Traps and Pitfalls, Common Mistakes in Bible Interpretation!
(Ver 1.4) In today’s Bible lesson I will discuss some of the common mistakes thattoo many people fall into when attempting to read and understand the Bible. If you can grasp these concepts it will help you tremendously in understanding the true meanings found in the Bible. I will give you a list of six or seven things that people tend to do that results in erroneous interpretations. By avoiding these common tricks, traps and pitfalls that the enemy Satan uses to distract, deceive and confuse us, we can help to avoid being tricked into the common pitfalls of deception and then we can continue to strive to walk in the paths of rightly diveded truths to learn what God desires for us to know today.
NO PRIVATE INTERPETATIONS
This is probably the number one pitfall to erroneous Bible teaching. It is absolutely esstential to let the Bible interpret itself. In the Bible, God tells us that no verse of prophecy is open to any private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20). God was smart enough to include explanations and interpretations to everything that He wanted you to know about a subject in the same book. So when you are reading through the book of Revelation for example, use the Bible to figure out what God is talking about. If you conclude that a reference is somehow a modern day empire and attempt to classify it as being the Roman Catholic church or the Pope, you are applying a private interpretation to the Word of God. Stick with the Bible and what God says and you will never be wrong. Come up with your own reasoning and logical explanations and you will be wrong 100 times out of 100 attempts. I’ll give you one more example that I’ve heard teachers attempt from Revelation. In the later part of the book there is a reference to a city surrounded by 7 mountains. This city is called the Great Whore of Babylon and many Bible teachers have attempted to associate it with Rome since it has seven prominent mountains. However, this again is a private interpretation, there is no Bible verses that I have found that say the city is Rome or that describe the region around Rome. So we have a problem, don’t we. When I searched the scriptures I was shocked to find 7 mountains mentioned in a specific region of the world, surrounding a specific named city. Since I don’t want to stir up a huge controversy in this blog, I’ll let you do the research yourself and see if you can find the same thing. I won’t tell you the name of the city, so good luck in your search.
THE BIBLE IS NOT TOTALLY SEQUENTIAL NOT IS IT IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
Joh 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
We know that the book of Genesis contains a lot of God’s account of creation , Noah’s flood, the rise of Abraham and the nation of Israel. We further know that the book of Revelation contains prophetic verses of the coming of the end of the age. All of the books in between these two while they are generally in time sequence, they can contain information that can be all over the board and anywhere in that timeline past, present or future. This is why Jesus told the Jews to search the scripture to find Him. If everything was obivously laid out, it would not be necessary to search to find anything in the Bible. There are verses in the New Testament that speak about both Adam and Eve and describe valuable information about the first man and woman and the fall of man. These are clearly out of time sequence with Genesis, but yet they give us some extremely valuable additional information that we must use to correctly interpret the verses in Genesis. If you only read the book of Genesis for the creation account, you will miss out on many of the details that explain key facts, events, participants and times. You have to understand that teaching the Bible involves researching your subject topographically. By examining the Bible by subject you gain a broader understanding of what God wants you to know. Not realizing that the Bible contains a widely dispersed random patterns of information on every subject, will cause you to miss a lot of the key points that you needed to know. Use key word searches to look for related verses. Many times God will purposely use the same exact Hebrew or Greek word to reveal to you related verses of scriptures. Other times, God will use completely different words or terminology to make it harder to find related scriptures. Let me give you one quick example about Abraham. His name is found 160 times in the Old Testament and 70 times in the New Testament. It is very obvious to me that if you want to study about Abraham you need to read all of these verses and see what God says about the man every where. If you only read Genesis and left out the other verses then you would miss around half of the total information given to you about Abraham in the Bible. Just know and understand that the information is spread out over the entire content of the Bible and not isolated to any specific one place.
JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS AND MAKING WRONG ASSUMPTIONS
Jumping to a wrong conclusion or making an incorrect assumption is one of the most prevalent errors that ministers and laymen make when studying the Bible. The Bible calls this private interpretation of the word of God. It is so easy to do, but yet it results in the spread of lies and confusion. Obviously confusion is what the enemy wants. Let me give you an example again of jumping to a conclusion or making an assumption. In the 12th chapter of Revelation we have a woman described as being pregnant with a male child. I know I’ve used this example before, but it is a classic example of what not to do. The conclusion has been made repeatedly that this woman is Israel because they assume the male child is Jesus Christ. Logically it doesn’t make sense that a symbolic woman is giving birth to a physical man Jesus Christ. I would say if the woman is symbolic, then the child is also symbolic. This is an example of both types of errors being exhibited from a single chapter and only a few verses. You know if someone could back that woman and child up with other scriptures showing their true identities I wouldn’t have a problem with what they were teaching. But, since they never give any verses to backup what they teach I categorically reject that as C.R.A.P. (Christian Reasoning Applied Poorly)! Please forgive my language and frustration. Most teaching on the book of Revelation that I’ve listened to is littered with private interpretations, assumptions and erroneous conclusions. People should stick with the Bible and leave their opinions out of the message and we would all benefit greatly.
