Saturday, September 22, 2007

"A Text Without a Context is a Pretext"

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?


  1. Hello, Jacob,
    My name is Tony Christian and I'm a catachumen to Orthodoxy.

    It is definitely true, indeed I think this is how we came to have the protestant Reformation and such a plethora of protestant sects.

    Had the reformers of the sixteenth century been "reformers" indeed, the final result would have been a return to unity with the Orthodox Church.


  2. I like this quote, Jacob. Isn't it so true?

    I've responded to your questions at Just Genesis. (I apologize for calling you James. I got the first letter of your name right!) See response at:

    So you are Orthodox? If that is so, you would enjoy reading the essay at Just Genesis on St. Chrysostom's interpretation of Genesis 4/Lamech, and the essay on St. Ephrem, the Syrian's interpretive method.

    Best wishes,
    Alice C. Linsley

  3. ah, soooo...excellent question, Jacob-san...

    How's Greek class going?