EXEGETICAL FALLACIES: BY D.A CARSON 


I have been trying to read this book for some time but have often found myself laying it aside amidst the ever-present pressures of priorities. Finally, I did it! I have finished Carson’s book and have now sat down to type my thoughts about this writing into my IPad.

I assume that many of you know who D.A Carson is, but I insert this brief bio from the back of this book for those of you who don’t.

“D.A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (book written in 1996, 2nd ed.). He has written or edited a variety of contributions, including commentaries on both Matthew and John and The King James Version Debate.”

This book is well written and easy to read, but I would have to read through it possibly two more times thoughtfully to grasp all the wisdom in it. If you are a pastor or teacher, I strongly recommend reading this 148-page paperback. I say that because correct hermeneutics, including but not limited to word studies, grammatical studies, and correct or incorrect presuppositions, are extremely important in faithfully expositing the Word of God accurately.

Honestly, I know that I have made many mistakes in my approach to exegesis over the years in my attempt to “rightly divide the Word of truth.” D. A.’s book reminded me of several. Sadly, many of those were from trusting some commentator’s conclusions, which may not always be wise, as this book points out. Everybody has a theological structure they work from, and sadly, some have to make sure everything lines up with what they believe, thereby falling into some of the fallacies that D.A Carson is writing about.

D.A includes a small but comprehensive index of subjects, authors, and scriptures cited.

In the introduction, the writer clarifies how vital a study like this is for those who want to understand God’s Word and relate it clearly and accurately to others. “Exegetical fallacies are painfully frequent among us-among us whose God-given grace and responsibility is the faithful proclamation of the Word of God.” He rightly opines: “A critical interpretation of scripture is one, that has adequate justification-lexical, grammatical, cultural, theological, historical, geographical, or other justification” for our interpretation of the text.

The writer states that this book has limits: “this is not a highly technical discussion.” However, it was designated for seminary students who take their responsibility seriously. So, since it is not a “technical” study, the writer has not provided extensive bibliographical information. 

This book studies exegetical fallacies, not historical or theological ones. I did appreciate his attempt at even-handedness when he used examples of other’s fallacies. D.A included his errors as well. One I quickly remember is on page 41 relating to his careless appeal to background material. 

Under the heading “word study fallacies” he includes:

  1. The root fallacy
  2. Semantic anachronism
  3. Semantic obsolescence
  4. Appeal to unknown or unlikely meanings
  5. Careless appeal to background material
  6. Verbal parallelomania
  7. Linkage of language and mentality
  8. False assumptions about ethnically meaning
  9. Problems surrounding synonyms and componential analysis 

10. Selective and prejudicial use of evidence

11. Unwarranted semantic disjunction and restrictions

12. Unwarranted restrictions of the semantic field

13. Problems relating to the Semitic background of the Greek New Testament

14. Unwarranted neglect of distinguishing peculiarities of a corpus

15. Unwarranted linking of sense and reference

Chapter one, by far, is the longest chapter in the book. For example, chapter two is only half as long as chapter one, 22 pages.

Chapter two is a discussion on “grammatical fallacies,” Chapter three “logical fallacies,” and chapter four “presuppositional fallacies.”

The book closes with D.A’s “concluding reflections on what he has just presented. I appreciated his encouragement as he completed his writing. I was encouraged because such writing can lead us to the false conclusion that we are wholly inadequate and may want to sit down and shut up. Perhaps we should if it weren’t for the Lord Jesus Christ and His effectual calling upon our lives; first, in our salvation, second, in our service! Listen to D.A:

“but I do not want to end on so negative a note. There is a danger that readers will conclude their perusal of this little book enslaved to deep fears about their own inadequacies for the task of exegesis. A little self-doubt will do no harm and may do a great deal of good: we will be more open to learn and correct our mistakes. But too much will shackle and stifle us with deep insecurities and make us so much aware of methods that we may overlook truth itself.

I have no easy answer to this dilemma. But we will not go far astray if we approach the Bible with a humble mind and then resolve to focus on central truths. Gradually we will build up our exegetical skills by evenhanded study and a reverent, prayerful determination to become like the workman “who correctly handles the word of truth” (1 Timothy 2:15).

