Proof texting is the method by which a person appeals to a biblical text to prove or justify a theological position without regard for the context of the passage they are citing. At its worst, for example, "theologian A claims to have a more 'biblical' theology than theologian B, based upon counting up verse in parentheses (on a random page from each work) and claiming to have three times as many." ^[1]^ The result can be that certain portions of Scripture are more heavily treated than others (e.g. Pauline texts). Yet, while the method of proof texting can be problematic, nevertheless theology must still maintain a thoroughly biblical character. The New Testament authors support this idea in their own citations of the Old Testament text. ^[2]^ Thus, the main criticism of proof texting falls on its method rather than its desire and motivation to base theology on the canonical text. But in one's interpretation of a text, the genre and context should never be ignored. As the saying goes, "a text without a context is a pretext for a proof text."

Resources

  • David Kelsey, The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology (Fortress, 1975), reissued as Proving Doctrine (Trinity, 1999)
  • J. Reese, "Pitfalls of Proof-Texting." Biblical Theology Bulletin 13 (October 1983): 121-23.

Notes

  1. ? Daniel Treier, "Proof Text" pp. 622-624 in Kevin Vanhoozer, ed. Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible (Baker Academic), 2005.
  2. ? See also: NT use of the OT.

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