Private Interpretation

by Mike Ratliff

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. (2 Peter 1:20 KJV)

knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. (2 Peter 1:20 ESV)

This first knowing, that every prophecy of scripture by private explanation does not take place. (2 Peter 1:20 The Apostolic Bible Polyglot)

This first knowing that all prophecy of scripture of any personal interpretation does not happen. (2 Peter 1:20 a personal translation from the Greek text into English)

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. The young man was so excited that he could barely contain it. He could not stop talking about his experience at his new church in Tulsa under a very well known Word Faith pastor. He went on and on and on. I had been a Christian about 10 years by then and had not yet entered into that long period of dryness that God put me through that ended just a few years ago so this must have been in the early 1990’s. In any case, neither the young man nor his wife would engage me personally in conversation nor would they look at me directly. They only talked to those around me. However, with each emphatic point he made that I knew was unbiblical I would try to interject something, but was ignored. Finally, there was a point in the conversation when he made one of those points and everyone became quiet and I simply said, “But that is not Biblical and what you are describing is subjectivism, not anything that can proved by Scripture.” His answer was simply this, “God still speaks to His people and not all of His truth is found in the Bible.” I then asked, “Will He then say things to these prophets that are contrary to what the Bible says or will He say things that these people prophesy that does not take place? If so, what then?” He then pooh-poohed me away and would not let me engage him in any more conversation. The“religion” he was involved in has its foundation in men’s private interpretation of the Bible along with God speaking prophecy directly to them thereby “confirming” there false interpretation of the Word of God. I never could find out from them how one could know how one could really know if that word from God was really from God or if it was just their over active imagination. 

If you have ever been to the sideshow area of a carnival where the hucksters look for those suckers they can dupe out of their money then you have the general framework of what the Word Faith part of the visible church has become. I watch those people eat up the nonsense they are being fed and I am utterly amazed that they cannot see how utterly ridiculous the charade is that is being played on them. Also, I have been listening to sermon review after sermon review done by our brother Chris Rosebrough at Pirate Christian Radio. He has been exposing this very same thing in what seems to be the merging of the Word Faith and Seeker Movement into a line of preaching that emphasizes nothing about sin, redemption, justification, our need of a Saviour, the Cross, et cetera. No, what they talk about is finding the dream that God has placed in all of us and how Satan wants to kill that dream. They use Joseph from the book of Genesis as their example. In any case, it is all eisegesis and a perfect example of their having their own “private interpretation” of scripture. In any case, at the end, the huckster part kicks in and then the closing of the sale is made and people give their money, after all, that is what this is about isn’t it?

What does God’s Word say about this? I placed four renderings of 2 Peter 1:20 at the top of this post. That verse clearly refutes what these people are doing, but to make it even more clear, let’s put it in context.

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:16-21 ESV)

I put v20 in bold. The emphasis here is that Peter is tell his readers that his doctrine is not composed of cleverly devised myths, but that he and the other disciples were eyewitnesses of our Lord’s majesty, which is reference to His Transfiguration. Peter tells us that he heard the voice of the Father himself say, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” However, he says something even more extraordinary in vv19-21, “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” It reads differently when you read it in context doesn’t it?

Here is v20 from the Greek New Testament, “τοῦτο πρῶτον γινώσκοντες, ὅτι πᾶσα προφητεία γραφῆς ἰδίας ἐπιλύσεως οὐ γίνεται·.” The words τοῦτο πρῶτον γινώσκοντες are vital to understanding what Peter is emphasizing here. This is where we get in the ESV, “knowing this first of all…” In Greek this literally says, “this first knowing.” The word γινώσκοντες is the Present Active Participle form of γινώσκω or ginōskō, which usually is used in the context of knowing experientially rather than intuitively. Peter wants us to know first and foremost that, “ὅτι πᾶσα προφητεία γραφῆς ἰδίας ἐπιλύσεως οὐ γίνεται·” or “that all prophecy (προφητεία) of scripture (γραφῆς) of any personal (ἰδίας) interpretation (ἐπιλύσεως) does not (οὐ) happen (γίνεται·). That’s pretty clear isn’t it?

