Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The word "apologetics" derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used as a speech of defense.

Which Interpretation is Right?

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  • Which Interpretation is Right?

    R.C. Sproul

    There are so many different interpretations of what the Bible is saying. How do I know which one is right?

    That’s a problem that plagues all of us. There are some theoretical things we can say about it, but I’d rather spend time on the practical.

    The Roman Catholic Church believes that one function of the church is to be the authorized interpreter of Scripture. They believe that not only do we have an infallible Bible but we also have an infallible interpretation of the Bible. That somewhat ameliorates the problem, although it doesn’t eliminate it altogether. You still have those of us who have to interpret the infallible interpretations of the Bible. Sooner or later it gets down to those of us who are not infallible to sort it out. We have this dilemma because there are hosts of differences in interpretations of what the popes say and of what the church councils say, just as there are hosts of different interpretations of what the Bible says.

    Some people almost despair, saying that “if the theologians can’t agree on this, how am I, a simple Christian, going to be able to understand who’s telling me the truth?”

    We find these same differences of opinion in medicine. One doctor says you need an operation, and the other doctor says you don’t. How will I find out which doctor is telling me the truth? I’m betting my life on which doctor I trust at this point. It’s troublesome to have experts differ on important matters, and these matters of biblical interpretation are far more important than whether or not I need my appendix out. What do you do when you have a case like that with variant opinions rendered by physicians? You go to a third physician. You try to investigate, try to look at their credentials to see who has the best training, who’s the most reliable doctor; then you listen to the case that the doctor presents for his position and judge which you are persuaded is more cogent. I’d say the same thing goes with differences of biblical interpretations.

    The first thing I want to know is, Who’s giving the interpretation? Is he educated? I turn on the television and see all kinds of teaching going on from television preachers who, quite frankly, simply are not trained in technical theology or biblical studies. They don’t have the academic qualifications. I know that people without academic qualifications can have a sound interpretation of the Bible, but they’re not as likely to be as accurate as those who have spent years and years of careful research and disciplined training in order to deal with the difficult matters of biblical interpretation.

    The Bible is an open book for everybody, and everybody has a fair shot of coming up with whatever they want to find in it. We’ve got to see the credentials of the teachers. Not only that, but we don’t want to rely on just one person’s opinion. That’s why when it comes to a biblical interpretation, I often counsel people to check as many sound sources as they can and then not just contemporary sources, but the great minds, the recognized minds of Christian history. It’s amazing to me the tremendous amount of agreement there is among Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Luther, Calvin, and Edwards—the recognized titans of church history. I always consult those because they’re the best. If you want to know something, go to the pros.

  • #2
    The biggest problem with people interpreting the Bible is that they bring baggage with them and try to interpret the Bible to support what they believed before they read the Bible.

    The Roman Catholic Church and Mary's perpetual virginity is one example. The Bible says Mary was married (and, so had marital duty, as Paul explained). That she was a virgin "until" Jesus was born (thus, this verse cannot be used to support that Mary was a virgin after the birth, and implicitly she was no longer a virgin) . That Jesus was born (Catholics claim Jesus wasn't actually born, as that would spoil Mary's vaginal canal). That he had brothers and sisters (not cousins). On the other side, for a doctrine that the Catholic Church holds so high, perpetual virginity is screamingly absent from scripture.

    So, what's a Catholic to do? They plead against the plain and redundant reading of the Bible, until the Bible is so meaningless that their non-biblical doctrine can stand. Sorry to pick on Catholics,but Protestants do this just as much as Catholics, but without the excuse of trying to reconcile the Bible with church authority.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by William View Post
      The Roman Catholic Church believes that one function of the church is to be the authorized interpreter of Scripture. They believe that not only do we have an infallible Bible but we also have an infallible interpretation of the Bible. That somewhat ameliorates the problem, although it doesn’t eliminate it altogether. You still have those of us who have to interpret the infallible interpretations of the Bible. Sooner or later it gets down to those of us who are not infallible to sort it out. We have this dilemma because there are hosts of differences in interpretations of what the popes say and of what the church councils say, just as there are hosts of different interpretations of what the Bible says.
      "We have this dilemma because there are hosts of differences in interpretations of what the popes say and of what the church councils say"

      Really? And on what evidence is that statement made?
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      • #4
        Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
        The Bible says Mary was married
        And where does the Bible say that Mary was married?

        It says she was betrothed (Mt 1:18) but where is the mention of a wedding?
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        • #5
          Which interpretation is right? None of them, if they are interpretations. The correct Bible is one that is a direct translation from the original tongues, such as the Geneva and KJV for example. Many "Bibles" are not really Biblical at all but are paraphrased versions of translations, which makes them opinionated interpretations, such as the "Living Bible". Catholic or not, we are not to interpret the Bible... any of us. No Human. Not the pope, not laymen, not noooobody.

