[I am currently teaching a class at the Abaco Bible College in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas and I would like to share portions of my lectures with my brothers in Christ that are a part of AOCI! The course that I am currently teaching is "Hermeneutics I."]
The Bible is the most popular book of all time. In its pages are the message of salvation, the premier manual for godly living, and the chief source of comfort for untold millions. Its truth is of divine origin, and is our only authoritative explanation of who God is and what He has done. It tells the origin of all things and predicts the final state of all things, It is credited for transforming lives and cultures and has influenced literature as no other document of all time.
Yet in spite of its remarkable importance, the Bible is often interpreted more carelessly than a common novel. Since it is a book of divine origin, some feel that it does not need to be interpreted by normal rules of communication. Each person, some think, should interpret the BIble as he or she sees fit, depending on 'divine guidance.'If one were to accept this premise, then the Bible would contain as many meanings as interpreters. Others feel that a narrow, literal reading without regard for cultural or literary context is sufficient. Let us look at just a few examples of the weakness of these arguments.
Quoting "Happy is he who . . seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks" (Psalms 137:8-9), A 12th-century crusader picked up an infidel baby and justified his brutal murder of an infant. In colonial America and South Africa, newcomers from Europe quoted God's order to Joshua to slay the Canaanites and claim their land as a biblical basis for seizing land from the native populations. In the 20th century, rallies in Nazi Germany featured ministers explaining how the extermination of the Jews was God's will because they had asked for Christ's blood to be on the heads of their children (Matthew 27:25).
Even within the church, misinterpretations of Scriptures are abundantly clear. Some of these distortions are merely curious, such as the millions who believe they actually drink Christ's blood and eat His body when they celebrate communion. Others undermine solid doctrine by attempting to justify questionable practices, such as baptism for the dead (I Corinthians 15:29), on the basis of one verse of Scripture. Some simply confuse Christian believers and distort the image of the church to unbelievers.
One distortion of Scripture I noticed recently was shown in a television documentary describing a church that includes snake handling and poison drinking as part of its worship. The members feel this increases their faith,claiming Christ's promise of protection from such things in Mark 16:18 as the basis for their practice.
These few examples illustrate the foolishness of thinking that everyone should interpret the Bible in his or her own way. Without general guidelines for proper interpretations, the Bible with reflect human hearts rather than change them. But the Bible clearly interpreted and proclaimed according to the laws that govern human communication has maintained remarkable success over the centuries. It is credited with overflowing the slavery, vice, and corruption of the Roman Empire and with the transformation of scores of cruel cultures. It has transformed the hearts and lives of millions of true believers. Certainly a systematic study of how to interpret the Bible should be a priority for every serious Bible student.