The subject of interpreting scripture is one of utmost importance. Proper understanding of God’s words guides the servant of the Almighty to righteousness, maturity, and a healthy, fruitful relationship with his Creator. Lack of understanding leads to error, heresy, and division from God and His servants.

Oddly enough, proper interpretation and methods of interpretation are greatly ignored by most religeous people. Even those who do study the scriptures allow their understanding to be molded only by their leaders or their traditions. Godly leaders and traditions are wonderful and beneficial when they are right. But what if they are wrong? What if they and, as a result, you are misinterpreting the scriptures? How will you know?

To answer those questions, we must determine and establish an irrefutable foundation on which to base our interpretations. Of course, God is the One Divine Supreme Being, the only God worthy to be worshiped. This is the ultimate foundation. In the matter of interpreting scripture, there are two things which cannot be refuted and upon which all interpretation must be based.

First, the scriptures are the words of God. Second, God cannot lie. That may seem very elementary. It is also very profound and far reaching. When we begin to understand and to implement those principals into our process of interpretation, we will find that some of our doctrines and traditions have been in error.

Since God cannot lie, every interpretation of any scripture must not contradict any other scripture. If {by way of example} scripture “A” says that chicken eggs are brown in color and scripture “B” refers to a white chicken egg, then any interpretation of scripture “A” must allow for the possibility of white chicken eggs. An interpretation of scripture “A” that says, “ALL chicken eggs are brown,” is obviously flawed. If we ignore or reject scripture “B,” we will easily enter into error. That may be a simple and silly analogy, but we make the same kind of mistakes with the Holy Scriptures.

As in the example above, many people embrace certain scriptures while ignoring or rejecting others. Most Christians embrace the passage in the Bible which states, “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” {2 Timothy 3:16-17} And yet, the overwhelming majority of Christians reject the Koran! The Bible says, “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” {1 John 4:2} If Christians accept that scripture, then they cannot deny the Koran when it says of Jesus that he is the Messiah, a Messenger of Allah, His word, and a spirit sent from Him. {Koran 4: 171} The Bible warns of a generation which will only listen to teachers that say things the people want to hear. {2 Timothy 4:3-4} We must ask ourselves if we are a part of that generation. If we are, then we must repent!

Christians are not alone in this kind of error. The Koran states clearly, “And to you {Muhammad} We have revealed the Book with the truth confirming the Book that was revealed before it and a guardian over it.” {Koran 5:48}   “He has sent down to you the Book with the truth, confirming what preceded it; and He has sent down the Torah and the Gospel before, as a guidance for people, and He sent down the Criterion. As for those who disbelieve in the verses of Allah, for them is an intense punishment.” {Koran 3:3-4} And in spite of the instruction in the Koran and the promise of punishment for disbelieving in the verses of Allah, many Muslims reject the best source of the Torah and the Gospel. If we reject the Torah and the Gospel and accept nothing other than the Koran, then we have rejected the words of Allah and become like the Christian who rejects the Koran! {NOTE: It is not implied here that the Bible is a perfect representative of the Torah and Gospel. Every knowledgeable person knows that the text of the Bible has been modestly altered. However, the Bible remains the most authoritative source. When identifying alterations in the Bible, we must find evidence of the alteration beyond our personal disagreement with the text.}

The man that will diligently study the Torah, the Gospel, and the Koran is best positioned to understand the words of God. A man cannot fully understand a confirming word if he has no knowledge of the thing that word confirms. Without knowledge of the Torah and the Gospel, we cannot reap the full benefit of the Koran. Likewise, without knowledge of the Koran, Christians and Jews do not receive the full benefit of the Torah and the Gospel. Since God cannot lie, let us study His words; all of them.

Some people overemphasize certain scriptures to the extent that they enter into error and cause other scriptures to become meaningless. The passages in the Bible {1 John 5:7-8, 1 Timothy 3:16} that support the doctrine of the “trinity” are overemphasized by Christians. {NOTE: These are examples of passages that have been altered to support the doctrine of the trinity. Compare KJV and NIV.} The passages that clearly state that there is one God and Jesus is clearly separate from Him are ignored. {1 Timothy 2:5} The Bible does not even use the word “trinity” or “one God of three persons.” Church history shows that the doctrine of the trinity was not formulated until some three hundred years after Christ. And yet, Christians become extremely offended if we question the doctrine of the trinity. By overemphasizing and misunderstanding certain scriptures, many Christians have entered into error. Since God cannot lie, let us believe His words.

Muslims, on the other hand, overemphasize the passage in the Koran which states that the Jews did not kill Jesus. {Koran 4:157} Most Muslims go so far as to misinterpret this passage to mean that Jesus did not die. It simply does not say that. Do we ignore the passage which quotes Jesus as prophesying of his own death and resurrection? {Koran 19:33-34}Or do we explain it away by assuming that he will die after he returns to earth? {NOTE: This view is purely speculation. There is no hard evidence to suggest that Jesus’ death will occur “after” his return.} It is true that the Jews did not kill Jesus. The Romans actually carried out the execution.{Mark 15:16-23; John 19:23-24} But more importantly, Jesus said that no one would take his life but that he would lay it down of himself. {John 10:15-18} The fact that the Jews did not kill Jesus does not imply that he did not die. Since God cannot lie, let us consider the possibility that we have misunderstood the scriptures.

Proper scriptural interpretation can only be achieved when we interpret the scriptures in the light of the scriptures. If we rely on men to tell us what a scripture means without searching for the truth ourselves, we become blind followers. In this condition, we could ignorantly walk off the edge of a cliff. We should certainly seek the advice and insight of those who are more knowledgeable and experienced in understanding the words of God. But we must search the scriptures ourselves to verify that the things we are being told are true. If our leaders select a scripture to emphasize and teach us an interpretation of that scripture which might conflict with other scriptures, then we must consider that our leaders’ interpretation may be flawed.

Remember, our leaders are human. They are capable of making mistakes. They also received training from other men who are capable of making mistakes. Through the years and centuries, small misinterpretations can develop into serious doctrinal errors.

It is rare that a man is both able and willing to examine the scriptures without the bias of his training and traditions. Some men do not have the intellectual ability to search and understand the scriptures. These men are forced to depend heavily upon other men that have a greater intellect. Other men mistakenly assume that their leaders are correct in their understanding and therefore see no need to search the scriptures for themselves. But occasionally there are men who possess the intellectual ability and realize that even among the most educated and influential leaders there is disagreement on many issues. These men, if they are willing, can focus their study on God’s words, interpret the scriptures in the light of the scriptures, ignore the doctrinal errors of men, and come to the most complete and accurate understanding of the Almighty God!

In order to achieve this goal, these men must continually be aware that they are also capable of making mistakes. They must always continue with their search for understanding. They must be willing to admit their mistakes. They must be willing to change when they find out that they are wrong. They must never become arrogant or conceited. They must be diligent, unwavering, meek, and humble in seeking to understand the words of God.

Since God cannot lie, let us lay aside our strict adherence to the doctrines that are unclear in scripture. So many modern doctrines in both Islam and Christianity are based on conjecture and speculation.  Rather than finding scripture that supports our doctrine, let us develop doctrine that supports the scriptures. If the scriptures are not absolutely and emphatically clear then they are subject to interpretation. But our interpretations must not contradict any other passage of scripture. If our interpretation of a scripture conflicts with another scripture, then we must be willing to admit that our interpretation is flawed. Let us study ALL of God’s words. Let us make His words the final authority.

In the Service of the Almighty,

Bill McLean