Interpreting the Bible
Interpreting the Bible
Literalists tell you that God created language to communicate with people. God's word is unambiguous and requires only correct interpretation. Authorities will help you interpret.

Before translation of the Bible into the vernacular, a limited circle of authorities controlled interpretation. Since translation, the number of authorities (and the number of interpretations) has skyrocketed.

Why can't religions agree on translation?

Modern scholars realize that language is ambiguous. Words have multiple meanings. "Correct interpretation" is oxymoron. Writers realize the difficulty of converting thought to words. Mathematics seeks unambiguous language, but interpretive conflicts arise even in mathematics.

Cultural differences increase ambiguity. Different cultures use words differently. Word usage changes with time. Translation increases ambiguity. Translators convert one set of ambiguities into another set of ambiguities.

To further complicate matters, culture and genetics cause individuals to use language in different ways. No two people interpret language identically. Effective communication requires constant language adjustment.

How should one use the Bible?

If language is ambiguous, one is best off using the Bible for inspiration and moral insight. Using the Bible as a recipe book will occasionally lead to inhumanity.

Consider saints. The most saintly aren't necessarily those with the most Biblical knowledge. They're rather those who are most thoughtful and who have the best moral insights. If the Bible doesn't make you more saintly, think carefully about how you're using it. Interpretive guidance should make you a better person.

What is the "received text