Better Bible Study Tip #38: Not All Interpretations are Equally Valid

Different bible class teachers have different styles of teaching. As long as the teacher keeps “Bible study” as the primary objective of the class, I can appreciate different styles. But there is one popular style of Bible class that irks me. It’s what I would call a “Pooling of Ignorance.” That’s the kind of Bible class where a scripture is read, and then everyone in the class shares their own varying opinions about the text.

It’s not that it’s a bad thing to hear different people’s thoughts. In fact, I love it when Christians engage in conversation about Scripture, even when the occasional incorrect interpretation is shared. But sooner or later we must remember that not all interpretations are equally valid.

Some people get defensive when they are reminded of this point. Some people presume that since none of us are perfect, that anybody’s idea is just as valid as anybody else’s idea. But this just isn’t the case. When the biblical authors wrote Scripture, they meant something. If we understand the text differently from how the author intended for us to understand the text, we’re not just understanding it differently; we’re misunderstanding it.

Other people get discouraged when they are reminded of their own imperfection. Don’t be. It’s okay to be mistaken every now and then. What’s not okay is to be satisfied with our ignorance. God doesn’t expect perfection, but he does expect us to be humble and honest in our study of scripture. He does expect us to continue to study to correct our errors. He does expect faithfulness. Don’t be discouraged by your own lack of omniscience (Better Bible Study Tip #11).

Go ahead. Invite others to share their opinions about the text. But don’t stop there. After hearing those suggestions, go back and study the text to figure out which interpretations are most faithful to the intentions of the original authors of scripture.