that suck you in by James Sire
In debating and discussions with non-Christians such as Mormons or
atheist, I have found many areas of twisting of the Scriptures. In the
book "Scripture Twisting, " James Sire has a chapter devoted to each of
the methods, and I have seen them ALL used from time to time.
1. INACCURATE QUOTATION:
A biblical text is referred to but is either not quoted in the way
the text appears in any standard translation or is wrongly attributed.
Example: The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi says, "Christ said, 'Be still and know
that I am God.'" Whereas this text is found ONLY in Psalms.
2. TWISTED TRANSLATION:
The biblical text is retranslated, not in accordance with sound
Greek scholarship, to fit a preconceived teaching of a cult. Example: the
Jehovah's Witnesses translate John 1:1 as "In [the] beginning the Word
was, and the Word was with God, and the word was a god."
3. BIBLICAL HOOK:
A text of Scripture is quoted primarily as a device to grasp the
attention of readers or listeners and then followed by a teaching which is
so nonbiblical that it would appear far more dubious to most people had it
not been preceded by a reference to Scripture. Example: Mormon
missionaries quote James 1:5 which promises God's wisdom to those who ask
him and, then, follow this by explaining that when Joseph Smith did this
he was given a revelation from which he concluded that God the Father has
4. IGNORING THE IMMEDIATE
A text of Scripture is quoted but removed from the surrounding
verses which form the immediate framework for its meaning. Example: Alan
Watts quotes the first half of John 5:39 ("You search the Scriptures,
because you think that in them you have eternal life"), claiming that
Jesus was challenging His listeners' over emphasis of the Old Testament,
but the remainder of the immediate context reads, "and it is they that
bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life"
(verses 39-40), which shows that Jesus was upholding the value of the Old
Testament as a testimony to Himself.
5. COLLAPSING CONTEXTS:
Two or more verses which have little or nothing to do with each
other are put together as if one were a commentary of the other(s).
Example: The Mormons associate Jeremiah 1:5 with John 1:2, 14 and thus
imply that both verses talk about the premortal existence of all human
beings; Jeremiah 1:5, however, speaks of God's foreknowledge of Jeremiah
(Not his premortal existence) and JOhn 1:2 refers to the pre-existence of
God the Son and not to human beings in general.
A more detailed or specific conclusion than is legitimate is drawn
from a biblical text. Example: The Mormon missionary manual quotes the
parable of the virgins from Matthew 25:1-13 to document the concept that
"mortality is a probationary period during which we prepare to meet God."
But the parable of the virgins could, and most probably does, mean
something far less specific, for example, that human beings should be
prepared at any time to meet God or to witness the Second Coming of Jesus
7. WORD PLAY:
A word or phrase from a biblical translation is examined and
interpreted as if the revelation had been given in that language. Example:
mary Bake Eddy says the name Adam consist of two syllables, A DAM, which
means an obstruction, in which case, Adam signifies "the obstacle which
the serpent, sin, would impose between man and his
8. THE FIGURATIVE FALLACY:
Either (1) mistaking literal language for figurative language or
(2)mistaking figurative language for literal language. Example of (1):
Mary Baker Eddy interprets EVENING as "mistiness of mortal thought;
weariness of mortal mind; obscured views; peace and rest." Example of (2):
The Mormon theologian james Talmage interprets the prophesy that "thou
shalt be brought down and speak out of the ground" to mean that God's Word
would come to people from the Book of Mormon which was taken out of the
ground at the hill of Cumorah.
9.SPECULATIVE READINGS OF
A predictive prophesy is too readily explained by the occurance of
specific events, despite the fact that equally committed biblical scholars
consider the interpretation highly dubious. Example: The stick of Judah
and the Stick of Joseph in Ezekiel 37:15-23 are interpreted by the Mormons
to mean the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
10. SAYING BUT NOT CITING:
A writer says that the Bible says such and such but does not cite
the specific text (which often indicates that there may be no such text at
all). Example: A common phrase "God helps those who help themselves" is
not found in the Bible.
