Friday, April 11, 2014

Word-Study Fallacies, Be Gone!

I recently got to look over a book on theology. The author of the book is a graduate of one of the major seminaries in the United States. He earned a Th.M. and a Th.D. Which seminary he went to really isn't the point though. I just want you to know he went to a major one,  one that doesn't print your diploma the day after you're accepted as a student. You know what I mean. Okay, now let me throw this out there. He went on and got another doctorate, a Ph.D., from another very well known seminary. Now under his belt, he's got 30 years of teaching in over 40 countries in the world under his belt. God's using him, no question about that.

Flipping through his book, I found this opening line dealing with ecclesiology:
"The church (ekklesia) is the 'called-out one' of God. The word ekklesia is a compound word taken from kaleo 'to call,' and ek, 'out from.' The word ekklesia means 'the call-out ones.' As the word refers to the church, it means a people called out from the world to be a people of God, a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10), the bride of Christ…" 
When it comes to exegetical fallacies, especially word-study fallacies, D. A. Carson's Exegetical Fallacies is the go-to resource. Another great resource that I hope all of my students will have is Biblical Words and Their Meaning by M. Silva. Do you know about Benjamin Baxter's "In the Original Text It Says"? Don't forget about Dave Black's Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek! Check out Bock's "New Testament Word Analysis" in Introducing New Testament Interpretation, too. Get them. Read them. Practice what they tell you to do. And watch out for what they tell you to avoid.

One of the things I hope to do is show my students the importance of not erring with the Word of God in lexical analysis. It's a sensitive step in the exegetical process. Temptations lie around every corner. Make the whole passage mean something based on the meaning of the word? No way, that's dangerous exegesis. Get your theology from a single word (e.g., 1 Cor. 13:10; Rev. 3:10)? Whoa! No! No! No! I think the gifts mentioned in 1 Cor. 13:8 have ceased. But it's not because I hinge it all on the meaning of τὸ τέλειον in 13:10. I believe in a pretribulational rapture, but not because of the use of ἐκ in Rev. 3:10. You can't bank your theology on the meaning of a word. Students, listen to me. Don't drink from a poisoned well. The temptation is great. I know. You get to be the one to "tell 'em what the Greek says," and they'll "oooh" and "ahhhh." But we can't do this type of indiscriminate exegesis anymore. In fact, I tell my students to never use the word "Greek" when they teach and to never utter a single Greek word when they teach. The real skill is to make known what the Word of God says without doing so. Can it always be done? Maybe not. But let's aim for never doing it, and if we have to once or twice over the next ten years, we'll ask for forgiveness.

Avoiding the sort of lexical fallacy mentioned above is a well established principle now in exegesis. Committing lexical fallacies like this is folly. I'm not expecting to never see these fallacies again. But, by God's grace, I'll never see them in the ministries God gives to the students I teach!

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