Michael Patton offered 7 common fallacies that people use when interpreting biblical texts (found here). A fallacy is simply an unsound argument that is based off of erroneous reasoning (i.e., it is illogical). Patton’s seven common fallacies are:
- Preunderstanding fallacy: Believing you can interpret with complete objectivity, not recognizing that you have preunderstandings that influence your interpretation.
- Incidental fallacy: Reading incidental historical texts as prescriptive rather than descriptive.
- Obscurity fallacy: Building theology from obscure material.
- Etymological root fallacy: Looking to the root etymology of a word to discover its meaning.
- Illegitimate totality transfer: Bringing the full meaning of a word with all its nuances to the present usage.
- Selective use of meaning: Selecting the meaning you like best.
- Maverick fallacy: Believing that you don’t need anyone but the Holy Spirit to interpret the text.
Of these seven, I could comment on all of them because, as a pastor, I see people employ all of them on a consistent basis, though it has become much better in the past two years. I’m inclined to think our class on interpreting the Scriptures (Bible Study Methods) took care of a few of these issues for some, though, not all!