Private Interpretation. -- By: Owen Street

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 042:165 (Jan 1885)
Article: Private Interpretation.
Author: Owen Street

Private Interpretation.

Owen Street

Τοῦτο πρῶτον γνώσκοντες ὅτι πᾶσα προφητεία γραφῆς ἰδίας ἐπιλύσεως ὀυ γίνεται.— 2 Pet. 1:20.

This passage has perplexed, not only the ordinary readers of the Bible, but our best biblical scholars. It seems to have been conceded without a question that ἐπίλυσις must be taken to mean interpretation; and then the emphasis has very naturally fallen upon the qualifying word ἰδία. What, then, does the passage teach? Is it that the individual must not ascertain for himself the meaning of the Scriptures? Then, surely, he may not ascertain it for others, and the office of the expounder is gone. Can we escape from this by making the church the expounder? That is one way; but it is not the Protestant idea. Can we not evade the difficulty by referring the scope of the declaration back to the prophet who first wrote a given text under guidance of the Spirit? This explanation has its defenders; and they find an imagined support in 1 Pet. 1:2, 12. But this passage is limited to a certain class of the prophetic teachings; while in the case before us all limitation is excluded. And it may be further objected that it is not easy to see the pertinence of this meaning to the apostle’s argument.

Accordingly, this view has not attracted a large following. And it must be said that the advocates, both of this explanation and of that which refers the teaching of the passage to the readers of the Bible, have had the candor to admit that they are not satisfied with either the one or the other. The object of this article is to suggest and support, tentatively, a somewhat different translation of the passage; and one that, if it be accepted, will agree well with the scope of the paragraph and conflict with no convictions of those who reverence the Scriptures.

The noun ἐπίλυσις occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The compound verb ἐπιλύω, from which it is derived, occurs but twice. The uncompounded verb “λύω, on the other hand, occurs more than forty times, and the noun” λύσις, once. The difference in meaning between λύω and ἐπιλύω in classic Greek is not always sufficient to be expressed in a translation. It is scarcely more in ...

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