The following is an old draft that I am now happy to publish as a follow up to my previous posting about "Interpretation." I had hoped to expand this study some time, but may not ever get to do so, and so I publish it now so that any might be benefitted thereby.
"Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man's wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed." (Eccl. 8: 1)
"A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings." (Prov. 1: 5, 6)
According to these two passages, a "wise man" is one who
1) Listens or pays attention (more than he talks - two ears one mouth)
2) Increases learning, matures, becomes better educated in the truth
3) "Gets it," or understands; has "figured it out"
4) Takes advice
5) Interprets things correctly, especially proverbs and parables
6) Perceives the maxims of wisdom
Further, the wise man's face shines, like the face of Moses when he descended from the mount, after having been instructed by the Lord, and he has a bold look, a look of confidence.
In this lesson we will focus on the ability to interpret things correctly.
The word "interpretation," in the Old Testament, is often associated with the interpretation of dreams. Dream interpretation is something only a prophet can do. Freud wrote a book called "The Interpretation of Dreams," but it is nonsense.
There are several Hebrew words for interpretation in the O.T. One is "pithrown," and simply means, according to Strong, "interpretation." Another Hebrew word is "sheber" and means "breaking" (of a dream), interpretation, as when one "breaks" a secret code. The Hebrew word in Proverbs 1 is "mĕliytsah," according to Strong, means "satire, mocking poem, mocking song, taunting, figure, enigma." It is the wisdom to solve problems, to discover meanings and reasons/causes for things, to explain figures, symbols, parables, and proverbs. The word "interpretation" in Eccl. 8: 1 is "pesher" and means "interpretation, solution."
In the New Testament, especially in the gospels, the word "interpretation" carries more the idea of "translating," the taking of a foreign language word and giving its meaning in one's native language. Here are some examples:
"And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone." (John 1: 42)
"And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing." (John 9: 7)
"Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did." (Acts 9: 36)
"But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith." (Acts 13: 8)
"To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace." (Heb. 7: 2)
"To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation ("hermēneia") of tongues..." (I Cor. 12: 10)
To interpret involves translation. Versions of the bible are but interpretations of scripture. Every bible student is of necessity a translator.
Gift of Interpretation (It is an "art" or "gift")
"As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams." (Dan. 1: 17)
"But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart." (Daniel 2: 30)
"There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers...Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation." (Dan. 5: 11, 12)
"I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things." (Dan. 7: 16)
"Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures." (Matt. 24: 25)
"Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things." (II Tim. 2: 7)
"And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ." (I John 5: 20)
It is a "science" or learned "skill"
One of the Greek words for "interpretation" is "hermēneuō" and means 1) to explain in words, expound, 2) to interpret a) to translate what has been spoken or written in a foreign tongue into the vernacular. This is the word we get our English term "hermeneutics," for the science or art of interpretation. Seminary schools have classes in hermeneutics, where instruction is given about how to interpret scripture. Sometimes the Greek word is "methermēneuō" and means "to translate into the language of one with whom I wish to communicate, to interpret."
To "interpret" means to "explain," or understand the "meaning" of a thing.
"And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man." (Dan. 8: 15)
"But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Matt. 9: 13)
"And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean." (Mark 9: 9, 10)
"And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by." (Luke 18: 35-37)
"And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?" (Acts 2: 12)
"And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped." (Exodus 12: 26, 27)
"And when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD our God hath commanded you?" (Deut. 6: 20)
"That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever." (Joshua 4: 6, 7)
"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." (II Peter 1: 20)
The Greek word for "interpretation" in this passage is "epilysis," and means 1) a loosening, unloosing, 2) metaph. interpretation. The truth is "tied up," as it were, in the forms of words.
"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding." (Prov. 3: 5)
1. Catholic misuse (false interpretation) of this passage (or word interpretation)
2. The proper interpretation of the passage and the word
a) Scripture is in harmony with scripture
i) No prophet or apostle said anything contrary to Christ or another inspired writer.
ii) No Christian should interpret scripture in a unique or solitary way.
"How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation ("hermēneia"). Let all things be done unto edifying." (I Cor. 14: 26)
Misc. Passages on Bible Interpretation
"Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." (I Cor. 2: 13)
"...the scripture cannot be broken..." (John 10: 34)
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (II Tim. 2: 15)
"...and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading." (Neh. 8: 7, 8)
Areas Needing Interpretation
1. Interpreting scripture
2. Interpreting history (events of the past)
3. Interpreting events of the present (individually and collectively)
4. Interpreting Mazzaroth
5. Interpreting tongues
Dangers of Misinterpretation
1. We act on our beliefs, and beliefs result from interpretation. When we misinterpret we misunderstand, and misunderstanding is related to errors and falsehoods, and these affect behavior.
"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he..." (Prov. 23: 7)
2. Salvation is at stake in understanding or properly interpreting the gospel.
There are those who preach "another Jesus," a different kind of Jesus. There are those who preach "another gospel," a gospel that is different kind, not the real thing, and there is "another spirit," not the Spirit of God, or true spirit of grace, understanding, and of the fear of the Lord. (See II Cor. 11: 4 & Gal. 1: 6, 7)
3. Loss of joy, peace, and success because of walking according to error. We bring upon ourselves the heartbreak of failure and loss. We are not as pleasing to the Lord, as children, as we ought to be.
Misinterpret = See not the Signs
"We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long." (Psalm 74: 9)
"He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" (Matt. 16: 2, 3)
"Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?" (Matt. 15: 15, 16)
"How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." (Matt. 16: 11, 12)
"When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)." (Matt. 24: 15)
Correctly Interpreting = Obedience
"...to depart from evil is understanding." (Job 28: 28)
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments..." (Psa. 111: 10)
"Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart...give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments." (Psa. 119. 34, 73)
"The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." (Psa. 119: 130)
"Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding." (Prov. 3: 13)
"The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way..." (Prov. 14: 8)
"He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit." (Prov. 17: 27)
"Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things." (Prov. 28: 5)
A man who understands/interprets rightly, is
3) Knows his purpose in life
4) Has an excellent spirit or disposition
5) Sees the big picture, has figured it out, says "Eureka"
A man who interprets correctly is one who knows the causes of effects and the effects of causes. He can answer the "why" questions.