          The Bible interprets itself. That is what it means when it says to "rightly divide the word of truth". It is not given of any private interpretation, so it is not meant to be privately interpreted either. "Holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," So believers are to study the Bible by the teachings of the Holy Ghost - 2 John 2:26. The Bible teaches all this, so anyone who disagrees with this disagrees with the Bible, not me.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Bede View Post

            "We have this dilemma because there are hosts of differences in interpretations of what the popes say and of what the church councils say"

            Really? And on what evidence is that statement made?
            You can begin by viewing 29-33 minutes into the 1st video:

            History and Theology of Calvinism

            God bless,
            William
            Comment>

            • #7
              Originally posted by Bede View Post

              And where does the Bible say that Mary was married?

              It says she was betrothed (Mt 1:18) but where is the mention of a wedding?
              Betrothed is simply an unconsummated marriage. The same chapter of your verse reference also calls Mary his wife and Joseph her husband. It says Joseph had decided to divorce Mary. It calls Joseph Jesus' father. It shows they were living together. Each these things require that Mary and Joseph be married.

              An argument from Catholics to show Mary was a perpetual virgin is the fact that Mary asserts her virginity while married to Joseph. Given that they were married, why was she still a virgin unless she made a vow of virginity? But, the chapter you have already pointed to says "before they came together" implying that their abstinence was not permanent and not because of a vow. Likewise, another verse mentions her virginity "until" Jesus was born, showing that Mary made no such vow.

              It's much more reasonable to believe that the angel visited Mary immediately after the wedding, before the had a chance to consummate the marriage. If the angel's visit was any later, there are other reasons, for more mundane and plausible than a vow of virginity, why they might not have consummated the marriage right away. Why would someone who made a vow of virginity get betrothed?

              They were married and Mary gave up her virginity, or at least her status is none of our concern, after the birth of Jesus. Period.
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              • #8
                Almost period. Something more to add: Mark 6:2-4. Jesus undoubtedly had brothers and sisters--not cousins or figurative language. He had brothers and sisters. If you had never been in an RCC, Bede, you would know this to be true. But I've read posting where you allow the church to interpret these as anything but Jesus' brothers and sisters. Look at the Greek. adelphos, like Philadelphia... brotherly love and adelphe - sisters, feminine of adelphos. They are literally Jesus' brothers (James, Joses, and Simon) and sisters, unnamed. Anyone teaching any differently is teaching false doctrine.

                One of the hardest things for humans to do is accept correction because of our pride. God hates pride. Don't let it get the best of you. Believe the Bible more than man, even the pope. Remember 1 John 2:26-27.
                Last edited by Stratcat; 06-05-2015, 05:14 PM.
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
                  Which interpretation is right? None of them, if they are interpretations. The correct Bible is one that is a direct translation from the original tongues, such as the Geneva and KJV for example. Many "Bibles" are not really Biblical at all but are paraphrased versions of translations, which makes them opinionated interpretations, such as the "Living Bible". Catholic or not, we are not to interpret the Bible... any of us. No Human. Not the pope, not laymen, not noooobody.

                  The Bible interprets itself. That is what it means when it says to "rightly divide the word of truth". It is not given of any private interpretation, so it is not meant to be privately interpreted either. "Holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," So believers are to study the Bible by the teachings of the Holy Ghost - 2 John 2:26. The Bible teaches all this, so anyone who disagrees with this disagrees with the Bible, not me.

                  All translations are interpretations because there are not exact one for one meanings between words in different langiages. Also words have multiple meanings and choosing the appropriate one is interpretation. It's true though that some translations are more paraphrases.

                  The Bible does not interpret itself. Interpretation requires a mind to think and decide what a text means, taking into account the context in which the text is found.
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                  • #10
                    Cornelius, Stratcat,

                    As I'm already discussing Mary's perpetual viginity in the "When Did It All Go Wrong" thread, I'll respond to your points there rather than derail this one.
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                    • #11
                      Bede, please read 1 John 2:26. 2 John was a typo. You best understand that the Bible is spiritual, not of natural carnal understanding. This is why when God converts us, we are able to understand the Bible at a spiritual level. Those that do are generally like-minded in agreement with the Bible.

                      Also, your comments on translations being paraphrase due to having more than one meaning doesn't wash. If it did, the Bible would be useless and so would all churches. In fact, that is the argument that unbelievers and atheists use. Further, there are no multiple meanings for brothers and sisters when referring to Jesus' family in post #8. Only one meaning each for brothers and sisters. You and your church place Mary at the level of God, or divine, which is idolatry. There is only one Holy Father, one divine, and that is God himself, and only God. Pastors and priests shouldn't even be called "Reverend", for as it is written, "Reverend is His name."

