Stop Following the Bible

Everyone Interprets the Bible

Everyone….yes, everyone, interprets the Bible. The idea of “the plain meaning of the Scripture” is nonsense. There is no such thing. “The plain meaning of Scripture” is used by a lot of Christians to say that we should just take the Bible for what it says without seeing if there is a deeper meaning. We ALL bring our notions, ideas, culture, bias, and stereotypes to the reading of Scripture. If we do not recognize this, it can be dangerous (literally).

We also have to recognize that the Bible we read today has been translated several times, and it’s possible to miss the point or not understand a cultural reference that can make a huge difference in how it is translated. That’s why multiple translations of the Bible is a good thing. There are some fringe Evangelicals that insist that only one translation of the Bible is “true”, which is just utter nonsense.

If you just read the Bible and take the literal meaning of it without question or context or study or a guide, you will murder, rape, steal and have a Scripture verse to backup everything you did. This is the problem with Christians who take the Bible literally without nuance or imagination.

The Bible Says

“The Bible says….” is a dangerous phrase because the Bible says a LOT of things. Whenever someone starts with this phrase, I have a hard time not cringing. I feel much better if someone starts with, “Jesus says…”. I know that my feelings are not what’s important, but I have seen so much evil and pain and hurt that started with “The Bible says…”

The Bible is a dangerous book. In fact, it refers to itself as a sword (Hebrews 4:12). That is true in more ways than one.

Scripture can dig down into our soul and shine a light on the darkest parts of our heart.

Scripture can also be used to stab someone in the soul until they bleed.

Too many churches, too many pastors, too many Christians, use the Bible as a weapon, not against evil, but against each other.

We MUST interpret the Bible in order to properly apply it to our lives and our world.

The Bible was meant to be read, studied, and interpreted in community. This is part of what we should be doing as the church of Jesus Christ. In fact, I think this is the point of 2 Peter 1:20, a verse that has been interpreted in different ways.

Bible translations render 2 Peter 1:20 in two ways.

One way is the way the KJV and ASV and others render the verse: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation.”

The other is the way the NIV and others render the verse: “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.”

Two Different Interpretations

Evangelicals have often used this verse as a way to defend the pastor’s “superior” understanding of the scriptures. Meaning, a church member could not disagree with the pastor’s teaching on a verse because the Bible is not up for “private interpretation.” So, you can’t argue with the pastor because somehow his interpretation was not “private.”

This way of “interpreting” 2 Peter 1:20 is simply a way to keep everyone from doing what the Bereans did, “search the Scriptures for themselves to see if what we said was true.” Many pastors have used this verse to keep people from disagreeing with them. It’s a way of keeping the cult-like culture intact. If you make people feel their opinion, belief, “interpretation” is unbiblical, they will continue to “trust” what the leader is saying.

These Evangelicals could never really answer the question that if scripture is not up for private interpretation then how could anyone actually interpret the Bible? Who gets to decide the interpretation we should believe? Someone has to interpret, right? The alternative is to take everything in the Bible literally, and that’s a dangerous road to go down.

How could anyone have a different interpretation of Scripture? If that’s the case, why are there so many different interpretations of scripture? Are all those people wrong for having an interpretation? Which one came from God? So many questions.

Most of the English translations render the verse as talking about our own interpretation instead of the prophet’s interpretation. That is the translation I want to focus on.

It doesn’t say “personal” interpretation. It says “private” interpretation. This doesn’t mean you can’t have personal opinions and thoughts on what the Bible says. What it means (my interpretation) is that you should not interpret the Bible alone.

The Bible is meant to be understood in community. The Bible is meant to be studied together. It’s supposed to be interpreted as we discuss, debate, argue, disagree and work together to increase our understanding of what scripture says for our lives.

When we interpret scripture without community, without others, we wind up with the exact type of religion that tells people how to interpret a verse and then tells them they can’t differ from that interpretation. That’s legalism and not the way of Jesus.

Don’t follow the Bible, follow Jesus. 

About Matthew Thisse

Matthew Thisse is a Jesus follower, single father, associate pastor, and corporate trainer. He is a former Evangelical and a failed fundamentalist.

3 Replies

  1. Donna Sparks

    Love this

    1. Matthew Thisse

      I’m glad to hear that.

  2. Crystal McKinley

    I’m also a failed fundamentalist. It seems to be rare in my generation. Even one of my children has turned to evangelicalism.

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