Is it okay to interpret the Bible?

I had some discussions today with a few of the Toronto street preachers I’ve mentioned before, and they made some interesting assertions. While they claim to not be KJV-Onlyists (even though they appear to think it’s a more accurate translation than some other Bible versions, particularly the literal translations those of us in the body of Christ tend to prefer), attempting to interpret Scripture appears to be verboten for them, especially if it requires looking into what certain words in the Bible actually mean and not ending up agreeing with them on the definitions of these words. You see, if you end up deciding that what the words actually meant when they were originally spoken or written in their original languages (or even just what they meant when they were originally translated into English back in the 17th century) are how we should interpret them rather than simply accepting the modern, 21st-century definitions of these words that they’re used to, it apparently means you’re twisting the language to make it mean what you want it to mean, and they wouldn’t even consider the possibility that they could be wrong in their presuppositions of what those words must mean.

This all came up during a discussion where the word “fornication” was mentioned. As anyone who has studied this topic in Scripture for more than a few minutes knows, not only did the Greek word it was translated from mean something very different back in the 1st century than the English word “fornication” does today in the 21st century (as I explained in my article on what Scripture teaches about sexuality), it didn’t even mean the exact same thing when the Bible was first translated into the English language that it means today. But they wouldn’t even hear of the possibility that it might have meant something different a few hundred years ago (not to mention a couple thousand years ago), insisting that the modern dictionary definition they’re used to is the only definition that matters, because they just couldn’t accept the idea that premarital sex might not actually be a sin.

What might be worse, though, one of them asked me how I could possibly ever have concluded that it means something different than what he believes it to mean, and when I explained that I learned the truth after being challenged by someone to look into the meaning of the word and the topic of premarital sex in general, I was basically told that learning things about the Bible from other people is unacceptable. Apparently, not only should one avoid trying to interpret Scripture on their own, they also shouldn’t let other people help them interpret Scripture either. Rather, it seems that we should only learn doctrine by reading an English version of the Bible that they deem to be a good enough translation (not the Concordant Literal Version, though, or so I’ve now been told) and simply believing what it seems to say while reading it, without any study aids of any sort (and definitely never considering the possibility that a word in whatever version we end up reading might mean something different than what was actually written 2,000 or more years ago, or even than what it meant 400 years ago in English). Of course, that’s still a method of interpreting the Bible (all Bible study is interpretation, after all), even if it’s a method that will lead you into all sorts of confused doctrines, but I don’t think any of them realize that. Meanwhile, they still go to church and listen to their preachers give lessons on their own interpretations of Scripture, and he was even trying to get me to learn from his interpretations of Scripture (some of which he was trying to demonstrate from Strong’s Concordance, because it seems that study aids are okay when they use them, just not when we use them), but somehow my own interpretations (or those I’ve learned from other people who aren’t in the same denomination as them) can’t possibly be correct.

I should say, I don’t mean for any of this to be taken in a malicious manner, nor am I trying to put them down. I actually like most of them as people, and often enjoy chatting with them. I just wish they’d realize what they’re saying here (and I also hope that they’ll come across this and read my article on sexuality, since they have a lot to learn about what Scripture says on that topic).

Unfortunately, though, this is a perspective that many within the Christian religion seem to agree with, and this is one of the reasons I warn people against having anything to do with Christianity, because too many Christians are only interested in reading their own presuppositions into Scripture rather than interpreting what Scripture actually teaches. I know, not all Christians hold to such hermeneutics, but even among those who don’t, few seem interested in accepting the possibility that certain words in the Bible might mean something other than the definition they themselves prefer, so it’s still better to avoid their religion altogether if you want to learn what Scripture not only says, but what it actually means.