Friday, August 8, 2008

The Unforgivable Exegetical Sin

"Any contribution to this discussion should begin with the recognition that it stands in danger of the unforgivable exegetical sin, the sin of attempting to make a passage mean something other than the meaning intended by the author and conveyed by the words....The exegete may say: 'I disagree with these words; I dissociate myself from them, I wish they had not been written,' but he may not twist or conceal their meaning." - C.K. Barrett, "John and Judaism," in Anti-Judaism and the Fourth Gospel (R. Bieringer, D. Pollefeyt, F. Vandecasteele-Vanneuville, eds.; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001), 231.

This reminds me of a more positive saying attributed to my former teacher, Murray Harris, to the effect that it is better to say what Scripture says and disagree with it, than to make it say what you want it to say.

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