Objectivity and Logic

Being Objective

To begin with it is important to understand the difference between “objective” and “subjective.” “Objective” means “existing independent of mind” while “subjective” indicates that which comes from a person’s point of view.” That which is objective is factual without being dependent on any person’s perspective. While that which is subjective is dependant on a point of view. Facts are objective. Opinions are subjective. The New Testament tells us that we should understand the scriptures objectively rather than subjectively:

knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture
is of any private interpretation;
for prophecy never came by the will of man,
but set-apart men of Eloah spoke
as they were moved by the Ruach HaKodesh.
(2Peter 1:20-21)

Many in Christendom however have developed do-it-yourself do-your-own-thing interpretation. They will often have Bible studies in which they ask “what does this verse mean to you?” Many will often say “to me this verse means…” The Jewish response is to ask “Ok, so if you were not here what would this verse mean?”

Facts are objective and opinions are subjective. Socially we may handle an “opinion” differently than in Hermeneutics. When a disagreement erupts at a party the hostess may settle the matter by saying “everyone is entitled to their opinion”.

In this way she may create an analogy between “opinions” and tastes. Opinions, she would say are like colors and tastes and are not open for discussion. However not all opinions are like tastes or colors. Many opinions by their very nature are either correct or incorrect. In the field of Biblical hermeneutics we must not treat opinions as a hostess at a dinner party might. We must subject them to objective criteria to determine whether they are true or false.

Two other terms which we should cover are eisegesis and exegesis:

*Eisegesis: Reading ones own ideas into a text.

*Exegesis: Drawing ideas out of the text.

Case in point. I once heard a Christian preacher preach on Ezekiel 37. His message was titled “Speak to your dry bones.” The message interpreted the material in Ezekiel 37 to mean that we must speak to our dreams and make them be brought to life. This was a clear case of eisegesis.

Ezekiel 37 has NOTHING to do with the interpretation he gave. An exegesis of Ezekiel 37 would show that it deals with the restoration of Israel and the reunion of the two houses of Israel.
Making Arguments

In interpreting the text you will generally find yourself formulating “arguments.” In this case the term “argument” does not indicate a heated discussion. In hermeneutics an “argument” is a collection of propositions, one of which (the conclusion) is claimed to follow from the others (the premises). In biblical hermeneutics an argument is also called an exegesis.

An argument is generally formulated in two parts. The first is called the “premise” and the second is the “conclusion”. The proposition which is claimed to follow from the other proposition is the conclusion. An argument can usually be laid out in an “if/then” format as follows:
If the premises is true
then the conclusion must be true.
(however the words “if” and “then” may not actually appear)

In Rabbinic literature an argument is called a “din” (judgment); a premise is called “nadon melammed,” (that which teaches) “tehillat din,” (starting point of the judgment) or “Ikra din” (basic point of the judgment) and a conclusion is called “ba min Izadin,” (that which comes from judgment) “sof din” (the end of the judgment) or “lamed” (a learned thing).

You may also recognize “arguments” being made within the biblical text itself.

The following are some common terms that may point toward a premise: “if,” “since,” “because,” “for,” “as,” “inasmuch as,” and “for the reason that.”

And the following are some common terms that may point toward a conclusion: “then,” “therefore,” “hence,” “so,” “consequently,” “it follows that,” “we may infer that,” and “we may conclude that.”

All arguments are either “deductive” or “inductive.” A deductive argument is one in which the conclusion must necessarily follow from the premise. An inductive argument is one in which the conclusion likely follows from the premise with great probability.

The following is an example of inductive reasoning in the New Testament (it is also an example of the Fourth Rule of Hillel discussed in a later chapter).

Abel obtained a good report by faith (Heb. 11:4)
Enoch obtained a good report by faith (Heb. 11:5)
Noach obtained a good report by faith (Heb. 11:7)
Abraham obtained a good report by faith (Heb. 11:8)
Therefore all of the Elders of the Tanak obtained a good report by faith
(Heb. 11:2, 39)

An example of a deductive argument would be as follows. Yeshua’s half-brother Y’hudah quotes from the Book of Enoch saying:

And Chanokh [Enoch], the seventh from Adam,
prophesied about these men saying:
Behold, YHWH comes with ten thousands of his set-apart-ones,
to execute judgment on all, co convict all who are wicked
among them of their wicked deeds which they have committed
in a wicked way, and all the harsh things which wicked sinners
have spoken against him.
(Yhudah (Jude) 1:14-15 HRV)

Some commentators have tried to minimize the importance of this quotation, claiming that Y’hudah was only quoting the Book of Enoch in the way that Paul quoted Greek philosophers. In fact there are two very important features in Y’hudah’s citation.
First of all, while the Book of Enoch is quoted (specifically 1 Enoch 1:9), Y’hudah attributes his quote, not to the Book of Enoch, but to the man Enoch (Enoch, seventh from Adam). Since we have copies of the Book of Enoch which predate the Book of Y’hudah, this quote tells us that Enoch seventh from Adam wrote the Book of Enoch.

