Thinking through biblio and concepts to cover in a graduate course I’m teaching this winter, I picked up D. A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies tonight. There are many gems in here, including the following:
…as important as word studies are, it is very doubtful if profound understanding of any text or of any theme is really possible by word studies alone.
Perhaps the principal reason why word studies constitute a particularly rich source for exegetical fallacies is that many preachers and Bible teachers know Greek only well enough to use concordances, or perhaps a little more. There is little feel for Greek as a language; and so there is the temptation to display what has been learned in study, which as often as not is a great deal of lexical information without the restraining influence of context. The solution, of course, is to learn more Greek, not less, and to gain at least a rudimentary knowledge of linguistics.
Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd ed. (Carlisle, U.K.; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Paternoster; Baker Books, 1996), 64.
I’d add that this is not the only solution; being aware of the possible shortcomings of word studies can be a helpful safeguard, even if one doesn’t know much Greek.