Q: Can't you make the Bible say whatever you want it to?


A: No, you cannot. How would it go over if this scenario happened? Let's say you have $1,000 in the bank. You go into the bank one day to withdraw your entire amount. Instead of the teller giving you all your money, he makes the account balance to say whatever he wants it to say. He proceeds by declaring “Your savings book states you have one thousand dollars. Yet, I decide it really means ten dollars. Since you have only this amount, the bank will give you ten dollars.” You would most likely demand to talk to the manager to get all your money. The common rules of interpretation maintain you change the meaning of words to whatever you wish. Words retain the meaning their author gave to them and their definitions cannot be changed by another person. If we could change the meaning of things at will, then it would be nice to make our favorite ball team always be the winner no matter what the actual score. The Bible also uses many figures of speech. Figures of speech are picturesque ways to make ordinary truth more interesting. If one says “My friend always acts like Mickey Mouse at work.”, this means he is goofing around and not always working like he should be. That phrase does not normally mean the co-worker has a long nose and tail and is wearing mouse ears. These kinds of phrases portray truth in a captivating manner. The standard rule of interpretation has been summarized “If the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense or else it results in nonsense.” The Bible reader must understand what the writer has written, not what the reader wants the Bible to say. We can't make the Bible say whatever we want. We must take the plain, ordinary, common sense meaning. Since the normal meaning applies to bank accounts and the sports page, how much more should we be careful about letting the Bible speak for itself? None of us should say “But that's what it means to me.” Instead, each of us should realize with reverence “That's what it means to the Author.”   James Utter

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