Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bible Interpretation-- My Thoughts & Opinions

I am reposting this article I wrote originally as a comment on the VTC blog. (Here reposted with all the original grammatical errors too LOL)

I just want to point out a couple problems with Bible Interpretation.

First the only infallible Bibles- are the original manuscripts written in the original languages. Any copy or translation is subject to errors and linguistic problems. Languages do not translate neatly into other languages. Some languages don't have words that convey the same subtle meanings.

You not only have to know the language you are translating from, you have to know it in the context of the time it was written. Lets look at English: less than 100 years old, words that meant one thing at the turn of the century don't mean the same thing today. "Merry and Gay" means something different in 1900 and 2000.

You also have to know current events and the popular culture of the times to understand things. For instance the phrase, "I don't think we are in Kansas anymore", or "That's no moon that's a Space station". We know what these phrases mean because we share a common culture. 2000 years from now will a translator know what these expressions mean? Also lets look at expressions that really make no sense, "break a leg", "easy as pie", "down under", " your goose is cooked", " A little bird told me". etc. We know what these expressions mean, but will people in the future? There are also problems with hyperbole ie: "The ice cream sundae was as tall as a skyscraper". Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration for linguistic effect.

Now Luther thought that the Bible was perspicuous. Perspicuous means clear obvious. Luther believed one could read the Bible and everyone would come to the clear meaning. However reality has proven that it is not clear. There are thousands of Protestant denominations. I have seen a statistic as high as 33000+. Now out of those how many call themselves Bible Only or Bible Believing Churches? Almost all of them. When members of a congregation disagree with their Pastor over scripture interpretation they just split and start another denomination So the Bible is not Perspicuous.

The Bible itself says that it is a hard book to understand.
2 Peter 3:16 (New American Standard Bible)
16as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

So you do need to be taught. Some will say, "All I need is the Holy Spirit." That is great until you disagree with your Pastor or someone else. Then which one has the teaching of the Holy Spirit? Of course you are going to assume yourself. I believe the holy Spirit guides us as a whole and does give us a measure of discernment. But we still need teachers. he Holy Spirit guides and protects the deposit of faith within the church.

1 Corinthians 1:28 28And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues

Second Problem. No one reads the Bible alone regardless of what they say. I am sure our friends have Bible commentaries on their bookshelf. Many a Fundamentalist has their King James version of the Bible with Scoffield Notes. They also get lots of Bible instruction from their Pastors. Where do their Pastors get their training? From Seminaries. Some big ones are the Dallas Theological Seminary, The Moody Bible Institute, Trinity College Theological Seminary. There are many more. Now all these guys don't agree with one another. So there is a Problem of Authority. And no they don't agree even on the basics.

Third Problem is a Historical one. First Individual reading of the Bible and personal Bible study is a very, very recent in History thing. It is only very recent in our history that People have access to Bibles in their own languages. It is only recently people can afford Bibles. And it is only recently the majority of people are literate and can read the Bible. We are talking less than 500 years. There was no Bible in the form we have it today with all the books compiled into the one Bible for the first 400 years of Christian history. So for 1500 years what did people do? Was God so careless as to leave Christians in the dark for 1500 years? No he gave us a Church. The Church is the Pillar and Foundation of Truth.

1 Timothy 3:15 (New American Standard Bible) 15but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

So Now as a Protestant You have the daunting task of trying to figure out which Bible believing Church has the truth. If I want to understand the scriptures and know what they meant in the time of Christ I would go as close to the source as I could. What did the early Christian believe. How did they who preserved and wrote the Scriptures interpret them. Not only are there the canonized scriptures we have today. There are also many preserved Church documents by the early Christians that lived within the lifetime of the Apostles The Didache I believe was written about 70 AD. It is an amazing document. Read what the early Christians wrote. They didn't always agree and you can't take their word as 100 percent correct like you can't any Bible commentary. But if you read enough you will get a picture and a consensus of what that early church believed.

In Summary; The Church is universal but it is also visible. If the Church is the Pillar and foundation of Truth which Church is it? The Bible very clearly tells you how to discern correct doctrine. Know from whom you have been taught. If it is from Jesus and the Apostles that Jesus taught it is trustworthy. The whole problem is with Authority. I trust the Church that proves Apostolic Succession, that has a consistent history, and a consistent presence throughout History because I believe God's promise that the gates of hell will not prevail over the Church. There is a consistent rule of faith and standard for all Catholic Churches worldwide which is the Bible and the Catechism.

The Catechism is how those Scripture are interpreted and understood. Whether or not individuals within the Church espouse everything or not. The Individual Congregations are not deciding doctrine individually among themselves like Protestant Non-Denominational Churches. There are no contradictions of Scripture within the Catholic Church, Their is a unity that goes back 2000 years. It is awesome to read the ECF's and know it is the same faith of the Apostles. (Now the ECF's are not infallible and did not agree with each other on every single point but as a whole they are in agreement.) Not a faith that Protestants tried to re-create with just the Bible alone (trying to guess the mind of Jesus and the Apostles and what they might have meant in the many passages of the Bible) 1500 years after the fact. The Catholic Church doesn't have to guess. It had that knowledge and passed it down along with the Holy Scriptures protected by the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 16:18 (New American Standard Bible)18"I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

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