Secondly Y’hudah uses the word “prophecy”. Y’hudah tells us that this quote from Enoch which comes from the Book of Enoch is “prophecy”. That is a very important statement.

Regarding prophecy Kefa (Peter) writes:

knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture
is of any private interpretation; for prophecy never
came by the will of man, but set-apart men of Eloah
spoke as they were moved by the Ruach HaKodesh.
(2Kefa (2Pt.) 1:20-21 – HRV)

So if, as Y’hudah tells us, the Book of Enoch is “prophecy” then Kefa tells us that it was inspired by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit).

Paul has some important words for us about Scripture that is inspired:

Every writing which was written by the spirit is profitable
for teaching and for reproof and for correction and for instruction in righteousness, that the son of man of Eloah may be complete and whole for every good work.
(2Timothy 3:16-17 – HRV)

Premise 1: The Book of Enoch is “prophecy’

Premise 2: All Prophecy is inspired by the Ruach HaKodesh

Argument: If the Book of Enoch is prophecy then it was inspired by the Ruach HaKodesh.

Premise 3: Inspired Scripture is profitable for teaching and for reproof and for correction and for instruction in righteousness.

Argument: If Enoch was inspired by the Ruach then it is profitable for teaching and for reproof and for correction and for instruction in righteousness.

Now a deductive argument may be either valid or invalid. 7

A deductive argument is said to be valid if the conclusion must follow the premise if the premise is true. Regardless of whether the premise is true the argument is said to be valid if the conclusion would have to necessarily follow the premise if it were true.

A deductive argument is invalid if the conclusion does not follow necessarily from the premises. It is important to remember that the conclusion to an invalid argument may or may not be true. The fact that the argument is invalid does not prove that the conclusion is false, it simply does not prove that it is true. Also an argument can have a false premise and even a false conclusion and still be valid.

An example of an argument which is valid despite the fact that it’s premise and conclusion are both false:

All cows have six legs.
All animals with six legs have wings.
Therefore, all cows have wings.

An example of an argument with false premises and a true conclusion:

All apes have wings.
All winged animals are primates.
All apes are primates.

The point to this exercise is that it is not enough that the argument be valid, it is also important that its premise be true. Thus it is also important that the argument be sound. An argument is said to be sound if it is valid and its premises are true. If an argument is sound then its conclusion must be true. That is, if an argument is valid, and it’s premise is true, then its conclusion must be true as well.

A proposition, which is widely accepted on its intrinsic merit as a self-evident truth is called an “axiom.” In biblical hermeneutics any proposition which comes directly from the text of the scripture is regarded as an axiom. Such a scripture is called a “prooftext.”

One utilizes a prooftext/axiom as the premise for an argument. If the prooftext is in context and a valid axiom, (and is therefore regarded as true) and if the argument made is valid then the argument/exegesis is sound and the conclusion is therefore true.

Categorical Propositions

Many deductive arguments involve the use of “categorical propositions.” A “categorical proposition” is a proposition, which makes an assertion about the relationship between two categories, either affirming or denying that one category is included, either in whole or in part, in the other category. There are four possible forms for a categorical proposition:

1. Universal Affirmative All S’s are P’s

2. Universal Negative No S’s are P’s

3. Partial Affirmative Some S’s are P’s

4. Partial Negative Some S’s are not P’s

Now if it is also a given that none of the categories involved are empty sets, then there are a number of corollaries that can be made. (A corollary is an immediate inference).
Universal Affirmative:

If all S’s are P’s then:

Some S’s are P’s

Some P’s are S’s

A claim that no S’s are P’s is false A claim that no P’s are S’s is false

Universal Negative:

If no S’s are P’s then:

No P’s are S’s

Some S’s are not P’s Some P’s are not S’s

A claim that all S’s are P’s is false A claim that all P’s are S’s is false
Particular Affirmative:

