II Peter 1:12–21. No Prophecy of Scripture Is of Any Private Interpretation.
Key Notes: Value of the eye-witness. Multiple steps in inspiration.Ten rules of intepretation. Evangelicals in the history of the Church.
At the end of chapter I, Peter takes up a theme he mentioned in I Peter 1:10–12, the inspiration of Scripture. He adds a concept that lays open a major problem for the Church, how we interpret Scripture.
1:12–15 Peter will remind them of Christ and His Kingdom while he lives (and he knows his time is short). By his writing, they will at any time be able to recall what he had to say. He intends to leave a legacy of truth. It has remarkably endured for two thousand years.
1:16–20 Peter and the other apostles did not follow myths. Peter, James and John were eye-witnesses to Christ's majesty, a dazzling display of His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. They heard the voice of God confirming Jesus' Sonship. Mk.9:2–8
The word of prophecy (OT) has been made more sure by the fulfillment of prophecy in NT times and we need OT as well as NT for that reason.
When confronting Islam, we should not hesitate to press the evidence of eye-witnesses of Christ--Matthew, Mark, John, Peter and James as well as the words of the prophets. The disciples were at the Crucifixion. Another man was not crucified in his place. His mother heard him speak to her and the Apostle John at the foot of the Cross. Peter, Matthew and John witnessed Jesus' resurrection. Mohammed's information was second-hand, six centuries later, and distorted by isolated and ignorant desert monks. It is untrue to the Old Testament as well as the New.
“We have the prophetic word made more sure”...It is dependent on Christ's own interpretation of prophecy. "Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." (Lk.24:27)
1:20–21 “No prophecy of Scripture is of one's personal interpretation because holy men were moved by the Holy Spirit."
The Holy Spirit controls the interpretation when we read Scripture as He controlled the original writing.
Other primary NT texts on inspiration:
•"All Scripture is God-inspired (God-breathed) and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness." IITim.3:16. This is our main verse in support of God's direct role in scripture.
•"The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation; they inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory...." (IPet.1:10–11).
This verse teaches that the Spirit of God indwelled the prophetic writers and that there was communication between them and the Holy Spirit in their writing.
• ...our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction as they do the other scriptures." (IIPet.3:15–16). Peter includes Paul's letters with "the other Scriptures", validating his claim to inspiration by God.
The doctrine of inspiration is usually limited to a discussion of how the writers received and transmitted the word of God. Rightly understood, the inspiration of Scripture is much more extensive. It begins before the written record.
1. God ordered redemptive history, directing the actions of Abraham, Moses, David, and the Disciples.
2. God revealed Himself to human beings in various ways: direct appearances, verbal and visual, dreams, visions, and natural phenomena.
3. God inspired a written record over 1500 years.
4. God submitted the Church to the Canon: these books, not these books.
5. He preserves the words in transcription and translation.
6. He illuminates the mind of the reader in every age to perceive and to receive the message of Scripture.
No Scripture of prophecy is any personal interpretation. There are well-defined rules for interpretation of Scripture. (Protestant Biblical Interpretation. B. Ramm, Wilde,’56.)
1. We ask for the Holy Spirit's guidance. IIPet.1:20
2. •Revelation is an accommodation to human understanding. We are not told everything. "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever...." (Deut.29:29)
•Revelation is progressive. Moses knows more than Abraham. John knows more than Malachi.
3. The original languages take precedence over translations. Every new translation goes back to the Hebrew and Greek. "The King James Bible was good enough for the Apostle Paul and it is good enough for me" betrays ignorance.
4. Language, culture, geography, economy, historical times must be understood. The technical terms--ephah, hin, denarius, talent, Gehenna, Sadducee--have to be understood.
5. •We read the Bible as literature. The Bible is one of the few books that is read as the experts teach.
(Cf. How to Read a Book. M.Adler, M.VanDoren; Simon and Schuster,’72)
There are different kinds of writing in the Bible: history, poetry, sermon, letter, prophecy. There are a variety of literary devices: parable, figurative expressions, proverbs and symbols and types. We knit together the word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, chapter, and book, understanding the grammar. Together, they make the text and the context.
•We are literalists, taking the ordinary sense of the words. If we choose allegory, interpretation becomes imaginative and untrustworthy.
•We read the Bible as history. The Bible is an interpreted history. and it gives us our view of God's role in ancient times and helps our analysis of current events.
6. There are priorities in interpretation:
•Facts take precedence over implications.
•Direct teaching takes precedence over parables.
•Rules preside over proverbs.
•Clear teaching rules over obscure passages. We assume non-contradiction.
•When we do not know, we say we do not know.
•Teachers in the Church are under the Word, not over it.