The word ἰδίας used here for “private” or “personal” means “pertaining to oneself or one’s own.” Think of the sad goings on in the visible church my brethren. Isn’t it all about people altering God’s Word to suit their own purposes? They sin in private and twist the Word of God to fit their lifestyle and justify their actions and attitudes. I once had an unplanned debate in Sunday School with a couple of fellows who found out that I was a Calvinist. One had his fiance ask me a question that required me to give an answer from Ephesians 1. I simply read from scripture and these two fellows simply took turns heckling me. It got ugly. Finally I asked them if they were arguing with me or the Bible because all I was doing was reading scripture while all they were doing was… well anyway it was no fun. I knew from that that our time at that church was not going to be for much longer. I think we held out for another six months or so and then were forced out.

The word that is translated here as Interpretation is ἐπιλύσεως the Genitive form of ἐπίλυσις or epilusis, which means to solve. It can also refer to an exposition or interpretation. It’s usage in vv20-21 indicates that no prophecy comes from any private source, referring to the exposition of the will and purposes of God by the prophets themselves. It also literally means “to release “ or “to resolve and issue through explanation.” This word that Peter used here is not metaphorical in meaning at all. Instead, it is the meaning. Peter is telling the Church that the prophets themselves did not originate the Scriptures or even interpret the words God gave them to write.

Now, think critically with me here. Since this is true then when people disagree about what the Bible clearly says by using a phrase like, “Well, that’s just your interpretation of the Bible; everybody has their own interpretation” then we know that they are falling back in defense using a fallacy.

Scripture interprets itself. We learn to be good Bible students within that framework by comparing Scripture with Scripture. The way to “interpret” the Bible is to take it as it reads. Oh, and forget subjective revelation that some use to try to say that God told them that a certain passage absolutely means thus and so or that God told me to do this or that. What matters is not how men interpret God’s words, but what God’s words plainly say.

Soli Deo Gloria!

23 thoughts on “Private Interpretation

  1. ” They sin in private and twist the Word of God to fit their lifestyle and justify their actions and attitudes.”
    True, true! It’s come to being even worse than that; people sin openly and brag about it, blaspheming God by claiming that He approves of what they are doing.
    Their attempt is to gather others into the false teachings, so that they can take comfort that they are not alone in their rebellion.
    Isn’t this kind of like the rebellion at the Tower of Babel, or Adam going along by eating the forbidden fruit?


  2. Thanks Mike for the timely article…I use my Facebook account for a good platform to speak Gods word and to engage quote unquote Christians in a theological conversation…I see that the majority of “Christians” are into the “Easy Believism” so easy ya know…no work. I challenge people all the time to take the Theology Program from Michael Patton and I have had yet for 1 person to check it out and I have talked with many…pretty soon though I will have a “live” one who will desire the meat and want to give answers to his fellow brothers and sisters. I have found these Christians to get aggitated if you will when I challenge their “theology” in what and why they believe. Thanks so much for all you do Mike……


  3. The way to interpret the Bible is to take it as it reads. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We have said this many times and we are looked at like we have three heads. Constantly hearing, “everyone has their own interpretation of the bible.” Wow you have hit the nail on the head, Mike.
    Thank you for blessing us again with the word of God.


  4. Well put Mike. I think we are being moulded and taught all day long by the Holy Spirit ( although we often choose to ignore it), through all kinds of sources ; other people, situations and the things we read, watch or listen to. BUT, we would be absolutely lost without the word to test it all against. We can never be sure about our own thoughts and opinions other than those that can be proven true by the word. Its all part of our hideous desire to be God ourselves , the thinking that our intellectual and emotional revelations or experiences alone are proof of truth. We are so so corrupted by our flesh, our hearts are decietful above all things. We are new creations, yet still have this flesh on our backs while we remain here, and we must be very very wary of it . Hallelujah that God has given us his Spirit to make things clear and his Word to test it with. The bible was not written in chapters and verses,(man put those in), it was meant to be read as a whole. You cannot take one part without the rest.
    In Christ.


  5. Many times when I have a discussion on the internet on christian websites in my country (Netherlands) there are people who don’t want to know what is written in Scripture. When I answer them with verses from the bible, they do not respond. Why? Because they can’t ignore truth. So they don’t respond or just go on with their own view… I decided yesterday that I am only going to respond with scripture in some topics to let the Word of God speak.

