THE BOTTOM LINE
"But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (2 Peter 1:20-21).
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- nothing more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The real question," said Humpty Dumpty, "is who is to be master of them -- that's all."
You've heard the old saying about the golden rule -- "He who makes the gold, makes the rules." But the truth is "he who interprets the rules, controls the gold." Just ask Daniel (Dan. 2:46; 5:29).
So who has the authority to interpret the Bible? Ask the college liberal that question and you’re likely to hear, "but that's your interpretation of the bible" ad nauseam -- meaning either that all interpretations carry equal validity or there is no true single interpretation. Or take the average person who reads their bible and says this is what it means to me, so this is what it means, period. Result? Agnosticism in the former, mysticism in the latter. Either way, there is no sure authoritative word from God.
On the other side of the spectrum there's the Roman Catholic Pope with his infallible interpretation (ex cathedra), or the creeds and confessions of church councils. This is hermeneutics by position in the former, consensus in the latter. The higher up the ecclesiastical "food chain," the greater the influence and authority welded over the text -- and over the congregation. Result? Our way or the heretical way.
But the authority to interpret God's word doesn't rest with an individual or group. It rests with Christ alone -- all authority is His (Matt. 28:18) as the book is all about Him (Lk. 24:27). And while Christ gives teachers the ability to interpret and teach (Neh. 8:8; 1 Cor. 12:28), or councils wisdom to discern (Matt. 18:15-18), His authority is found in the text alone, and those who interpret it correctly (2 Tim. 2:15). His people will hear the correct interpretation, because the Holy Spirit will guide them into all the truth (Jn. 16:13; 1 Jn. 2:20).
It's no coincidence that the first temptation in the Garden was a hermeneutical one (Gen. 3:1). And the resulting condemnation, like Humpty-Dumpty's fall, demonstrates what happens when we think we are masters of the text instead of servants of it.