USING MAN’S DEFINITION OF BIBLE WORDS INSTEAD OF GOD’S
God has given to us specific information in the Bible and once you see it and understand it, the true spiritual meanings can change Bible word definitions dramatically. What we must attempt to do in correct Bible interpretation, is to always seek God’s definitions for the words and subjects that we are studying. One huge mistake that many Bible students make is to look up words in Webster’s dictionary and think they know everything that a Bible verse is talking about using a man’s definitions of the words. Often times we read a Bible verse and think we know every word that is given to us and therefore we conclude that we understand everything that is being taught. What we do not realize is that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Unless you have completely renewed your mind you are normally thinking naturally. God most of the time is writing to us in spiritual terms, using some natural and some spiritual words interchangeably. The Bible is so much more complex than you can imagine and one way to insure correct interpretation of the Bible is to always look up God’s definitions of every word and subject that you encounter in a Bible verse.
TAKING “A” TRUTH AND TRYING TO MAKE IT “THE” TRUTH
Here is another prime example of a common error of incorrect Bible interpretation in action. While private interpretation is probably the number one problem with a lot of Bible teaching, this one is probably number two on my list of things to avoid. I’ve seen people do this so many times across the board in every denomination. So what does it mean to take a truth and make it the truth? It basically involves jumping to a conclusion again that is true in and of itself. But that truth is not the complete truth on the subject. Some people want to take a well known Bible fact and attempt to say it is this way and no other way. The mistake is made that they ignore all other viewpoints on the subject in favor of the one they like the best. To be fair to most, I would say the problem is rooted in the fact that they just haven’t seen or even aware that other views exist because they are so focused on the one thing that they do know. It doesn’t discount what they know as being in error, unless they say that every other point of view is wrong and only we are right. This is predominantly the root of every denominational war through the centuries. We are right and everyone else is wrong. I’ve got bad news for you only God is right and everyone else is at the least a little bit wrong.
I once heard it put into an analogy of climbing a mountain. If you are on the north side of the mountain you have one view, the south side a different view, the east side a different view, the west side as yet another view. Everyone is trying to say only our view is correct and yours must be in error. People we are climbing the same mountain, understand and know there are different ways to view the same thing.
I use this example, but I don’t name names of who said it. If you know who said it, please ask him to forgive me. I heard a teacher say the church is the body of Christ and not the bride. Search the scripture and you won’t find anything that says we are the bride of Christ. What an idiotic statement of arrogance and ignorance. I wrote a blog series explaining how the church became the body of Christ so I won’t attempt to repeat that lesson here. What we have though is an example of someone taking a truth and trying to make it the entire complete truth. You see I don’t have a problem with the church being the body of Christ, I can see all of the scriptures that tells us, that is what we are. But, I asked another question and that is, how did the church become the body of Christ and I found the answer explained in the Bible quite literally and explicitly. So most people who make this mistake of taking a truth and trying to make it the truth, have probably not asked enough questions.
So taking a truth and attempting to make it the truth is based upon an accumulation of other errors and mistakes that people make of which could be one or more of the following:
- Jumping to Conclusions.
- Making Wrong Assumptions.
- Using Man’s Definitions instead of God’s.
- Not asking the right Questions.
- Insufficient Knowledge. Not knowing enough of the facts (or all of the facts if that is possible)
- Not having sufficient understanding of the subject
What we all need to realize is that there is more than one truth in the Bible. These truths fit together and work in conjunction with other truths. We should all be striving to understand as much as we can about what the Bible says. We should all strive to correctly divide the Word of Truth. We should also all give others who make mistakes some extended effort of forgiveness. Jesus while hanging on the cross said Father forgive them for they know not what they do. People today are the same as they were back then and they still do a lot of stupid things and think they are so right in doing them.
THINKING YOU KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT ANYTHING
This obviously goes back to people having the wrong attitude and approach to Bible study. I’ve seen some people that are extremely arrogant in what they say and think. While some might try to confuse confidence with arrogance there is a difference. You can be confident in what you believe and still be humble enough to admit you might have been wrong. No man is God and knows everything. If you have studied the Bible for 50 years and think you have arrived and know everything that you need to know you have been deceived:
Gal 6:3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
Compared to what God knows, what you and I know would not fill a thimble. Any man or woman that has a teenager type attitude of thinking very highly of themselves and their knowledge has already deceived themselves.
INTERPRETING VERSES OUT OF CONTEXT
This is what I think I mean by this. I once had a minister say that the Bible says “Judas went and hung himself”. Then he quoted a part of another verse that said “Go and do likewise”. This was a humorous attempt to show a mistake many have made with Bible interpretation. People many times attempt to take two or more unrelated verses or just part of them and put them together and make them say something that they never really said. Sometimes I watch late night comics and during the presidential election they would take the words of a candidate making a speech and re-edit them and put them together so that when played all together they would say something that is completely false and sometimes funny. Well preachers and teachers have been guilty of doing this and using it to promote some false teaching that God never came close to endorsing. Find out who the verse was originally written to. Find out why it was written. Figure out if the verse has any implied references, double references, symbolic references, etc and only after going through logical reasoning can you actually justify putting together two verses and organize them correctly. Remember Bible study is like a puzzle, and the pieces of the puzzle must fit together correctly and always show the right big picture which is most always Jesus Christ.
Posted on April 9, 2010, in Bible Interpretation, Mistakes and tagged Bible, Christianity, Church, God, Holy Spirit, Interpretation, Jesus, Knowledge, Prophecy, Proverbs, Religion, Truth, understanding. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.