How to respond to "you shouldn't interpret scripture"


#1

Hi all, my baptist father in law has been trying very hard to convert my wife and I and he raised an objection that I’ve never heard before. He insists that if we don’t believe the book of Genesis is describing a literal six 24hr day creation that we are essentially rejecting God’s divine revelation… my wife’s response was to say that we don’t understand the entire book of Genesis to be literal and that an old universe is compatible with the Bible.

Here’s where things get interesting. My father in law insists that we don’t have the authority to interpret scripture, and that to do so is wrongheaded. The response to that of course is to say that everyone (including my father in law) who derives some sort of meaning or understanding out of the text is in one way or another “interpreting” scripture. Despite pointing this out to him, he refuses to acknowledge that he himself interprets scripture… he usually says something like “I don’t interpret scripture, I just read it as it is written.”

Anyway, I’m not sure what can be said at this point to resolve this road block, I was wondering if any of you have any advice or if you can explain to me where this view comes from. Thanks!


#2

My two cents. Does your father-in-law read Scripture in the original languages (Hebrew, Greek), or is he using a translation?

Translation is, by nature, an act of interpretation, and translations are essentially someone’s (i.e. the translator’s) interpretation of what the text means. So he can’t say that he isn’t involved in the interpretation process if he’s reading from someone’s intepretation of the text. He’s not reading the text ‘as it is written’; the only way for him to be able to do that is if he reads his Bible in Hebrew.


#3

My first thought is that he fails to understand the context of Scripture. The passages of Genesis are told with ancient Hebrew storytelling techniques. He fails to understand that the Scripture was INSPIRED by God-- not dictated. Thus, it was told to a particular audience, by a particular author, to convey a particular truth. If the ancients did not take this literally, why does the modern Baptist?

If he reads a story that says it was “raining cats and dogs” would he take it literally? Of course not, because he understands that it is just a saying in our modern culture today that means it was raining really hard. Likewise, if you read ancient writings like Scripture you have to understand that when they said “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” that is just an expression they used to mean “a really long time”.

I would be curious if he takes Jesus’ words literally when He told us to cut of our hand or pluck out our eyes if they cause us to sin. If someone looks at someone else with lust, then Jesus’ instruction is to pluck out the eye. Jesus was using hyperbole, of course, and often did. Does your father in law interpret those verses or take them literally? And then of course, there’s John chapter 6 that Catholics do take literally and yet baptists do not! Does your father in law, believe that the bread and wine are LITERALLY the Body and Blood of Jesus-- because Jesus most certainly said they are. My guess is that he INTERPRETS those verses to be symbolic, but if you take them at face value you come up with a whole different understanding.


#4

My response to the literalists exactly!


#5

Thanks for your reply. He did mention at one point that the first five books of the OT are different than the rest of the Bible in that Moses wrote them down just as he received the Ten Commandments… he said it came directly from God, while the other books were inspired by the Holy Spirit. I didn’t quite understand the distinction he was making or why it was important.

If he reads a story that says it was “raining cats and dogs” would he take it literally? Of course not, because he understands that it is just a saying in our modern culture today that means it was raining really hard. Likewise, if you read ancient writings like Scripture you have to understand that when they said “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” that is just an expression they used to mean “a really long time”.

He has zero problems admitting that some passages should not be understood literally. Strangely enough though he insists that he does NOT interpret anything as literal, or symbolic, or figure of speech, but that he simply reads scripture as it is written.

I would be curious if he takes Jesus’ words literally when He told us to cut of our hand or pluck out our eyes if they cause us to sin. If someone looks at someone else with lust, then Jesus’ instruction is to pluck out the eye. Jesus was using hyperbole, of course, and often did. Does your father in law interpret those verses or take them literally? And then of course, there’s John chapter 6 that Catholics do take literally and yet baptists do not! Does your father in law, believe that the bread and wine are LITERALLY the Body and Blood of Jesus-- because Jesus most certainly said they are. My guess is that he INTERPRETS those verses to be symbolic, but if you take them at face value you come up with a whole different understanding.

I’m so happy I asked him this same question, because I too saw an inconsistency in his method. His response I thought was very unusual… he essentially said that we do indeed have to eat the flesh of Jesus just as we must also eat the flesh of the Father. I’m still trying to figure out what he meant by that. We were not able to return to that question since he started criticizing that Catholics re-sacrifice Jesus at every Mass, and he quoted the Bible when it says that there is only one sacrifice… so the conversation went in that route.

On a side note, he vehemently rejects darwinism (and I’m sympathetic to that view) because he’s convinced that that view is motivated by a naturalistic philosophy rather than science. Unfortunately he conflates that theory with the Big Bang theory and maintains that all of it is an atheistic attempt to do away with God. My wife attempted to share with him that the science of the Big Bang actually points towards God, but he wouldn’t budge.


