Does Scripture Interpret Scripture or does Scripture Argue Against Scripture?

Both… sometimes… none… sometimes…

The principle of “scripture interprets scripture” is a logical fallacy. This is the idea of sola scriptura, that all we need is the good book… except, that is not all we have. We have the canon, formulated over centuries. This canon is a two-fold issue. First, the books are sometimes redacted, meaning in such cases as Isaiah and Zechariah, we have a tradition combining various writings under one heading. Second, we have to consider the manuscript. I remember reading somewhere in one of F.F. Bruce’s writings on this issue. If you are Orthodox, then you know full well what I mean. You accept the Byzantine New Testament while the West usually (unless the KJVO crowd) goes with a more critical text. Even the order of the books are issues among the faith communities. Essentially, I mean this: Even the index is by tradition, meaning you do not start with Scripture, but with Tradition.

At times, Scripture does interpret Scripture, but I would maintain in just a few instances. To understand Creation inside of Temple theology, you must start with Deutero-Isaiah and then read Genesis 1, forgetting Genesis 2-3. Job’s creation stories aren’t exactly the same thing and should not find themselves forced into that situation, although Job does comport well with First Isaiah. The Deuteronomistic books do help interpret one another, as do the priestly books. The prophets are okay, but sometimes, not the same thing. I mean, the idea of the Day or the Lord changes from start to finish. And the New Testament… no. It reads and applies the Old Testament (usually the Septuagint) to Christ and the Christian community, but it does not interpret. It interprets Jesus by the Old Testament. Different stuff there.

But, and I know a certain person not yet convinced with this (J.S. – I miss you. Come back from the cabin), Scripture does at times argue with Scripture. Ruth and Jonah battle Ezra-Nehemiah. Deuteronomy battles Leviticus, especially in Paul. Revelation would dispense with the rest of the books. Indeed, the prophets are constantly arguing with the Law.

And of course… Paul, James, and Luther…

Post By Joel Watts (10,085 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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16 thoughts on Does Scripture Interpret Scripture or does Scripture Argue Against Scripture?

      • Joel, a wiser reply to Ant Writes from you would have been “I do not see Christ in every verse,” or “I have not yet seen Christ in every verse.” And it would have been even wiser of you to then add “Please tell me more” – that is, “Please tell me more of Christ.”

        “In Christ are hidden all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge.” The greatest life lived is that lived in the pursuit of the knowledge of Him.

        • Wow, Mike… your arrogance knows no bounds, does it?

          I disagree with Ant – the exact reason why I wrote what I did.

          • I’m promoting Christ.

            I think there is much more for all of us to learn about Him.

            I believe that large portions of Scripture are shut off to us when we don’t look for Christ in them.

            By the way, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I hear you, of all people, call someone else arrogant. You didn’t even given Ant Writes the decency of an explanation for your dismissal of his pointing to Christ.

            Those of us (you, me, Ant Writes, others) who know something of the Scriptures have the opportunity to learn of Christ and to proclaim Him. When any of us takes that opportunity, the rest of us have the opportunity to applaud. I try to applaud whenever I hear Christ extolled. He is worthy.

          • I think you’re promoting yourself – as a matter of fact, one of the first comments from you on this blog was to promote your new supersecret revelation.

            There is always room to grow in Grace – but to place Christ upon a place he is not is idolatry.

            You can believe what you want, but that does not make it true – nor does what you believe comport with Scripture or historical reality.

            He made a simple statement. I gave a simple reply. You run your blog the way you want, and as I long as I’m paying for this microphone, I’ll run this one my way.

            You are making Christ into an idol. You need to learn better theology – perhaps some apophatic would do you well.

          • Please tell me how one does that. I always thought worship of idols was antithetical to true worship. That is, “idolizing God” would be an oxymoron, like “committing adultery with your wife.”

          • Mike – let’s position the former by your allegory of the latter.

            Is their a profitable love? Of course. Is their an unprofitable love? Equally true. Let us say we desire our wives. Good, but what if that desire is nothing more than lust, and lust only to control and dominate? Does sex then become about an intimate union, or is sex not now a way of conquering and instilling our will upon another? Remember what Paul said about intentions with meat and idols. Remember also the proper use of things. If we use it improperly, even if it is in the proper place, we are still improper. Sex and wealth are the two more most materialistic things representing the improper use of God’s gifts to us.

            Now, about idolatry of God. What do you call it when God suddenly becomes created in your image? Have we not taken the dirty Jew Jesus and transformed him into a white European guy? A Capitalist? A Republican? A Socialist? What about God? Where have we placed God at today? For some, God is always present, and attribute to him every detail of life, something not exactly Scripture; but neither is the deistic God many hold, even passively too.

            An idol never talks because to question an idol is foolish. One only worships an idol, and usually out of fear. If you worship God with the wrong intentions (note here, I do not mean wrongly worship, but to worship with the wrong heart), this is the same as lusting after your wife. You are making the object of your passion a material enterprise.

          • Ah, good. Our differences on this point are only semantic.

            There are indeed many ways I could mistreat my wife, including those you mentioned, but, semantically speaking, I would never call them “committing adultery with her.” Likewise, there are many ways that Christ can be worshiped other than in spirit and in truth, but, semantically speaking, I would not call them “idolizing Christ.” Nevertheless, I do not mind that you do. And, now that I know we eschew the same things, even while using different terminology, I feel better.

            In its original context, your admonition not to idolize Christ came across as “don’t given Him too much attention” – a notion I do not deem to be possible. Lest someone should say, “But how then will you give proper attention to people?” let me go ahead and say Christ directs those who give Him attention to give proper attention to other people. I hold simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (2 Cor 11:3) to be the best purpose to which a human life can be put.

          • Actually, you can give Christ too much attention, that’s the issue. If you say Christ is meant to be seen somewhere he is not, you are giving him too much attention – and placing him somewhere he is not. You then are controlling Christ – You then are making an idol out of Christ, to fit your own religious notions and dogmas. That’s the point.

            For example – would you say Christ is in the Quran?

          • We do not have testimony from Christ that He is to be found in the Quran. We do, however, have testimony from Him that He is to be found in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms. We should not hesitate to look for Him where He told us He could be found.

          • Unless you have misunderstood him. Pointing to him in a teleological sense is not the same thing you suppose to do.

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