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The Shocking Truth about Biblical Interpretation: Interpretation Itself
Everyone interprets. Everyone. When you read a sentence, you interpret the meaning of each word based upon context. Most words have more than one definition. Which meaning do you use in any one context? This is part of what it means to interpret.
When the translators of the Bible did their work, they interpreted the meaning of the source language, whether it was Hebrew (the language of the Old Testament), Aramaic (the language of Jesus) or Koine Greek (the language of the New Testament), and searched the target language for words of similar meaning.
Sometimes, the target language does not have a word or phrase which exactly matches that of the source language. Sometimes there are trade-offs and compromises. The translation is frequently an approximation of the original.
Some Christians pretend not to interpret. For them, their view of the Bible is the "correct" view; it is God's view. But is it really? Are they stepping over the bounds into arrogance? They don't explicitly say so, but they are implying that their interpretation is equivalent to that of God. Sounds like arrogance to me.
When I tell them that I don't know—that my interpretation is imperfect, they are quick to agree and quite helpful in telling me the right way to understand scripture. But they miss the point. I am suggesting that they gain a little humility for themselves and keep searching for answers. The typical response is that they are already humble and that they do not need to look any further; they have found all the answers they need. Only God knows for certain. But wouldn't it be safer for them to assume that they do not know all the answers?
This is sad. Why? Because blindness comes from thinking that you already know. As soon as you decide that you know, you stop looking for answers. Scientists sometimes do this. They call what they've gained, "laws." But these so-called "laws" sometimes fall to new discoveries. For instance, Newton's laws of motion don't work very well at speeds approaching that of light. That's where Einstein's relativity comes to the rescue. Any incomplete knowledge is an imperfect tool. It can be a good tool, but it remains imperfect so long as we are not "one with" God—the source of all physical reality.
This is the beginning of a series of articles on Biblical interpretation. I offer my own interpretation not so much to tell anyone what they should think, but to excite them to look for themselves rather than falling back on someone else's dogma.
A lot has been done to Christianity over the ages. Some of it not very nice. We've had two Emperors who meddled in religious affairs and their actions shaped the dogma we have today. I'm talking about Rome's Constantine and Byzantium's Justinian. Though about two hundred years apart, they performed very similar roles in changing the fabric of the faith. How much of their own ego and selfishness was imprinted on Christianity? We may never really know. But when certain ideas become outlawed, one has to suspect an ulterior and a potentially sinister motive.
When political leaders in modern times profess their faith openly and in public, this may seem a good thing to some believers. But when those same politicians want to imprint their own version of Christianity on the nation through its school boards and its laws, they cross the line. I do not think their version of Christianity is correct. I want the freedom to search for truth directly from God—not to rely on their limited interpretation.
List of Articles
Here I will list articles as they are written. I look forward to any and all constructive feedback.
Also of Interest
Reincarnation, Karma and Biblical Interpretation
Warning: Everyone Interprets Scripture
What if You Get to the End of Your Life and Find Out You Were Wrong?