Can the bible be read, understood & interpreted by everyone?

In matters related to the above question, I agreed with the facebook evangelist Ronald Egonda who wrote that while intellectual knowledge is important, it may be a curse if not backed up with God's spirit. I have recently noticed so many of my readers, those of his and everyone everywhere I shoot this question that so many people think that the Bible is a word of God to everyone; the learned and non learned, educated and non educated. However, so many more other people also believe that special knowledge, gift or anointment is prerequisite to understanding the Bible. Where does this leave us? We are left to wonder what the true take could be!

It is because of the above evidence and confusion among us all that I have decided to share with you what I seriously think about
it. Your comments and your take are welcome too on my email, via my message inbox and WhatsApp. In this article, intellectual knowledge is defined as all the awareness, insights and understanding about the Bible that are not directly imparted to us through divine miracle or revelation, but got through reading, studying, or hearing about it from others or any other source.

First, the support of the value of intellectual knowledge in the understanding and interpretation of the Bible does not exclude God's divine intervention in revealing his word to us, but simply recognizes one of His tools in making us better scholars and evangelists of His kingdom. In other words, even the insight or understanding that we get from reading books or listening to others speak comes from God too.

Hermeneutics is a branch of theology that deals with applying biblical principles in interpreting the Bible. According to Tom Chaffed, a theology writer at apologetics website, "while the Bible is generally plain in its meaning, proper interpretation requires careful study and is not always an easy task". When we look back in the history and see how God chose and used people, we see that there was always something extra about those people.
First, in the exodus times, we had the Levites who were special people to study and teach the law, and were priests. These people were elites, they knew how to read and write. According to 1 King 6:1, the foundations of the Jewish temple were laid 480 years after the Israelites had left Egypt. This makes us believe that the exodus of Israelites happened at around 1446 BC. And if so many historians claim that the history of reading and writing had been in existence since 3200 BC, at least for Egypt, then it is probable that Moses who had grown in king's palace knew how to read and write by the time of exodus (after all, he could read the written ten commandments of God to people during the journey).

Search through and read about the lives of great prophets like Ezra, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, and so many more. These men were not just men; they were intellectuals in reading and writing and their family backgrounds speak volumes of how they were long time students of the word of God right from their fathers. And now consider the New Testament apostles and writers, look at Matthew; do you expect a taxi collector like Matthew to be ignorant or illiterate? Look at writers like St. Luke; do you think he was a doctor without books? How about great evangelists like St. Paul, do you think many people had the same educational or intellectual capability as that of Paul? And by the way, did Jesus go to any theological school?  Or did he know how to read and write? Read on.

The Bible gives no clear account of Jesus attending school and studying. However, the Bible is clear that Jesus knew how to read and write (Luke 4:16). It is also clear that Jesus grew up mastering the law, increasing in wisdom, and was one day left at the church trying to question the doctors of law then (Luke 2:40, 46-47, 52).

So the question is if Jesus knew how to read and write, where did he go for education?  According to so many historical writers, the Jewish boys were all entitled to free public education at age of 6 and above. Before that, part of the formal education was usually imparted on children by their parents or someone in charge of their mentoring. And since Jesus was a carpenter, then he must have been good at some mathematics and measurements and then putting them down. And all these require that he must have attended some kind of education.

As Pastor Jack Wellman writes, “Jesus must have been taught by his mother since the dad died earlier and also someone in charge who must have been employed to coach him. Even in the Jewish schools, the boys would be taught scripture and the law, reading and writing, history, elementary sciences and mathematics”. Yes, the common behavior that he had of referencing texts to long time prophets meant that he was a good reader and follower of the law.

After citing the intellectual backgrounds of long time prophets, Jesus Christ and the apostles, let us now look at the new era of evangelism and Bible interpretation.

The whole Christian Bible has 66 books, written by about 40 writers. It is said that it took about 1500 years to write the books of the Old Testament and maybe less than 100 years to put down the books of the New Testament. But that is just writing.  It is said that about 3000 and more books were available to be included in the Bible that we have now,  and yet only 66 books (49 in the Old Testament and 27 in the Old Testament) make up our now complete Bible.

The question is; how did we come up with the Bible we have now? The process of making up the acceptable Bible we have now was or is called Canonization. And it took hundreds of years through discussions and insightful meetings of great fathers of our faith to come up with the only 66 books.

In our case today, we want to recognize that the debate, discussion, and decision of which books to include or exclude was not done by men of prayers and visions (dreams) only, but great scholars too. Yes, religious leaders from all world corners who had studied the law, who had graduated in theological schools, who had read and written about God's word and law, are the ones that met and discussed our way forward. I want to repeat this; they were great scholars of higher intellectual backgrounds and recognizable work in matters of education.

Check out fathers like Athanasius, Origen of Alexandria or even our new theologian Martin Luther. These men were not only prayerful, they were intellectuals. Actually, some books are still taken as canonical in Catholic Church and yet do not appear in the common protestant Bible (i.e the hidden books, Apocrypha)

What is the point?  The point is very clear. The Bible was written for every human being but cannot be read, understood and interpreted by everyone. Some people are put aside to do that and these people have knowledge and intellectual back up to help do it well. The Bible has principles to follow for its proper interpretation, principles that were followed to dictate which books to include or exclude, and all this cannot be done by anyone, but people who devote their time, study and get all education required/needed to do this work (We call them theologians).

Yes, the message of salvation can be understood by everyone and that is what is actually basic, but this does not mean understanding the Bible or interpreting it. What is pleasing is that at least the steps to salvation are clear to everyone, but the Bible has more to offer other than salvation only and it takes intellectual knowledge backed up with God's spirit to identify these Bible lessons.

Here are some principles as explained by theologians; we need to know the historical background of the writers, the kind of people they write to, their (writers) personal beliefs and limitations, the period in which they wrote which book, the reasons they used some words and omitted others, and how they relate to those who could have written before or after him, harmonize contradictions and so many more to rightly interpret God's word. And believe me; we cannot know the above minus going to school. You cannot sit down and pray only and get the details of Jesus in his daily life, the life of Jeremiah or how did Israelites live or what business they carried out in Jeremiah's time. The Bible has some of such accounts, but not all.

Summary:
Intellectual knowledge and specialty especially in theology and other educations is important for proper understanding of the Bible and interpretation. The simple message of salvation may be plain and clear to everyone, but that is a part of what the Bible offers; more benefits are possible through deep dig out. It is possible to be knowledgeable and intellectual and fails to understand God's word or, worse, misinterpret it, but it is not always possible to make most of the Bible without any educational background. We must accept that there are Bible interpreters and there are listeners.

Yes, not everyone can interpret the Bible. And finally, be careful of these pastors who did not and do not go to school to study the Bible or at least show some interest in reading Bible commentaries or expositions and claim to be getting direct prophecies from God, some of them could be telling lies. Early prophets, Jesus, the apostles, and our early church fathers all took time to study the law, and improved their intellectual knowledge for improved service to God and His people and we are no exception.

God bless you

The complete You Ministry, www.nemvicx.blogspot.com

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