#6

:signofcross:[LIST]*]Question: Interpretation of Sacred :bible1: Scriptureliterally and/or figuratively
[/LIST]
[LIST]
*]Answer: The Catechism clearly states Sacred :bible1: Scripture can be believed on two (2) levels. . . not just one . . . it is not an either/or situation . . . but a both/and type of understanding that is revealed . . . with the second level of knowledge being divided up into three sublevels of perceiving revelations of truth . . . [/LIST]

[INDENT]**. . . :coffeeread: . . .**The senses of Scripture

115
According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the** literal** and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.

**116 **
The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: "**All other senses of **Sacred :bible1: Scripture ****are based on the literal."83

**117 **The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God’s plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.

[INDENT]1. The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism.84

  1. The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written "for our instruction."85

  2. The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, “leading”). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.86

118 **
A medieval couplet summarizes the significance of the
four** senses:

The Letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to faith;
The Moral how to act; Anagogy our destiny.87

**119 **
It is the task of exegetes to work, according to these rules, …[/INDENT][/INDENT]

But we need to cautiously remember that . . .* translations require human translators* . . . and in truth . . . a rare very-few souls have been called . . . **by GOD **. . . to such work down through the centuries. [size=]Pope Pius XII stated that the
Holy :bible1: Bible
Latin Vulgate Translation
[/size]
was **
*“free from any error whatsoever in matters of faith and morals.”***With St. Jerome . . . who as well as being a SAINT is a HOLY DOCTOR of the Catholic Church . . . and . . . the Vicar of Christ’s declaration of support . . .

Link: vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_30091943_divino-afflante-spiritu_en.html . . .

you can’t go wrong with this :bible1: Bible . . . the English Bishop Challoner Version of the Douay Rhiems has been abundantly blessed of God for centuries . . .

The NAB translation utilized today, however, is a classic example of extremely poor translators and translations. . . which sometimes goes light years beyond even simple mistakes . . . (which problem has long been recognized and revealed within the Church) . . . the below link is to the renown and highly respected priest . . . **Father Richard Neuhaus’ **. . . dissertation published in the Adoremus Bulletin re the genuinely . . . *and at times gravely serious *. . . problems with the NAB translators and translation . . . so we all need to be extremely careful trusting individuals who are . . .supposedly . . . translating . . . from original language texts . . . there are hundreds of such so called . . . translations . . . that are not actually word for word translations . . . but just individual’s opinions of what they “want” the Bible to say . . . and who have . . . no annointing or calling whatsoever . . . of the Holy Spirit to be indulging themselves as so called . . . “Biblical translators” . . .

:compcoff: Link: adoremus.org/0306BibleTranslations.html

[RIGHT]. . . all for Jesus+
. . . thank You Gracious Lord+[/RIGHT]


#7

St. Augustine in his Confessions does some interpretation of Genesis. I believe it is in book 10 of the confessions.


#8

I suspect that when you whittle down this argument, that the reply will come down to - “well, you have to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to you”. It just so happens that “the truth” is whatever your father-in-law considers “truth”, if you disagree you have to “pray harder” for “the truth”.

That being said, ask your FIL to “just read as it is written” -
When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. - Leviticus 19:33-34
I will be a swift witness against… those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against … those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 3:5.

Then ask him his views on “illegal immigration”.

Also:
Lazarus is a beggar who waits outside of a rich man’s house and begs for scraps. When both Lazarus and the rich man die, Lazarus ends up in heaven, while the rich man ends up in hell. When the rich man begs for water, Abraham says, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” Luke 19:25.

Does he read that literally? If so, conversation/intercession with/for the dead is possible, as Catholics believe and Baptist’s deny.

If he’s still with you, try:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. - Galatians 3:28

Does he have an inordinate support of the modern nation called Israel?
Does he really believe that gender no longer exists if you are Christian?

Genesis 1:29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.
Would he eat this? elitereaders.com/manchineel-worlds-dangerous-tree-every-part-deadly/

(I half-suspect this plant was what God forbid in the garden, due to it’s toxicity - halfjoking)

There a bunch more.


#9

Excellent counter argument, and all very scriptural. I especially like (as an argument!) the first ones about refugees.

As you say, there’s a bunch more. One could go on and an presenting passages which he (the FIL) “interprets”, as do most fundamentalist Christians. However, there is little likelihood of him listening or responding beyond one or two, and he’ll continue to assert that he doesn’t “interpret” scripture he, just “reads” it. He’ll feel comfortable with this because his friends at his baptist church all say the same thing.

:banghead:

I would like to, one day, present a list of some of important points of biblical interpretation which those who claim to “read and accept, not interpret” differ on.

[LIST]
*]Infant baptism
*]TULIP
*]Women in ministry
[/LIST]

Women in ministry may be an easy start - as most fundamentalists have adopted this. Does OP’s FIL accept “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” (1 Tim 2:12) as written, or does he interpet it?


#10

Each and every belief that is unique to the various baptist denominations is the result of private interpretation of the scripture! He accuses himself! The Baptist denomination is generally described as having been founded by separatist John Smyth in 1609. That is a very long time after Christ founded His Church.

