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Prooftexting is the practice of using quotations from a document (often, but not always, a book of the Bible) to establish a proposition. Using discrete quotations is generally seen as decontextualised. Critics of the technique note that often a document quoted in such a manner, when read as a whole, may not in fact support the proposition for which it was cited.

Ministers and teachers have used the following humorous anecdote to demonstrate the dangers of prooftexting:

A man dissatisfied with his life decided to consult the Bible for guidance. Closing his eyes, he flipped the book open and pointed to a spot on the page. Opening his eyes, he read the verse under his finger. It read, "Then Judas went away and hanged himself" (Matthew 27:5b) Closing his eyes again, the man randomly selected another verse. This one read, "Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'" (Luke 10:37b)

During the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church accused the reformers – fairly or otherwise – of prooftexting. One instance of alleged prooftexting related to the Protestants' use of Ephesians 2:8-9, which reads, in the New Revised Standard Version translation of the Bible:

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast".

This text was cited by the Protestants in support of the doctrine of sola fide (salvation by faith alone, apart from good works), and against Catholic understanding of salvation, which holds that for salvation to be effective, individuals must be willing, active instruments of God's grace.

The Protestants dismissed the accusations of prooftexting as straw man fallacy, noting that other verses (Romans 3:26, Philippians 1:29, Romans 3:28, 1 Corinthians 12:3, etc.) carry similar messages and that these themes are more fully developed throughout the New Testament, notably in Paul's Epistles to the Romans, the Galatians, the Ephesians and the Hebrews.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Prooftext" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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