Ten Christian Prooftexts:

The misinterpretation of Hebrew Scriptures
to "prove" Christian claims, and the Jewish response

WHAT IS A PROOFTEXT?

A prooftext is a verse or verses from the Bible that are used to prove or to substantiate a belief through the interpretation of that verse. For example, one could point to the verses from Genesis 1:3-4, which read,

3 And God said, 'Let there be light:' and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

From these verses one could say that Gd created light and that light is good, because this is the clear, simple, literal meaning of these two verses.

On the other hand, some verses are not that clear in their meaning, and must be interpreted to understand. For example, in Genesis 12:5 we read,

And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

The text reads that Abraham and Sarah took with them "the souls that they had gotten in Haran." Judaism interprets this to mean those that Abraham and Sarah proselytized to Judaism. One could argue that the word "souls" refers to their children, but the text is clear: they had no children until much later. Another interpretation could be that the word "souls" refers to slaves they purchased. However, the first reference to slaves owned by Abraham and Sarah is found later in Genesis 12:16, and the Pharaoh of Egypt apparently gave them to Abraham, so it probably does not refer to slaves. Judaism interprets the verse to mean "those who converted to the belief in the One True Gd through Abraham and Sarah," but this remains an interpretation --there is nothing in the text to clarify the meaning of the words "the souls that they had gotten."

Truthfully, any verse of the Bible can be interpreted in any way that any reader wishes to interpret it. But not every interpretation is a legitimate use of that verse, because not all interpretations are correct. What if someone used the same verses above from Genesis 1:3-4 to substantiate the claim that Gd created light beer on the first day of Creation? The interpreter could believe that the word 'light' in the verse referred to beer, and therefore understand this verse to be telling the reader that Gd invented light beer before the creation of humanity. Since reduced calorie beer was unknown to human beings until it was invented in the 1980s, this interpretation cannot be correct, even if the one who wishes to interpret it may forever see it as a reference to light beer.

Similarly, Jews and Christians will disagree over the interpretation given to certain verses in the Hebrew Scriptures. Christians use these verses as prooftexts, to support their beliefs and to claim these interpretations demonstrate that Jesus fulfilled the meaning Christians find therein. Jews, on the other hand, will show the Christian interpretations to be incorrect and therefore MISinterpretations, because the Christian understanding of those verses contradicts the clear, simple, literal meaning of other verses in the Bible.

1. Genesis 1:1In the beginning Gd created the heaven and the earth.
2. Genesis 1:26And Gd said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...
3. Genesis 3:22And the Etrnl Gd said, Behold, the man is become as one of us...
4. Genesis 49:10The sceptre shall not depart from Judah...
5. Leviticus 17:11...for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
6. Isaiah 9:6-7For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given...
7. Jeremiah 31:31-34...I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel...
8. Psalm 110:1...The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand...
9. Proverbs 30:2-4...what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?
10. Isaiah 53...he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities...

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