God bless you and greetings in the name of Jesus Christ who showed his knowledge of God’s Word at an early age (Luke 2:46-47).
I believe that there is only one “right” interpretation of any given Biblical passage, the meaning God intended when He “breathed” His word into the human author (II Timothy 3:16). If I’m correct about that, then there can’t be any “different interpretations” of scripture. However, while there is only one valid interpretation, there may be several different applications. The scripture must have only one meaning, the one the author (through inspiration of the Holy Spirit) intended. Therefore, we work diligently using the various principles of interpretation so we have that which God intended for us to have.
Our goal is to let the scriptures interpret themselves. Most of us are familiar with the basic principles of how the word interprets itself in the verse, in the context, and how it has been used before. Of course, each of these have subpoints. When the word interprets itself in the verse it will be happen as we read it, according to biblical usage, in harmony with the other words in the verse as well as all other Scriptures on the same subject, and with narrative development. When we check the context, we should be aware of both the immediate and the more remote context. When we use “as it is used before.” we must pay particular attention not only to its first use, but also to groupings where the word occurs frequently in the same passage.
Peter reminded his readers that some of the writings of the Paul were “hard to understand” (II Peter 3:15-16). We must therefore admit that not all parts of Scripture are able to be easily understood. However, it would be a mistake to conclude that all Scripture is difficult or that it requires years of study to rightly divide it (II Timothy 2:15). The Bible itself directly and indirectly asserts that it is written in such a way that believers may read and understand its pages. Indeed, a fool need not err therein (Isaiah 35:8). Clearly II Peter 3:15-16 does not say the difficult passages in Paul’s letters are impossible to understand; it just said it may be “hard to understand.” Moses told the people of Israel:
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
The clear implication is that all the people, adults and children alike, should be able to understand Moses’ words clearly. They would have to, if they were to teach and discuss them regularly with one another. The Psalmist says: “The entrance (unfolding or revelation) of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalms 119:130). This should be a great encouragement to all believers, for even the “simple” can be enlightened by the truth. In fact, Paul told the Corinthians: “Now we are writing nothing to you other than what you can read and also understand.” (II Corinthians 1:13a HCSB). Therefore, the Corinthians must have been able to understand everything Paul and Timothy wrote to them.
While allowing the scriptures to interpret themselves, it is important to remember that the Bible was written in a specific culture ― the ancient “Semitic” culture of the near East. Our modern western culture is vastly different from that of the authors of Scripture. The Biblical writer’s history, culture, customs, environment, and language are so much different from ours. When confronted with these gaps, we may need some help in bridging them since we, as westerners, will find ourselves separated from the Bible culturally, geographically, historically and especially by language.
Paul describes the one who “rightly divides” the Word of Truth as a “workman;” therefore proper interpretation comes through effort. Although we may have many excellent teachers, God still holds each of us responsible for our workmanship. Like the Bereans who searched the scriptures daily to make what Paul taught them their own (Acts 17:11). They worked the word themselves and were accounted by God as being noble because of their effort. To be good workmen will require good tools. The proper principles of handling God’s Word by reading, studying, and meditating upon it, will prepare the “workmen” for this daunting task.