When it comes to biblical interpretation, try to think of it this way. Read the following dialogue:
J.K. Rowling had just completed her first work of the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and published it in 1998. A fan of hers -Tony – meets her to get his copy of the book autographed. Then he seizes the opportunity to engage her in an intriguing conversation. Their dialogue centres around an excerpt from the book.
EXCERPT: “Later that day, Harry and Ron strode along the corridors of Hogwarts looking rather gay”
ROWLING: Oh hi mister, what’s your name?
TONY: my…my name’s Tony… ma’am
(he said with excitement and nervousness in his tone)
ROWLING: Alright, so here’s your autographed copy of my book, I’m sure you enjoyed it.
TONY: Oh, I really did enjoy it, and by the way, I saw what you did there…with Harry and Ron….some romantic undertones there…
ROWLING: Hmm…what do you mean?
TONY: Well it wasn’t quite obvious at first, but it’s certain that Harry and Ron are gay.
ROWLING: They’re what now?
TONY: Yeah, you heard me…I’ve figured it out
ROWLING: How could you say that?
TONY: Well in your book you said and I quote
“Later that day, Harry and Ron strode along the corridors of Hogwarts looking rather gay”…see, they were gay.
ROWLING: Oh, my dear, you’ve gotten it all wrong, that’s not what I meant at all
TONY: Well you said it…and there was another time you wrote “Harry and Ron looked at each other suddenly, stared for a moment and gave a wide grin at Madam Pomfrey’s statement”…. see they looked at each other and smiled…doesn’t that say something?
ROWLING: Young man, you’re really getting this really wrong
TONY: How do you mean? You clearly wrote it there.
ROWLING: Well ‘gay’ not only means homosexual, it can also mean ‘cheerful, light-hearted, carefree’…and it’s the latter I intended as the correct meaning.
TONY: Well, that’s the revelation I got while reading it.
ROWLING: What sort of revelation is that? That’s total rubbish. You can’t just go around saying something that I the author didn’t intend for it to mean… you just can’t do that.
TONY: But it really seemed like it
ROWLING: If you checked the context, you’d see that I meant Harry and Ron and walked through the corridor looking quite ‘cheerful’, as Gryffindor had just won the Quidditch cup.
ROWLING: I guess you really just wanted to see what you wanted to see…you didn’t care about and pay close attention to the meaning I ascribed to my writings…I’m the author here, not you. Well, have a great day Tony.
(She said quite sternly; as Tony walks away briskly; looking quite pale and feeling like an idiot).
This is how many of us are when it comes to the Bible. We try to read our own meanings into a portion of scripture. We bring some of our preconceived notions to understand a text. But we have to remember that the inspired authors of the 66 books had a message to pass across, they had a meaning they intended to be clearly understood by their audience….it wasn’t subject to ambiguity or change.
A similar example is seen in:
James 2:3 [KJV] – And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
See another translation…
James 2:3 [NET] – do you pay attention to the one who is finely dressed and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and to the poor person, “You stand over there,” or “Sit on the floor”?
‘Gay’ was old and dated English which meant ‘showy’, ‘fine’, ‘brightly coloured’, when used to describe objects. Yes, it could mean ‘homosexual’, but the context where it is used would be the determinant of its definition.
The writers didn’t permit mischievous or ignorant folks to choose whatever meaning they saw fit and use it in a ‘multi-purpose’ sense. There could be several applications as we are all different and the scriptures meet us in our peculiarities. But above all, there is just one interpretation of scriptures. Anything that a scripture is made to mean that wasn’t what it originally meant is very false. Such a thing would be outrageous to God, just like J.K. Rowling was taken aback by Tony’s weird, yet seemingly intelligent ‘revelation’. You trying to bring an interpretation other than what was intended; is you trying to co-author the Bible with God. Humble yourself and studiously discover the accurate interpretation (which I’ll explain in a subsequent post).
P.S.: The excerpts from the book and the following dialogue are purely fictional.