Yom Shishi, 2 Iyar 5777 — יוֹם שִׁשִּׁי ב אִיָּר ה' תשעז Friday, 28 April 2017
Logical Fallacies in Christian Biblical Interpretation
(Part 2 in series on Basic Hermeneutics)

This message is a continuation of a theme, which I last spoke about on July 15 of last year. That message was titled,

Jesus said to him,: "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?" -Basic Hermeneutics

To begin tonight's message, I first want to establish a foundation for going forward, which has everything to do with how we base interpretation. This will have to do with something known as "logic".

The following excerpt is from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (search, Logical Argument)

In logic, an argument is an attempt to demonstrate the truth of an assertion called a conclusion, based on the truth of a set of assertions called premises. The process of demonstration of deductive and inductive reasoning shapes the argument, and presumes some kind of communication, which could be part of a written text, a speech or a conversation.

Overview

In ordinary, philosophical and scientific argumentation abductive arguments and arguments by analogy are also commonly used. Arguments can be valid or invalid, although how arguments are determined to be in either of these two categories can often itself be an object of much discussion. Informally one should expect that a valid argument should be compelling in the sense that it is capable of convincing someone about the truth of the conclusion. However, such a criterion for validity is inadequate or even misleading since it depends more on the skill of the person constructing the argument to manipulate the person who is being convinced and less on the argument itself.

Less subjective criteria for validity of arguments are often clearly desirable, and in some cases we should even expect an argument to be rigorous, that is, to adhere to precise rules of validity. This is the case for arguments used in mathematical proofs. Note that a rigorous proof does not have to be a formal proof.

In ordinary language, people refer to the logic of an argument or use terminology that suggests that an argument is based on inference rules of formal logic. Though arguments do use inferences that are indisputably purely logical (such as syllogisms), other kinds of inferences are almost always used in practical arguments. For example, arguments commonly deal with causality, probability and statistics or even specialized areas such as economics. In these cases, logic refers to the structure of the argument rather than to principles of pure logic that might be used in it.

Argument validity

In evaluating an argument, we consider separately the truth of the premises and the validity of the logical relationships between the premises, any intermediate assertions and the conclusion. The main logical property of an argument that is of concern to us here is whether it is truth preserving, that is if the premises are true, then so is the conclusion. We will usually abbreviate this property by saying simply that argument is valid.

If the argument is valid, the premises together entail or imply the conclusion.

The ways in which arguments go wrong tend to fall into certain patterns, called logical fallacies.

Validity is a semantic characteristic of arguments; independently of this property, and more controversially, arguments should also be scrutinizable, in the sense that the argument be open to public examination and systematic in the sense that the structural components of the argument have public legitimacy.

Now that you know all about logic and logical arguments, I hope you will be better able to follow the gist of this message. I first want to start you off with a logical fallacy that may be rather simplistic, but I am hoping that it drives home the point.

A Logical Fallacy

The logic of a certain argument goes like this:

A dog has four legs. A cat also has four legs. Therefore, a cat is a dog.

Let me ask you this question, "Based on the statement above, do you agree with the logic that a cat is a dog?

Of course, the statement is absurd. Its premises are true but its conclusion is based upon incomplete information, and is, therefore, presumptuous. It is easy to see that this argument is flawed.

You may be surprised to know that there are cases where many Christians could be shown to hold to this type of flawed logic, and yet they take the conclusions to these types of arguments as gospel truth.

In the simple illustration about flawed logic above, I mentioned that the conclusion was presumptuous as it based its argument on incomplete information.

There is one Scriptural passage that clearly speaks about the sin of presumption:

Psalms 19:13 "Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression."

It is fairly obvious that King David looked at these types of sins seriously; he called them "great transgression".

I was on a Paltalk forum recently. I found a Christian forum where I agreed with the folks for the most part on the core of their theology. However, when they started boasting about their freedom, in Christ, to eat pork, and then proceeded to gloat on and on about the pleasures of pork, it really incited a whole range of negative thoughts and emotions within me!

But, you know, what troubles me about that kind of boasting 'of freedom in Messiah (Christ)' to eat pork is that such a statement is often made with almost satisfaction, with cheerful glee, with such a surety as if it is utterly and profoundly approved by God; as if the relish of celebration of it is doing God a favor!

