Voices of Faith offers perspectives from religion columnists. This week’s question: Where bit of the Bible is most misinterpreted?
The Rev. Scott Gordon, Claycomo Baptist Church, Kansas City, Mo.: Many passages vie for consideration, but the first “bit” that came to mind we find in Matthew 7:1-6 and Romans 2:1-5.
The statements, first by Jesus (“Judge not, that you not be judged”) and then by Paul (“in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself”), contain the essential aspect too often misinterpreted. Typically, someone who misuses the statement of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount “quotes” it when confronted about an area of sin in the quoter’s life.
The desire of the misinterpreter is to silence his perceived foe by saying, “Hey! Jesus said you can’t judge me about this. You can’t tell me I’m wrong!”
Our society seeks to utilize this approach to shackle biblically focused Christians, desiring to keep us from bringing our world view, usually pertaining to ethics or morality, to the arena of public discussion. With both aforementioned passages, these people remove God’s word concerning judgment from its context.
God indeed forbids a horrible judgmentalism in these passages. Specifically, God warns his followers to refrain from pronouncing a condemnation of eternal consignment on anyone.
God alone is the merciful savior and the righteous judge, having the authority regarding anyone’s sin to redeem a repentant sinner or to send the unrepentant to hell.
This fact does not prohibit his followers, though, from speaking the truth in love warning Christians and non-Christians of the evil of sin and the devastating consequences of continuing in it. Identifying sin, God’s people are to seek redemption or restoration of the one caught in it.
The entire Bible
The Rev. Raymond Davis Jr., Greater Corinthian Church of the Christ, Kansas City: There are two New Testament verses that feed understanding into the question.
2 Timothy 3:16a: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God,” and 2 Romans 15:4a: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning …”
The Bible is not about interpretations that are hidden inside the inspired written word of God. The entire Bible – both covenants – has been and is yet being misinterpreted. Misinterpretation results in misapplication.
While there is little need for most Bible texts to be interpreted, there is greater need for reading the literal rendering of the scriptures.
The literal rendering of inspired scripture results in meaning and truth. Much of one’s reading will project a meaningful interpretation of truth in a text; for example, the King James version has Moses saying in Genesis, “In the beginning God created …”
If the word “beginning” is to be understood as to be a specific date that God created, the literal rendering of that line tells us that God is the “beginning” and the “beginning” is God.
The Bible needs not interpreters, but readers to read the literal word to find truth.