Theology and Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Poor…Exegesis



Signs of Four and Blind Bankers

One of the elements in the stories of Sherlock Holmes that has always been so appealing to me, is Sherlock’s passion for and his fight to discover truth. Through every case, every circumstance, Sherlock Holmes makes it his goal, as unbiasedly as he can, to learn the truth no matter what the cost. As a result of his quest for what is true, Sherlock takes great care in his analysis of data and facts, so in the end when he makes a deduction or discovery, it is done so purely based off the facts, not his theories about the facts. A place this is best seen is in the BBC Sherlock story “The Blind Banker” in which Sherlock, Watson, and Scotland Yard are investigating what appears to be the suicide of a stock trader. The Scotland Yard detective theorizes it is a suicide, as that is what at first glance it seems to be, even prompting John Watson to say “That does seem the only explanation of all the facts.” It is to this that Sherlock replied “Wrong. It’s one possible explanation of some of the facts. You’ve got a solution that you like but you’re choosing to ignore anything that doesn’t comply with it.” After listing all of the observations and deductions he had made, Sherlock then says “Conclusion: someone broke in here and murdered him. Only explanation of all the facts.” Because Sherlock took the time, making observations, paying attention to the details, he was able to reach a conclusion that was not simply what he said had happened, but what all of the facts seemed to have said happened as well. Sherlock Holmes was not an amateur, but someone who after years of study and training, was able to accurately read anyone and anything.

The Blind Bible Students

When we study the Bible do we interpret the facts, making several possible explanations based off of just some of them, or do we take those facts and strive to find the only possible explanation, using all of them? Why do you study the Word of God? Is your goal to twist the facts of Scripture to suit your theology, or do you twist your theology to suit the facts of Scripture? In the language of the common wealth, when you study the Bible, do you study it to learn what God says, or to fit what you have to say? Without a doubt, at some point or another, we have all done this. I remember when I first became a believer, there were tons of passages in which I quoted and held to out of context. It makes me cringe to think about. One of my deep dark secrets from my past is that, I too, would quote and used Jeremiah 29:11,( a favorite of mine to point out is used wrongly by most people) not knowing the actual context or deeper meanings of the verse. GASP! I have had people become physically violent because they could not handle the fact that they had misused truths in Scripture, and were not willing to reconcile with it.

What is it about the Bible that we treat our study of it so haphazardly, that causes us to study it so carelessly? God’s Word is serious stuff, yet we read it like were reading the back of a cereal box. Not even a good cereal box, and off brand, generic, cereal box is what we read the Bible like. We spend great deals of time studying earthly things, some of us even go to school for years to pursue certain earthly subjects (which is fine), yet when it comes to the Word of God we open it to make it say what we want it to say, instead of pursuing what it actually says! One of the things I love about studying the Bible is, unlike all the other subjects I enjoy, whether it is literature, art, culture, language arts, etc. those areas of study will one day fade away, while the Word of God will last forever. I have heard other believers who know everything about something as stupid as the history of certain superheroes, yet they can barely tell you where a passage of Scripture is, let alone what it says! AND THESE ARE BIBLE SCHOOL STUDENTS!!! It is no wonder so many Christians become so bored with the Christian life. While that is another point entirely, it is a bed fellow to this whole idea of taking the Word of God, for the Word of God, not for the words of ourselves and investing time into studying it.

Exe and Eise Whatsis?!

The simple answer and solution to all of this is, to studying Scripture for what Scripture says, not for what you want it to say, starts with being mindful of two words, it is that simple, two kind of simple words; those words are exegesis and eisegesis. What the hesis?! Some of you may know these words, others of you may the thinking, “is that something you say after somebody sneezes?”. You may even think I have become charismatic and am speaking in tongues. Remember I am talking about reading Scripture in context though, so being a charismatic would be ultra contradictory. These are two of the foundational terms used amongst students of the Bible and both pertain to the study of Scripture. First of these, again, is “exegesis.” Exegesis means to take into account all the elements of a passage (author, audience, dispensation, covenants, occasion) in order to interpret what the passage is saying. The interpretation is based on what is actually in Scripture. The second of these words is “eisegesis.” Eisegesis means to take a passage, and interpret it based on your prior understanding and biases. In other words instead of interpreting a passage based on what it means, you interpret it based on what you want to mean. You do not rely on what is in the passage, but read into it what is not.  Are you guilty of this? Do you want to learn what Scripture says, or are you content reading into it whatever you think is a good enough meaning? Buy books, watch videos, train yourself to properly study the Word of God, instead of giving into contentment of reading the Bible like you have always read it.This is important because how we interpret a passage will determine how apply a passages. Solid living requires solid learning.  There is always something to learn, and always someway we can growing in our study of the Word of the Lord. Any spiritual stunting in out lives is our own fault. God is a God of order, not chaos, and if we can develop disciplines in studying things if this earth, we most certainly can develop disciplines to studying things above.

Like Sherlock Holmes, we should be people who pursue truth, even if it that truth is not what we want to hear or what we are looking for.


For the previous Theology and Sherlock Holmes, click the links below!



About Chronology of Chris

-In Christ -Student of Life, Theology, Philosophy and Education -Avid reader (C.S. Lewis, Alvin Plantinga, Francis Schaeffer, James Sire, Martin Luther, Luis de Molina, Gordon D. Fee, David R. Anderson, David Kinnaman, Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Schulz (Peanuts), Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes), Hunter S. Thompson, Douglas Adams, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jean Paul Sartre, Soren Kierkegaard, etc.) -Amateur philosopher -Field researcher for this privilege called life -Defined not labelled -Silly, yet serious -Knowledgeable and experienced -People over facts( facts have their place), souls over figures -More than an "about me" box can contain -His will, not mine
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3 Responses to Theology and Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Poor…Exegesis

  1. sf says:

    Wonderful post! Especially because you’ve included Holmes into it – my favorite read. I like how you put it about our tending to read the Bible like the back of a generic cereal box. Well said. Sadly true, I agree. A great eye opener of a post!


    • Hey, thanks very much. I love both Scripture and the stories of Sherlock Holmes, so it only seems natural to write about the two. If there is one thing that disheartens me is how low down the totem pole Christians have play studying Scripture. God’s Word is the source for everything a Christian needs regarding life and the universe, yet it gets treated like it is nothing. Even people who do study Scripture, often it becomes more about what other people think and they never wrestle and study it for their selves. All the same thanks for the encouragement!


  2. Pingback: Theology and Sherlock Holmes: A Case of Inner Not Outer | The Chronology of Chris

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