Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding…those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit. II Peter 1:20-21 NLT
I thought everyone thought like me. Imagine my surprise when I discovered they didn’t.
As a preacher’s son, most of my biblical knowledge and interpretation came directly from my dad. He preached on a passage of Scripture and told the congregation—and me, what it meant. He was God’s representative. God told him what to preach. So what he said must be the “gospel truth.” Or so I thought. With college arrived professors and authors who took issue with some of his interpretations.
If the Bible is God authored, why are some of the teachings variously interpreted? Christians by the very definition believe the Bible’s central message: God loved humanity and sent his Son to die for their sins. Other issues, however, they differ on. Issues such as creation, evolution, the Second Coming, the applicability of Old Testament commands. If the Bible isn’t contradictory, why do interpretations differ?
Tradition is one reason. I grew up believing my dad’s. He may have been right on some unclear matters, but he may also have been wrong. As an impressionable child, I believed what I heard…so does every other child. Like other traditions, biblical interpretations are passed along from one generation to the next—right or wrong.
Another reason is that some Biblical teachings can have several meanings. Jesus once looked at the Temple and told his disciples that one stone wouldn’t remain upon another. Some thought he meant the event was imminent when in reality it didn’t occur for a number of years.
Failing to depend on the Spirit’s guidance can lead to erroneous and dissimilar interpretations. So can human weaknesses. Since I don’t possess perfect knowledge, it’s possible for me to err when attempting to discover Biblical meaning.
Disagreeing on the nonessentials or unclear Scriptural passages is permissible and unavoidable. Agreeing on the essentials is necessary. Believing what the Bible says about Jesus—who he was, what he did, what it meant, is crucial for time and eternity.
Prayer: God of all wisdom and knowledge, guide us to a correct understanding of Your Word.