Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Exegetical Fallacies are too much fun!

Recently, I got called on the carpet for suggesting that a particular interpretational strategy was an exegetical fallacy. I just read Carson’s short book on Exegetical Fallacies and it was fresh in my mind. Perhaps I rushed in foolishly where angels fear to tread but I couldn’t help myself. It was just too obvious. Which leads me to another of Carson’s fallacies:

“17. Abuse of ‘obviously’ and similar expressions.”

Some things are obvious but it’s too much fun when commentators use the expression to advance their view on a controversial passage. Let’s take the interpretation of Peter and the rock in Matthew 16:18. I have read where one author has compiled a bibliography of over 1000 sources that discuss this highly debated text. So, with that in mind, I offer the following quotes for your enjoyment:

“Indeed, why do we contend over the meaning of these words, as if they were obscure or ambiguous, while nothing clearer or more certain can be said? Peter, in his own and his brethren’s name, had confessed that Christ was the Son of God [Matt. 16:16]. Upon this rock Christ builds his church. For there is but one foundation, as Paul says, apart from which no other can be laid (1 Cor 3:11).” (John Calvin – the obvious meaning is Christ is the rock)

“As Peter means rock, the natural interpretation is that ‘upon this rock’ means upon thee. No other explanation would probably at the present day be attempted, but for the fact that the obvious meaning has been abused by Papists to the support of their theory.” (John Broadus – the obvious meaning is Peter is the rock)

"’This rock’ is referring to something other than the person who was being addressed in the preceding phrase, something that we find in the immediate context. A natural reading of the passage (one that I truly believe would be nigh unto universal if history had not fallen out as it did, with only one ‘apostolic see’ in the West, the continuance of the Empire in the East, etc.) makes it plain what must function as the antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun . . . Hence, the logical antecedent for [this] is Peter’s confession. Such not only commands the most logical grammatical sense, but it also commands the obvious teaching of the rest of the New Testament itself!” (James White – the obvious meaning is Peter’s confession is the rock)

To be fair, these men all back up their remarks with exegesis. Nevertheless, I find these three statements, taken together, quite humorous.