7. Scripture interprets Scripture. Direct and topical cross-references, and parallel passages (Kings and Chronicles; Gospels; Acts and Paul's epistles) enable us to construct the events and teachings of Scripture.
8. There is usually only one correct interpretation. There are many applications, most of which are not included, and therefore may not be correct.
Most of our problems come in application. The Bible does not mention marijuana, ice dancing, stem cells or chemical warfare. "He must increase but I must decrease" (Jn.3:30) is not an excuse for an eating disorder. How we apply prophecy (especially Revelation) and understand war has had profound effects on decisions in the Christian West.
9. There is a difference between the letter of the Law and the spirit of the Law. Jesus teaches us in Matt.5–7 that the spirit of the Law takes us to a higher, not a lower level.
10. Prophecy must be interpreted with care. Looking for The Anti-Christ in every world crisis may be being watchful, but we are a laughing stock when we jump to conclusions about the latest candidate for this label. Making firm predictions of future events is unwise, although there is little doubt about the future in a general outline.
The Church has gone through many crises based on the interpretation of Scripture. Evangelicalism is the latest survivor of these turning-points The turning points go back to the early Church. (The Evangelical Heritage. B. Ramm; Baker,’73).
•400 AD. Is Christ coequal with the Father (Athanasius) or a created being (Arius)? The Church denounced the Arians and fought for Christ's co-equality with the Father, creating the Nicean and Athanasian Creeds.
•1054 AD. The Church was divided between Eastern Orthodox (mystical) and Western Catholic (rational). The Eastern Church thought doctrines should be adored as mysteries. The Western Church believed doctrine should be studied and refined. We went toward the rational.
•1517 AD. The Church was divided between the primacy of the Word (Reformers) vs. Tradition (Roman Catholics), between Justification by Faith, and Justification by Faith and Works. We went with the Reformers: Only Scripture; Only Faith; Only Christ.
•1600 AD The Church was divided between those who emphasized God's sovereignty (Calvinists) and those who emphasized human effort (Arminians). Evangelicals tilted toward Calvinism and the sovereignty of God--not all evangelicals, however: Methodists, some Baptists and Pentecostals have Arminian leanings.
•1660 AD The Puritans / Separatists / Dissenters wanted to purify the Church, purge it of ritual and sacramentalism, bell and candle, vestments and altars, emphasizing personal devotion, Bible study and witness. We went with the Puritans rather than the Sacramentalists.
•1890. Schleiermacher and others advocated accommodating Christianity with science and philosophy. "Dogma is the dread foe of knowledge."was a slogan of the Enlightenment. An American liberal slogan was "The Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of Jesus, the ever upward, onward progress of mankind."
This was a critical break. Religion was redefined as a special psychological state, an intuition about the Eternal. Scripture was challenged by liberals as being no different from other ancient writings. The Old Testament was considered a fanciful reconstruction of the history of Israel written after the Exile. Liberalism is non-supernatural "Christian" religion with an emphasis on social uplift and reason.
Fundamentalists fought off the liberals, but paid a heavy price. We lost the mainline churches, the University, and with it, the Establishment. Fundamentalists became outsiders in Western Civilization. We became the new generation of Dissenters / Separatists / Puritans.
We have spent the last century building Bible Schools, colleges and seminaries, Bible conferences, camps and retreat centers, radio programs, faith missions, campus ministries and social agencies (YMCA, Salvation Army). New denominations--and non-denominations--had to be developed. Many of these organizations are now called "parachurch"; they are mainly grass-roots lay ministries outside of the Church's walls.
There has been a slow rebuilding of scholarship starting with "The Fundamentals", a series of books on the non-negotiable doctrines of Christianity written in the first part of the 20th Century. The battle with science, especially creation and evolution goes on, with more losses than victories. The Scopes Trial was won by William Jennings Bryan, but lost in the public press.
•1919 Barth broke with the Liberals in his study of Romans, establishing neo-orthodoxy. Neo-orthodoxy is a position between liberalism and evangelicalism. Neo-orthodoxy says that Scripture contains the Word of God. We applaud any who do battle with liberalism, although we cannot always agree with Barth.
•1970. Pentecostalism or the charismatic movement has been sweeping over the world, with maximum impact in the Third World. It is strong on power and devotion, weak on doctrine. It has generated a revival of church music. Will it drift into spiritism or fuel a real revival?
•2002 Where does the Church go from here? The liberal church is dying. Many are concerned that evangelicals will simply follow down their path, spending increasing effort in social concerns and psychological salvation (people are not sinful, they just hurt), and forgetting the apostolic preaching of the Cross. The knowledge-base of Christians is certainly smaller than 70 years ago.
Some believe that we are on the edge of a great revival and that it is the present group of teenagers who will lead it. May it be so.