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  • Writer's picturePastor Gabriel Cochran

How To Interpret The Bible

Updated: Mar 19

“And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God?…” (Gen. 40:8)


One of the many accusations leveled against “protestants” (Bible-believers are not technically protestants—we were never in the Roman Catholic church to begin with, therefore we were never calling for her reform—our spiritual forefathers all recognized she was a “lost cause” from day one) by Roman Catholic/Orthodox religionists is that, without "the Church” or some nicolaitan hierarchy (Rev. 2:6) to interpret the Scriptures for us, we are left to our own untrustworthy intellectual capacity to discern what the Scriptures actually teach and mean. This, they argue, leads to a situation where opinions about what the Bible teaches are as numerous as the people doing the interpreting.


“Chaos,” in other words.


The Roman catholic/orthodox solution to the chaos is simple. They say, "There needs to be one, unassailable, infallible interpreter of scripture to be the final authority in all matters of faith and practice; we nominate…OURSELVES.”


And then they elected themselves and empowered themselves. And tried to kill any "heretic" who disagreed.


It would be impossible to list, in such a short essay as this, the objections to such a carnal, unscriptural, self-righteous, self-aggrandizing system as this.


Consider that even a superficial perusing of the lives and testimonies of the popes, and their so-called “ex-cathedra” statements, proves they are anything but infallible. They are in fact inconsistent, contradictory, blasphemous, and never to be mistaken for any authority on anything, unless it were DEPRAVITY. 


At one time in the history of the Roman popes, for example, they had two different popes elected who were both trying to excommunicate one another by "infallible decree.” Urban V and Clement VII were popes at the same time in different places. This ridiculous situation went on from 1379 to 1417. 


Not content with running a brothel at the Vatican, John XII (955-964) blinded one cardinal and castrated another, and was said to have drunk toasts to the devil while in an alcoholic stupor.

 

Pope Innocent III (what a title!) instigated the Albigensian crusade against the Cathar heretics (now THERE are our spiritual forefathers) from 1198 to 1216, and was responsible for the deaths of up to a million people over that period. 


Then there's Alexander VI who was pope from 1492 to 1503. He fathered eight children by three or four different mistresses, bribed his way to the papacy, appointed his relatives as cardinals, and amassed a vast fortune.

Fine bunch of people to interpret the “true meaning” of the Scriptures for you, huh? 


The catholics and the orthodox do have one thing right (we must give credit where credit is due; after all, a busted clock is right twice a day). If there is no infallible interpreter of Scripture, and understanding what the Bible “means” or “teaches” is left up to the thoughts and feelings of men, there will be no end to all the different “interpretations.” Further, it is also correct that this belief and approach HAS led to chaos. In fact, this phenomenon has given birth to nearly all the different denominations and religious groups who claim to believe the Bible, while each “interpret” certain parts of it differently.


Where the papists and orthodox (two branches on the same tree) are wrong with regard to this issue, is in their misunderstanding (perhaps purposeful) and mischaracterization (definitely purposeful) of those who go by a “scriptures only” approach to Biblical interpretation. They think because we don't submit ourselves to their religion, their popes, and their Bible interpretations, that we have no authority to which we submit that can teach us what the Bible actually means. 


Granted, there are plenty of Christian “foul balls” and knuckleheads out there (especially on the internet these days) who consider the Bible to be "authoritative," but not more so than their own feelings or thoughts. They treat the Bible as though it's a crystal ball of sorts, from which they can get “vibes” that inspire them in some way or another. In many churches, a “Sunday school class” is a group of people who go into a room, sit in a circle, read a verse of scripture, and then go around the room and have everyone in the “class” take turns giving their feelings on what the verse means to THEM. When everyone has had a turn, the “class” is over. The “teacher” is the one who "gets the ball rolling” by reading the verse. 


That is not teaching, and that is not learning---that is pure, pagan mysticism. The only difference is, instead of a crystal ball, they have a book. The only real “authority” they have is between their ears. (We have Greek and Hebrew scholars and the founding members of the Alexandrian cult to thank for stealing the faith that generations of young men had in the words of God, and placing that faith instead in the "crystal ball" interpretations acquired through manipulating Greek and Hebrew for "more reliable translations.")


Joseph said, “Interpretations belong to God” (Gen. 40:8).


What we mean when we, as Bible-believers, say we have a "scriptures only" approach to biblical interpretation is precisely what we say---we keep to “the scriptures only.” When we want to know what the Scriptures “mean,” we read what they SAY. When we want to know what the Scriptures “teach," we examine what they SAY. You see, anybody can drone on about what the Bible might “mean” or what the Bible might “teach”… but it only SAYS one thing. 


With the King James Bible, we have an infallible, unassailable, inspired, inerrant Authority in which we can put all of our trust. If someone (regardless of whether it’s a pope, preacher, scholar, president, prime minister, or king) says the Bible “means” something different than what it SAYS, that person is wrong and what the Bible SAYS is right. If someone tries to “teach” something different than what the Bible SAYS, they are wrong and what the Bible SAYS is right. 


“Interpretations belong to God” (Gen. 40:8).


“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20)


“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come." (John 16:13)


“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (I Cor. 2:12, 13)


It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: THE WORDS that I speak unto you, THEY ARE SPIRIT, and they are life. (John 6:63)


The first rule of Biblical interpretation is that no one is allowed to interpret the Bible (2 Peter 1:20). The scriptures are the words of God (II Tim. 3:16); and the words of God, being “spirit and life,” (John 6:63) will interpret themselves, for the words of God are produced by the inspiration of the spirit of God (II Tim. 3:16), and only the spirit of God is permitted to express what God “means” when God says something. The spirit of God will do that by guiding and leading the Christian into the truth of the words of God. (John 16:13). 


So how do we find the correct interpretation of the Scriptures? We “compare scripture with scripture” (John 6:63; I Cor. 2:13) and let the Bible define, explain, and interpret Itself. The primary responsibility of the teacher or the student of the scriptures, is to “Study to show thyself approved unto God” (II Tim. 2:15), so he can know what the scriptures SAY. 


“Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:” (Isa. 28:9, 10)

 

The job of a pastor or teacher is not to interpret the Scriptures. “Pastors and teachers” (with no comma between—Eph. 4:11) were given to the church (the body of Christ, not a religion) “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” 


I am the pastor of the Freedom Baptist Church. My job is not to interpret the Bible. My job is to teach and preach what the Bible SAYS. In order to do that, I read and study the Bible so I can know what it SAYS. It has something to say about everything in life, and It has plenty to say about Itself. 


A Christian needs a pastor. Philip the evangelist asked the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts Chapter 8, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” He answered, “How can I, except some man should guide me?” A Christian needs guidance. A Christian needs Bible preaching. A Christian needs Bible teaching. A Christian needs fellowship with other Christians. If you've been born again, you should be part of a local church headed up by a Bible-believing pastor. There isn't any Christian in the New Testament who ever did anything for God that was worthwhile, who was not connected with a local church.


A Christian needs someone to teach and preach what the Bible SAYS.


A Christian does not, however, need a religious monstrosity with it’s own agenda (II Thess. 2:7) to interpret the Bible for him, by telling him what the Bible does NOT say, and replacing the Authority of God's words with antibiblical religious tradition. 

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