11. SELECTIVE CITING:
To substantiate a given argument, only a limited number of text is
quoted: the total teaching of Scripture on that subject would lead to a
conclusion different from that of the writer. Example: The Jehovah's
Witnesses critique the traditional Christian notion of the Trinity without
considering the full text which scholars use to substantiate
12. INADEQUATE EVIDENCE:
A hasty generalization is drawn from too little evidence. Example:
The Jehovah's Witnesses teach that blood transfusion is nonbiblical, but
the biblical data that they cite fails either to speak directly to the
issue or to adequately substantiate their teaching.
13. CONFUSED DEFINITION:
A biblical term is misunderstood in such a way that an essential
biblical doctrine is distorted or rejected. Example: one of Edgar Cayce's
followers confuses the eastern doctrine of reincarnation with the biblical
doctrine of being born again.
14. IGNORING ALTERNATIVE
A specific interpretation given to a biblical text or set of text
which could well be, and often have been, interpreted in quite a different
fashion, but these alternatives are not considered. Example: Erich von
Daniken asks why in Genesis 1:26 God speaks in the plural ("us"),
suggesting that this is an oblique reference to God's being one
of many astronauts and failing to consider alternative explanations that
either God was speaking as "Heaven's king accompanied by His heavenly
host" or that the plural prefigures the doctrine of the Trinity expressed
more explicitly in the New Testament.
15. THE OBVIOUS FALLACY:
Words like OBVIOUSLY, UNDOUBTEDLY, CERTAINLY, ALL REASONABLE PEOPLE
HOLD THAT and so forth are substituted for logical reasons. Example: Erich
von daniken says, "Undoubtedly the Ark [of the Covenent] was electrically
16. VIRTUE BY ASSOCIATION:
Either (1) a cult writer associates his or her teaching with those
of figures accepted as authoritative by traditional Christians; (2) cult
writings are likened to the Bible; or (3) cult literature imitates the
form of the Bible writing such that it sounds like the Bible. Example of
(1): Rick Chapman list 21 gurus, including Jesus Christ, St. Francis and
St. Theresa, that "you can't go wrong with." Example of (2): Juan Mascaro
in his introduction to the Upanishads cites the New Testament, the
Gospels, Ecclesiastes and the Psalms, from which he quotes passages
supposedly paralleling the Upanishads. Example of (3): The Mormon DOCTRINE
AND COVENANTS 93 interweave phrases from the Gospel of John and maintains
a superficial similarity to the Gospel such that it seems to be like the
17. ESOTERIC INTERPRETATION:
Under the assumption that the Bible contains hidden, esoteric,
meaning which is open only to those who are initiated into its secrets,
the interpreter declares the significance of biblical passages without
giving much, if any, explanation for his or her interpretation. Example:
Mary Baker Eddy gives the meaning of the first phrase in the Lord's
Prayer, "Our Father which art in heaven, " as "Our Father-Mother God, all
18. SUPPLEMENTING BIBLICAL
New revelation from post biblical prophets either replaces or is
added to the Bible as authority. Example: The Mormons supplement the Bible
with the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great
19. REJECTING BIBLICAL
Either the Bible as a whole or texts from the Bible are examined
and rejected because they do not square with other authorities - such as
reason or revelation = do not appear to agree with them. Example:Archie
Matson holds that the Bible contains contradictions and that Jesus himself
rejected the authority of the Old Testament when he contrasted His own
views with it on the Sermon on the Mount.
20. WORLD-VIEW CONFUSION:
Scriptural statements, stories, commands or symbols which have a
particular meaning or set of meanings when taken within the intellectual
and broadly cultural framework of the Bible itself are lifted out of that
context, placed within the frame of reference of another system and thus
given a meaning that markedly differs from their intended meaning.
Example: The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi interprets "Be still, and know that I
am God" as meaning that each person should meditate and come to the
realization that he is essentially Godhood itself.
appreciation to James Sire for this fine article. We pray it has
been a blessing to you.
In His Service,