No doubt that kind of self-satisfaction comes from a profound belief in the arguments for such freedom, which use scriptural passages as the foundation for the construction of references of which they draw their conclusions.

I must ask you this question: "Where, in either the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Tanach, old testament) or the Christian Scriptures (i.e. Brit HaChadashah, new testament), does it say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Christians are free to eat pork, or anything else which is explicitly forbidden in the Mosaic Covenant, the Torah?"

I think you will be hard pressed to find any passage that gives you surety of that belief and that states it clearly - unless you used FLAWED LOGIC! However, one passage readily comes to mind of which such a conclusion is known to be drawn. It is chapter 10 in the book of Acts, and it refers to a vision that the Apostle Peter had.

From the passage, Peter clearly gave his interpretation, yet many Christians ignore that conclusion. Rather, they draw conclusions from the nature of the vision itself, rather than from the whole of the passage and, indeed, Peter's own interpretation. This, in effect, actually makes Peter's interpretation meaningless and their interpretation becomes a Torah, or teaching, unto itself.

The passagesI will read are Acts 10:1-20, 25-28 (ESV)

Acts 10:1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort,

2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.

3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, "Cornelius."

4 And he stared at him in terror and said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.

5 And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter.

6 He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside."

7 When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him,

8 and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.

10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance

11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth.

12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.

13 And there came a voice to him: "Rise, Peter; kill and eat."

14 But Peter said, "By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean."

15 And the voice came to him again a second time, "What God has made clean, do not call common."

16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood at the gate

18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there.

19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for you.

20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them."

...

25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.

26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am a man."

27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered.

28 And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.

Some things to note about the Acts passage: regardless of the elements and the construction of the vision, Peter's interpretation was based upon the events that followed, beginning when the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for you." Note that Peter did not base his interpretation on the nature of the vision itself.

Do you notice that the subject of Peter's vision occurred three times? Can anyone think of any other visions in scripture having to do with the number three, or for that matter, numbers in particular?

One incident that comes to my mind is regarding Joseph, who was in prison in Egypt. Pharaoh's cupbearer and his baker each had a dream on the same night and each had elements of three in it. Joseph interpreted the dreams for each of them but he did not focus on the elements nor of the nature of the dreams in his interpretation. Rather, his interpretation, in each case, was that the three elements represented three days, and had absolutely nothing to do with three branches for the cupbearer nor the three baskets for the baker.

Interestingly, in Peter's vision, the great sheet descended three times, and then he was met by three men sent by Cornelius. I do not believe that was a coincidence!

In my opinion, for any Christian to base their belief that they are free to eat pork, or any other unclean thing, because they have interpreted Peter's vision in Acts 10 as to allow it, they have grossly misinterpreted and misapplied scriptural interpretation. In fact, that logic is not any more sound than the argument that declares that a cat is a dog!

One of the things I find most troubling about much of Christian exegesis is that it ignores the Old Testament (Tanach) in substance and in the use of linguistic devices commonly known in scriptural interpretation. In fact, many Christians act as if they believe that the entire Tanach (Old Testament) has been done away with, and, therefore, has no bearing in how they live, providing little more than historical value to their faith.

Hosea 4:6

6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

I would like to briefly examine some other passages commonly used to support the Christian belief that they are free to eat unclean things. One is from Matthew 15, another from 1 Timothy 4, and still another is Romans 14.

I would like to emphasize that this is not an exhaustive study, but I hope that you can see that holding to a much more rigorous logical standard will keep the believer in Yeshua from getting off track, straying too far from the flock! I would especially want to emphasize that a regular Bible reading program will enable you to discern truth and base your life decisions on solid ground. If you do not currently participate in a regular Scripture reading plan, I strongly encourage you to consider taking the little booklet we keep next to the pushke in the back of the room, titled "Read Scripture-in-A-Year". You may also find the same plan on the Sar Shalom web site in the Resources section. The URL is http://www.sarshalom.us.

To continue, I would like to look at the passage from Matthew 15. It is verse 11 that is used as the basis for belief, in that it is generally interpreted that Yeshua has declared there is no unclean thing:

Matthew 15:11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person."

