In his excellent book, Scripture Twisting, James Sire addresses the common error of “collapsing contexts.” Sire describes this error as follows:
When two or more unrelated texts are treated as if they belonged together, we have the fallacy of collapsing contexts. This reading error can be especially knotty because it is the corruption of a perfectly good principle of reading: to compare Scripture with Scripture (James Sire, Scripture Twisting, p. 58, L. 533)
On a recent exchange on this blog, a Mormon (LDS) commenter called the apostle Peter “the seer of the church.” To which I responded that “Peter was never described as a seer,” but that this was “an idea that the LDS church is forcing back into the history so they can say that their current structure is just like that of the very early church.” This was when this Mormon demonstrated perfectly how to collapse multiple contexts to make up the Bible say anything you want:
No, he [Peter] wasn’t. However, it is perfectly agreeable to the text [Matthew 16:17-18] to say that he was the leader of the church, and since prophets have led the church of God from the time of Adam it is in keeping with the text to say he is a prophet. Cephas means stone, and the Urim and Thummum were two stones used in the Old Testament by Seers. Then there is 1 Samuel 9: 9 “Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer”. So to call him a seer is not entirely without support in the Bible as you claim (LDS blog commenter).
Actually, this single paragraph demonstrates a lot of the Scripture Twisting errors described by Sire in his book. But, let’s focus on just the error of “collapsing contexts.” Look at all of the (supposed) parts of the Bible that have to be brought together to get this idea to fit together:
- Matthew 16:17-18. The church is built on Peter. This is a New Testament passage.
- The Urim and Thummum were stones used by seers in the Old Testament.
- Peter’s name (also called Cephas) means stone or rock.
- Therefore, Peter the rock was a seer.
So, Peter means rock, special rocks were used by prophets, prophets have always led the churches, prophet also can mean seer, therefore Peter was a seer. It is clearly all in the Bible, right?
No, of course not. It is a house of cards. It is coming to the Bible with a preconceived notion and then cherry-picking verses and ideas from all over the place. And, just in case you are wondering about the other errors in this paragraph:
- The Urim and Thummum were given to the priests (see Exodus 28:30) not the prophets. Also, most priests were not prophets and most prophets were not priests.
- The claim that prophets have been the leaders of the church since the time of Adam is not supported by the Bible.
- The claim that Peter is the leader of the church based upon Matthew 16:17-18 is one also made by the Roman Catholic church. However, it is not supported by the evidence of the rest of the Bible or history. The church is not built upon Peter the individual but on the faith that Peter articulated in verse 16, “Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”