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Archive for August 6th, 2013

Exegetical Fallacies

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

This is a good book for those who engage in exegesis of the Bible. Actually, I would go far to say that it book is essential for every exegete to have it on their bookshelf. While the work is not intended to instruct on Biblical languages per se, nevertheless the focus of the book on mistakes and fallacies is helpful as a lesson for interpreters of the Bible to be careful of avoiding common pitfalls in their exegesis. I particularly was challenged to think more carefully when it comes to the book’s discussion of word study fallacies; I admit I have committed some of the examples the author gave! As a result this book has prompted me to think more carefully of my interpretation of the Bible. The book assumes the readers will know Greek especially in his chapter on grammatical fallacies. This chapter was a good reminder of Greek grammar and common exegetical mistake at the level of tenses, voice, etc. It was this chapter that got me thinking if the book should be better titled “New Testament Exegetical Fallacies” since the author D.A. Carson is a professor of the New Testament and does not give any Old Testament examples. Having said that, I still it is beneficial for those specializing in the Old Testament. My favorite chapters were on logical fallacies and historical and presuppositional fallacies. As I was reading the chapter on logical fallacies, I started to realize that it wouldn’t be such a bad idea for seminaries, Bible institutes and advance Sunday schools to have logic being formally taught for the sake of hermeneutics (and if I may add, apologetics!). The only part I thought D.A. Carson was mistaken was his use of the term “valid” on page 119 when he said “even when an argument is valid, it may not be conclusive. Some arguments are intrinsically weak.” Here the problem lies in his use of the term “valid,” since he is using this in a popular sense rather than the more technical sense in logic of a deductive argument in which the conclusion necessarily follow from the premises. In the precise technical sense of the meaning of “valid,” Carson’s first sentence would be contradictory since an argument can not be necessarily conclusive and not conclusive at the same time in the same sense. The category of “weak” (mentioned in the second sentence that I quoted) is the characteristic of inductive argument and thus Carson would be making a categorical fallacy to talk about arguments without distinguishing them from “valid” and “invalid” arguments which are deductive by nature. Again, this is a good work and made me want to read more of what Carson has to say.

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