Author's Bias | Interpretation: conservative

Exegetical Fallacies: Preface to the Second Edition

The surprising success of this book suggests that there is an encouraging number of preachers and teachers of Scripture who want to correct common errors in exegesis. I am grateful to God if this book has been a help.

Many readers have written to share with me their own lists of amusing fallacies. A few of their suggestions have found their way into the pages of this second edition. Three or four reviewers or letter writers strenuously objected to this or that example. I have tried to take their complaints to heart. In a couple of instances I have revised the section; in two or three instances I merely dropped the material or substituted better examples, not always because I thought I was wrong on the issue, but simply because in this book I am not trying to score points on particular subjects so much as give indisputable examples of exegetical fallacies. But most of the material in the first edition has been retained here. Occasionally I have dropped material not because I have changed my mind as to the exegesis, but because I would defend my position a little differently today.

By contrast, from time to time I have inserted fresh examples. In addition, the material in the fourth chapter has been expanded somewhat. Granted the rapid changes taking place in the field of hermeneutics, that chapter could easily have become a couple of books. Restrain prevailed, so that not too many pages were added.

I would have liked to expand the fifth chapter, but it seemed best not to enlarge the book too much at one go, not least because it is primarily used as auxiliary reading in exegesis courses, so that too great an increase in length would probably destroy its usefulness. In particular, I rather wanted to say more about the interpretation of literary genres than I did. The little I added may be of use to some. And if this book ever goes to a third edition, perhaps that will be the time to add more to the fifth chapter.

Soli Deo gloria D. A. Carson


Most of the material in this book was first delivered at the Spring Lectureship sponsored by Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon, in 1983. It is a pleasure to record my thanks to James DeYoung, the chairman of the Lectureship Committee, not only for the invitation, but also for efficient arrangements and boundless courtesy. My thanks, too, to the faculty members and students who went out of their way to make me feel welcome.

Some of the material in these pages still retains elements of its genesis in lectures, although the notes, of course, played no part in the original series. Far more of my examples have been taken from New Testament scholarship than Old Testament scholarship, not only because that reflects my relative expertise, but even more because many of these examples have been drawn from classroom material culled over the years in the course of teaching students responsible exegesis of the New Testament. Although my reading of Old Testament scholarship assures me that comparable examples are no less frequent in that corpus, to prevent this book from growing out of bounds I have decided to retain the original limits.

Some of those who have heard or read part or all of this material have sometimes criticized me for being unfair to their preferred viewpoint on some theological or exegetical point. I have tried to listen to their criticisms and make changes where needed; but I am encouraged to note that approximately the same proportion of Baptists as Paedo-baptist, Calvinist as Arminians, and so forth, have voiced objections and suggestions, so perhaps the balance is not too far off. I can only insist in the strongest terms that I have tied not to use these pages as a sounding board by which to give vent to personal prejudices. Doubtless I have in some measure failed, but readers who take too great offense in discovering just where I have damaged their preferred interpretations might profitably ask themselves to what extent their own prejudices have influenced their judgment.

My secretary Marty Irwin typed the manuscript under extremely short notice and considerable pressure; I am profoundly grateful for her efficiency and enthusiasm. Mark Reasoner gave valuable assistance with two of the indexes.

Soli Deo gloria

"This book…is a must for teachers, pastors, and serious Bible students. Carson’s methodological approach is full of wisdom, it is penetrating, and it is clearly expressed." Thomas Schreiner, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"The reader who does not confuse the Bible’s inerrancy with his own interpretations will receive valuable guidance from the book. Carson has furnished a pithy and practical manual of many of those mistakes to which all of us who deal with the text in earnest fall prey." Robert Yarborough, Fundamentalist Journal

"If given the attention it deserves, Exegetical Fallacies will make its readers more careful and hones expositors of the Bible." Gerald Mattingly, The (Cincinnati) Seminary Review

"…well written, easy to read, and thought provoking. It is highly recommended to all who truly desire to handle accurately the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15)." Jeff Guimont, Grace Theological Journal

"The reader…is given much preventive medicine in this book…. Avoiding ‘fallacies,’ obvious or subtle, should result in the building up of exegetical skills, and that is the positive role of this book." David Olford, The Preacher

Taken from "Exegetical Fallacies" by D. A. Carson. Used by permission of DIVISION, a division of Baker Book House Company, copyright ©1996. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Book House Company. (

Copyright © 2001 All rights to this material are reserved. We encourage you to print the material for personal and non-profit use or link to this site. Please do not distribute articles to other web locations for retrieval or mirror at any other site. If you find this article to be a blessing, please share the link.