Confusion on Interpretation

Dortmund Hbf, Regional Train

Have you ever been asked, “Why are there so many interpretations if your interpretation is the right one?” Usually this question is asked to me as a trump card more than a question. It usually has to do with the Bible. The argument follows: a. Your claim that interpreting the Bible literally in it’s historical and grammatical contexts is the right way to interpret, b. There are a lot of different ways people interpret the Bible, c. Therefore your claim that the right way to interpret the Bible as literal is wrong. This is known as the bandwagon fallacy. Since everybody else interprets the Bible different ways, your claim that yours ins the right one is wrong. This argument makes a lot of assumptions.

  1. Truth is determined by the majority. This is again bandwagon fallacy. Truth is determined by reality, not popular opinion.
  2. Truth is relative so your saying there is only one truth is wrong. This logical fallacy is known as begging the question. The argument assumes truth is relative without giving an argument for why truth is relative. It is also contradictory as if truth is relative, then my assortation that truth is not relative is still true.
  3. The Bible is not clear. This is a straw man argument. The argument sets the Bible up as something that is obscure, then pushes it down by saying many people interpret it differently. If anyone has read the Bible, they can know this is not the case.

The thing that I want to ask that person is, do you want me to apply that same logic to you? Since truth can be interpreted any way I want to, I believe you just said you want to give me a thousand dollars. In fact, I believe you told me you wanted me to take you to your bank so you can give me a thousand dollars. Obviously he wants me to interpret him literally in the context of our conversation.

That still brings up the question. Why do people interpret the Bible differently? There are a few different reasons why.

  1. Some people interpret the Bible differently than the literal interpretation because they do not know how to interpret the literature. The Bible has different genres that require different rules of interpretation. You don’t interpret the gospels the same as you do the book of Revelation. They are two dramatically different genres.
  2. Some people are taught to spiritualize or allegorize the text to get the deeper meaning of the passage. They miss the plain understanding of the passage to get a more spiritual understanding, even if it is clear that the author does not intend the passage to be interpreted this way.
  3. Some people do not want the Bible to be true. So they interpret it to mean something it doesn’t mean in order to tear it down. Again straw man fallacy.
  4. Some people just do not have enough information to make a correct interpretation of the passage. They do not know the author, context, situation, geography, history, or etc. and that leads to misinterpreting the text.

None of these reasons are legitimate reasons for interpreting the Bible differently from what the author intended. They are just reasons why misinterpretation happens. If we follow the rules of reading the Bible in its historical and grammatical context, we will get the right interpretation of the passage. If we let the clear passages of scripture help us understand the more complex passages, and submit ourselves to the teaching, we will be blessed by God. Just think if the engineer in the train decided to follow whatever path he wanted instead of following the rules of the railroad. He would be headed for great disaster. Let’s follow God’s plan in interpreting the scriptures and stay away from all of those dangerous misinterpretation paths.

I hope this has blessed you. Please feel free to comment in the comment section. Please no profanity or pornography. Please also feel free to look at the resource section for my book series on how to study the Bible. Lord bless you.

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