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What is narcigesis?


Narcigesis is a word of fairly recent coinage that has not yet found its way into dictionaries. When people use the word, they are referring to a process of interpreting Scripture in a highly personal, even selfish way.

Narcigesis is a portmanteau word, combining the words narcissism and eisegesis. Narcissism is “excessive interest in or admiration of oneself,” and eisegesis is “interpretation of a text by reading into it one’s own ideas.” (Eisegesis is the opposite of exegesis, which is “critical explanation or interpretation of a text.”) So, narcigesis is “the explanation of the Bible in a way that shows excessive interest in oneself and prioritizes one’s own ideas.”

Eisegesis leads to making the text of Scripture say pretty much whatever the interpreter wants it to say and thus accords well with narcissistic attitudes. A person who mishandles a passage of Scripture by injecting his own opinions into it is practicing eisegesis. Going further than that, a person who interprets the passage as if it were all about him is practicing narcigesis. The same is true for a person who views Scripture as primarily applicable to his own time and his own culture.

Some people with egotistical tendencies end up being narcigetes. They view the Bible as mainly addressing their own life experiences. The Bible is all about them: every promise is for them, and every story is about them or their situation. Using narcigesis to interpret the story of David and Goliath, I become David. My self-esteem demands it. (In the story of David and Bathsheba, however, I stop being David and may be Nathan or Uriah instead.) In the battle of Jericho, I’m Joshua (never Achan). On the Sea of Galilee, I’m Peter walking on the water. And so on.

In narcigesis, one’s own ideas, opinions, feelings, attitudes, experiences, and impressions influence the interpretation of the text. If one has visions or dreams or some other type of personal revelation, so much the better—those things can be given equal weight in the interpretation process, too. Pet doctrines and customized theories can be authenticated fairly easily by using narcigesis.

The Lord Jesus, in a dispute with the Jewish leaders of His day, pointed out their lack of faith in Him as inexcusable: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me” (John 5:46, emphasis added). Note of whom Moses wrote: it was not me, it was not you, and it was not the pastor on TV. Moses wrote about Jesus Christ (cf. Luke 24:27, 44–45). Given this truth, narcigesis can be seen for what it is: a backhanded way to replace Jesus with oneself.

Of course, proper exegesis does not allow for the insertion of oneself into the text. Proper exegesis looks for the plain meaning of the passage and explains what the text is actually about. When we allow Scripture to speak for itself, with no narcissistic distortions, we see that the Bible’s main character is Christ. He is the hero of the story.

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022