Who interprets the interpreter?


A common argument for Catholicism is that scripture requires an authoritative interpreter, because our interpretations are fallible and subjective.

But don’t we still interpret Catholic teaching, and aren’t our interpretations of Catholic teaching equally fallible and subjective?


Is that in reference to speaking in tongues which they often refer to in Protestantism?

1 Corinthians 14:28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

We have the Catechism to help us understand the scriptures as well as simplified Catechism in our teaching manuals. If we are unsure of something we could always find answers. If we didn’t than we would be teaching our children different things.

Is this the kind of thing you mean?


To a certain extent, but there is a large difference: namely, the authority (the interpreter) can look us in the face and vocally say “no, you’re wrong,” or “yes, that’s right,” to different parts of a given interpretation (or for that matter, it can be silent, which more or less means “at this time and so far as we know, there is no reason to believe that that is definitely true or definitely false”).

This isn’t to say that people can’t (willfully or otherwise) misinterpret Catholic teaching. But to do so in a way that the interpreter knows to be wrong requires either not checking with the interpreter, or ignoring it when it says things like “yes” and “no.”


Only the Church can properly interpret Scripture. From the Catechism:

"119 "It is the task of exegetes to work, according to these rules, towards a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture in order that their research may help the Church to form a firmer judgement. For, of course, all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgement of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God.“88”

From Humani Generis:

"20. Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: “He who heareth you, heareth me”;[3] and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.

"21. It is also true that theologians must always return to the sources of divine revelation: for it belongs to them to point out how the doctrine of the living Teaching Authority is to be found either explicitly or implicitly in the Scriptures and in Tradition.[4] Besides, each source of divinely revealed doctrine contains so many rich treasures of truth, that they can really never be exhausted. Hence it is that theology through the study of its sacred sources remains ever fresh; on the other hand, speculation which neglects a deeper search into the deposit of faith, proves sterile, as we know from experience. But for this reason even positive theology cannot be on a par with merely historical science. For, together with the sources of positive theology God has given to His Church a living Teaching Authority to elucidate and explain what is contained in the deposit of faith only obscurely and implicitly. This deposit of faith our Divine Redeemer has given for authentic interpretation not to each of the faithful, not even to theologians, but only to the Teaching Authority of the Church. But if the Church does exercise this function of teaching, as she often has through the centuries, either in the ordinary or in the extraordinary way, it is clear how false is a procedure which would attempt to explain what is clear by means of what is obscure. Indeed, the very opposite procedure must be used. Hence Our Predecessor of immortal memory, Pius IX, teaching that the most noble office of theology is to show how a doctrine defined by the Church is contained in the sources of revelation, added these words, and with very good reason: “in that sense in which it has been defined by the Church.”



Most of the Scripture has been interpreted by the Magisterium of the Church through the 2,000 years of the Church’s Tradition. And the passages that still seem mysterious we shouldn’t worry about. Remember the Magisterium is protected against all error in Faith and Morals.

One final thing, if anyone gives you an interpretation that contradicts the constant teaching of the Church in Faith and Morals, that interpretation is wrong.



I don’t interpret the teachings of the Church. I accept them.

Not always easy, but I have learned to acquiesce, and it has always brought peace in my life.



This makes sense. With a human authority, I can ask them to restate a teaching until I understand it, which I cannot do with the scriptural text itself. So the interpretation of Church teaching isn’t as subjective as the interpretation of scripture. Thank you very much!


Anything can be misinterpreted, especially if someone wants to, but magisterial documents: encyclicals, conciliar documents, the Catechism, etc, all seek to clarify and explain the teachings of the Church, based on Tradition and Scripture, in a way that goes very far in clearing up misinterpretations. The Catholic faith can be known for anyone who truly wants to know it.


The Church has officially interpreted only a hand full of verses from the bible. The Church leaves the reader to interpret for themself, as long as the reader does not interpret verses that goes against Church doctrines.


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