If some S’s are P’s then:

Some P’s are S’s

A claim that no P’s are S’s is false A claim that no S’s are P’s is false

Particular Negative:

If some S’s are not P’s then:

A claim that all S’s are P’s is false Categorical Syllogisms

A syllogism is an argument or exegesis with two premises and a conclusion. A standard-form categorical syllogism is a syllogism which:

1 Has three standard-form categorical propositions.

2. Exactly three category terms are used in the argument.

3. Each category term occurs in precisely two of the propositions. 4. The three propositions are in the following order:

a. The Major Premise, which contains
the major term, which is also the predicate
category term in the conclusion.

b. The Minor Premise, which contains the minor term,
which is also the subject category term in the conclusion.

c. The conclusion.

It is beyond the scope of this book to examine all possible forms of such categorical syllogisms to determine which are valid and which are invalid. An example of a valid categorical syllogism is as follows:

If all dogs are animals
and all Dalmatians are dogs then all Dalmatians are animals.

Now lets apply what we have learned to an actual exegesis.

Premise 1:
All members of the “Assembly of Israel” must eat the Passover (Ex. 12:47)

Premise 2:
No uncircumcised man may eat the Passover (Ex. 12:48)

Argument::
If all members of the Assembly of Israel must eat the Passover
and if no uncircumcised men may eat the Passover
then all male members of the Assembly of Israel must be circumcised.

Conclusion:
All male members of the Assembly of Israel are circumcised.

Corollary:
No male members of the Assembly of Israel are uncircumcised.

Premise 3:
Some uncircumcised men are saved (Acts 15)

Argument: :
If all members of the Assembly of Israel are circumcised and if some uncircumcised men are saved,
then some saved persons are not members of the Assembly of Israel.

Conclusion:
Some saved persons are not members of the Assembly of Israel.

Common Errors

In Rabbinic literature an error in logic is called “teshuvah” (objection; turning back) or “pirka” (objection, contradiction). There are a number of common errors you will want to avoid:

Prooftexting – In and of itself a prooftext is a text of scripture that serves as an axiom. “Prooftexting however is when one starts with a conclusion and then searches for “prooftexts” to support it.

Circular Thinking – Circular thinking, also called “begging the question,” “Petitio Principii” or “recursion” occurs when the premise of an argument presumes the conclusion to be true. That is to say, the premise is only true if the conclusion is true. A very simple example of this error:

I know I am right because I have the truth.
And I know I have the truth because I am right.

One cannot assume the truth of ones conclusion for if the conclusion was already an axiom then we would not be formulating an argument to prove it.

False Conversion – False Conversion is the mistake of presuming that if a proposition is true then the reverse of that proposition must also be true. This is certainly not true. For example:

All Dalmatians are dogs
therefore all dogs are Dalmatians.

In reality all Dalmatians are dogs but not all dogs are Dalmatians. The mistake is easy to make as the following example shows:

If all thrangs are thongs
and all throngs are thrungs
then all thungs are thrangs.

This argument is invalid and therefore the conclusion may not be true. The argument would have been valid only if we had concluded that all thrangs are thrungs. If we plug known terms into the above argument then we can more easily see the error in logic:

 

If all dogs are mammals
and all mammals are animals
then all animals are dogs.

Now it is easy to see the glaring error. However such an inverse logic error is not so easy to detect if we are not already very familiar with the relationships of the terms.

Argumentum ad Baculum (appeal to force) – This error occurs when a proposition is accepted as true not because it is the result of a sound argument, but because of a threat of punishment is the proposition is not accepted as true. While it might seem silly to include this error in our list, this error has occurred often in the hermeneutic history. The Roman Catholic inquisition used this method, as did the early Islamic movement.
Argumentum ad Hominem – In this error a proposition is rejected not because of its validity or soundness, but because of the reputation of the one making the proposition.
Circumstantial Argument – In this error an argument is either accepted or rejected not because of whether or not it is valid or sound but because of the deeply held beliefs of the person to whom the argument is presented or those of the presenter.
Argumentum ad Ignorantiam – This takes place when a proposition is accepted as true solely because it has not been proven to be false. For example a colleague of mine once argued that Cornelius had not been circumcised at the time of Acts 10 based solely on the fact that no circumcision is mentioned. However absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
Argumentum ad Verecundiam – This error takes place when an argument or proposition is accepted not because it is true, valid or sound, but because some outside authority declares it to be true. For example is an argument is not valid or its conclusion is not sound but the argument is accepted as true because “the Church” says that it is true or because someone states that it is true.
Accidental Case – This occurs when a generalization is usually true but is applied to a special situation in which the generalization is not true for that particular example. For example:

All men have two legs
Long John Silver was a man
Therefore Long John Silver had two legs.

