Many people have been taught by bad teachers and word-of-mouth that each person interprets the Bible as they perceive the passage, chapter, or book. Unfortunately, they are dead wrong! The Bible clearly defines what it means to say and is always accurate. If you say, "I interpret that passage differently than you do," one of you is wrong! As I proceed through this lesson, I'll explain further about The Everyone Interprets the Bible Differently Fallacy. I'll also explain a little more about the various things people can differ on in Bible application.
I've written an entire article concerning Bible exegesis, and you can click on the word to learn more. But today, let's leave the fancy seminary words behind. We are to interpret the Bible as those who first heard the passage would have understood it. For instance, the Hebrews that first heard the Holy Spirit inspired words in Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." The original listeners would have understood that God created everything in the beginning. The beginning would have been understood to be when anything else except God was brought into existence because they understood that God is eternal without beginning or end. So, any teaching that differs from this interpretation is wrong. Therefore, if you claim that the big bang and evolution played a part in our existence, Biblically speaking, you're wrong. All those that are Christian must understand the Bible as the original readers of scripture would have understood it, or they are failing to use proper interpretive methods.
Relevance of the Bible Today
You might ask, "if we must understand the Bible as the original readers would have understood it, how is it relevant today?" Well, that's where hermeneutics comes in. A good pastor or student of the Bible will take the original meaning of a passage and apply it to their modern life. In that way, the Bible is relevant in every era of time. In other words, the Bible is perpetually relevant. And I think this is where the confusion comes into play. The lesson I'm teaching today was poorly taught to someone that mistakenly understood it to mean everyone interprets the Bible differently. But the fact is that there is only one way to understand the Bible, but many ways to apply the Bible. This realization is imperative for proper Bible study and application.
For example, you read the Genesis 2:24 passage, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." The original readers would understand that one man marries one woman, forming a lifelong covenant relationship. So, you cannot alter God's original plan by misinterpreting the scripture to include same-sex marriages. The Bible is clear on this subject, so you cannot sanction polygamy and believe that one man with two or more wives is okay. It's not okay and is not authorized by scripture. You might rebut, "But king Solomon had hundreds of wives!" Yes, but God never sanctioned King Solomon's polygamy, and his sin of polygamy was his eventual downfall. He started listening to his non-Jewish wives' wishes, set up idolatrous worship sites for them, and worshiped false gods with them. God's way is the only acceptable way; even King Solomon had to learn that fact the hard way – through sin and failure.
Don't Fall for The Everyone Interprets the Bible Differently Fallacy
We all must interpret the Bible the same way. We must understand it as the original readers would have understood it. There is no room for random interpretation. So, this requires learning the various cultures of the Bible and at least a website-assisted understanding of Greek and Hebrew. In other words, you must know the passage of scripture and the culture of the people who originally heard the scripture. Then you can know the truth the scripture is sharing. From there, you apply the Biblical truth to your life.
An example of the correct interpretation of Psalm 18:1-2 "I will love thee, O Lord, my Strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my Strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower."
You can start by looking at various Bible commentaries. These commentaries provide background information and proper interpretation.
Pulpit Commentary explains this passage as follows:
<A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul: And he said,>> I will love thee, O LORD, my Strength.
Verse 1. - I will love thee, O Lord, my Strength. This opening is very remarkable. The verb translated "I will love" expresses the very tenderest affection and is elsewhere never used to denote the love of man towards God, but only that of God towards man. The entire verse, moreover, is withdrawn from the "second edition" of the psalm (2 Samuel 22.) - which was perhaps prepared for liturgical use - as too sacred and too private to suit a public occasion.
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my Strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
Verse 2. - The Lord is my Rock; or, my Cliff - my Sela - an expression used commonly of Petra. And my Fortress (comp. Psalm 144:2). Not only a natural stronghold, but one made additionally strong by art. And my Deliverer. A living Protector, not a mere inanimate defense. My God, my Strength; rather, my Rock, as the same word (tsur) is translated in Exodus 17:6; Exodus 33:21, 22; Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18, 31; 1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 23:3; Isaiah 26:4. It is the word from which the strong city, Tyro, derived its name. In whom I will trust (comp. Dent. 32:37). My Buckler (comp. Genesis 15:1, where God announced himself as Abraham's "Shield;" and see also Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalm 3:2; Psalm 5:12; Psalm 84:11; Psalm 119:114; Psalm 144:2). The Horn also of my salvation (comp. Luke 1:69). The horn is the emblem at once of Strength and of dignity. A "horn of salvation" is a source of excellency and might, whence "salvation" or deliverance comes to those who trust in it. And my high Tower (comp. Psalm 9:9, with the comment ad loc.). It is remarked that God, in this passage, receives seven epithets, "the mystic number which in sacred things symbolizes perfection" (Delitzsch).
But you wouldn't stop there; you would read additional commentaries and then apply what you learned to your life. My application of this passage would be to trust that the Lord provides all the strength I require to overcome adversity. He will defend and protect me from my enemies and the ultimate enemy, Satan.
The application of the Biblical truth can vary from person to person, but the interpretation of the scripture is a never changing constant. You must understand the scripture as the original readers or listeners would have understood it, or you do not understand it correctly.