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POSSIBLE PITFALLS

I. Remember the need for: (1) a logical process; (2) a textually-focused method of interpretation and (3) a Spirit-led teachability. Our interpretation should be verifiable to others based on our logical thought processes and evidence from the text itself.

 

II. Document textual evidence

A. From genre of the biblical book or literary unit

B. From the literary context of a passage.

1. immediate context

2. larger literary unit

3. the whole book

4. books by the same author

5. books of the same genre

C. From the historical setting of a biblical book

1. author (who)

2. hearers or readers (to whom)

3. occasion or purpose of writing (why)

4. date (when)

D. From the grammatical structure of a text

1. relationship of the parts of the sentence (syntax)

2. relationship of the sentences to the paragraph

3. relationship of paragraph to literary unit

E. From the words of the text

1. semantic field

2. author’s usage

3. other biblical author’s usage from the same period, covenant or genre

4. whole Bible

F. From the parallel passages

1. immediate context

2. same literary unit

3. same book

4. same author

5. another biblical author of the same period

6. another biblical author of the same Testament

7. another biblical author from the Bible

 

III. Examples of interpretive abuses

A. abuse because of presuppositions (examples)

1. bias concerning miracles (William Barclay’s logical positivist’s interpretation of Matt. 14:13-21)

2. bias concerning women in ministry (deaconesses in Rom. 16:1, 7; I Tim. 3:11)

3. bias concerning church polity (cf. John 21:15-17; Acts 15; Titus 1:5)

4. bias concerning all believers to speak in tongues (cf. I Cor. 12:29-30)

B. abuse of context because of proof-texting (examples)

1. "top knots" (Matt. 24:17, "top not," woman’s hairstyle)

2. rule focused legalism (cf. Col. 2:21, do not touch, taste, or handle)

3. "the" plan of salvation (cf. Rev. 3:20, written to believers; Rom. 10:9-13, not in same literary unit as Rom. 3:23; 5:8; and 6:23)

4. baptism for the dead (cf. I Cor. 15:29)

5. dispensational proof-text (cf. II Tim. 2:15)

6. transubstantiation (cf. John 6:52ff)

7. personal leisure versus World mission (cf. Ps. 46:10)

C. abuse of literary genre because of literalism (examples)

1. Ps. 114:3-6 (poetry)

2. Rev. 12-13,17 (apocalyptic)

3. Luke 16:19-31 (parable)

D. abuse of figures of speech or cultural idioms (examples)

1. "hate" (cf. Gen. 29:31, 33; Deut. 21:15; Rom. 9:13; Mal. 1:2-4)

2. "pluck out. . .cut off" (cf. Matt. 5:29-30)

3. "many" as referring to "all" (cf. Isa. 53:6 versus 53:11-12; Rom. 5:18 versus 5:15, 19)

E. over simplification of truth (examples)

1. God is love yet God is also wrath

2. saved by grace yet faith and repentance needed (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, 19; 20:21)

3. salvation is free yet demand for good works (cf. Eph. 2:8-10 and James 2:14-26)

F. Selectivity of certain passages (examples)

1. unlimited prayer (cf. John 14:13-14; 15:7, 16; 16:23, but Matt. 7:7-8; James 1:6-7; 4:3; I John 3:22; 5:14-15)

2. long hair (cf. I Cor. 11:6, but Num. 6:5; Lev. 19:27)

3. women keep silent in church (cf. I Cor. 14:34, but I Cor. 11:5)

4. tongue speaking (cf. I Cor. 13:8, but 14:5, 18, 39)

5. food laws binding (cf. Lev. 11, but Matt. 15:11; Mark 7:18-23; Acts 10:10-16)

6. humans are trichotomous as God is a Trinity (cf. I Thess. 5:23 and Heb. 4:12)

7. "the" model of salvation (cf. Acts 2:38 [baptism]; 8:14-25 [tongues]; 16:19-34 [only believe])

G. Majoring on minors (examples)

1. to whom did Jesus preach while in Hades (cf. I Pet. 3:19; 4:6)

2. how will the earth be destroyed (cf. II Pet. 3:10)

3. what is the sin unto death (cf. I John 5:16)

4. millennium (cf. Rev. 20:1-6)

H. abuse of historical setting (examples)

1. Gideon’s fleece (cf. Jdgs. 6:36-40)

2.  polygamy (cf. I Tim. 3:2; 5:9; Titus 1:6)

I. Suggested reading

1. Scripture Twisting by James Sire

2. Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson

3. Biblical Words and Their Meaning by Moises Silva

4. Why Christians Fight Over the Bible by John Newport

 

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