Friday, August 02, 2013

Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, by Klein, Blomberg and Hubbard: Prooftexting

My airplane flight gave me time to read and ponder another 100 pages of this book.  As I said in the earlier comments, this is a book of reasonable assertions that has some rare trip-ups.  The one that I think really deserves a bit more scrutiny is the crime of "prooftexting".  This reminds me a bit of the crime of being "judgmental", which our modern society has avoided by condemning anyone who is judgmental, followed by a public shaming, a flogging, throwing them in stocks, and making sure it is on their permanent record.  That should teach them.

Klein et. at. define "Prooftexting" as yanking a comment out of context and quoting it in a manner that violates the author's original intent.  But since the authors are no longer with us, we must say that the quote violates the overall intent of the communication.  This is really a challenge to all humans to make sure that we correctly pass on communications.  An example is the famous statement by Newton:  "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of giants".  We take this as an acknowledgment that we stand in a long history of intellectual giants.  The problem with this interpretation is that Newton included this in a letter to Robert Hooke.  Hooke had accused Newton of ripping off his ideas, and Hooke was short, hence, the statement was more one of scholarly sarcasm disguised as lofty rhetoric.  Leaving the context out completely changes the meaning.  This is where Klein et. al. stop, which is really where any serious discussion of prooftexting needs to begin.  

Thus, we all accept that it is poor scholarship to yank something out of context.  Actually we can do the same reading posts and comments on blogs for that matter, of which I am a classic problem blogger who doesn't carefully read things through.  

But then we must keep in mind the Rules for Radicals:  "Accuse the opposition of what you are guilty of and put them on the defensive."  Thus, I do not deny that the problem of prooftexting exists, that prooftexting is a plague and that it needs to be cleaned reduced.  At the same time, we have to bear in mind that the accusation of prooftexting is an even greater plague as modernists accuse their opponents of doing this preemptively, while the core methods of modernism consider ripping statements out of context for malicious purposes to be a virtue.  

Another key factor in the age of Bumper Sticker Philosophy is that only a paid professor has an incentive to read through someone else's paper to see that they actually did read the context and didn't prooftext.  With that in mind, we must go back and look at what causes there are for people allegedly quoting out of context, or perhaps giving an appearance to this.  I will take this topic up again later.

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