When two people discuss a religious topic on which they disagree, one of them will often say to the other, “Well, that’s just your interpretation!” Or one of them will go as far as to declare: “You interpret the Bible the way you want to, and I’ll interpret it the way I want to.” This erroneous concept that the Word of God can be interpreted however an individual chooses has long been the norm of the average person’s approach to the inspired Scripture. Just what does the word interpret mean? Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary gives the following definition of interpret: “To explain or tell the meaning of; to elucidate.” If we understand a particular passage of Scripture, there is only one correct explanation. Any other view of that passage is incorrect and, therefore, should be rejected. Two people can disagree on Scripture and be wrong, but there is only one correct interpretation.
The Roman Catholic Church believes it has the sole right to interpret the Bible. Their explanation of the verse in 2 Peter 1:20, which says, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation,” is that an individual cannot understand the Scripture without it being interpreted for them by the officials of the Catholic Church. This is an instance in which a passage is taken out of its context. That passage does not refer to those who read the Scripture to learn the Heavenly Father’s will for them. It references the Old Testament prophets who wrote the prophecies found therein. Let us now consider verses 20 and 21 together: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” These two verses simply tell us that what the prophets foretold and taught was not their concepts but that which was given unto them by the Holy Spirit.
We are responsible for learning what the Lord would have us do. The apostle Paul stressed this principle in his letter to the church at Philippi. “Wherefore, my be‐ loved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phi. 2:12). Neither those Philippian Christians nor we are given the green light to determine right from wrong religiously separate and apart from the inspired Word. The Philippian letter was Paul’s instruction to them in doing the will of God. Jesus Christ assures us that the truth is obtainable (Mat. 5:6; John 5:39; 8:32).