Biblical Hermeneutics

bible-interpretations-610x915“For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed,which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:16-20

The next time someone tries to refute your arguments against the teachings in the Bible by saying that you are interpreting it incorrectly or you are taking the words out of context, remind them of good old 2 Peter. The next time a Christian tries to tell you that the teachings in the Old Testament are metaphorical and reflective of a different time in the world, remind them of good old 2 Peter. The next time someone tries to argue that the word of god could have been written into the Bible incorrectly due to the imperfections of man, remind them of good old 2 Peter.

It is clear in the Bible that interpretation is not allowed and god does not discount the Old Testament as most modern-day Christians do. In fact, he stands by it proudly and so should those that say they truly believe. But what about those that devote their lives to interpreting the Bible?hermeneutics

The pastors, priests and reverends? Those that take part in biblical hermeneutics everyday? Well, too bad so sad. Better keep those interpretations to yourself because they are not valid or acceptable in the eyes of your religion. In fact, you are doing nothing but infecting your followers with dangerous interpretations and ultimately probably damning them all to hell. Oops? Well, if you had actually read the Bible you are interpreting, wouldn’t you know that already?

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21 comments

  1. I’m just going to apologise in advance that I directed physicsandwhiskey over here. Although I’m confident if he starts you’ll kick his butt better than I can. 🙂

  2. I’ve seen this verse swung by Catholics in defense of the Church Review of Doctrine.

    But it’s being misinterpreted. =P

    Peter is asserting that no prophesy or portion of Scripture *originates* from some private individual’s belief or interpretation of reality, but that all Scripture comes from divine inspiration. It has nothing to do with hermeneutics or the interpretation of the Bible.

    1. This verse has everything to do with interpretation of the Bible. If the prophecy was brought forth not “by the will of man, but holy men of God [speaking] as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” then that means that the original word of god was not written with private interpretation in mind (as you mentioned) but also that private interpretation is not to be assigned at all. If the word is the word, then that is it. Here, Peter is saying that the prophetic word of god has been confirmed, as is, and reminding us that we should “heed” it. Therefore, how can it be asserted that the statement, “no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation” should be interpreted otherwise? In other words, man created the Bible on divine feelings of movement by the holy spirit and the words are what they were meant to be, nothing more, nothing less.

      1. Hey, thanks for the response!

        The difficulty arises because the Bible was written in natural-language Hebrew and Greek, not in lobjan. Unlike a purely predicate-logic language, natural language derives its semantic value from contextual cues and grammar. Determining the proper semantic content of any text, be it religious or otherwise, is a matter of objective textual criticism, which is largely where hermeneutics arises from.

        So it’s up for some degree of debate whether this passage is a commentary on hermeneutics, or a discussion of plenary inspiration, or a condemnation of novel revelation aka Rev. 22:18. One might even argue that this passage is restricted to “prophetic” passages concerning predictions of future events.

        Just from a purely grammatical angle, I would point to a different translation, like the ESV: “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

        This rendering places emphasis on the genesis of passages of scripture, rather than their interpretation; such a rendering seems much closer to the original Greek and much more in line with the context of the chapter as a whole.

        Please know that I’m not trying to be obtuse or argumentative here; I appreciated your article and your response and I’m genuinely interested in discussing these claims. Thanks again!

        1. I think the word creating this discrepancy and misunderstanding between us is prophecy. Perhaps you are viewing the word to imply that the prophecy of the New Testament was spoken in the Old Testament? Scripture applies to both the Old Testament and the New Testament which are supposed to stand the test of time. This would make the prophecies spoken in the Bible a constant prediction of the future (there is no expiration date on the thing, after all). Therefore, all prophetic predictions and revelations of divine will are constantly relevant and therefore never up for interpretation. Even the ESV version you provided (thanks for that!) holds true to this, saying: “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.” Looking at it from your viewpoint, that the prophecy of the scripture means the Old Testament relating to the New, I can see how you could be interpreting that as meaning the origination of scripture as it prophesizes (don’t think that’s a word, but you get the point!) within itself. However, if that is the basis for your argument, (which I have so boldly and perhaps incorrectly implied) then the argument is moot as people are still living by the prophecies of the Bible today. They are relating to and living their lives by these stories and claim that prophecies are coming true every day. Some are even still anxiously awaiting the rapture!