With that encouragement in mind, I commend this book for your reading list. I have had this book in my library for several years, but I recently saw it on Amazon, the second edition, for $13.79.

This book has been helpful to me in three ways:

  1. D.A reminded me how important humble discernment is in my attempt to interpret scripture correctly. Sometimes we can fall into the pitfall of “just going through the motions,” which is detrimental to our well-being and others as well. 
  2. No matter how blessed we may be with the many theologians, commentators, and professors available to us today, no one is more important to inquire of than the Holy Spirit. You have heard the quip, “discernment is key;” well, the Holy Spirt is the One who gives wisdom to those who ask for it. Much more time in prayer will allow greater interpretation accuracy than much more time in our inquiry of others.
  3. I am inadequate. Left to myself and my wisdom, I will not be able to divide His Word rightly. I need help, His help, and an abundance of it! Preaching and teaching God’s word to others is holy work. It is a heavenly work; it is a work that we who are called to preach and teach are compelled to do: “for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). I want to get it right in so far as His Spirit leads me, and I trust you do as well.

This book can help in more ways than just meditating on exegetical fallacies! 

My reading suggestions

I thought it might be helpful to give you some reading ideas for the new year that may help expand your bible knowledge and foster a greater application of the truths taught. So, here are some of my recommendations:

Relating to the Doctrine of God:

  1. J.I. Packer; knowing God (A classic)
  2. Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God (one of my favorites, very helpful).

Relating to the Inspiration of the Scriptures:

  1. Edward J. Young; Thy Word is truth (very readable)
  2. Theodore Engelder; Scripture cannot be broken

Relating to Divine Providence:

  1. Calvin’s Calvinism: Treatises on the Eternal predestination of God and the secret providence of God. Translated by Henry Cole

Relating to the incarnation:

  1. Calvin’s Institutes are a great go-to for an overview of theology. In this case Book 2 chapters 12-14.

Relating to Justification:

  1. Charles Hodge; Justification by faith alone
  2. R.C. Sproul; Faith Alone: The evangelical doctrine of justification.

Relating to the Gospels:

  1. Tom Weaver; The Gospel Dilemma (helps to explain the transitional nature of the NT).

Hopefully, you find these suggestions helpful. Happy reading!

BUMPER STICKER THEOLOGY

While shopping online for some Christmas gifts these past few days, I had come across many quaint and quippy slogans or mantras that have been pasted on everything from pens to cars. You know what I mean, you have been seeing these things in your holiday shopping as well. And it’s not just something new that retailers are doing this year, they have been doing it for as long as I can remember.

Some of these slogans are cute or funny. Some are true, some false; some political, some apolitical. Some are religious and therefore deserve a bit more scrutiny than the others because they invoke scripture in many cases. So, I began looking at these slogans with a more biblical focus, rather than entertaining eyes and here are a few that unnerved me the most.

NUMBER 1

This is a play off of the ”got milk” slogan from a few years back. This one makes me twitch because RELIGION never saved anybody! Untold millions of people ”got religion” of one stripe or another, and they are going to hell. Why, because they don’t have Jesus Christ! A better sign would be ”IN Christ?”

Number 2

This one just makes it appear that Christians may not be able to come all the way and love like Christ Jesus loves. That forgiveness with Christ is possible but perhaps not with us! This sticker fails in portraying the ”love your neighbor as yourself” teaching of scripture.

NUMBER 3

Need I say anything? Try Jesus? Like we try different food items? Like we try out various sports? Try Him out like we would the millions of self-help theologies out there? The bible says: ”Look unto me and be saved.” ”That whosoever believeth in me.” ”repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

We do not try Jesus out to see if He fits our choosing. We humble ourselves under His mighty hand so thankful HE CHOSE US!

NUMBER 4

This one is a play off of the Coke logo. Just what does it mean that enjoying Jesus Christ relieves thirst? I have been In Christ for 30 years and I have been thirsty everyday of my life! Spiritually speaking the statement is more confusing. ”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). Do I believe the bible or the bumper sticker? Just joking, the Bible always!

