"Exegetical Fallacies" (A Review)

(I have to admit that doing a review or critiquing this book was really a challenge (or really a pain in the head experience) mainly because there are too many technical terms that Carson used that were simply out of my vocabulary. So this book is not meant for the casual reader to enjoy on the weekends. It’s a serious book with a hard hitting purpose; unmasking exegetical mistakes, but to drive the meaning to what Carson ascribes to as Exegetical Fallacies.)


Donald A. Carson has written a book focusing mainly on fallacies dealing with the task of exegesis in his book entitled “Exegetical Fallacies.” Carson explains that the thrust of the book does not seek to be an exhaustive study but as he explains on his focus that the citation given are based on errors that are “among the most common.” The book is divided into four main chapters. The first chapter deals with fallacies on word-studies which, is largely contributed to an over focused attention on just meanings of words. The second chapter deals with fallacies that focus on the grammatical aspects where interpreters tend to be too rigid on tenses or moods of words where the New Testament Greek is seen to be more flexible. Next is a chapter on logical fallacies where the error lies in assumed meanings of certain passages or texts without the rigors discernment and study. The fourth chapter focuses on presupposition and historical fallacies which highlights errors that deal with the interpreter’s disregard to the bible and its message. In conclusion Carson cites discussions on other fallacies that one can follow through in future discussions.

There are many books out there that are centered on the task of proposing principles of helps to a certain task. In biblical scholarship the field of books helping in this matter is of no impending shortage. These books have a positive outlook to them. But what D. A. Carson has written in “Exegetical Fallacies” is of a different nature in where it focuses on errors accorded to the task of exegesis. Carson makes it clear that he is not intending the book to be an exhaustive study but focuses on four main issues that largely contribute to fallacies.

One of the things that would leap to the reader’s attention is the importance of context. Errors would, be easily, if not minimized if interpreters follow this rule. Reading a certain passage, taking on the meaning of a certain word, judging the grammatical structures, seeking the possibility if it’s historical findings needs the interpreter to be guided by the context of how these correlate together. This I believe is what Carson is stressing on every chapter of his book. He also draws our attention to studies or discoveries that are narrow in their conclusions as well as those that are rather oversimplified in their contention of weighing certain natures of how grammars are constructed in the Greek New Testament. Interpreters could be also left to blame when they seek not to express the message of the bible when they add meaning into the text, disregarding what the bible is supposed to be as well as the witness it is supposed to hold.

The book has much strength but where it suffers if that is a valid contention to weigh, has to be where it is difficult to read unlike the book written by Peter Enns “Inspiration and Incarnation” which deals with a difficult subject but takes the route of being more easy to grasp. Now I’m not at all saying that Enns is better than Carson in terms of who is right and wrong but this is solely on presentation and readability. It would have helped if Carson had prepared a chapter detailing meanings of certain terms to help those who have little knowledge in the technical terms he uses to describe his arguments. But what the book really achieves is to convey the task of interpreting the bible has to be done with care and humility out of reverence to the Word we seek to expound.

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