Their primary error is bible alone - which goes against the bible. The scriptures inerrantly point to the Church and make no mention of scripture alone. Ask him to prove, by even a single verse (let alone many) that the King James Version or New International Version of the bible was used in AD33. Brace yourself for some hostility.

Taking my cue from our Lord, I tend toward the hyperbolic so as to provoke thought. I tell non-Catohlics that I would have to deny Christ to join their communities. They may be shocked, but it is absolutely true, as the Catholic (and Orthodox) are the only Churches on earth that can be called true Churches. They have the seven sacraments instituted by Christ - the pinnacle of which is Christ in His Body, Blood,Soul and divinity in the Holy Eucharist.

Because I am convicted of His presence in the Eucharist, and because no protestant denomination has it, I would have to leave Christ for the opinionated teachings of men. He will be hostile to hear that, as well. This is touchy stuff, but you could not be baptist until 1609. How is that evidence of anything but being man-made?

As for you and your wife, I would hope that you have a strong beleief in Christ’s true presence in the Holy Eucharist. If not, then by all means find out when your parish offers adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Go and spend time with the Lord and you will know that no bible alone assembly can ever satisfy.

Turn the argument around on him.


#11

Where in the Bible does it say that one cannot interpret Scripture? While I think one has a tough challenge with one that does not understand the impossibility of reading anything without interpreting it, I would say he is in actually contradiction of St. Paul’s instruction to Timothy.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)


#12

I’ll bet, JUUST bet…that when gets to John 6, he’ll abandon his “face value” philosophy pretty quick.

Just try it.


#13

He has a tendency to argue from silence… if it doesn’t explicitly say it in scripture, then we shouldn’t believe in it. For example he said that if the universe actually is old then God would have explicitly revealed that to use through scripture and that the young earth creation story’s symbolism would have been explained to us… since we don’t find that in the Bible he insists that Genesis wasn’t meant to be understood that way.

It was around that point that I asked him about his views on the Eucharist… that’s when he said he agreed that we should eat the Son in the same way that we also eat the Father.:shrug: I’m still at a complete loss what he meant by that. Maybe he didn’t express himself properly, or maybe I got him to say whatever he could think of at the time as to not seem inconsistent. I don’t know.


#14

Thanks. My wife and I intend to eventually ask him questions about his views on Church history and the Church fathers. I fear that he sees the Church as completely corrupt and misguided, if not as the anti-Christ.

It’s tough because sometimes his accusations are simply based on misrepresentations of the Catholic faith, but when we try to correct him and say “the Church actually doesn’t assert that, She teaches so and so instead” he’ll reply by saying “well the Church just says that to mislead you so that you don’t find out what we know about the Church”. In a separate conversation he even went so far as to say that Catholicism is no better than Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses.


#15

I have dealt with one person like this, a Calvinist who also abandoned basic logic. I quit. One cannot communicate with one who rejects basic rules of communication. An argument from silence cannot exist when a thing has to be one way or another. It is as equally valid, though wrong to argue from silence that you can interpret the Bible because the Bible is silent on it, that is, it doesn’t forbid it, like it does stealing, adultery and murder.

But this is moot because the Bible is not silent. 2 Timothy 2:15 speaks directly to the need to interpret properly the Bible.

I suspect in the end you will have to just bear witness by your faith. One cannot argue with a fundamentalist that considers logic, language and common sense the “wisdom of the world”.


#16

From my recent activity correcting error on some of the most egregious anti-Catholic YouTube videos, it is clear that the world (and many mislead Christians) absolutely hates the Catholic Church. They willfully tolerate all manner of error within protestantism, but hate Catholicism with a visceral hatred. That is the personification of John 15:18 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.”


#17

I’d bet he’d answer 2 Peter 1:20 – “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”

In any case, his is the literalist’s response to the assertion that his interpretation is wrong. Rather than have to defend his interpretation, he asserts that he isn’t interpreting it. (Let’s set aside even Patrick’s observation about source languages – it’s important to realize that even a literalist interpretation is itself an interpretative stance!)

He’s probably trying to exegete John 6:63 – “It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” The Protestant’s typical interpretation (there’s that word again! ;)) of this verse is that we ‘eat’ the Word of God, spiritually, and it gives us life. :shrug:


#18

:clapping: What a great thread! . . . thinking of using some of it to teach an RCIA class! Wonderful! Wonderful! :extrahappy: Thank you!

Luz Maria


#19

Yes, exactly! And unfortunately that’s one of the key points he refuses to acknowledge… I’m starting to wonder if he understands the word “interpretation” differently than we do. Perhaps in his mind the word means “to twist the words to mean what we want them to mean” type thing, in which case I’d agree with him that we ought not do that. Perhaps getting clarification on the meaning of the word “interpretation” is our next step.

Veeery interesting, thank you for that.


#20

Does your father-in-law believe that the sky is a solid dome holding back the waters of heaven, with windows to allow rain to come through? If not, why not? That is what Genesis says.


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