2 Peter 1:20, a case of mistaken identity?

The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him
Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church #100

It is the view of the Roman Catholic Church that interpretation of the Bible can only be properly interpreted by the Magisterium of the Church and not the laity. Over the years and since the mid 80’s the RC Church has relaxed somewhat from this view and printed it’s own New Jerusalem Bible, complete with footnotes to ensure suitable instruction in the right use, as they call it. When confronted with the idea of Sola Scriptura the automatic reply is usually in the form of 2 Peter 1:20 “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation“. On the face of it, and out of context this would appear to be good grounds for the widely held belief amongst Roman Catholics. As with anything though, taken out of context the real message can be lost.

Let us first take a look at the entire passage

2 Peter 1:19-21

19: And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,

20: knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.

21: For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from Godas they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

As Corkonian TC Hammond once said “we don’t have a silly gospel, but it is simple” so with that in mind lets take each line and look a little more closely at it.

19: the prophecy found in the Bible is true, that like a becon of hope and truth, shines in the darkness

20: none of the prophecy, or interpretation of that prophecy, recorded in scriptures is written by the prophet himself. While the prophet wrote it, he is not the author of either the prophecy or the interpretation of it.

21: The Holy Spirit is both author and interpreter of prophecies in the Bible, not the prophet.

In context, this passage is clearly talking about prophets and that they are neither the authors nor the interputers. The Bible is the Divine Word of God.

  • Is there even a hint that the Church is to be the sole interpreter of the entirety of Scripture for the laity? No. Not even in the loosest reading of it.
  • Does this forbid the reader of the Bible from coming to his own understanding of what the text is trying to say, without the aid of the Church? No. It doesn’t even come close to hinting at it.

The Bible tells us: The unfolding of your words gives light; it impartsunderstanding to the simple... Psalm 119:130

When Paul and Silas went to Thessalonica, to the people: “…they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so…” Acts 17:11

The most forthright passage I’ve come across has to be 1 John 2:27 “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”

Whilst we read the Word of God it is in fact the Holy Spirit who guides us and helps us understand, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth John 16:13

The message of the Bible is as simple as it gets and one we can all, as Christians, take great comfort in

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.