Text without Context is Pretext

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Jacob4707

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Renowned Evangelical Protestant scholar Dr. Donald A. Carson ascribed to his father, a Canadian minister, this phrase which has become widely-used:

"A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text."

It's usually quoted in the slightly truncated form, "A text without a context is a pretext."

I.e., without examining the context in which something (in this case, Scripture) was said, one can easily (or even intentionally) misappropriate or misuse or misapply or misrepresent a text to support a position that it in fact does not support.

But what if the context for a Scripture or a Scriptural passage is not simply its immediate location in the paragraph or pericope or chapter or book, but the Church?
 

ClementofRome

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This is often the case when the NT writers (and esp the Apostolic Fathers) quote or allude to the OT scriptures. For example, in the first chapter ot 1 Cor, Paul is not only citing a specific verse in Jeremiah 9 ("Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord), but in fact, he is alluding to the whole of Jeremiah chapter 9.

I am of the opinion that reasonable exegesis not only takes the immediate context into accouont, but the context of the whole of the particular book/letter/gospel AND the context of the whole Word of God....

But as to the context of the Church, I think I need to know a bit more of what you are asking.

I have been a fan of Carson for many years. Have your read "Exegetical Fallacies?"
 
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Jacob4707

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This is often the case when the NT writers (and esp the Apostolic Fathers) quote or allude to the OT scriptures. For example, in the first chapter ot 1 Cor, Paul is not only citing a specific verse in Jeremiah 9 ("Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord), but in fact, he is alluding to the whole of Jeremiah chapter 9.

I am of the opinion that reasonable exegesis not only takes the immediate context into accouont, but the context of the whole of the particular book/letter/gospel AND the context of the whole Word of God....

But as to the context of the Church, I think I need to know a bit more of what you are asking.

I have been a fan of Carson for many years. Have your read "Exegetical Fallacies?"

Yes, I've read Carson, and think it's a great book. I recommend all persons read it after they've had 1 year of NT Greek.

I drafted a brief summary of his main examples once:

http://www.geocities.com/dbcgreek/ntgreek/exegeticalfallacies.doc

In this thread I was implying/suggesting that some NT texts and statements might have been written or structured from a liturgical or sacramental understanding or for a liturgical or sacramental purpose, and hence to try to understand or apply those Scriptures apart from the Church and their use in and by and for the Church may be to misunderstand or misapply them.

I had nothing definite in mind, though, simply a provocative thought. :)

But, speaking of Carson, if John 3:5 is about water baptism and chrismation, and was so understood by the early Church - even Carson talks about his difficulty in understanding that verse, as well as his rejection of the sacramental understanding as being "anachronistic," improbable, and out of sync with John's themes (but ... according to non/anti-sacramental Carson, or according to indisputable evidence?) until a student in his class came up with an "answer" for him (see pp. 41 & 42 of Exegetical Fallacies Second Edition) - then the non-sacramental understanding and use of that passage would be using that text as a pretext to support a position that was not what the author and his readers meant and understood by it. I AM NOT saying that this is the case here, but it is a hypothetical example of what my comments in this thread were meant to suggest. I also used it as a blog post, and got a few comments: http://waterandspirit.blogspot.com/2007/09/text-without-context-is-pretext.html
 
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I think I've read Exegetical Fallacies, but it would have been quite a while ago. One figure renowned for his scriptural exegesis is Gordon Fee - cf. his New Testament Exegesis. Anyone read that one? Unfortunately, I haven't. It's still sitting on my shelf. :eek:
 
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Jacob4707

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The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Paperback)
by Grant R. Osborne (Author)

In this newly revised and expanded edition, Grant Osborne provides seminary students and working pastors with the full set of tools they need to move from sound exegesis to the development of biblical and systematic theologies and to the preparation of sound, biblical sermons.

Osborne contends that hermeneutics is a spiral from text to context a movement between the horizon of the text and the horizon of the reader that spirals nearer and nearer toward the intended meaning of the text and its significance for today.

Well-established as the standard evangelical work in the field since its first publication in 1991, The Hermeneutical Spiral has been updated to meet the needs of a new generation of students and pastors. Thorough revisions have been made throughout, new chapters have been added on Old Testament law and the use of the Old Testament in the New, and the bibliography has been thoroughly updated.
 
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The hermeneutic circle describes the process of understanding a text hermeneutically. It refers to the idea that one's understanding of the text as a whole is established by reference to the individual parts and one's understanding of each individual part by reference to the whole. Neither the whole text nor any individual part can be understood without reference to one another, and hence, it is a circle. However, this circular character of interpretation does not make it impossible to interpret a text; rather, it stresses that the meaning of a text must be found within its cultural, historical, and literary context.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermeneutic_circle
 
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Jacob4707

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The hermeneutic circle describes the process of understanding a text hermeneutically. It refers to the idea that one's understanding of the text as a whole is established by reference to the individual parts and one's understanding of each individual part by reference to the whole. Neither the whole text nor any individual part can be understood without reference to one another, and hence, it is a circle. However, this circular character of interpretation does not make it impossible to interpret a text; rather, it stresses that the meaning of a text must be found within its cultural, historical, and literary context.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermeneutic_circle

Sounds like circular reasoning to me.
 
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