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Interpreting Scripture
Sunday, September 16 2012

How to Correctly Interpret Scripture...

An Egyptian man was reading from Isaiah, and Philip helped him to interpret it :

Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?"

He replied, "How can I, unless someone instructs me?" So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him. -Acts 8:30-31, NAB

The whole point of Waking Up Catholic's Daily Bible Verses is to help you learn how to interpret Scripture.  Notice, I said learn how to interpret Scripture - not give you the interpretations.  My goal, then, is to help equip you in the knowledge you need to correctly interpret Scripture on your own - regardless of what book, chapter, or verse it is.

Why study Scripture?  St. Paul tells us in his letter to Timothy:

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  -2 Timothy 3:16-17, NAB

Scripture, then, is there to guide us and help us to develop our faith.  Like prayer, it should be a part of our everyday lives.  Do not let dust collect on your Bible; it is one of the most important tools you have in your toolbelt.  When you first open the Bible, it may seem daunting, but over time, it will become easier.

Of course, many worry about interpreting the Bible incorrectly.  Actually, that is what inspired me to write this today.  A few days ago, I made a mistake in one of the Daily Bible Verses.  It was not a large mistake (it was a mistake in one line from the whole page); nevertheless, it was a mistake.  For that, I apologize.  The mistake has been fixed, but it shows that we all get it wrong from time to time.

We may make mistakes, now and again, but we can be sure that the Bible itself is without error.  St. Paul told us in 2 Timothy  that all Scripture is inspired by God.  Likewise, St. Peter tells us:

Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.  -2 Peter 1:20-21, NAB

We can have confidence in the accuracy of the Bible - even if we do not have confidence in our interpretation of it.  Like the Egyptian man who asked Philip for help, turn to your spiritual guides and leaders, who are led by the Magisterium of the Church, when you get stuck on interpreting a verse.  Do not ignore the importance of daily Scripture reading simply because you are afraid of making a mistake.

As Catholics, one of the greatest resources we have is the Magisterium.  Over the centuries, the Magisterium has served as a guide to help us interpret Scripture and our faith.  When studying Scripture, look for sources in-line with the Magisterium, and they will help you find the right interpretations.

You may not be a religious scholar; well, neither am I.  We will both make mistakes along the way.  But if we're not making mistakes along the way, then we will never improve.  Interpreting Scripture only gets easier with practice and more study, but we can at least lean on the Magisterium for help.  Take time to develop this important aspect of your faith, and the rewards will be great.

Again, I apologize about the mistake, but I hope my example can inspire you.  My hope is that you read these Daily Bible Verses to make reading Scripture a part of your everyday life.  Eventually, however, I hope that you will take it upon yourself to read Scripture alone.  Whether you read the Bible verse by verse, chapter by chapter, or you read random passages that move you, make reading the Bible a part of your everyday life.  I did, and so can you.

 

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