NUMBER 5

This one appears to be using the Christmas story, and in particular, the wise men from the east who arrived in Jerusalem looking for the ”King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:1-2). The problem that should be obvious with this sticker is that the Bible tells us that ”there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God” (Romans 3:11).

Paul is speaking about sin fallen human beings lefts to themselves and without divine intervention. I do not think the writer of this bumper sticker had that in mind!

These are a few that irked me more than most. Perhaps you have some you would like to share, I would be happy to hear from you.

Wishing you a very merry Christmas.

ONCE FOR ALL

I had a conversation with a new acquaintance a while back, and this part of the conversation was troubling: “So, I do believe that if he (his friend) was a true follower, he relinquished his faith and trust in Christ and will pay the price of that rejection.”

Ugg, this grieves my heart. Within the belief system that fosters such an erroneous theology is an evident misunderstanding of the extent of the atoning work of Christ on the cross.

How many sins did Christ’s death atone forThe answer according to Romans 6:10: “for the death He died, He died to sin, once for all.” Isaiah 53:5-6 “the Lord caused the iniquity (all of it) of us all to fall on Him (Christ.)” And in 1 Peter 3:18, we read: “for Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God.”

Some people struggle with scriptures like Hebrews 6:4-6 and Revelation 3:5 for example. But this is unnecessary! According to the scriptures mentioned above, there is NO sin that Christ has forgotten about or refused to die for! 

Dear Christian, in order for you or I to be able to lose are salvation these scriptures would have to be false. We know they are not. We also know that Jesus is not coming again to do it all over on the cross to pay for that one sin you think damns you. All your sin was paid for, ALL OF IT, so be encouraged with the promise of Jesus that He will lose none! 

WORD’S MATTER: A THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE

What is it about something that is “new” that makes us happy and satisfied? Well, at least for awhile, and then the new becomes old and we look for the next new thing. Is it the smell or the shine; the freshness or the cool update to the technology that consumes us?  New cars, new houses, new cell phones, new careers, and even new relationships are often great for a season, but eventually the promised benefits of the new thing tend to fade away and what once drew our attention, eventually subsides.

The manner in which people of any culture think and relate to their language often times transfers itself into the way in which they read and understand the Bible. As a people, we are prone to imply on the scriptures definitions that are not necessarily correct, linguistically or otherwise, and in so doing we miss out on the varied nuances and meanings of the original writers.

For example, when we employ the word new in reference to a car, we are using that word to describe its newness in relation to time. If we compared the 2018, 2019, and 2020 models of a particular vehicle we understand this to be true. The 2020 model is the younger, fresher, or we can say the most recent. We understand that the “nature” of the car has not changed, it is still a car. It has wheels that move, an engine that gives the axles the power they need to rotate the wheels, and it has new seats, modernized technology, and a host of other things that make us desire to own it. But its nature always remains the same.

Now, if we take that understanding of the word new into our bible study and place only that definition into every text that speaks of new things, we quickly run into some serious problems. For example, Revelation 21:1 talks about a new heaven and a new earth. By importing our definition into those texts we would be led to believe that these things are only new in relation to “time,” but not “nature.” That would be a serious mistake. John, In Revelation 21:1 states that the first heaven and the first earth passed away, being utterly destroyed, and were replaced by a “new” heaven and earth (cr. 2 peter 3:10-13). This is actually promised in the Old Testament (Psalm 102:25; Isaiah 66:22)!  Peter, in his epistle, is speaking about the same thing as John, and both Apostles use the same Greek word for new (Kainos) which is the word used for something that is new in quality and therefore of a different nature from the old. 

