Exegesis is the discipline of interpreting biblical texts to find their meanings, significance, and relevance.
There are various approaches to exegesis, some of which are common to particular religious traditions. The principal tools include:
- history: understanding the cultural, social and geographic context for the text
- linguistics: understanding the meanings of the words present in the text, particularly in their original languages
- context: understanding where the text stands in the Bible, and what light other biblical texts can give
- literary analysis: understanding what the genre and style of the passage is (e.g. prophecy, poetry, history, parable, apocalypse, letter)
- tradition: understanding how the church has interpreted the text through the ages
- reason: using one's rational capacity to interpret the spiritual meaning of a text
Frequently, Christians will advocate starting exegesis with prayer. This particularly demonstrates their respect for the Bible as divinely inspired and their belief that understanding the Scriptures requires the aid and support of the Holy Spirit.
In contrast to eisegesis, or reading-into a passage, exegesis always reads out-of a passage, its context, and the greater scriptural background to derive meaning.