To use this passage to prove that we can eat anything that we desire truly has to take the passage out of its context. This passage is part of a larger whole, which Yeshua used to explain that the Pharisaic tradition of washing of hands prior to eating was a doctrine of men and not God. Yeshua's point was actually about the greater commands that are broken by what is spoken and what is thought, which are what actually defile us.

Yeshua uses Isaiah to enforce the point (Matthew 15:8-9):

8 "'This people honors me with their lips,

but their heart is far from me;

9 in vain do they worship me,teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"

For it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:5)

The following passages are often used by Christians to support their stand that the dietary laws of the Tanach do not apply to them:

1 Timothy 4:1-51 Now the spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,

2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,

3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,

5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

The last part, in verse 5, puts the passage into context. It states that the object created by God is made holy by the word of God and prayer. At the time Paul wrote this to Timothy, there was no New Testament scripture as a whole. The "word of God" had to be understood, then, to mean the Hebrew Scriptures, a.k.a. Old Testament.

If "everything created by God" is to be made holy by "the word of God", if it is expressly prohibited in the latter, it cannot be inferred to apply to the former. Nevertheless, a good many Christians use a flawed logic in interpreting this passage. In fact, in the context of the entire chapter, verses 13-16 provides a little more insight to the application:

1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.

14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

15 Practice these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress.

16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

And then there is Romans 14. The chief verse quoted to sanction pork eating is verse 14:

Romans 14:14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.

Certainly, it may be argued that Paul is speaking to Gentiles, who were not compelled to keep the Torah. Suffice it to say that this one passage is part of a complete context, the intent of which is to emphasize brotherly love - a stronger brother's dealings with a weaker one. Only by inference can one conclude that Paul is declaring that the prohibition against eating pork is lifted. That belies the greater point of the passage. His argument only uses food as a means of illustration, where the core of the argument is meant to be about how to treat a weaker brother.

In Deuteronomy 27:8, Moses commanded the children of Israel to write the words of the law very plainly upon stones when they were to enter the land beyond the Jordan River. Certainly, if Yeshua and the Apostles intended for the complete abrogation of all (moral, ritual and ceremonial) laws, they would have plainly declared it! Please allow me to repeat that in another way, if the law was commanded to be written in a manner that was plain and easy to understand per Deuteronomy 27, it would follow logically that the Messiah and the New Testament "Prophets" would plainly inform believers of truths as well.

There is another common belief, within Christianity, that essentially states that if something is not repeated in the New Testament from the Old, then that means that it cannot be binding upon Christians. That is an obvious logical fallacy, as it bases a conclusion by inference alone, without any corroborating or compelling evidence.

One such predominant belief is that among the commandments that are repeated in the New Testament, the Sabbath is not. The conclusion is, therefore, that it has been done away with altogether, although much of Christianity has adopted Sunday as the de facto "Sabbath". Oddly, one of the key arguments for that practice goes like this, "Jesus rose on the first day of the week, therefore the Sabbath has been changed to Sunday!" That is yet another example of misinterpretation of scripture and application of flawed logic. That topic is no doubt the subject for a further study on hermeneutics and another time, as I digress!

What I would like to do in the short time remaining is touch on the medical aspects of eating swine's flesh.

Oddly, in looking for information on this topic, I happened on a great many more Muslim sites than Christian or Jewish. I got the following information from Islamic-world.net (http://islamic-world.net/sister/h1.htm).

"Dr. E. Kazim, M.D. in his article "Medical aspects of forbidden foods in Islam" (July 1981 issue of Muslim Journal has described diseases carried or caused by the flesh of the swine.

He writes:

The pig is a scavenger. It is an omnivorous animal. It eats everything. There are many diseases carried from swine to man, particularly parasite infestations. Lately extensive research has been focused on senility-old age is characterized by hardening of inner lining of the blood vessels of the heart, brain etc. a process called atheroselerosis. When a clot forms, it results in coronary thrombosis or a heart attack, cerebral thrombosis or stroke.

Different dietary factors are responsible for atherselerosis. Gross atheroma may be produced in rabbit by feeding it with cholesterol, but when you add lard (derived from hog fat) to the cholesterol, the incidence of atheroma is increased and thus you would produce coronary thrombosis, and myocardial infraction

....

