Yesterday, I described a “magic” that happens with writing. Along the way, I mentioned the particular magic that seems to happen when you practice eisegesis, that is, “reading into” the text instead of just “receiving from” the text, or exegesis.
It’s a phenomenon related to what I have called the Reality Enhancement Factor. We are built to see a dim and sketchy scene and flesh it out mentally until everything seems clear and bright. Even though this can lead us astray if we lack self-awareness, it can also draw our attention to important facts: what was first a guess, a creative filling of the gap, makes us pay closer attention to evidence that is actually there and verifies the guess.
The act of making up a story kicks the REF into high gear. Consequently, the story writer who starts from a biblical text is not turning on a faculty of creation ex nihilo, but what turns out to be a faculty built for seeing things. Eisegesis can yield exegesis.
Done in the right spirit, eisegesis can yield striking insights because it is an exercise of creativity within limits. It begins with the text as a given set of dots and tries to connect them to make a picture; it begins with the text as a series of pictures and tries to supply the story line. In one way or another, creativity goes places it would never have gone without the specific limits imposed by this particular text, and the eisegete actually learns from his reading. Anyone who has done creative work knows what I mean.
As a result, the text itself ends up expressing itself through the eisegete’s work. Good reading into the text does not dominate in the end but serves it.