    Many ‘christians’ use a lot of eisegesis, make their own theory and then look for a bibleverse to proof their idea.


  6. It is interesting to see that when Jesus was in the wilderness and satan tried to lead Him into temptation, Jezus was using only scripture. No discussion, no conversation, no compromise.


  7. One thing I have learned in studying the ‘Scripture’ and dealing with people who read the Bible, is there are three doctrines when it comes to interpretation. The first is personal doctrine, what it means to me; second, is church or denominational doctrine and the third is biblical doctrine. If personal or denominational doctrine conflicts with biblical doctrine, then biblical doctrine becomes secondary or it is discarded. Let the Scripture interpret itself and do not interpret it through existentialism.


  8. I have been quietly reading your posts for some time and want to say thank you for them, I am learning a great deal. I live in Spain where there are very few born again Christians whether nationals or ex-pat as I am. I gave my life to the Lord here just over 6 years ago and my hunger to know Jesus, to grow and know more is not satisfied here due to the high level of ¡maturity of those who profess to be Christian. Our congregation can be a few as 7 to about 24 and in 5 years of attending the Church I believe the Lord sent me to we have just gone through our 2nd division, both times involving female pastors, sadly. This has driven me more to Scripture. Sadly I have been told by 3 male believers when I have mentioned a lack of Christ centred conversations within the church has brought the answer that I may be seen to be a fanatic!! Sad but true, what is much needed are Christians to be role models for we younger ones but is sadly lacking here where I am-
    Keep up the good work, for the likes of me!


  9. Renata, what you are describing is me-ism christianity vs true God-centered Christianity. Sadly, what we have all around us now is the former rather than the latter. We must stand firm and do as commanded and that is to speak the truth, preach the Word, make disciples, et cetera until the return of our Lord.


  10. Jacqueline, there are times when I just want to quit. All the attention goes to those who are in error. No one, it seems, even seems to notice those of us who simply teach what God’s Word says using the gifts He has given us all by His direction and power. It can be discouraging at times, but then I get these “cries for help” like yours and I know that I can never quit until God tells me to. I do pray for God to send you leaders, but we live in dark times and the visible church is being judged with deceiving spirits and many who call themselves “pastors” and “leaders” are not. In any case, I pray for wisdom and guidance for you and your church. I understand the hunger you have.

    It is so strange where we live. We have so many very large churches, but in those all you have is works righteousness and a big show up on the stage, et cetera. The church we go to is quite small, but oh the love of God is there. The Pastor loves rightly dividing the Word and his elders and he minister as they are commanded in the Word. It is awesome. It is so funny that there are all these big churches just blocks away and here is this very small building right in the middle of them, but that is where the real church is because that is where you hear the Word preached without show, without attention diverted away from Christ and Him crucified… Well, in any case, I pray for you to be sent a pastor like that.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  11. Very good article.
    I had a woman tell me once, “I do not care what the Greek says, I know what the Lord told me”; What lord?? is my question.
    The Bible never contradicts itself.
    The Spirit will never contradict the WORD.
    This all goes back to the Trinity.
    That is another discussion.

    Renata, my pastor used to say that the definition of a fanatic is: “someone who loves Jesus more than me”.


  12. Word/faith movement………..ugh. They have done more damage. We have some friends from Indonesia and they say its an epidemic over there. Catholic charismatics. Good ol Tulsa, I spent to much time there. As an ex Rhema student I speak from an experiance I’ll never forget. Seems all they ever did was do their own interpretations and say ‘the lord told me’……….which of course never matched up with the Word.


  13. Hi again Mike. Succinctly said! We put SO much emphasis on our human felt needs – especially in pentecostal churches.
    I remember so many times , being caught up in the “experiential times” of these types of radical services, that we would be on our knees crying out/praying “God, send your Holy Fire/send Your Glory”!
    I cringe now! Just imagine if He did! We need to discover anew the Holy “awesomeness” of our God. And give him ALL the honour due His Name!


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  15. That’s called Perservering of the Saints right?..the last part of the acronym of “TULIP” and this is what we matter how exasperating it gets a times..I have been in the same situation where I just want to give up working with a believer in regards to repentance but God tells me “stay the course Renata” and this I must do as I am a servant and slave to my Lord….Again, thank you Mike and keep on “Perservering”


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