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Bible Study: Sola Scriptura & The Interpretation of Scripture

Bible Verse for the Week:


"From there Elisha went up to Bethel. While he was on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him. "Go up, baldhead," they shouted, "go up, baldhead!"The prophet turned and saw them, and he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the children to pieces."


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2 Kings 2: 23-24

42 children torn to pieces by 2 she-bears!!! What the HECK!! This is probably one of the oddest stories in the Bible. It can be very difficult at times to understand why a story like this belongs in the bible. This brings up an age old struggle in our Church, and our world. That struggle is the struggle of proper interpretation of scriputre. Many denominations and even some atheists believe they have the correct and meaningful interpretation, but all of these interpretations are called into question for the same reason. The unguided mind when looking into scripture will naturally read into the scriptures the messages that they wish to hear, instead of reading out of the scriptures the message God is trying to speak to us. Entire denominations have been started and continue to be started because of the misinterpretation of even as much as a single line of scripture for example:


"These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." - Mark 16: 17-18



A group of Pentecostal Christians off and on for the past century have created their own meaning for this scripture passage. They are called snake handlers or snake dancers . These people choose to tempt serpents in order to prove that they are faith filled people. There are many things wrong with this line of thought but let’s just leave it at God commanded us not to test him. The point is that the man who founded this denominational branch read Mark 16 with the idea in his head of finding a way to prove that him and others in his parish were holy, and that is not the proper way to approach reading scripture. We all do this when we read scripture because we don’t want to be challenged by God to change our lives . However that is exactly what every word of scripture is meant to do, change us . So now we are forced to ask the question, what are we to do? If everyone does this with scripture how are we to find the interpretation God intended? Protestant denominations believe in a concept known as Sola scriptura, ( Latin ablative, “by scripture alone”) is the assertion that the Bible as God’s written word is self-authenticating, clear (perspicuous) to the rational reader, its own interpreter (“Scripture interprets Scripture”), and sufficient of itself to be the final authority of Christian doctrine. In other words all one needs to be a Christian is to read the bible and believe what you read. This concept is flawed in a number of ways, but probably the most obvious is that for the first 400 years of Christian history there was no such thing as the bible because the Church had not collected the various writings, and placed them in the cannon yet. So by this definition of Christianity none of the Martyrs of the Roman persecution could have been Christian because they had no Christian Doctrine. However, we all know this was not in fact the case. Christianity was preserved from antiquity in Tradition. The same Christian Tradition that guides the Church today in the proper interpretation of the word of God. The Catholic Church has guarded this Sacred Tradition, and together with Holy Scripture we receive our Catholic Faith.


So now back to that really weird 2 Kings verse. Any ideas about what it means? Well I’ll let you in on a little secret. You may know this if you read the footnotes, but this is a story that the Israelites used to tell in order to convey an enhanced sense of dignity and respect for the Prophet Elisha, and God whom he served. You can imagine a mother telling her young children to be careful to offer respect to their elders, and holy men or they might be attacked and torn to pieces by she-bears. Elisha probably ran into tons of terrified and well behaved children in his time. Now that would be a lot more odd than this story. Imagine if everywhere you went children just stood silently at attention. This story most likely did not happen, but was meant to display the power the prophet had from God.


"From there Elisha went up to Bethel. While he was on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him. "Go up, baldhead," they shouted, "go up, baldhead!"The prophet turned and saw them, and he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the children to pieces."


- 2 Kings 2: 23-24


Challenge:


Okay, I gave you a weird one now it’s your turn. This challenge is going to be a little more of a game really than the normal spiritual challenge I give you. I want you all to search through your bibles and find the weirdest story you can. I’ll pick the weirdest story I get and make it the verse for next week. Also there will be a prize for the winner. Ready? GO!! Happy Bible sleuthing!!!



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