dimanche 11 décembre 2011

Reading a Bible verse vs Interpreting a Bible verse

Someone in a forum asked me if I could briefly explain what I meant by the difference between reading a biblical text and its interpretation.

I meant just by reading a text: the simple acknowledgment of what a text says or reads. Nothing more beyond what is written.

As for interpretation, I'll say this: To interpret is generally defined as 'to explain' or 'tell the meaning of'' Biblical interpretation is usually appealed when a particular text needs further diagnosis to satisfy a concern.

Let me give an example by using the most popular bible verse and see how this issue of reading it and interpreting it means, or leads to:

  "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16 (KJV)

If for example i asked, why did God gave His Son for the world? I can bet that all those who have read John 3:16 will say something close to these:

1. He gave His Son so that the world be saved. (Jn3:16)
2. he gave His son so that Men and woman be saved. (Jn3:16)
3. He gave His son so that Men and woman shall not perish. (Jn3:16)
4. He gave His Son so that the world shall not perish. (Jn3:16)
5. He gave His son so that we may not perish but be saved. (Jn3:16)

In this instance, all the 5 answers are very similar and complementary. The reason is, because the text itself gives the answer to the question asked. That is why there is uniformity in the answers. However if i ask, why did God loved the world? You can be sure that uniformity will be thrown out by the window. The answer you'll come up with in this instance might be as vast as the number of people you'll ask it from. It will depend on where they are outsourcing their supplementary information to answer this question.


1. Because God CREATED them in His own image. This is why He loved the world. (Gen 2:27)
2. Because God WANTS the world to be saved. This is why He loved the world. (1Tm2:3)
3. Because God HAD PLANS for people before the creation of the world. This is why He loved the world. (Ephesian 1:4)
4. Because God just WISHED it, it was just His PLEASURE. This is why He loved the world. (Ephesian 1:5)
5. No one knows really why He loved the world in this way. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
6. Etc.

All of these 5 proposed answers are based on theological interpretation because this bible text of John 3:16 doesn't tell you why He loved the world. So people have to make appeal to their biblical knowledge or else to try to find out a causal reason for God loves for humanity. This doesn't mean that because something is interpreted that it is false. It only means that it is interpreted! Simple as that. It's truthfulness will depend on the nature of the supporting arguments.

Here is a simple rule that i personally use at time, when you have more than one answer about the explanation of a biblical text by two knowledgeable person about the Bible, you can be almost (not always) certain that they are interpreting the text in the light of their personal theology.

Let me see if i can make you appreciate the situation more fully. When you read this: "For God so loved the world,..." what do you think this means? Try to answer this before your proceed with the reading.

And if i ask you what is "the world"? Why do you think that 'the world' means that?

Why do people think that 'the world' here is only synonymous to human beings? On what basis are they basing this understanding of theirs about this word 'World'?

Now this was about a popular scripture that concern us all in our personal experiences and which is usually non controversial. Can you imagine about the other bible verses that aren't that familiar with most Christians, what interpreting them will demand?

There are usually three obstacles that stand in the way of correctly interpreting the biblical writings: We speak a different language, we live approximately two millennial later, and we bring different expectations to the text. Anyone who wants to do a fair and good job with the biblical texts needs to ensure that he can surmount those obstacles. This is why I insist that we be sure about the differences between what people
reads and their interpretation of what they read, especially since applications of scriptures usually follows either what they read or what they interpret it to mean.

Have a nice week in Jesus' name.

Aucun commentaire:

Enregistrer un commentaire