Two groups, both pray and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, interpret scriptures and come out with two different polar opposite conclusions. Who do we turn to to authoritatively decide which of the two is interpreting scripture correctly?
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Scripture is its own best interpreter. Things to consider: the speaker, the audience, the era, culture, what comes before and after the text in question. I.e. who, what, where, when and how. "Text taken out of context, isolated from its cotext becomes a pretext."
The final arbiter is Scripture itself, not the church or any man. To declare that the church is the final arbiter is to generate more confusion with regards to which church or denomination carries the day. The Romans Catholic Church claim that they have the authority to interpret scripture and the official RCC doctrine on any matter of their faith is final. While I appreciate that the wisdom of church leaders is certainly vital in regard to explaining the meaning of scripture passages, the Bible nowhere grants this authority to the church. Some have cited Matthew 16:19 as evidence of church authority. I beg to disagree. There is no difficult passage in scripture which no other passage can explain. Hebrews 1:1-2 declares "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds." The Bible reveals the mind of God and His perfect will for us. This clearly means that it contains all that we need for the practice of our faith. In fact Paul had this in mind when he declared in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Notice that 2 Timothy 3:16b regarding reproof or correction is implicit on the resolution of any difficult area of scripture. The Greek word "elegchos" for reproof means "that by which a thing is proved or tested" while the Greek word for correction in Greek is "epanorthosis" which means "to restore to an upright or right state." The final word is correction for which the Greek word "paideia" is used which means "cultivation of minds or morals which is associated with the training of children that included correction and punishment. This is essentially what scripture does to a child of God when we pay close attention to it.. While the context of the above passage is the training of a godly character through the scriptures, the meaning can be applied in expressing the power of scripture in making clearer what is learned or needs to be learned. I am yet to find a passage in scripture that does not find support or clearer expression in another Bible book or passage. I challenge the questioner to name one such obscure or difficult passage so that we can interact with it using the word of God. I have heard some teachers say that their interpretation was given to them by the Holy Spirit even where the same contradicts the Bible. While it is true that the Holy Spirit illuminates the scripture for us, the interpretation that comes form an intense study of Scripture will never contradict other passages of the scriptures or generate unnecessary controversy. The interpretation of scripture when guided by effective biblical hermeneutics should not lead to any controversy. Once the rules are ignored, anything goes. For a clearer guide to bible hermeneutics please visit https://ebible.com/questions/1612-what-is-biblical-hermeneutics#answer-13133.
The Church is the final arbiter when it comes to interpreting scripture. The Bible must be read while being guided by the long line of interpretive traditions of the Church. No one picks up a Shakespeare book and says, "Im going to read it, and I am going to understand it." Most of the time, we get a another book, either Analysis of Hamlet, or Literary Criticism of Hamlet. Without this, our interpretation of Hamlet is either 1) correct, 2) wrong, or 3) partially true. It is with the interpretive traditions of the Church that we are able to decide which interpretations are correct, which are wrong, and which are partially true.
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