The Bible uses several words in relation to new, newness, to make new or even renew. Not understanding which word is being used within a specific context can quickly lead us away from the original point of the author. Our English language is no different. According to Merriam Webster, the word new has various definitions and those meanings our defined by how the word is used within a sentence or particular context. The word new can be used as a noun with various meanings, or as an adverb. It can also be used as an adjective (newness, newish). Throw “Knew” and “anew” into the mix and you begin to see how important it is for us to understand that words are important; they mean what they say and say what they mean. I am using this example of word usage to quickly and simply bring to light the point I am making, i.e., we need to go a bit deeper in our study of God’s Word in order to understand what He is saying to us, based on the word usage within its own particular context. Thankfully there are many bible study aids available to us today!

Two Greek words of importance for our study are the words “Neos,” and “kainos.” Neos is the word used by the New Testament writers when speaking of something that is new in time, fresh, such as the “new lump” of 1 Corinthians 5:7, or the new wine being put into old wineskins in Mark 2:22. It is used less in the New Testament than the word kainos. We see it being used to contrast the new with the old in Colossians 3:9-10 and Hebrews 12:24. And it does not appear to have any eschatological (end times) content in the New Testament, but rather refers to a new reality or present salvation.

Kainos, is however a key theological term in eschatological promises. I mentioned this above in relation to the new heavens and new earth of Revelation 21:1 and 2 Peter 3:10-13. It is used in reference to the New Jerusalem as well in Revelation 3:12; 21:2. It is also used by Mark in his gospel (14:25) speaking of Jesus not drinking of the fruit of the vine “until the day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” This speaks of a different quality or nature of the event. 

Let’s go back to the new car example mentioned at the beginning of this post. If the amazing miracle of regeneration, by the Holy Spirit, in the life of a person that is “dead in their trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), is understood to mean something that is only new in relation to time, space, and matter without a different, better quality about it, than what makes it something to be desired? Why would a sinner look unto God for forgiveness if He/she is still going to be strapped down with their old nature? What would make them believe that there is “victory in Jesus?”

Thankfully, God led Paul to write 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Both Greek words for “new” are kainos! Paul had the choice between the words Neos and kainos and he chose the latter because it is the word that expressed his point well. Not recognizing this distinction hinders our ability to fully grasp the meaning of the writer and affects our ability to rejoice at the miracle of regeneration.

Because of the supernatural work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, redeemed sinners now have the Holy Spirit indwelling within them. A new divine nature and life are given to them (John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5). Now, with their new life and new nature, they can resist temptation and flee evil because of the Holy Spirits work within them to conform them to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18)!

This is only one example of many related to word usage in the Bible that we could study. I am purposely not being exhaustive here because my goal in writing this is simply to encourage the reader to seek the understanding of the biblical writers as they intended themselves to be understood, and not to insert our own definitions into the text. Our newer translations are great, but still at times require us to look deeper into the Word to understand how the writer is using a particular word within the  portion of scripture that we are reading. My hope is that you have a better grasp of the importance and value of seeking to understand the Bible in relation to how the God inspired writers intended to be understood.

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is a must have for any one seeking to understand the Bible better. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This helps support the ministry, thanks.

THEOLOGY OF CHRISTMAS (PART TWO)

In part one I laid the foundation of the Christmas story by tracing the will and word of God throughout the Old Testament, specifically the many prophecies foretold about the Messiah, Jesus Christ. THEOLOGY OF CHRISTMAS (PART 1) In this post I will show how those prophecies have been fulfilled and can only be fulfilled in one person: the man Christ Jesus! The true reason Christmas is to be celebrated.

The prophets prophesied throughout hundreds of years that this seed of a woman, heir of the throne of David, would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). They gave the time of His birth and revealed that it would be a supernatural one (Daniel 9:25; Isaiah 7:14). They foretold various events that would happen as a result of His birth: the slaughter of the innocents and Mary and Joseph, with baby Jesus, fleeing to Egypt (Jeremiah 31:15; Hosea 11:1). 

