This was by far the most shocking thing I learned after I became a Christian and it is the prime reason why Christianity has so many denominations. The bible is exciting as it is right now but once you apply Interpretation it quickly starts to sound very similar to local culture and concepts.
There are no rules to interpretation, just local consensus. You can, in fact, interpret any line of scripture to mean anything you want it to mean within the understanding of your local group or congregation. There are several patterns I’ve found over the years to this process of rewriting the bible.
First, “Interpretation Via Language“, the way this one works is simple, what you read in the Bible is not what it means because you don’t know the original Greek or Hebrew meaning of the words, so you can’t possibly understand what you are reading. The part I find most fascinating about this type of interpretation is that I have never actually met anyone who speaks Greek or Hebrew, but they do claim to know certain words. If you press them on how they know these words then you will find a shocking and nonsensical fact, they read the words in a 3rd party study book. A book outside of the Bible used to change the meaning of what you just read in the Bible. O.o
Where this gets complicated: This changes from church to church depending on what 3rd party books people are reading (there are many). So, you can be confused multiple times over and come out with many meanings to any given verse. I decided to go with the Bible on this.
2 Timothy 4:3-4
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Next is, “Interpretation Via Training“, the way this one works is also simple, what you read in the Bible is not what it means because you haven’t had enough Bible training, with Bible scholars. You haven’t read the entire Bible enough times to have a full grasp of what something means. You also don’t have enough understanding of history, so how could you possibly know what things in the Bible mean without a historical reference.
Where this gets complicated: This also changes from church to church depending on what history is known and accepted by the congregation. So, you can be confused many times over and come out with multiple meanings to any given verse. I tested this several times with the issue of slavery in the Bible and got some fascinating responses from different congregations. Some believe slavery was supported by God due to historical references. Others believed it was not supported by God due to (again) historical references. There are some who think it never happened and that it was just a story to teach us a lesson because of the absence of historical references. I decided to go with the Bible on this.
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.
There is also, “Interpretation Via Common Sense“, the way this one works is frustrating and lazy, what you read in the Bible is not what it means because you are not using common sense. This one I run into mostly with fellow Christians during Bible conversations. You find yourself talking scripture and you read some out loud, as it is written, only to hear in response that it can’t literally mean that. When you press the person as to “why”, they just respond with statements like, “I don’t feel it would mean that”.
Where this gets complicated: This changes radically from person to person. Using feelings to know what something means in the Bible leads to a plethora of meanings. People feel that verses have a certain meaning despite what is literally written in the Bible. They feel it in their bones. I decided to go with the Bible on this.
2 Peter 1:20
Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.
Last is, “Interpretation Via Divine Inspiration“, the way this one works is complicated, what you read in the Bible is not what it means because person “X” talked directly to God and got a new meaning. I have seen this one many times in many churches. The preacher claims to have received a message from God and that message has provided a new understanding of scripture.
Where this gets complicated: This changes from church to church depending on what the divine message was. So, you can be confused many times over and come out with multiple meanings to a single verse. Sometimes it reverses what is written in the Bible, other times it adds a new modern clause to what is written, and sometimes it adds something completely new that you can’t find anywhere in the Bible. I decided to go with the Bible on this.
1 Timothy 6:3-4
3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicion
Proverbs 3:5-6 — 5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.