by Mike Ratliff
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. (2 Peter 1:20 KJV)
20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. (2 Peter 1:20 ESV)
20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, (2 Peter 1:20 NASB)
20 This first knowing, that every prophecy of scripture by private explanation does not take place. (2 Peter 1:20 The Apostolic Bible Polyglot)
20 This first knowing that all prophecy of scripture of any personal interpretation does not happen. (2 Peter 1:20 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
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 be 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 mens’ private interpretation of the Bible along with God speaking prophecy directly to them thereby “confirming” their 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 or an attempt at fraud.
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. 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 five 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.
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well- pleased”— 18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:16-21 NASB)
I put v20 in bold. The emphasis here is that Peter is telling 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, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” 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 NASB, “But know 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 last must longer. I think we held out for another six months or so and then we were forced out. The pastor actually told me that “the Church” and long ago moved on from the Calvinism from the Reformation. My response? Says who?
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. Its 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!