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What Does the Bible Say About..Interpreting the Bible?

How should one interpret the Bible? Should one have a liberal interpretation or a conservative? You could also say a literal (originalist) interpretation or a "spirit of the Bible" (non-originalist) interpretation. Should there be uniformity in interpreting the Bible?


One should interpret the Bible as the word of God. It depends on the context and type of writing whether it should be interpreted literally or not. For instance, when Jesus says "I am the vine" (John 15:5) that is clearly a metaphor. Most prophecy is written symbolically. For instance, when the book of the Revelation talks about the New Jerusalem having gates made of one pearl each and streets of gold like transparent glass (Revelation 21:21) we can understand that to be symbolic. When the Bible presents something as literally true or states a command as a command then we should interpret it strictly and literally. When the Bible states something in a clear figure of speech then it should be interpreted as we would figures of speech in everyday life.

Liberal and conservative are labels that only have meaning in relationship to each other. I am considered liberal by many people, and conservative by many more. Thus the same interpretation of the Bible may be both, depending on who is doing the labeling, so I can't answer which is better. Should it be interpreted uniformly? For the most part, I think (and I often get in trouble when I say "I think") it should. It was written simply enough to be understood by a child, yet complex enough that the long-time scholar may still get new insights. But it should be interpreted uniformly as the word of God.

Where it is general, then latitude may be given. Where it is specific, then it should be followed specifically. Where we get in trouble is taking a general statement and making it specific, or a specific statement and making it general. When Jesus says "go into all the world and preach the gospel" it would be wrong to say one can only go by camel or on foot. When God told Noah to build an ark of gopher wood he would have been wrong to build it of any other type of wood.