THE DANGER OF ‘UNIQUE INTERPRETATIONS’ AND OTHER PITFALLS

Another compelling reason for the need to interpret Scriptures correctly is the danger of ‘unique interpretations’. ‘Unique interpretations’ are like when you hear something new and say, “wow, i never heard that before. Unbelievable! I never would have figured that out for myself.” But i submit to you ‘unique interpretations’ are usually wrong. Well, that’s quite a daring statement to make. You know, with all the centuries that people have had to study the Bible and to try to interpret it, isn’t it a reasonable question to say that if someone comes up with a truly new interpretation after all these years have gone by, might that person not be just trying to reach a new audience; to convince a new group of people in some way, rather than to be actually mining the Bible for its truth? Oftentimes, people are fascinated by what is new, as the adage “the new is the true” would have them believe if it’s newer, it must be better. We think of certain kinds of things as wearing out and becoming obsolete, and likewise think that a book that God gave Himself at one time for the benefit of all human beings would somehow become outdated. And that’s a disaster because “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” so says Jesus Himself in Matthew 24:35. So therefore, we have to be very careful not to be fooled by the ‘uniqueness’ factor

Our goal in Bible interpretation really has to do with the ‘plain meaning’ of the text. That’s what we want; to make it possible for the Bible student to reach the plain meaning of the text with every effort everybody can agree on. The theory is such that if we’re patient enough, sensible enough, and use proper and agreed upon methods of interpretation, we could all at the end of our study say, “That’s convincing, we’ve discussed it, we’ve analyzed it, and prayed about it..”, and that would be a wonderful thing. Another factor that i think is very important to appreciate in Bible interpretation is the truth that the Holy Spirit never inspired nonsense; that it was always the purpose of God to have people understand His Word. God has designed His Word for the ordinary people in the street, and not just for the elite scholars or Bible gurus, or for people who had some special power to ‘divide’ the truth under certain kinds of influences. God designed His Word to communicate His plan and His great love for all; that its meaning really is there, that it’s consistent and clear with the rest of the Bible. And it’s the kind of thing a human being can understand as God intended it to be.

What i don’t believe is that you can automatically read it just as instantly understand everything, in the same manner you can’t do that with most newspaper articles. Much less so with something like a Physics textbook or a Math textbook, the writer didn’t assume that you could flip the pages and immediately comprehend everything. You might have to have time to devote to it, and you might need some guidance from somebody who could answer yur questions as they arise. So we could say that the Bible is a quality book, and therefore we don’t believe a careless superficial reading would automatically yield all of its benefits. But i do believe yu don’t have to be an expert. You don’t have to be specially trained. You don’t have to know Greek, or Hebrew, or Aramaic to try and successfully understand God’s Word.

The question is essentially raised; do we have to interpret everything? Is it really required that interpretation take place with every paragraph of the Bible? Can we come across some verses without interpreting them, and only the tricky ones need interpretation? Does it make sense to say that some things don’t require interpretation at all, but certain special things do, or in fact are we always interpreting when we are reading? I think everyone of us needs to understand what we are reading even if it is a single verse in the Bible. We need to know and understand what it is saying to us, and that’s part of what we call interpretation. You know, our brain is setting off all kinds of electrical impulses with every single word, every syllable we hear as we understand the grammar, and this is demonstrated by the fact that we really anticipate as we listen and read because very often we can finish sentences for other people. In fact more often than not we have a pretty good idea of what the person is going to say. We are anticipating meaning while we are listening because we have interpretive skills that are based on our shared knowledge of grammar, our shared knowledge of typical vocabulary expressions that are used of styles and techniques of communication, and even body language for that matter. Well, this happens when we read the Word of God. We really are always interpreting. Some interpretations come very easy and others very intent. In Paul’s letters, we encounter the ‘Flesh’, and we have to be very careful to realize that the great Apostle is using a term that we must interpret, because if we only think ‘flesh’ in the sense of the flesh that’s on our bones, we will not catch what he’s getting at. He’s talking about our sinful nature that limits us and prevents us from knowing God and from responding to His leading. And how really important it is that our spirit should be enlivened and become more attuned to God, so that we don’t just try to live by reason of our sinful physical nature. You can’t just live like an animal, and be attuned to the leading of God and His work in your life. You need to do those things that feed your spirit, and make your spirit a receptor of God’s Spirit. So Paul uses ‘flesh’ as the opposite of spiritual life, and he wants us to become not dormant spiritually. So that’s an example.
(SECOND OF A SERIES)

(External source – How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth by Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart)