Have you ever played Candy Land with a preschooler? I am fairly sure it is the role of the adult to turn their eyes away when the child is cheating and allow him/her to win. I have six kids. It works fine when I am playing with just one child. However, when two or three of them are playing without me, it quickly turns into chaos. “She’s cheating.” “She won’t let me cheat.” It never ends well.
My children make up their own rules. They purposely skip four or five yellows when the card says one yellow. They magically find the card that allows them to go to the end every game. They have many creative ways of making the game work for them. However, by doing so, they are also throwing out the game’s rules and directions that are purposefully designed to eliminate problems and make the game universally enjoyable. The game maker knew that the players needed rules and directions, but my children disregard that for their own gain.
Unfortunately, people do this with the Bible too. They make up their own rules, only read what they want to hear, and interpret it how they like. They look for their own truth. The danger here is that we are flawed, sinful human beings who need to be taught how to live in faith by properly interpreting the Bible. We cannot take verses out of context. We must look at how that verse applies to the chapter, the book, and the Bible as a whole. Additionally, we must understand the author, the intended audience, and the purpose of the writing.
When people say, “Does it really matter what the original writer meant? This is what I get from the passage, and if it makes sense to me isn’t that all that really matters?” They are doing exactly what my kids do with Candy Land, they make their own rules for their own benefits.
Truth has now become subjective and based on a person’s interpretation which is also most likely based on emotions. However, the author was inspired by God to write that passage for a specific purpose. We must consider that. Otherwise, we would have no need for God, the one who inspired that writing in the first place. Everyone would have a religion of “me,” while the meaning of the text is lost.
The history of the text is very important to the meaning of the text. However, the Bible is not a history book. I’m currently enrolled in seminary and we had a discussion board question concerning a person who interpreted scripture without considering the historical content.
In a class video, Dr. Robert Wayne Stacy quoted Clyde Francisco, “We can never forget the Bible was the word of God to someone else before it was the word of God to me.” This Word of God was passed down to me. If I had a treasure passed down to me from my great-great-grandparent, it would hold even more value because of the history of how it was received and passed down. The Word of God is no different. The value comes from the history. What was the purpose for those words? Why were they given to this audience? How does it add to God’s story?
Dr. Stacy stated we must ask what did it mean, then what does it mean? The historical content, author’s purpose, and cultural implications matter to a person reading a document written two thousand years ago.
So when you are interpreting scripture, be sure to ask yourself:
- What did it mean?
2. ) What does it mean?
(This was part of my discussion board post for New Testament Orientation at Liberty University, but I thought my blog audience may enjoy it too! Be blessed all!)