refer to application of the principles of hermeneutics in the interpretation of a specific passage.


  • The word "eisegesis” comes from a Greek word (εἰσήγησις, eisegêsis) that literally means "to lead into.”
  • Thus the word refers to the act of a modern reader of the Bible who has a preconceived view of what he or she wants scripture to say and then proceeds to take this view and "read it into” the biblical text, even though it was not intended by the biblical author.

  • The word "homiletics” comes from a Greek word ὁµιλία (homilia) that literally means "conversation” or "speech” and is used today to refer to the art of preaching.
  • Whereas exegesis deals with what the text meant, homiletics or preaching deals with what the text means.
  • Whereas exegesis concentrates on God's message to his people then and there, while preaching concentrates on God's message to his people here and now.
  • Proper relationship between exegesis & homiletics in a sermon: A good sermon has enough exegesis so that people hear the authoritative voice of God and enough application so that people see the relevance of God's word for their lives

Last modified: Tuesday, August 7, 2018, 10:30 AM