What Interpreting the Bible & Communicating with Your Wife Have in Common

The authors of the new book Invitation to Biblical Interpretation demonstrate how interpreting the Bible and listening to your spouse relate to each other:

In our quest to understand the Bible, author, text, and reader each have an important part to play. Every document has an author, and the resulting text is shaped by his or her intention. It is this authorial intention the interpreter must aim to recover. The text is not ‘just there,’ left to be interpreted any way a given reader chooses. When my wife talks to me, I dare not give her words my own preferred meaning. The rules of proper communication demand that I seek to understand the meaning she intended to convey.

It follows that the text of Scripture, likewise, is not neutral, that is, malleable to a great variety of interpretations that lay equal claim to represent valid readings of a given passage…It is an authorially shaped and designed product that requires careful and respectful interpretation.

…There is no excuse for interpretive arrogance that elevates the reader above text and author. The ‘golden rule’ of interpretation requires that we extend the same courtesy to any text or author that we would want others to extend to our statements and writings. This calls for respect not only for the intentions of the human authors of Scripture but ultimately for God who chose to reveal himself through the Bible by his Holy Spirit. (p. 57-58)

You don’t get to make the Bible say what you want it to say anymore than you get to twist your spouse’s words in a way that they do not intend. Well, actually, you can do both of those things, but it will not go well for you and you will not honor God or your spouse in the process. If you love your wife, you will strive (though imperfectly) to understand what she really says and really means in her communication with you, and if you love God, you will strive (though imperfectly) to understand what he has said in his communication with you through his Word.

Oftentimes Christians interpret the Bible according to a “what it means to me” principle, but imagine if we did this in normal communication when listening to the one’s we love.  In this case it really doesn’t matter what it means to you–it matters what it means to them. If I consistently give what my wife communicates to me a meaning that she does not intend and that only I desire, I am only serving myself and hinder the growth of the relationship. (I do this far too often!)

Now, if you have been married for any time at all, figuring out what your spouse means takes time and even tools to develop, but if you value the relationship you will take the time to learn what your spouse intends to communicate. It is the same way with God. It takes time in his Word and proper tools to understand his Word (and, of course, the person and work of the Holy Spirit whom ultimately gives spiritual understanding!), but if you value who he is and what he says you will seek to do this to the best of your ability.