          When I read the word prophecy, I immediately think of the words written in the Bible as a whole as it relates to the never ending future. This is why I understand the text to read that no interpretation of the Bible is ever allowed. It seems that when you read it, you see prophecy as being foretold in the book itself, therefore not relating to the outside world. This would explain why you see the interpretation to not be of everyday Christians, but of those who received the divine word and commenced to write it all down- the “origination” of scripture, if you will.

          Your point about our language being contextual is a good one, but again, I really think the word prophecy is at the root of the problem here. Let me know what you think…

          1. Yes, the use of the term “prophecy” may be the issue here. My intuitive assumption would be that “prophecy” refers specifically to the prediction of future events, not all narrative and doctrine and teachings.

            I don’t want to get too bogged down in this, as it could easily become a pointless headache, but what you said prompted me to take a look at the Greek. The word used here is “prophēteia”, a term used 19 times in the New Testament. In almost every instance, it’s a reference to predictions about the future, not doctrine or narrative or overall biblical passages.

            Under that assumption, Peter’s statement becomes a little simpler. He’s asserting that no prediction (in this context referring specifically to the promise of the Messiah and the teachings about a second coming) recorded in Scripture came from any private individual’s musings or ideas (like the temple oracles so prevalent in the Greco-Roman world) but rather by the light of divine inspiration (e.g., all the flowerly language in verse 19).

            Prophecy in the first century was a well-known and well-discussed topic; the practice of visiting oracle prostitutes in order to ascertain information about one’s future or even day-to-day business practices was common. Go to the temple, make a monetary “sacrifice”, have sex, get your fortune told, go home. Either the prostitute herself would make the pronouncements, or the priests would “interpret” the prostitute’s oft-drugged ecstatic ravings into elegant-but-cryptic hexameters about a person’s life.

            In this chapter, the author of 2 Peter seeks to distinguish the predictions and pronouncements of Scripture from well-known oracle prophecies. He asserts that their narratives concerning the Christ were not “cleverly devised myths” but eyewitness testimony (v. 16). He further states that the Scriptures predicting the coming of Christ did not arise from the interpretations of men (as the priests who would “interpret” the ravings of the drugged oracle prostitutes) but from the Holy Spirit.

            Based on this, I’d argue that 2 Peter 1:20 has little or nothing to do with hermeneutics. Sound fair enough to you?

            1. Ok, I see where you are going with the whole oracle thing, especially within the context of the rest of the book and I think you have a point there. However, I do not believe the word “prophecy” is used in the book as merely meaning a “prediction of future events”. According to the context clues, the prophecy IS the narrative, it IS the doctrine and it IS the teachings. All of these things make up the prophecy of the return of christ in that they reveal how we are to be included in the rapture and not left behind. Here is another passage taken from 2 Peter in which the author discusses interpretations:

              Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” 2 Peter 3:14-16

              This clearly states that the wisdom given, as written for you, including the epistles, while hard to understand are not to be taken any other way. “…people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” meaning, people interpret the scripture to benefit their own personal needs, hence ensuring their own destruction. It follows with another warning:

              You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:17-18

              Interpretation is the error of the wicked. It says so right there, clear as day.

              1. This other passage definitely has more to do with interpretation/hermeneutics and less to do with the source/origin of prophecy itself. Good call.

                I think we might be running into a bit of a snag over the use of the term “interpretation”. As I see it, anyone who reads a verse *at all* is going to have an interpretation of it. Like I said before, this is natural language; to read is to interpret.

                You say, “the epistles, while hard to understand are not to be taken any other way.” I can’t help but ask: any other way but what? Taking them in *any* way involves interpretation. Do you think Peter is advocating a particular paradigm of interpretation here?