They also revealed that many people would not believe that Jesus was the the Son of God (Isaiah 53:1), that He would be betrayed by a close friend for thirty pieces of silver (Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12), and be hated without reason (Psalm 35:19). There is a mountain of prophecies foretold by the prophets that all speak directly of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel (God is with us), and His first coming to deal with sin and defeat Satan; the death blow that was spoken of back in Genesis 3. We find that all these prophesies, spoken hundreds and hundreds of years before there fulfillment, are fulfilled in Jesus Christ as attested to in the New Testament. Many of these fulfillment’s are manifested in the gospel’s but some are evidenced in the Epistles as well (Hebrews 5:5-6; Romans 5:6,8; 15:3; Ephesians 4:8).

As the New Testament unfolds, after four hundred years of prophetic silence, we find that the last of the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, appears on the scene. The angel of the Lord appeared to a man named Zacharias and informs him that, “your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John” (Luke 1:13). He is told that John would act in “the spirit and power of Elijah,” preparing the way for the Messiah (vs.17). This birth in itself was a miracle. The idea of two people who are very old conceiving a child is preposterous, when you leave out the divine intervention of God (Luke 1:11-20; 57-80)! The birth of John is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Micah 3:1, and yet the story gets even better! Six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy the angel Gabriel was “sent by God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph. . .” (Luke 1:26-27). He tells her that she is richly blessed and that by an act of the Holy Spirt, she will conceive in her womb, a son, and His name shall be Jesus (Luke 1: 31-32). 

This is exactly what happens. The miracle is not the birth itself, birth’s happen everyday. What makes this birth different is that Mary had no relations (intercourse) with a man. The normal act of procreation did not take place in this instance. Mary remained a virgin even though she was pregnant! By a creative act of the Holy Spirit life is created and implanted within her womb (Luke 1:35). The life implanted in Mary’s womb is the very life that God said would come to redeem all things unto Himself (Romans 8:18-25)! This body is the one God specifically prepared for the Messiah (Hebrews 10:5-6: Psalm 40:6-8). It is the body God foreordained to fulfill His will in defeating the devil and his power over death (Genesis 3:15). The Son of God was not by nature “flesh and blood,” But He took upon Himself our nature so that He could provide redemption for mankind (Hebrews 2:14-18).

This is what makes Christmas so special. This is why we have baby Jesus in a manger surrounded by animals and shepherds on our lawns during the Christmas season. This is why Christians celebrate the incarnation of their savior. Believe it or not, the story of Christmas doesn’t end here!

Ultimately, the birth of Christ is about the cross of Christ (John 3:16)! Jesus came to reveal God to man, redeem man, and ultimately rule over the Fathers Kingdom in righteousness and truth (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:29; Revelation 20:11-22:21). Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would die as a “substitute” for sinners (Isaiah 53:5). That is what was on display on the cross of Calvary (Romans 5:6-8). Because of the finished work of Jesus believing sinners are freed from the punishment, the penalty, the power, and one day, the very presence of sin (Romans 3:25; 5:8-9). Through Christ redeemed sinners are declared righteous, are adopted into the family of God, and are given eternal life (Ephesians 3:20; John 10:27-28)!

  But He didn’t only die, He rose again (Mark 16:6-7; 1 Corinthians 15:4)! In resurrecting Jesus, God the Father confirmed that Jesus is His beloved son in whom He was well pleased (Matthew 3:17). His resurrection supplied proof that the Father had accepted His sacrifice, accepted His atoning work on the cross, and is a guarantee that there will be a future resurrection for all those who trust in Him (John 5:26-29; John 14:18-19; Romans 6:8-11)!

The Bible tells us that 40 days after His resurrection He ascended “physically” to be with His Father and will one day return to this earth the same way (Acts 1:9-11; Matthew 24:29-31)! No one knows exactly when He will return except the Father alone (Matthew 24:36), and so we are exhorted to be ready because that day and hour will come at a time when we are least expecting it (Matthew 24:43-44). Unlike His first coming (seeking and saving the lost), His second coming will be one of judgement (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).

What a joy it is to know that our sins can be forgiven through Jesus. The greatest gift ever given was wrapped up in linen cloths and found lying in a feeding trough. Proclaimed by the angel to be the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Have you received this amazing and priceless gift? Do you know Jesus as your savior? Go here GOSPEL to learn more about this most precious of gifts.