According to medical research, the fat content in pork is more than any other meat (beef, mutton, etc.) and it takes longer to digest. Dr. M. Jaffer in an article in the Islamic Review (London) of January 1997 issue has listed 16 kinds of harmful germs, which have been discovered in pork in modern researches and the diseases, which could be caused by them. The number of patients suffering from tapeworm disease is the highest in the world among pork eating nations. Other diseases attributed to pigs are caused by tri-chenelia spirates and intestinal worms occupy first place among such nations too.

Dr. Glen Shepherd wrote the following on the dangers of eating pork in Washington Post (31 May 1952).

One in six people in USA and Canada have germs in their muscles - trichinosis 8 from eating pork infected with trichina worms. Many people who are infected show no symptoms. Most of those, who do have, recover slowly. Some die; some are reduced to permanent invalids. All were careless pork eaters".

He continued, "No one is immune from the disease and there is no cure. Neither antibiotics nor drugs or vaccines affect these tiny deadly worms. Preventing infection is the real answer."

I got the following excerpt from http://www.infolink-islam.de/Main//Q-A-panel/pork.html

The Issue of Eating Pork

Many Muslims are appalled at the sight of Christians freely eating pork. They are repulsed by the sight of a pig just as much as the early Children of Israel were under the Mosaic Law, which continues to affect the lives of millions of Jewish people still today. The pig was clearly forbidden in the Old Testament:

And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.

Leviticus 11:7-8

A similar prohibition is also found in the Qur'an: He hath only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that on which any other name hath been invoked besides that of God.

Surat-ul Baqara (2):173

We understand that since the flesh of swine is strongly forbidden in Islam, Muslims regard the eating of pork as an extremely unholy act -- an abomination before God. For this reason, they consider it an outrageous contradiction for people, who claim to be followers of the holy prophet Jesus, to eat pork.

From http://happinessonline.org/MoralCode/LiveWithTruth/p11.htm

SCIENTIFIC FOREKNOWLEDGE

AND BIBLICAL ACCURACY

By Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

While the Old Testament placed no restrictions on the eating of fruits and vegetables, severe limitations were given for the eating of certain meats. Among land animals, only those that had a split hoof and chewed the cud were approved as edible (Leviticus 11:3). Of those water-living animals, only those with fins and scales were acceptable (Leviticus 11:9; of interest is the fact that poisonous fish have no scales). Birds of prey were prohibited, as were almost all insects. But perhaps the best known among these biblical prohibitions was eating the meat of the pig; to the Jew, pork was considered unclean, and thus inedible.

There is good reason for such a prohibition. Pigs are scavengers, and as such eat almost anything. In so doing, on occasion they ingest the parasite Trichinella spiralis, which is the cause of trichinosis in humans. Pigs also are known carriers (as intermediate hosts) of the tapeworm, Taenia solium, and of the parasite Echinococcus granulosis, which causes tumors in the liver, lungs, and other parts of the body. Raw or undercooked pork can be very dangerous when consumed by humans. ...

Originally published in Reason and Revelation, October 1993, 13[10]:78. Copyright (c) 1993 Apologetics Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I happened across another website, a forum that had a comment that I thought might be interesting to share with you. It is from ScriptureForums.org (http://scriptureforums.org/showthread.php?t=88) titled "Stepping Away from Pork".

"I have always been a bacon lover....However this past weekend I watched a show called "Going Tribal".....well, this one tribe had a toilet pig....Basically a hole in the ground where they did their business and at the bottom of the hole lived a pig that kept that area clean....For a moment I thought I was watching something from the Flintstones.

I understand oh so much why God said No-No....I can't bring myself to buy any pork products right now."

I intended for this message to convey the importance of thinking through Scriptural issues with the use of logic. Again, I want to encourage you to read Scripture on a regular basis, as Paul admonishes Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

I'll end with several passages from Isaiah 66:

Isaiah 66:3

"He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog's neck; he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig's blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol. These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations;"

Isaiah 66:17

17 "Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating pig's flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, declares the Lord.

Isaiah 66:22-24

22 "For as the new heavens and the new earth

that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord,

so shall your offspring and your name remain.

23 From new moon to new moon,

and from Sabbath to Sabbath,

all flesh shall come to worship before me,

declares the Lord.

24 "And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh."