Private interpretations of Scripture

The Bible warns against private interpretations of Scripture in the following words:

“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Pet. 1:20).

This warning is of particular importance today as the word of God has become Satan’s prime target in no less a way than in the days of our first parents, Adam and Eve, when the Serpent asked, “Yea, hath God said…..?” (Gen. 3:1).

Many people might not recognize it, but the Protestant Reformation was not primarily over any specific doctrine as much as it was about the word of God itself, which affects all doctrines.  Forty-three years after his death, John Wycliffe, known as the Morning Star of the Reformation, had his bones dug up from where they were buried and were burnt and the ashes scattered into a nearby river, from whence it was borne out into the ocean.  For what reason?  Rome was so upset that Wycliffe had set in motion a tide that they had long sought to stifle – the word of God being made available to every man in his own language.  Even though the translation was from the edited manuscripts that originated in Alexandria, Egypt, the precursor to the Roman Catholic Latin Vulgate, there was enough exposure to the truth, available from it, that would give the opposers of truth a serious problem.

Tyndale and the KJV

William Tyndale was burnt alive at the stake, for translating the Bible into English,  from the purer text that was handed down from generation to generation, through the church in the wilderness, from Antioch where “the disciples were called Christians first” (Acts 11:26).  Tyndale’s dying words were: “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes”.  God answered Tyndale’s prayer shortly after, by putting it in the heart of the king to lift the ban on the scriptures being made available in the native language of the common people – the same ban that Tyndale had violated that cost him his life.  Tyndale’s version is the precursor to the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible that we have today.

Tyndale had previously expressed his desire to have people understand the scriptures for themselves, in a discussion with a priest, who had expressed the view that the common people were incapable of understanding the scriptures and had to be dependent on the interpretations given to them by the priests.  In response, Tyndale made his famous statement: “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy who drives a plough to know more of the scriptures than you do.”

Tyndale’s vision was accomplished through the technology of the printing press, which made the Bible available to the world like an unstoppable tide.  Even today the KJV remains a best seller.

However, in more recent years a carefully laid plan to subvert the influence of the scriptures has been gaining ground.  The plan was to gradually replace the purer text that forms the basis for the KJV with the edited texts that Rome uses.  This plan was expressed in the Preface of a Roman Catholic Douay-Rheims translation published in 1816 as follows:

“It is almost three hundred years since James Archbishop of Genoa, is said to have translated the Bible into Italian. More than two hundred years ago, in the days of Charles V the French king, was it put forth faithfully in French, the sooner to shake out of the deceived people’s hands, the false heretical translations of a sect called Waldenses.”  – Preface, Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible, 1816.

The Waldenses were among the persecuted people of God who preserved God’s word, which we now have as the KJV.  While, many Protestants today, treat the KJV as just another version only less modern than the others, Rome is not of that view.  They know the difference and consider it important.

The plan would accomplish three things, among others, in one blow: 1. There would be conflicting translations of the text, that would lead people to question the veracity of all the texts; 2. People would be less inclined to memorize the text because of the many renderings of the same verse; 3. People would make there own private interpretations, being facilitated by the different translations, thus, leading people back to a reliance on the interpretations of priests and theologians, in their search for certainty.

Private interpretations

Private interpretations of scripture come in various guises.  Today, it has become fashionable to hear preachers say, “I like how this translation puts it….”  So, they can choose what they want to hear the scriptures say, just by using the translation of their choice.  There is no set way anymore.

Another popular strategy is to take the historical accounts of scripture as allegories – you choose what message you want the story to tell, rather than take the account primarily as fact.  So, for example, when the Apostle Paul was in a ship that seemed about to run aground during a storm, and Paul said: “Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.” (Acts 27:31), the ship supposedly means the church; hence, regardless of what happens, the message is “stay in the church”.  That message may be fine, and it may be possible to use other means to establish that in some way, but the truth is that the story had nothing to do with the church but rather, it was an account of an experience that Paul had.  Of course, the ship ended up being wrecked and everyone had to abandon it, but usually, the analogy is not taken that far.  It is more accurate to say, based on numerous scriptures, that we should abide in the truth.  It is only the truth that will stand the test of time.  And it is the truth that will keep the church faithful to its mission.

Don’t be deceived

In the last days, it will be critical that we commit the scriptures to memory and remain with the purer text that was preserved by those who were willing to give their lives to preserve it.  Jesus warned, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” (Matt. 24:4).  He went on to say: “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Matt. 24:24).  Jesus overcame the Devil’s temptations in the wilderness by repeatedly appealing to the word of God, saying each time, “It is written…”  But if there is uncertainty as to what is written, or we do not have it etched in our memory, how will we be able to use the scriptures as a sword to cut through errors and temptation when we most need it?  Don’t forget, Satan was quoting scriptures too.  But he was misrepresenting God’s word, primarily by quoting only a snippet of it and leaving out the rest of what was said or changing the context in which it was said.

It is interesting that even in the greatest uncertainty, God always makes an easy way.  Amid the flood of various translations and uncertainty as to text renderings, the KJV is not easily mistaken for another version.  The very things that people claim make it archaic, the Thee, thou, thine and ye, are the very things that make it hard to miss it.  So, we need not be confused to mix up the translations that came from edited manuscripts with those that were faithfully preserved by God’s persecuted people.  As the famous preacher, Charles Spurgeon said: “Discernment is not a matter of telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.”.

At this time, as we approach the final test, when the shaking will take place and only those who cannot be shaken will be left standing, it is imperative that we hold on to the word of God so that we might be sealed, as we are told:

“Just as soon as the people of God are sealed in their foreheads – it is not a seal or mark that can be seen, but a settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, so they cannot be moved – just as soon as God’s people are sealed and prepared for the shaking, it will come.” (Ellen G. White, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 1161).

 “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).

For further information, please visit Patience of the Saints at http://thecommandmentsofgodandthefaithofjesus.com/

Questions and comments may be sent by e-mail to: commandmentsofgodandfaithofjesus@yahoo.com

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