How to Interpret the Bible, part 2, or Rescuing 2 Peter 1:20-21 . . .

((c) Rev. Dr. Curtis Crenshaw, ThD)

16 Jan 2018

This post is the conclusion from last time. I don’t hope to do an exhaustive course on hermeneutics (how to interpret the Bible), but just to make some comments on these two verses that I began last time.

Here again is my translation of 2 Peter 1:20-21:

Knowing this first,

that no                  prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own [private] interpretation,

                             for prophecy never came by the will of man,

BUT

                       holy men of God spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

  1. By “no prophecy of Scripture” that  I mean the written revelation as given in Holy Scripture.
  2. Moreover, “from one’s own” by which I mean no one conjours up revelation from his imagination. I understand “own” to mean “private”. In other words, a reader or one who imagines is not allowed to invent Scripture. How many times have I had someone tell me, “This is what this passage means to me [then follows some interpretation]; what does it mean to you.” Peter is telling us that a passage ripped from its context is not really Holy Scripture, but someone’s imagination. As one friend of mine often quotes another scholar:

    “A wrong interpretation of Scripture is not Scripture; 

     … only the TRUE meaning of the Bible can properly be called the Bible.” 

    Once I was managing a Christian bookstore in Memphis, TN when a lady came in to shop. She kept saying that the Lord had told her such and such (don’t recall now what it was). Finally, I said, “The Lord told me the opposite.” She looked stunned.  One must never challenge another’s “revelation” or “word of knowledge.” She said something like “How can you say that?” I walked over to our Bible section of the book store, picked up a Bible, and read her a few verses that said the opposite of what she was claiming. She said something like, “Well, this is what it MEANS TO ME.” I replied that God the Holy Spirit was not into relativism. To show how objective she was, she never came back. By her will or imagination, she was inventing a meaning that was not in the text of the Bible; it was a private interpretation.

  3. There is one Greek word for “as they were carried along,” which is a present tense, passive voice, participle, masculine, plural, indicating continuous action. In this context, “they” refers to “holy men” of God. Passive voice refers to the Holy Spirit superintending one’s thought processes to enable him to give divine revelation. It does not mean the person just sat down one day and said something like, “I’m gonna write me some Scripture.” No, God the Holy Spirit was in charge. Present tense means an ongoing process, at least at that time. Now that revelation is complete, there is no more scripture being written.
  4. To the lady mentioned above, the Bible was a wax nose to be molded to fit her “private interpretation.” As for the finality of the Bible, I have a chapter on that in my book, Man as God: The Word of Faith Movement, in which I point out that the Bible says of itself that very thing; namely, it is final in its now current form.
  5. “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other”. (1 Cor. 4:6 NKJ)
  6. “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (Jas. 4:12 NKJ)
  7. “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa. 8:20 NKJ) We are always to listen and obey former revelation.
  8. One of the great problems with today’s new revelations, or word of knowledge, is that these “new” prophets separate the Holy Spirit from the written word, which is what Peter does not allow: “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:21 NKJ) Peter does not allow new revelation based on one’s own imagination.
  9. We must recognize whether the Bible IS the word of God, CONTAINS the word of God, or BECOMES the word of God. We can see these three ideas in a plate umpire calling balls and strikes. A father yells at the umpire when his son is at bat, (1) “That was no strike. Did you get new glasses yet?” To which the ump says, “I call them as they are.” This means there is objective truth in the pitch. He does not make up his own “private interpretation.” (2) Another father yells at another ump, “What’s the matter with your eyes?” The ump yells back, “I call them as I see them.” This means his interpretation is the eye of the beholder.  (3) Finally, another father screams, “O come on, you can’t be serious. You’re blind as a bat and twice as ugly.” With equal fervor the ump yells, “They are not balls or strikes until I call them.” This is no truth here, just perspective, and the ump has the final respective. This is the problem with much of Christianity in the USA. Some really seek to understand and apply Holy Scripture as given. Others think each person can make up his own mind. And finally,  with others there is no truth, but let’s just play the game.
  10. In the first case, the ump sees truth as it is. In the second case, another ump sees truth as somewhere in the situation. Finally, in the third case, truth becomes what the ump wants it to be. We are in the third stage in the churches in the USA.

AMEN

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