While it is generally true that men have two legs it is not always true. In fact Long John Silver had only one leg.
False Inference – This occurs when it is argued that because a statement is true in a certain situation, that it is always true. For example Bill sees Joe every day at work and Bill always sees Joe wearing a suit. Bill might infer that Joe always wear suits. However Joe may only wear suits at work. Likewise one might conclude that the refrigerator light is always on. Actually it is only on when the door is open.
False Cause – This logic error involves falsely assuming that because one element follows another chronologically, that the first causes the second.
Complex Question – There are three versions of this error. The first involves the posing of a question designed to produce an answer which is true but which implies something else which is not true. The second involves combining two questions into one in such a way as to suggest that an agreement with one is an agreement with the other or vice versa. For example: “Are you in favor of reducing welfare spending and starving thousands?” Such a question often implies that one idea automatically flows from the next (although it may not be mutually agreeable that it does). The final form of this error is one that loads the question with adjectives or adverbs or other modifications, which imply that any answer to the question agrees with the characterization. For an example if an anti-Semite were to pose the question “Are the evil Jews plotting to take over the world?”. Either a “yes” or a “no” would seem to substantiate the wrongful characterization of Jews as “evil”. An example of this logic error can be found in the book CHRISTIANITY UNMASKED by “Dan Israel” p. 223, which poses the questions regarding Jews:

Would Yahshua be supportive of the very element that desired
to see him eliminated? Would the Scriptures instruct us to give to,
or support those who want to destroy our Savior and our intended
way of life?

Any answer to these questions whether “yes” or “no” would seem to falsely imply an agreement with the presumptions in the questions.
Ignoratio Elenchi – (irrelevant conclusion) This occurs when one attempts to prove a particular conclusion by arguing from premises, which are actually directed toward establishing some other conclusion.
Equivocation – This error occurs when an amguous word means one thing in the premiss but the conclusion is derived from another meaning of that word. For example:

A record is an album of music.
The criminal had a record.
Therefore the criminal had an album of music.

or:

All stars are energized by fussion.
Tom Cruise is a big star
Therefore Tom Cruise is energized by fussion.
Amphiboly – This occurs when a grammatical structure is in some way ambiguous. (Compare with the “grammatical principle” in the next chapter, Also see the 11 th rule of Eliezer). A classic example may be found in Luke 23:43. Here Yeshua states:

Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.

This passage has been used by Protestants to disprove the doctrine of “soul sleep.” Their opponents argue that in the Greek there is no coma and that the grammar of the passage therefore could also read:

Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise.

Thus because of the loose grammar of the passage the protestant use of it as a proof text produces an invalid argument and an unsound conclusion (which does not necessarily mean that the Protestant’s conclusion is false).
Error of Accent – This occurs when the meaning of a statement can be changed by changing the way that the statement is accented. For example:

You can’t put to much water in a nuclear reactor. Does this mean:

You can’t put to much water in a nuclear reactor.
(so be careful how much water you add)
or
You can’t put to much water in a nuclear reactor.
(so don’t worry about how much water you add)
or
You can’t put to much water in a nuclear reactor.
(but someone else could)
or
You can’t put to much water in a nuclear reactor.
(but you could put to much of uranium in it)
or
You can’t put to much water in a nuclear reactor.
(but you can put to much water in a radiator)
Error of Composition – This occurs when certain traits are attributed to the components of a set and then it is falsely concluded that the whole of the collective must share these traits. For example:

The chair is made up of atoms.
Atoms are invisible to the naked eye.
Therefore the chair must be invisible.

Error of Division – This is the reverse of the Error of Composition. This occurs when a trait of a collective set is wrongly ascribe to its components. Example:

Ronald Reagan was overwhelmingly approved by the voters
Bill Clinton was a voter
Therefore Bill Clinton voted for Ronald Reagan.

Some Rules of Thumb

Finally there are three rules of thumb in formulating an exegesis:

1. Don’t sacrifice objective understanding to make your point.

2. Superficial study can be worse than no study.

3. Spiritualizing and allegorizing should be avoided. When it is used they should be restrained to illustrate a point from the objective meaning of another passage.

 

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