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.