Q. Why are there so many interpretations of the Bible? One group says the Bible says this, another group reading the same passage say, “No…that’s not what it says…..it means this…” How is a person supposed to know what the truth is? Does it really matter to God what you believe?
This is a good question. I think the Bible reveals several reasons:
First of all, God is not the author of confusion. God desires to reveal himself to man. In Eph. 3:3,4 Paul said:
Ephesians 3:3-4 (NASB)
3 “that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4 And by referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,”
God wants to reveal his will to man, not hide it in a cloud of multiplied interpretations. The reason so many interpretations are accepted is because of ignorance. People do not know what the Scriptures say, so it’s not difficult to make some grand pronouncement and have a number of people accept it.
It’s like the ancient Chinese story about the young Chinese boy who wanted to learn about jade. He went to study with a famous old teacher. This elderly gentleman put a piece of jade into the boy’s hand and told him to hold it tight. Then the old man began to talk of philosophy, men, women, the sun, and almost everything under it. After an hour, he took back the stone and sent the boy home. The procedure was repeated for weeks. The boy became frustrated. When would he be told about jade? he wondered. But he was too polite to interrupt his venerable teacher. Then one day when the old man put an ordinary stone into the boy’s hands, the boy cried out instantly, “That’s not jade!” the boy now knew the feel of jade. He would not be fooled by something artificial.
The F.B.I. investigates all reports of counterfeiting in our country. Do you know how they train? By looking at the real thing long enough that the counterfeit is easily spotted.
Hosea 4:6 (NASB)
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
Another factor to consider today is the reverence of religious personalities. Some respected religious men and women have assumed the right of divine authority.
1 Corinthians 1:10-13(NASB)
10 “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.
12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”
13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
Acts 20:30 (NASB)
“and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
Some men and women seek to gain a large following, either for the money or the popularity. To keep their followers, they teach doctrines totally strange to the Bible.
2 Peter 2:1 (NASB)
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”
Another truth the Scriptures reveal is that there are those who will twist the Scriptures. This is what Satan did in the Garden:
Genesis 3:1 (NASB)
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
2 Peter 3:16(NASB)
” as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
Many, many teachers twist the Scriptures to suit their preconceived ideas. This they do to their own eternal ruin.
Another factor to consider is that many fail to stay with the truth of sound doctrine. Sometimes the truth hurts. People want easier teaching. “Don’t tell us we are in sin, call sin righteousness.”
Isaiah 30:10 – 11 (NASB)
Who say to the seers, “You must not see visions”; And to the prophets, “You must not prophesy to us what is right, Speak to us pleasant words, Prophesy illusions. 11 “Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, Let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”
2 Timothy 4:3 (NASB)
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires . . .” Another factor that must be considered is the prevalence of human traditions that take one away from the proper interpretation of the Scriptures.
What we must always ask is this, “Has the Bible authorized it?”
Mark 7:6 (NASB)
6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
‘ THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.
‘ BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’
8 “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
9 He was also saying to them, “You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.”
Colossians 2:8 (NASB)
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”
Some have even gone so far as to add to the word of God.
6 “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;
7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
8 But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.”
18 “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book;
19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”
Unfortunately, many of the confusing things taught today by religious creeds contradict the Scriptures.
And finally, there is much confusion because many simply refuse to obey the truth.
31 Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ” If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;
32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Some know the truth, but refuse to obey. Romans 1:21-25 gives an example. Some deliberately choose to pervert the way of God.
” If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.
LISTEN TO THE LORD:
John 12:48 (NASB)
” He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.
THE WAY WE INTERPRET THE SCRIPTURES HAS ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES.