ASK AUGUSTINE

Is there a correct and incorrect interpretation on Scripture?

It is true that everyone has the right to interpret the Bible however they want. Our forefathers died for the right of private interpretation and every Christian has the right to read the Bible and interpret it for themselves.

When interpretation became an issue during the Reformation, the Council of Trent took a dim view of it. One of the canons at the fourth session of this Roman Catholic council said that no one has the right to distort Scripture by applying private interpretations to them. Insofar as that statement is recorded at Trent, you may be surprised that I fully agree with it – because it is right.

Even though I have the right to read the Bible, I have the responsibility to interpret it accurately. No one has the right to interpret it inaccurately. For church leaders and teachers this means you are required to believe and teach what the Bible says and not what you “want” the Bible to say.

There can only be one correct interpretation. My interpretation may not be right and yours may not be right, but if they are different they both cannot be right. That would be relativism.

We need to get to the objective and not the subjective (that is we need to get beyond a personal prejudicial) meaning of biblical texts. When faced with conflicting interpretations I consult our early Catholic Church fathers as well as our great Reformers because they are the best.