                      You are placing a man above the Bible when you believe God gives the pope revelation outside of Scripture. You are degrading the Scripture by not believing that God sees to it that translations into other languages is protected to be accurate in at least one version. God protects His word in any language. The knowledge of God is passed down from generation to generation by the Holy Ghost teaching the Scriptures, not by one man issuing papal bulls and so forth. I am not being derogatory, as the pope's announcements of revelations are called papal bulls in the church, and I've read some in an RCC monthly called The Word Among Us. Most disagreeable.

                      Sorry, but you sound like you don't believe in the Bible as the inspired, inerrant word of God. You place what your church says above what the Bible says. Therefore, the RCC has no standard to go by other than just listening to the pope. Now you see why the Reformation took place. It literally unchained the Bible from the pulpit in the middle ages by a man named John Wycliffe, who was burned at the stake for getting the Bible into the hands of the people, where it belongs. There was more than Martin Luther who headed up the Reformation, God bless them.
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
                        Bede, please read 1 John 2:26. 2 John was a typo. You best understand that the Bible is spiritual, not of natural carnal understanding. This is why when God converts us, we are able to understand the Bible at a spiritual level. Those that do are generally like-minded in agreement with the Bible.
                        Simply not true Stratcat.

                        Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
                        Also, your comments on translations being paraphrase due to having more than one meaning doesn't wash. If it did, the Bible would be useless and so would all churches. In fact, that is the argument that unbelievers and atheists use.
                        I didn't say translations were paraphrase as due to having more that one meaning. They were two different points

                        1. Some translations are more paraphrase than translation. I was agreeing with you there

                        2. Words in a language often do not have one to one correlation with another language. And words often have more than one meaning.

                        The Concise Oxford English Dictionary has twenty eight different meaning of 'call' as a vern and eighteen as a noun. To translate a particular usage you would have to make a decision as to exactly which usage is meant.

                        It's the same in any language, for example there are four different words in Greek that are translated as love in English.

                        Deciding which meaning is intended is interpretation

                        Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
                        You are placing a man above the Bible when you believe God gives the pope revelation outside of Scripture. You are degrading the Scripture by not believing that God sees to it that translations into other languages is protected to be accurate in at least one version. God protects His word in any language. The knowledge of God is passed down from generation to generation by the Holy Ghost teaching the Scriptures, not by one man issuing papal bulls and so forth. I am not being derogatory, as the pope's announcements of revelations are called papal bulls in the church, and I've read some in an RCC monthly called The Word Among Us. Most disagreeable.
                        Just Catholic bashing and displaying your ignorance. Not very edifying.

                        Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
                        Further, there are no multiple meanings for brothers and sisters when referring to Jesus' family in post #8. Only one meaning each for brothers and sisters. You and your church place Mary at the level of God, or divine, which is idolatry. There is only one Holy Father, one divine, and that is God himself, and only God. Pastors and priests shouldn't even be called "Reverend", for as it is written, "Reverend is His name."
                        More off-topic Catholic bashing

                        Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
                        Sorry, but you sound like you don't believe in the Bible as the inspired, inerrant word of God.
                        Well you are wrong. I do believe the Bible is the insprired word of God
                        .
                        Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
                        You place what your church says above what the Bible says.
                        No I don't. I might place it above your personal and fallible interpretation of the Bible.

                        Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
                        Therefore, the RCC has no standard to go by other than just listening to the pope.
                        Rubbish.

                        Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
                        Now you see why the Reformation took place. It literally unchained the Bible from the pulpit in the middle ages by a man named John Wycliffe, who was burned at the stake for getting the Bible into the hands of the people
                        More rubbish. It didn't literally unchain the Bible from the pulpit. John Wycliffe was a heretic, as was martin Luther.


                        Last edited by Bede; 06-06-2015, 07:45 AM.
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Bede View Post
                          More rubbish. It didn't literally unchain the Bible from the pulpit. John Wycliffe was a heretic, as was martin Luther.
                          According to which standard Bede, the Papistry or Scripture?

                          God bless,
                          William
                          Comment>

                          • #14
                            Per your last comment, therein lies our trouble. The previous quotes you make are just contradiction, and I am not bashing, though I knew you'd take it that way. Google The Word Among Us and see for yourself the claims your pope is making that supposedly come from God. I state Scripture with obvious meaning and you call it my fallible interpretation. When things get to that mentality, they go nowhere. You trust what Francis says but don't trust the Holy Spirit to teach you from the Bible. A personal relationship with God requires us knowing who He is from the Spirit and the Bible. Without that personal relationship, we are not saved. Your church breaks into and short-circuits that relationship using church hierarchy.You bash Protestants then accuse us of doing the same to RCC.
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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by William View Post

                              According to which standard Bede, the Papistry or Scripture?

                              God bless,
                              William
                              Which one - chaining Bibles or Wycliffe being a heretic?
                              Comment>
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