Exegetical Fallacies, Part One

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)

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2 Comments

  1. The root fallacy is actually one those cases in which well meaning people on both sides misunderstand the topic being discussed.

    Take the word “pineapple” as an example. Someone employing an etymological study of this word could come to the conclusion that this word refers to something ludicrous like the fruit from a hybrid between a pine tree and an apple tree, but this would be a very poorly conducted etymology, and the critics of this particular study would be very tempted to discount all etymologies as fallacious. However, if one were to conduct a proper etymology of the word “pineapple,” then he would come to the correct conclusion that the word “apple” used to be a generic term for fruit of any kind, that pine cones used to be called pineapples because they were the fruit of the pine tree, and that the European explorers gave the name to the pineapple because the fruit is similar in appearance to the fruit of pine trees. This is a proper etymology of the word “pineapple,” and no critic could reasonably call it ludicrous.

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