Eight Bible Interpretations That Make Me Scream

black-woman-screamingAs a follow up to this post on caricatures that drive me nuts, I thought I should highlight interpretations of passages that have that same effect.  Now these are not about differing opinions that can have some validity. Rather, its interpretations that I think really miss what is being communicated and another meaning is imposed that is foreign to what the original author intended. Typically, I find the reasons for this are 1) not considering what the word means in that cultural and/or literary context 2) not considering what the passage means in light of what the author is trying to communicate 3) not considering the genre of literature and 4) not correlating it with the whole of Scripture and how that relates to God’s redemptive plan accomplished in the Son.

So in no particular order…

1) John 10:3-4 – the small still voice:

Placing Jesus’ use of voice in consideration of what he is revealing about himself, the voice is not a speaking voice but the ability to respond to him in faith according to who he is. How do I know this? First, he says it is a figure of speech (vs. 6); Second, based on his explanation of the shepherd and the gate (vv 7-18), he is identifying the contrast between those who do not believe in him and those that do believe. Hearing his voice is a metaphor for believing.

2) Proverbs 29:18 – find your vision:

The word there is actually used for revelation, which refers to God’s self-disclosure not our discovery of something we think God wants us to do.  Revelation in that context meant the word of the Lord that related to his authority and and communication concerning himself and his intentions. To put it in a contemporary setting would mean that wherever there is no proclamation of the biblical message (word of the Lord)the people perish.

3) 1 Corinthians 10:13 – God will not give us more than we can handle.

Read the passage carefully beginning with 10:1 and consider who he is addressing and why. The Corinthian church had issues with true spirituality and their identity. So in this section of the Corinthian letter, he is not talking about trials but unbelief and unfaithfulness. Note how he begins by the chapter and illustrating the unfaithfulness of the Old Testament saints in the wilderness. Yet God provided a way for them to believe because the their temptation for unbelief was not so great that they couldn’t believe. So to use this verse in isolation as meaning God will not give us more troubling circumstances than we can bear not only imposes something on the text that is not there, but dismisses the reality of the Christian life that produces overwhelming circumstances and forges dependence upon Christ (see 2 Cor. 12).

4) Proverbs 18:21 – we can control things with our words.

No we cannot and that is not what that verse means. It’s compatible with James 3:6-10 that speak of the destruction nature of tongue (i.e., bringing harm to individuals because of our words, slander, backbiting, etc). We also must consider the genre of Proverbs as short pithy, moral principles. Comparing this verse against the backdrop of all 66 books and consideration of redemptive history, you simply cannot make a case for this idea that we are given the power to do what God alone can do. If that’s the case you’d see this going on with the Patriarchs, Moses, Israel’s kings, and the prophets…yes, especially them since they spoke the word of the Lord. And please indicate which apostle, who the mouthpiece of Christ’s testimony, is declaring that they can speak over things. Here is a good clip on the subject.

5) 2 Peter 1:20-21 – we are not to interpret scripture

Read the context, especially starting from vs 16. Peter is saying that prophecy of Scripture is about Christ. When the Old Testament prophets spoke from God, it was not because they were applying their own interpretation but because this was the word that God gave them. The word related to Christ not our interpretation of Scripture.

6) 1 John 2:27 – we don’t need teachers to instruct us in biblical truth

It’s always dangerous to isolate a passage devoid of correlation with the breadth of Scripture. To say we don’t need teachers would negate Jesus’ own commands in Matt 28:19-20, to make disciples, teaching them all he commanded. It also negates all the places where teaching is stated as a gift to the body of Christ (Eph 4:11; James 3:1; Romans 12:7; 1 Cor 12:28). There’s also the pastoral epistles where Paul is telling Timothy and Titus how to instruct. Rather, John is referring to acceptance of the truth of the gospel.

7) Gen 8:22 – the Christian life is built on seed, time and harvest

This is one verse in a narrative that has to do with God’s promise to Noah that he would not send mass destruction over humans. He is saying that seasons will always be present. And by seasons, it means the natural occurrence that perpetuates life of produce. It does NOT mean created seasons for our lives. That this verse has perpetuated an entire philosophy that is imposed on the whole of the Biblical narrative puts a dangerous twist on Scripture as I addressed here.

8) John 4:1-42 – Jesus demonstrates that we should point out sin

This one may require a separate post. But to see this as Jesus pointing out sin misses some subtlies of who he is talking to – a Samaritan. The Samaritans had embraced a syncretistic Judiasm after their scattering from the Assyrians. They accepted Torah (books of the law) but not the word of the prophets as those who bore the revelation of God. As a result, they developed a distorted understanding of who the Messiah would be, presuming he would be a good teacher and nothing more. Keeping in mind that Jesus is revealing himself as the Messiah (particularly in chapters 3-11), he is using her situation to demonstrate that prophecy was indeed a mark of revelation as God moved through the prophets to proclaim truth. Is it any wonder that when she went back into town the first thing she said was “come see a man who told me all about myself”? I actually think it robs the story when we focus on the lifestyle of the woman and use that as the basis for the story.

Any others?

4 thoughts on “Eight Bible Interpretations That Make Me Scream

  1. Greg February 3, 2014 / 9:46 am

    Let’s not forget Jeremiah 29:11. Ask many today, “Is this verse about God making a promise to the Jews in exile in Babylon, or about our contemporary welfare?” At best, the answer many would give would be “Both.” It’s one of those interpretations that keeps giving me bald spots.

  2. MikeB (@g1antfan) February 3, 2014 / 4:29 pm

    Nice list. Just taught on #6 this past weekend.

    To make that point I had the class read a host of verses (including some that you list) that describe teachers, the teaching gift, the devotion to the apostles teaching, the need to find more teachers etc. Then we touched a bit on what it means to be “literal”. 🙂

    Of course you could add 1 John 1:3 to this list as it relates to the Test of Fellowship view. After reading the book and taking into account the historical context, it is difficult to imagine that John considers those making the claims that the false teachers are making as being saved yet having a weak relationship with God rather than being unsaved.

  3. Craig Benno March 18, 2014 / 4:12 pm

    Malachi …you have robbed God, bring the whole tithe into the church and see what a blessing I bring on you….

    This tithe is the one which the religious leaders and nation of Israel were withholding from the widows, orphans, lame, refugee, homeless etc…. not about building a bigger temple.

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