The Journal of Biblical Accuracy

On the interpretation of the Bible (PDF) PDF version

On the interpretation of the Bible

The question of what is the right interpretation of the Bible and how to interpret the Word of God is a big question that needs a valid answer. The need for a right answer is shown by the fact that there are hundreds of denominations that all claim that follow the Bible and yet they have great differences from each other in the way they interpret it. I believe the only valid way to find the correct answer to the question of Bible interpretation or hermeneutics, as it is sometimes called, is to go to the Bible and see what the Bible itself suggests concerning its own interpretation.

The responsibility of each Christian regarding the interpretation of the Word of God is given in II Timothy 2:15. There we read:

 II Timothy 2:15
"Study to show yourself approved to God a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

The word of truth is the Word of God i.e. the Bible. As the above verse tells us, we are responsible before God to rightly divide His Word. The Greek word that is translated as "rightly divide" is the word "orthotomounta". This word is composed by the adjective "orthos" that means "perfectly right or straight" and the verb "tomo" that means "to cut". Thus "orthotomounta the word of truth" means "cutting perfectly right the word of truth". Now for God to call us to cut perfectly right His Word, it means that you cannot have three or even two cuttings and all of them be perfectly right. Only one interpretation of the Word of God is “perfectly right”. To find how to arrive at this perfectly right cutting, perfectly right interpretation of the Bible, let’s go to II Peter 1:20. There we read:

"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation, for the prophecy never came by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."

We already know from the article “Who is the author of the Bible and who wrote it” that "prophecy of the Scripture" means all the Scripture i.e. all the Bible. According to the above passage, nothing in the Bible is of any private interpretation. Now, since private interpretation is ruled out, the only alternative is that the Bible interprets itself i.e. it is self-interpreted. This means that we are not permitted to go to the Bible and give our own interpretations to it. Instead we are obligated, if we want to present ourselves approved to God, to find and follow the interpretation that the Bible gives to itself. This and only this is then the right interpretation of the Bible. Whether this interpretation agrees or not with our denomination or tradition, should not have any importance for us. For us what should be of importance is to study to show ourselves approved to God and to do this we must search and follow for the interpretation that the Bible gives to itself.

Anastasios Kioulachoglou