to exegesis or exegete

Turns out neither is correct.

In studying scripture we tend to come at it (or away from it) in two ways. One is the critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text. The other is the process of interpretation of an existing text in such a way as to introduce one’s own ideas. Now few will admit to the second but many if not most of us tend to do that very thing. But that’s not my point.

The first is called Exegesis (ek-si-jee-sis) and the second is called Eisegesis (ahy-si-jee-sis). With names like that, its kind of hard to remember which is which but try this, Exegesis is what you get out of the text (Exe = exits) and Eisegesis is what you put into the text (Eise = inserts). The real problem is, they are both nouns. Think of them as commentaries – a thing.

So you can have an Exegesis of the text or an Eisegesis of the text. An exegete is a practitioner of this art, and the adjectival form is exegetic. The plural of the word exegesis is exegeses. In the same way, an individual who practices eisegesis is known as an eisegete, and the adjectival form is eisegetic and eisegeses is the plural form.

But what is the verb form of these two words?

Turns out there is no verb form. But that doesn’t stop us from making one. At first pass, we want to say we exegete the text but as we already discussed, that’s a person who interprets the text. While commentaries have commentators who comment, there are no exegetes who exege the exegesis. So the question is, what would the verb form be and why isn’t there one already? Should there be a verb form or should we simply say, “we interpret the text” vs. “we read into the text”.

6 thoughts on “to exegesis or exegete

  1. Well put, a wonderful grammar lesson and quite convicting as well. I am Bible teacher, and your posts has definitely encouraged me to seek the truth in the scripture, rather than using the scripture out of context to support my own agenda. Thank you for your post, I am still feeling like there should be a verb form of the word.
    -b

  2. It just occurred to me why it doesn’t exist. Maybe if we put it into context, we would understand why there is no verb form. Let me put it this way…

    Do you write or do you poem?
    Do you eat or do you food?
    Do you groom or do you handsome?

    Likewise, you can be a poet or a foodie or handsome but you’re not a writes or an eats or a grooms (though you can be a writer, or a groom) But for our purposes, we could say “to exegetically examine” but that doesn’t roll off the tongue does it?

  3. Dave’s surgeon/surgery example is better than my poem/write example but falls along the same point.

    An exegete [a person] writes an exegesis [a text]. The verb would still be writes (or explains, if orally). Just as a poet writes/recites a poem.

  4. I think if we wanted to express exegesis as a transitive verb it wouldn’t bevery hard, however irregular it may sound. We hypothesise, so why wouldn’t we exegise?

  5. I’m not sure that the fact that a form of a word is used as a noun doesn’t mean that the same form can’t be used as a verb. After all, the job of a cook is to cook, a coach is expected to coach, and a judge is paid to judge. So then why could’t one properly say that an exegete is one who exegetes?

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