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