Why we should not interpret the bible by asking, "What does that verse mean to you?"


First off, I’ll concede that “narcigesiest” isn’t actually a word, but since this post is about the subjective interpretation of scripture, I chose to subjectively interpret the dictionary.

According to the Greek myth of Narcissus, a young man fell in love with his own reflection in a pond, and his desire for himself consumed him. Since eisegesis is a mishandling of scripture, narcigesis is a brilliant term for those who take scripture and personalize it. Narcigesis is defined* as:

  1. The reading of one’s own life experiences and/or that of another’s life experience into the text of Scripture and the need to make the Bible all about oneself.
  2. An interpretation of Scripture based on the interpreter’s self-authority, particularly driven by self-esteem, self-actualization, mystical experiences and/or the interpreter’s “felt needs.” (See Sola Experientia.)
  3. A personal and/or mystical interpretation of Scripture based on the interpreter’s own ideas, biases, opinions, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, experiences, impressions, dreams, revelations, or the like, rather than based upon the plain meaning of the text.
  4. The reading of one’s own doctrinal theories into Scripture (as opposed toexegesis, which is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of biblical text), particularly as a result of personal experience. (See Sola Experientia.)
  5. Self-centered, self-defined and self-authenticating biblical interpretation, application and counsel.
  6. The reading of one’s own interpretation into Scripture, based upon the egotistical belief that all things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; and that only the learned, the elect, or the leadership elite (of which the interpreter considers himself to be one), may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them. (See Plura Scriptura.)
  7. The egotistical drive to invent new theologies, doctrines, revelations, applications and philosophies about Scripture that often manifest in self-aggrandizing activities, such as book publishing, conferences, setting up organizations and websites, moneymaking schemes and publicity drives.

A narcigetic reading of Scripture can be found whenever you hear, “What does that verse mean to you?” Usually, this happens when women gather around the Bible to choose ‘life verses’ that ‘speak to their heart’ or verses they want to ‘claim’ for areas of their lives, which can then be added to their vision boards (gleaned from a misinterpretation of Proverbs 29:18). These assortments of verses are taken out of context and personalized, which result in an idolatrous smash book of Scripture ‘selfies’. The idol? The Self, of course. Just as Narcissus failed to realize that what entranced him was merely an image, many Christian women are held captive by the reflections created by their false projections into the Word of God. Our rebellious nature tempts us to be like God and makes our desires a priority. This can be seen in the following narcigetic reflections of scripture:

1. Reflections of Carnal Desires

If the world were given an invitation to choose from a host of items to enrich lives, its first instinct would be to choose those things that increase health, wealth, and success. Since we are fallen creatures who are at war with our flesh (Galatians 5:17), it’s not surprising that verses are misapplied in hopes of acquiring worldly comfort. Consequently, when women are taught to ‘claim promises’ from over 31 000 verses based on what these verses mean to them, they have over 31 0000 opportunities to wrench verses out of context. Whether it is the popular Isaiah 53:5 for physical healing, Malachi 3:10 for prosperity, or Philippians 4:13 for job promotion, the rate of mangled verses is high. Scripture is perfect (Psalm 19:7); it is our carnal hearts that see what is not written. Our hearts claim we can have whatever we want because it misinterprets James 4:2 that reads, “You do not have because you do not ask God”, and we ignore the preceding verse that says we do not receive because we may spend it on our pleasures. We must stop following our fleshly hearts; they deceive us. We should submit, instead, to the Word of God – in context.

2. Reflections of Secret Knowledge

The Word of God is truth (John 17:17); however, when we interpret the Bible subjectively, truth shifts to relativism. From there, anything goes and before long, relativism mutates into mysticism, and soon we’re chanting the prayer of Jabez while walking in prayer circles. We’re listening to every televangelist who claims to have a prophetic dream or vision from God, because Joel 2:28 apparently applies to anyone who mutters the name of Jesus. False teachings abound with formulas and affirmations that claim to be the keys to unlocking God’s blessings. However, the Bible is not a Book of Shadows to be gorged for hidden knowledge or to be perverted for mystical practices. Everything has already been revealed (Deuteronomy 29:29). We must stop looking for signs and mysteries, and instead correctly handle the Word of God to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15).

3. Reflections of Self-Glory

We are fallen and created beings under the sovereignty of God and as Christians, we need to submit to our Lord and serve Him. Narcigesis appears when we identify ourselves in Scripture as co-creators with God. When we claim we can create our reality because we misinterpret Proverbs 18:21, (the tongue has the power of life and death), who are we implying is really the Creator and Bestower of blessings? When we become the directors of our lives because we misinterpret Proverbs 23:7 (as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he; KJV), who is really Lord of our lives?

Narcissism ignores that Israel is the one being addressed in Jeremiah 29:11 and claims it as a life verse. Pride reinterprets Acts 16:31 to mean that since I believe in Jesus Christ, God is obligated to deliver salvation to my house; furthermore, love of self implies God loves me as I am, but we forget that we are free of His wrath only because of the sacrifice of Jesus. Narcigesis elevates us as the author and star of God’s Word.

Who is the Fairest of Them All?

While all Scripture is useful for Godly living (2 Peter 1:3), if we are going to choose verses to reflect upon, may I suggest those that point to our sin and wretchedness (Romans 7:24), so that we may be reminded and be thankful of God’s undeserved mercy and Jesus’ sacrifice for us? Or perhaps Ephesians 4:30, so we can remember not to grieve God with our lifestyle but rather follow Jesus daily. Are we able to see ourselves as God truly sees us? Forgiven, and loved; yes, but also in need of confession, sanctification and holiness (James 5:161 Thessalonians 5:231 Peter 1:16).

Beloved, the Bible is not about us – it is about Jesus Christ … the fairest of them all.

  1. This article is a labor of love, quite obviously. It’s a well-written effort and much needed. Indeed, if Jesus is not the fairest (and greatest) in one’s life, then one is living a fairy tale that’s going to have a very unhappy ending. Thanks, dear sister, for this piece. God’s richest blessings!

    • Thank you for your encouragement, brother. You make an excellent point – if Jesus is not the fairest and greatest, then no one lives happily 

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  1. SLIMJIM says:

    A helpful term!

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