Years ago some dear Jewish friends tried to save me by sharing a pamphlet that pointed out that most of the scriptures used in the New Testament gospels are proof texts.

(And yes, I still love them).

The truth is that until the last 20-30 years almost all scriptures were used more as proof texts than anything else.

It is a time honored tradition going back to the earliest sources (eg the Bible authors proof text with abandonment as do most religious scholars until recent times).

In the LDS Church we have Boyd K Packer’s often reviled talk on authority where he preached that general authorities should defer to scholars so as to avoid proof texting (the part of the talk everyone misses) but not much else of an official discussion–seems that since Joseph Smith advised reading in context for the real meaning no one has thought much about it.

So. What does it matter? Why did the author of the Gospel of Matthew engage in it? What should we think of the practice?

It matters to the extent we seek the original meaning of things beyond reading the scriptures as a Rorschach ink blot that has meaning beyond that which we bring to them.

On the other hand, scriptures are alive to the extent that they speak to us now, in our context beyond their original time and place (the historical way they have been used for the past few thousand years).

Which means, I think we should look at the practice with caution.

What do you think?

Have you ever found yourself proof texting?

Have you gained from learning original meanings?

Have you ever been taught or inspired to knowledge or insight by applying a scripture to yourself in a new or original way?

What are your thoughts and experiences?