We All Interpret the Bible

Some people are extremely confident in their interpretation of the Bible. So much so, they will claim that what they say is not an interpretation but the direct voice of the Bible itself.

They get frustrated when people disagree with their interpretation because those people are not disagreeing with an interpretation but are disagreeing with the Bible itself and therefore God.

The truth is that we all interpret the Bible and even in our own interpretations, we are often relying on the interpretations of others.

One example is the use of translations of the Bible. Getting from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek of the Bible to our own language includes a layer of interpretation. Translation is not as easy as many assume. The translator has to make some choices that often reflect their own theology and traditions.

Aside from translations, when we read the Bible, we are interpreting the Bible through various lenses. These include:

TraditionReasonExperienceCulturePersonal preferences

Almost always, when someone says “The Bible says…” what they are really saying is “My interpretation of the Bible says…”

I can anticipate that some people will read what I’m saying and assume I am a relativists. They will think I’m saying that there is no real truth, only my truth and your truth. That is not what I’m saying.

Let me compare the Bible to science. There is objective truth about the beginning of the universe and the beginning of life on earth. There are not multiple true explanations about these events.

However, there are multiple interpretations of the evidence that have developed into different theories. There might be multiple valid theories, in that they are logically possible interpretations of the data, but there is only one objectively true explanation.

There can be objective truth with subjective interpretations of the data seeking that truth.

In the same way, the Bible cannot mean whatever we want it to mean (despite no lack of trying). The Bible points toward objective truth. But we interpret through many influences in our life.

Those interpretations may change many times over the years. My interpretation of the Bible is much different from what it was twenty-five years ago. But hopefully we are getting closer to God’s truth as our interpretation evolves.

I can understand why people might be uncomfortable with this idea. Why do we need interpretations? This makes things messy and gives no guarantee that our current interpretation is the correct one.

I understand that and am sympathetic. That is why we need to major on the majors and focus on what the Bible is clearest on. We also need to hold our interpretations with humility.

So the next time you encounter someone with a different theology, don’t assume it is because they have rejected the Bible. Their interpretation is different than yours and it is possible that their’s is correct.

The post We All Interpret the Bible appeared first on Stephen J. Bedard.






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