                To twist scripture is obviously and unequivocally “the error of the wicked” — but how does that equate to interpretation itself? Doesn’t any reading necessarily result in an interpretation?

                1. I agree that to read is to interpret and that is really what is at the root of this entire post. It is practically impossible not to interpret, yet the Bible commands us not to. Our interpretations will always be wrong unless our interpretation has the exact same intention as that of the Holy Spirit. And that should be impossible, right? Unless we are ourselves the Holy Spirit!

                  “Taking the epistles any other other way” means anything other than at face value- what you see is what you get. But again, my interpretation of the word “starving” is probably vastly different to that of a child living in extreme poverty even though we are using the same word. So, to say that you have interpreted the text is a human thing to do/say, however, it is against the will of god. We can not help but to interpret, so why was god not able to see that this would occur and write his teachings in a way that would be un-interpretable? Why did Jesus insist on speaking in parables to confuse his followers?

                  To twist scripture is to interpret it. Interpretation, whether twisted or not and whether knowingly twisted or not, is to understand and further form opinions of it. Opinions and judgements are passed unconsciously by humans everyday and they are what help us to understand things in the first place. My point with this post was to show that people are not permitted to interpret the Bible, per the Bible, even though they can’t help it and therefore, I am not, nor is anyone for that matter, accountable to their inherently wrong interpretation/experience in reading the Bible. Therefore, any argument made by any theist of the Christian variety in regards to the contents of the Bible and how it relates to people today would always be wrong (one can never know the true intention of the Holy Spirit without first interpreting what they thought it meant) and always be viewed as “wicked” in the eyes of their own religion.

                  1. I agree that to twist the meaning of a document is a form of interpretation, but I don’t think all forms of interpretation need necessarily involve twisting. The SCOTUS doesn’t always twist the Constitution when it interprets it.

                    An interpretation that accurately represents the author’s intended meaning (without regard to whether that author has any divine inspiration, haha) is just a matter of evaluating context and word choice; basic textual criticism, applicable to any document of antiquity. That doesn’t seem to be what Peter is talking about; he seems to be focused on twisting Scripture with explicitly malicious intent.

    2. (physicsandwhiskey has a strange agnostic psychological condition that tells him there is a ‘correct’ interpretation of the Bible and *only he* can logically extract it. (he was a fundamentalist Christian and did the same thing when he interpreted it differently (don’t tell him I told you)))

      1. I do?

        Well dang. That’s news.

        Determining the intent of the authors of any text is a fairly objective pursuit. I certainly don’t feel that I’m uniquely suited for “extracting” this; I can only ask questions and make arguments the same as anyone else.

  3. ”Determining the intent of the authors of any text is a fairly objective pursuit. I certainly don’t feel that I’m uniquely suited for “extracting” this; I can only ask questions and make arguments the same as anyone else.”

    Which lends credence that there was no divine inspiration at all, for a Perfect Being aka God, Yahweh, His Nibbs. etc would have known the vagaries of His creation and made damn sure that His manual was without flaw thus rendering interpretation moot.
    Futhermore, if such a being was aware that the áuthors had committed an almighty cock-up there was nothing to prevent Him from doing something about it?
    Certainly, Jesus didn’t appear to find anything wrong in the OT texts; he certainly didn’t call for a major re-write.

    In conclusion, it is all a crock and to paraphrase Life of Brian, “They made it u as they went along.”

  4. And the Protestants have five/six solae for Biblical interpretations:

    • 1 Sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”)
    • 2 Sola fide (“by faith alone”)
    • 3 Sola gratia (“by grace alone”)
    • 4 Solus Christus or Solo Christo (“Christ alone” or “through Christ alone”)
    • 5 Soli Deo gloria (“glory to God alone”)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_solas#Sola_scriptura_.28.22by_Scripture_alone.22.29
    http://purposedriven.com/blogs/dailyhope/?contentid=10288

    I don’t think Jesus propounded any of them.
    Did he?

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