On interpretation of scripture

Many people have argued that religious observance is a private endeavour and that it is unbecoming of anyone to insist their interpretation is the only one and that which the multitude must acquiesce to. And so in my continued serialization of the portions of Spinoza’s work that I think matter to us most, I will share what he writes on interpreting scripture

He writes, and I agree, that

Therefore, as the supreme right of free thinking, even on religion, is in every man’s power, and as it is inconceivable that such power could be alienated, it is also in every man’s power to wield the supreme right and authority of free judgment in this behalf, and to explain and interpret religion for himself. The only reason for vesting the supreme authority in the interpretation of law, and judgment on public affairs in the hands of the magistrates, is that it concerns questions of public right. Similarly the supreme authority in explaining religion, and in passing judgment thereon, is lodged with the individual because it concerns questions of individual right. So far, then, from the authority of the Hebrew high-priests telling in confirmation of the authority of the Roman pontiffs to interpret religion, it would rather tend to establish individual freedom of judgment. Thus in this way also, we have shown that our method of interpreting Scripture is the best. For as the highest power of Scriptural interpretation belongs to every man, the rule for such interpretation should be nothing but the natural light of reason which is common to all—not any supernatural light nor any external authority; moreover, such a rule ought not to be so difficult that it can only be applied by very skillful philosophers, but should be adapted to the natural and ordinary faculties and capacity of mankind. And such I have shown our method to be, for such difficulties as it has arise from men’s carelessness, and are no part of its nature.

Stop your preachings. Don’t proselytize. Let each person decide for themselves whether the religions conforms to their natural reason and to believe as they so wish or rather as they are convinced.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

25 thoughts on “On interpretation of scripture

  1. Yeah, but proselytizing is SO much fun. Where’d we be without it? Oh….right. Never mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      I think, you too, would agree with Spinoza?

      Liked by 1 person

      • cordusdeo says:

        SPINOZA WROTE: “Let each person decide for themselves whether the religions conforms to their natural reason and to believe as they so wish or rather as they are convinced.” (sic)

        ~~~~~~ I cannot agree with this assessment.

        “Natural reason” and the mind of mere, fallible, and finite human thinking, with evolving standards of humanity and their supporting solutions is out of the picture when compared with Almighty God’s omniscience and supernatural power. That would be like the pot telling the potter what to do.

        There is a necessity to follow rational convention when interpreting Scripture.

        HERMENEUTICS : principles and methods of Bible interpretation.

        Historically, the most common approaches to Bible interpretation have been the :

        ALLEGORICAL [which errantly sees symbolic language just about everywhere in the Bible text]; A story that has a deeper or more general meaning in addition to its surface meaning. Allegories are composed of several symbols or metaphors.

        ¯ LITERALISTIC [which prefers to take the words of the text as they are given and fails to appreciate picture language symbolic use of words to the degree that literal interpreters do]; and

        ­ LITERAL [ the method which takes the words of the text in their ordinary sense but allows for the use of symbolic and poetic language IF, and only IF other parts of the Bible endorse it].

        Just as import, is the proper EXEGESIS [exposition, explanation; especially : an explanation or critical interpretation of a text in Scripture] which includes using the context around the passage of Scripture, comparing it with other parts of the Bible, and applying an understanding of the language at the time of the writing, in an attempt to understand clearly what the original writer, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, was conveying.
        In other words, it is trying to “pull out” of the passage the meaning inherent in it.
        The opposite of exegesis, which is called EISEGES, uses an approach to interpreting a Bible passage by reading into it a meaning that is not evident at all by the passage or by how one “feels” what it means to make it fit into a preconceived notion to satisfy the “itching ears” of those who want God’s word to exonerate them.

        The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” ~ 2 Timothy 4:2


        • makagutu says:

          Thank you for your comment. I think we are coming from very different ends of the table. You seem to believe there is a god, that this god has all the powers you claim for it. I have no such belief. You believe equally that the human mind is fallible, finite and evolving. I don’t dispute that. But after you say that you refer me to solutions that have been devised by the same minds! Did you read your comment really?
          And finally the Bible to you might be a very special book. It isn’t to me. It is just like any other, maybe worse than some I have read.
          It is for the above among many other reasons, I agree with Spinoza. But you are free to disagree with me all you want.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. john zande says:

    It would be nice if they adhered to this, but they won’t…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. No proselytizing, no flock to fleece. It’s that simple.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Liberty of Thinking says:

    “Stop your preachings. Don’t proselytize. Let each person decide for themselves whether the religious conforms to their natural reason and to believe as they so wish or rather as they are convinced.”
    Noel, you surprise me, by actually contradicting yourself…
    You know well where I come from.
    What many people don’t know, is that I arrived at believing after reading the Genesis. Conversion came later, as I have chosen to freely listen. And as I have freely listened, I believed, deeper.
    What followed was a deepening process of understanding. And this process led me from ministry and preaching, through doubts and reasoning, through logic and analysis built through some years of studying theology, to a place of firm deconstruction of what I have rather emotionally appropriated.
    My friend, spirituality and freedom of expression, preaching and deciding, natural reasoning and beliefs, conviction and deconversion are all parts of what we call free existence, where you may share what you believe, and I may believe what you share.
    You are free to speak, I am free to listen, or leave.
    But you know my friend, it was a community of believers which offered me emotional support in a time of my life when I was looking to how to end it…
    It was “how” beyond “if”…
    What they gave me was hope, crutches if you wish, which I took in a last attempt before death. Was it worth? Let me decide…
    What happened after a decade? It all fell apart. Logic, reason and comparative theology convinced me beyond doubt that what I believed was wrong. So I closed the door behind myself, took my life with me, thankful for all the support I’ve received, and moved on.
    You see my friend, there are convinced atheists working together with committed believers in teams of professionals, for the benefit of both atheists and believers. Friday, Saturday or Sunday, they go each their way, paying their respects to whatever they believe in, or disbelieve about, just to return Mondays to work together again. And you know, we may talk about what we believe, we may try to emphasise what we believe or disbelieve, but we respect each other, and that’s how it should be.
    And if any of us may change sides because the emphasis was convincing, is it wrong?
    As long as it doesn’t cause any harm to anyone, I don’t think it’s wrong.
    But if it causes ANY harm, be it emotional or physical, let the full extent of all legal consequences be brought upon them.
    Because nobody’s freedom can be used to cause someone else’s suffering.
    Otherwise, freedom of expression must be the norm, preaching, proselytising, converting and deconverting, listening or turning away…

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      I would be the last person to limit anyone’s freedom of expression. What I oppose is to expect one to change their belief simply on the basis of my beliefs. Talk all you want but don’t expect me to assent to something simply because you have experienced it. This is all I ask for everyone. And I think you and I agree on this.
      Good day my friend


      • Liberty of Thinking says:

        I’m still unsure about understanding you…
        Expectation is something oftentimes packaged with our freedom of expression, especially when we might want to be more convincing about something we believe it’s important for ourselves. When you yourself express your own views, I guess you do expect to some extent that others might agree and maybe change their minds.
        But if the other part decides to disagree, that’s again their own, sovereign choice, to be respected by all means.

        Liked by 1 person

        • makagutu says:

          I don’t threaten anyone to believe anything I say. I also don’t insist it’s the truth, the only truth. Most religious people pass their opinions as truth, the only truth and not believing them will lead to one spending time the other side

          Liked by 1 person

          • Liberty of Thinking says:

            Well, if the threat is baloney, why should anyone bother? And if there’s no “other side”, again, why should anyone bother?
            You know, if the dog just barks, without biting, I’m OK with it as long as it doesn’t bark in my backyard. And if it barks elsewhere, I just don’t go close; my ears are dearer to me than its useless noise. Life’s too short to listen to useless nonsense 🙂
            There’s no such thing as “truth”, but just a social-group based accepted frame of thought(s). And if someone wants me to hear what I don’t want to listen to, I’ll just call law enforcement to take them to their own “heaven” 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            • Nan says:

              Your perspective makes sense … to a point. But what many non-believers dislike is when the believers try to force their ideas on us through bogus laws and actions that further their beliefs. The live and let live that you seem to espouse would work fine if it were fully practiced. On both sides.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Liberty of Thinking says:

                If such be the case, any legislations enforcing religious matters on non-believers must be challenged to the highest authorities, otherwise we’d end up back in the dark ages, or more closer, in most of the Middle (and further) East…
                Personal belief must never be a platform for mass enforcement of anything.
                I am not naive, but being raised in a dictatorship, I know the value of one’s freedom of expression.

                Liked by 1 person

            • makagutu says:

              There’s no such thing as “truth”, but just a social-group based accepted frame of thought(s)

              I wouldn’t even start a debate on this 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  5. vequinox says:

    Reblogged this on Manolis.


  6. Scottie says:

    If I understood it correctly he is saying you don’t need the “holy spirit” to use reason and judgment concerning scripture. That sure will upset GMF and CS to mention just two. Be well. Hugs


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