2 Peter 1:20 No private interpretation

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 

//This verse is often brought up as a sort of shoulder-shrug dismissal of new insights in scripture; a way of saying the only correct interpretation must be the one that has survived for 2,000 years. As if any one interpretation has survived! Theologians have wrestled with the Bible for as long as its words have been considered scripture.

Admittedly, there is something to this line of thinking. One should humbly admit that other interpretations are just as carefully thought-out. But the verse should never be used to categorically silence alternate opinions, as it once was!

For example, we had a terrible time getting our scriptures translated from the Latin Vulgate into a modern language. Making the scriptures readable to the masses would severely undermine the Church’s authority. Consequently, when John Wycliffe (1328-1384) translated the Bible into English, this verse came into play. Wycliffe’s work was considered a form of heterodoxy and quickly outlawed. Anyone found with an English Bible was subject to execution. Wycliffe died as a heretic and traitor, and 44 years after his death, under papal decree, his body was exhumed and burned. But for many, reading the Word of God was worth the risk, and black market Bibles were common, until the time of King Henry VIII in the 16th century.

So, how many of you can read Latin? Thank God for our right to private interpretation today, or most of us wouldn’t have any interpretation at all.

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3 Comments

  1. The problem with this verse is it is quoted out of context, without the next verse, which deals with inspiration by then Holy Spirit, and, by extension, discernment in a community.

  2. Yes, I agree, though tacking on the next verse adds its own set of problems. It opens up the rebirth of prophecy to anyone who feels (or claims to feel) the Spirit, which can cause some awkward moments. This little booklet comes to mind:

    http://www.dubiousdisciple.com/2011/12/book-review-when-people-speak-for-god.html

  3. This is the classic split between Protestantism and more hierarchical churches. Both have had, albeit differences, with persons stating revelation. The hierarchical churches can declare them anathema far more easily, but are then rightly accused of being less open to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

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