For the last five weeks we’ve been discussing reading the Bible as story. We’ve discussed Scot McKnight’s description of Scripture where he suggests that there are three “chapters,” or clearly defined sections to the Bible’s overarching story: theocracy (Gen. 1-1 Sam. 8), monarchy (1 Sam. 8 – Mal. 4), and Christocracy (Matthew 1-Rev. 20). It’s important to realize that God’s ultimate goal is to return us back to a theocracy through the redemptive work of Christ, and the final judgement of all people. Seriously, go read the last two chapters of Revelation and you’ll see an image of how God intended our existence to be in the beginning in the Garden.
Today we talk about the concept of Biblical interpretation. In my church heritage there has been a very big emphasis placed on the “plain reading of the Bible.” In other words, “…we don’t interpret the Bible, we simply do what it plainly says.” Lovely idea, but terribly inaccurate. Whether you like it or not, and whether you realize it or not, the Bible is interpreted by everyone.
Don’t believe me? When was the last time your church put an adulterer to death? (Lev. 20:10) Is your clothing made out of a blend of different materials? (Lev. 19:19) Did you greet everyone at worship with a holy kiss? (commanded 4 times in the NT, Rom. 16:16, 1 Cor. 16:20, 2 Cor. 13:12, 1 Thess. 5:26) Did all the men in your assembly lift their hands during every prayer? (1 Tim. 2:8)
If you didn’t do these things, even though a “plain reading” of Scripture clearly shows you should, then you are interpreting Scripture. And you should interpret Scripture! The only question is, “Am I interpreting Scripture properly?”
Bobby Valentine gives us the following suggestions for doing just that:
“Christian hermeneutics will always begin as a response to the God of all grace who has done great things. Christian interpretation will be rooted in the soul that is seeking to reflect God’s glorious image back into the created world around us. Christian biblical interpretation will begin in prayer and will be understood as ‘an act of worship.’ Thus, interpretation that does not begin in prayer and worship and result in the Spirit flowing through us to a vandalized world means we have a right to question if it is a valid hermeneutic or Christian interpretation. Prayer, Worship and reflecting God’s image: these are the beginning points and the ends/goals of interpretation.”Bobby Valentine
Again the question isn’t if we interpret the Bible. The question is how we interpret. McKnight put sit this way:
“God speaks to us for a reason – I call this ‘missional’ listening. In brief, God tells his story so we can enter into a relationship with him, listen to him, and live out his Word in our day and in our way.”Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet, 2nd Ed., pg. 113
If our interpretation of Scripture doesn’t affect our daily lives, it’s worthless. If our interpretation brings us into a place where we better reflect the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29 – remember we’re living in a Christocracy), then we can be confident in our approach to the Scriptures.
So, how is your interpretation of Scripture reflecting the image of Christ to others in your life?
3 thoughts on “How To Know You’re Interpreting The Bible Correctly.”
Great point Matt. We are interpreting Scripture whether we think we are or not. I don’t know how you can do a “plain” interpretation. Words require context to understand their meaning. A word only has meaning in reference to other words and their understood uses and applications. Won’t go into a whole thing on linguistics but we’re always applying our own biases and frameworks to the word whether we think we are or not.
Absolutely agree. Some in my religious heritage use the idea of a “plain reading” to mean if you don’t see things the way we do then you’re interpreting the text versus doing what the text “plainly says.”
Let me use an exaggerated example (though some believe this way). Acts 2 “plainly says” the early church met in the temple courts and in homes. Since the temple was destroyed in AD 70, it is impossible for us to meet in the temple courts. Therefore the “plain reading” of scripture tells you the church is to meet in homes, and therefore God doesn’t allow church buildings.
It’s a very flawed way of reading Scripture, yet there are some who read this way on a number of issues. Thanks for reading brother!