Different Interpretations

Q. I have a quick question concerning interpretation of the bible. For example, you read a particular Bible passage and come to one conclusion. Another noted scholar reads the same passage and comes to a completely different conclusion. For amateur Bible students, who are we to believe has the right interpretation of the passage?

Let’s say that I am a new Christian studying the Bible and absorbing it in its entirety. I come to a passage that I am unsure as to the meaning. So, I go to the internet to do some research. I go to one web page where a particular pastor gives me an interpretation he believes to be correct. Just to be safe, I compare his conclusion with another well known pastor only to find out that the two disagree completely. As a new Christian, who am I to believe? Each pastor believes in his own
heart that what they interpret is what the author of the Bible passage intended.

But, most importantly, what if I make up my mind and find out after dying that I made the wrong choice? I guess what I am getting at is that there are many ministers, pastors, scholars out there with many different interpretations of the Bible. Why did God write certain passages in the Bible that he knew there would be confusion?

A. As you might expect, the problem isn’t with God, it’s with man. Not willing to take God at his word, mankind has from the very beginning felt the need to do things his own way. Cain knew what kind of offering God required, but instead brought a different one, and then got mad when God didn’t accept it. (Genesis 4:1-7) It’s been that way ever since.

As a new believer I experienced confusion similar to what you’re describing until someone gave me some sage advice. He said that before reading anyone’s commentary on the Scriptures I should first determine what the writer’s method of interpretation is. He told me that I shouldn’t waste my time on anyone who doesn’t adhere to a literal interpretation, and even then I should check every reference to see if I had the same impression of the passage as the writer did.

When I took that advice I eliminated 99% of the confusion. (Later, when I really knew what I believe and why, I started looking at other views to understand them better and so I could see how they were developed.)

If you do this you’ll find that there’s no difference of opinion among scholars who take the Bible literally on essentials like what it takes to be saved. So you can take comfort in knowing that if you do get something wrong, it won’t affect your salvation. And you can always tell God that it was because you took Him at His word.

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