One of my friends and I recently had an exchange on the textual issue of the New Testament. It was very informative, challenging, and intellectually stimulating. But the greatest aspect of the dialogue was the way that he disagreed. It was not a back and forth biting, sarcastic remarks, or rude retorts. It was a friendly disagreement that was discussed in a Christian manner. Bill always challenges me in my thinking, and I appreciate that. But the thing I appreciate most about it is that, though he disagrees with me, he will not belittle me. Please read the link that Bill posted to his website, http://www.increasinglearning.com
I hope you enjoy!
Continuing with Mr. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies today I came across some startling errors, that I myself have committed. I know I have heard these same errors committed from the pulpit, both in churches and from seminary chapels.
The error, as Carson dubs it, is called semantic anarchronism. There are two examples he uses. The first example comes from Romans 1:16, where the phrase “…the power of God…” is given a meaning from a word today. Particularly it is the word power, or δυναμις, from which the English word dynamite has been developed. The error occurs when we force the meaning of dynamite back onto the word δυναμις. He cites the common phrase, and one I have heard verbatim, “The Gospel is the dynamite of God!” No doubt there is an aspect of power behind the word, extreme power. Power, as Caron points out on page thirty-four, comes from the empty tomb. It is not the de casting destruction that comes from dynamite. So our error comes when we take a word from today and read it’s meaning into a word from another time period.
The second example he gives of this error, and one that I have used unknowingly myself (and for this I beg your pardon), is that of the cheerful giver (as taken from 2 Corinthians 9:7). The English word hilarious is a transliteration of the Greek word ιλαρον. But the understanding of ιλαρον as opposed to our hilarious are to different ideas, though some similarities may exist. Carson wisely quips, “Perhaps we should play a laugh-track record while the offering plate is being circulated.” (Carson, 34)
The opposite of this error, the error of semantic anarchronism, is semantic obsolescence. It is reversed in the order of the application of definitions. So a word that meant one thing in 7th Century Hebrew may have an entirely different meaning in 5th Century Hebrew, but the exegete utilizes the definition of the 7th for the 5th.
This book has been quite informative, both to my own exegetical fallacies and the ease of committing them. I would encourage each of you who study the scriptures to purchase your own copy. Read it and avoid those fallacies. Let me know what you think about the errors mentioned above, and maybe some examples you have come across yourself.
I have just began reading D. A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies and am already enjoying it. After a rather lengthy introduction, Mr. Carson has began discussing the various errors that interpreters run in to during the exegesis of a biblical passage.
The first chapter covers the “root fallacy.” I am sure I have been guilty of this, but to summarize it, it is basically taking words to a far too literally sense or searching for connections between words that have similar forms. He cites Mr. Louw as presenting the example of developing a definition or pineapple based on the separate words pine and apple. Of course that is ludicrous, but the truthfulness in the connection between our Hebrew and Greek word studies is startling. Hopefully we can move past this abuse of word studies in order to “rightly divide the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
There are many books available for the eager Christian on which to read and reflect for growth. The first book, without a doubt, should be the Bible. Whatever translation you may use, read it! Growth comes through a consistent, systematic reading of the Word of God.
Besides that, there are many other books, of a variety of genres, that can help sour growth and love for God and fellow man. There are biographies, histories, systematic theologies, the collected works of individuals, sermons, fiction, devotional books, and the list goes on. All you have to do is walk into the local book store and you can find a dozen books from which to choose. But how do you find the best ones?
I recommend browsing through several genres and finding out which one appeals more to you. It will help you get an idea of how you and your own soul interact with that of the individual or material you are reading. There are some who reap much fruit from biographies, while others prefer the more devotional readings of the Puritans. So choose a few books and spend some time working through them.
The most important factor of any reading, whether Biblical or otherwise, is to get closer to God. So, with that aim, go and read!
And let me know what you like, what’s your favorite author? What books have made an impact in your life?