I have a feeling that you know the Patterson-Gimlin film. Though you may not know it by that name, you have very likely come across a still-shot of the large, hairy, bipedal beast known as Bigfoot, or Sasquatch.
This story begins in 1967 with Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin. They had heard reports of mysterious tracks in the forests of northern California and determined to rent a camera and begin their search for hard evidence of this bizarre legend. When they arrived back home, they had in-hand a shaky one-minute video of the creature in the above photo, complete with Sasquatch’s backward glance at the men as they filmed.
Is this evidence?
If you are hoping that it is, you may feel very sure that Bigfoot has been confirmed without a doubt, along with the many who agree that this is the most substantial evidence for the creature’s existence.
However, if you don’t have any desire for this to be evidence, you may not agree. Being more realistic, you may notice the far-off distance and possibly Halloween-ish style outfit, and believe this film was simply seeking to deceive others.
Well, I can tell you that Bigfoot is absolutely and unquestionably real. I can also tell you that Bigfoot does not have to exist in physical form to be so. In fact, Bigfoot researcher Tom Biscardi has presented testimonies from the people behind the film that proves it was a set-up for financial gain.
That is why we come to the conclusion that Bigfoot exists in a very real way within the human imagination – something that never had to exist in the flesh but people choose to believe in, regardless.
There are times that folks come to the Scriptures and do the same. It’s what theologians call eisegesis. Rather than the accurate method of interpreting Scripture, called exegesis, where one is led to conclusions by following the text, we must all be aware of the ways in which our brokenness causes us to eisegete the text by allowing our own ideas, predispositions, and even prejudices to determine the “meaning” of the Scriptures.
Rather than believing that Scripture says what we want it to say, we must follow the directive in 2 Timothy 2:15 which states a proper exegete “Present[s] yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
This instruction doesn’t simply cause us to withhold our predispositions in our personal study, however. As one other word of warning, we must also recognize when our eisegesis hears other interpretations of Scripture and, because it rubs us the wrong way, we dismiss it as being forced onto the text. In other words, accusing someone else of eisegeting the text could potentially be a cover up for your own reading the correct meaning out of the text.
For example, governmental authorities might be eisegeting the text when they use Romans 13:1 (“Every person is to be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”) to suggest that good Christians never question their decisions. Someone might read into Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”) that God will help them win their big sporting event or get the next promotion they were hoping for. Even general statements such as Proverbs 22:6 (“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”) can be weaponized against others and cause incredible pain when they’re misunderstood. These are three of the nearly unlimited number of ways that the Scriptures can be misused if we don’t respect their rich contexts.
However, we must always choose our interpretations based exclusively on the Scriptures. If you don’t like a choice of terminology that the other person uses, that is not grounds to disagree. If you believe that they are on a slippery slope, that is in the eye of the beholder. If their view disagrees with your politics or the traditions that were passed down to you, this holds no eternal weight. Scripture cannot be read with our subjective lenses in these ways. Only Scripture should convince us what is true according to the Word of God.
So, in the end, all I humbly ask is this – that every time you think of Bigfoot from now on, you remember the lesson of exegesis vs. eisegesis…
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff