Exegetical Fallacies by D. A. Carson

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This intimidating little book is a must read for pastors, Bible teachers and serious students of the Word. As well meaning Christians exegete the Scriptures it is all too common for even the most sincere to fall into various fallacies that cause God’s truth to be mishandled. Carson identifies several of these “exegetical fallacies” in this short work. The book is organized around different types of common fallacies made by the students of the Word: Word-study, grammatical, logical, presuppositional and historical. Examples are given under each category from the writings of well-known Bible scholars and commentators; including a few of the author’s own. The immediate result could be that Carson may have fewer invites to Christmas parties of “former” friends. The long-term results should be a more careful exegesis of the biblical text.

As excellent as this book is, I would offer two overlapping concerns. First, if the scholars that Carson cites are making these kinds of errors, what can be expected of the average pastor and Bible teacher? Also, these same pastors and Bible teachers, lacking the time and resources to trace down, for example, the use of a particular verb form through the annals of time, by necessity must rely upon the study and research of the scholars. If these scholars are letting us down on a regular basis, as Carson implies, what is Pastor Joe to do? Does he throw his hands up in despair and discouragement, a possibility that Carson mentions early (p.22)? His reply is found on the last page of Exegetical Fallacies . While admitting that he has no easy answers to this dilemma he states, “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.” So Carson writes with the knowledge that while he may discourage some, the greater good will have been served if we become more careful students.

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