In an email exchange I’ve been having with a Catholic apologist, I was given this challenge:
I challenge you to prove to me that each individual reader of the Bible has the authority, from God, to interpret the Bible for himself so as to come to an understanding of what is true and what is false on all matters of faith and morals.
To which I responded:
Glad to take up your challenge. Jesus operated on exactly that method in his dealings with everyone he was faced with:
- Matthew 12:3
But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:”
If Jesus’ hearers had held to your view of how we come to know what the canon is and its correct interpretation, they could have rightly objected, “But Lord, we have no way of knowing if 2 Samuel was Scripture and therefore authoritative for us. How could any of us know with infallible certainty what Scripture actually is without some infallible body of living men to make an infallible determination of it? After all, when I read Tobit, I don’t feel any different than when I read Esther. Besides, our teachers and friends differ widely on what that passages means.” To which Jesus would have to respond, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
- Matthew 12:5
Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?
According to your view, they could have rightly said, “What books are in ‘the law’ Lord? We have no way of having infallible certainty of this. Besides, everyone I know thinks it means something different…”
- Matthew 21:16
and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, "Yes. Have you never read, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?”
“But Lord, how could we have known with infallible certainty that what you quoted was really Scripture and inspired or what it really means? We have no infallible external guide to tell us.”
- Matthew 21:42
Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’?
“But Lord, how could we have known that was Scripture without an infallible pronouncement and determination from an infallible body of teachers infallibly protected by the Holy Spirit from letting an un-inspired Psalm from getting into the canon?”
- Matthew 22:31
But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying,
“Jesus, how could we have known what you quoted was ‘spoken to us by God’ without a perpetual body of infallible teachers to first give us certainty that it was indeed spoken by God and what its correct interpretation is?”
Thus, our Lord clearly operated on the assumption that each individual was responsible before God for not only knowing what the canon of Scripture was, but also its correct interpretation.
The fact that people come up with opposing interpretations says much more about human sin, pride, and blindness than it does for the need of an infallible interpreter.
[Hey c0ach, it’s me, Patrick… someone stole my name here, so I picked: BouleTheou which is Greek for “plan of God”]