Misinterpreting the Scriptures: 2 Peter 1:19-21

2 Peter 1 NKJV is as follows:

1 Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, 14 knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. 15 Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. 16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

I have always thought that 2 Peter 1:20 taught that we should not interpret the Bible individually without collective support. In fact, I was recently challenged by someone on this idea, and this verse was used as a defense to promote the Eastern Orthodox Church. We do need accountability from the brethren when trying to interpret the Scriptures, and there are plenty of places sited in the written witnesses. We shouldn't interpret the Bible privately. Solo interpretation. However, this is not what 2 Peter 1 is talking about in veres 19-21. After examining the verse in light of the greater context of Chapter 1, and consulting some Church Fathers, I realize that Peter wasn't giving an admonition to believers to cease from privately interpreting the meaning of the Scriptures, but that the Scriptures were not privately transmitted by the prophets and apostles. They were moved by the Holy Spirit.


The word for interpretation is ἐπίλυσις pronounced epilysis ,which literally means to loose or loosen. The Scriptures weren't privately loosed, they were moved by the Holy Spirit. This is the main idea of this line of thought. Verse divisions are helpful when trying to identify a chapter or section within a chapter, but as a friend of mine said recently when quoting a Seminary professor; "Context is King!" Therefore, when someone quotes this verse to you incorrectly, you now know and can set the record straight. I hope this is helpful.

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