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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

Why Interpret?

With so many Christians reading the Bible every day, praying through it and striving to obey it more faithfully, the need to take classes, read books, and learn how to interpret Scripture seems unnecessary. Shouldn't it be enough to read, ask the Holy Spirit to teach us, and try to obey it better than we did the day before? I think of two reasons for learning to interpret Scripture.

First of all, the Bible is an ancient book, shaped in a different time and culture and meant to address different needs from what we often bring to the text. The distance between ourselves and the various cultures the Scriptures were written in makes it very easy to misinterpret. We bring with us our own cultural assumptions, many of which the biblical authors did not share. And there are many cultural practices described in the text that are foreign to us. Not to mention, oftentimes their culture led them to write their material in ways differently from us. While the Holy Spirit does teach and guide us, he rewards hard work and is not an excuse for coming to the text lazily. Understanding Scripture correctly requires us to do our research, to spend time living in the world of the Bible, and living with the text itself. It is through such hard work that the Holy Spirit uses the Scriptures to speak to us and to our lives in the present day.

Second, faith seeks understanding. In a day of skepticism such as ours, we must learn to interpret Scripture or else the doubts around us could lead us away from the truth contained in the Bible. Accusations of "power plays" in the creation of the canon, Richard Dawkins umpteenth reference to the Canaanite genocide, the relation of science and the creation story, and countless other criticisms of the biblical text do not hold up once the reader learns how to correctly interpret Scripture. But without the tools of interpretation, such doubts could very easily lead us away from the good news of Christ proclaimed in the Scripture.

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