Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation [King James Version: of any private interpretation]. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. – 2 Peter 1:20-21 (NIV)

*   *   *

The prohibition on “private interpretation” means there’s nothing secret here. There are no “secret” understandings for the initiated alone, no code words for a clandestine circle. The Bible is an open book, an open invitation to all, even if the findings are unorthodox.

George Fox, who knew the Bible thoroughly, said our authority arises from the Living Christ and not from the words on a page. Thus, Scripture is subject to the authority of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, to the extent that its authors and editors were faithful to that Spirit, the Scriptures also have authority – at least for those readers who themselves are guided by the divine Light. While our Quaker faith emphasizes the importance of direct experience of the Spirit of Christ, our tradition also looks to Scripture and to the gathered meeting as measures by which we are to test our interpretations and leadings.

Quaker theologian Robert Barclay declared that the Spirit is infallible but men and women are not. Because of our own individual biases and human limitations, he distinguished “between the divine and human aspects of revelation. … Furthermore, these divine and inward revelations do not and cannot contradict the testimony of scripture, nor are they contrary to sound reason.”

*   *   *

Moreover than this, the Scriptures do abundantly speak forth the Extent and Benefit of Christ’s Death for all Mankind, upon Condition of Faith and Repentance, join’d with new and continued Obedience, which are the Gospel Terms on which he is offered to them: For Christ Jesus gave himself a Ransom for all, he tasted Death for every Man, so saith the Apostle. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

4 thoughts on “Second Month 24

  1. Hi Jnana, yes it is true, but 2 Peter 1:21 does reveal “but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” – and there have been many times interpretations given by these same people when seeking God earnestly. For example Joseph in Egypt. A dream or vision needs interpretation, therefore even a believer today must pray for interpretation, and I guess that’s what your saying? Paul even says pray for interpretation. That means, if I may stress the point, if someone has received the interpretation we must be swift to believe them, and wait for it earnestly. If it were not so I fear we would talk till the cows come home and we’d get no where, true?

    1. The difficulty is keeping our focus on the Holy Spirit, not the human. Even the most faithful individuals are fallible, after all, and words can be unintentionally misleading. We test our leadings and listen deeply, in our hearts, to one another, as fellow disciples in our responses. And through all, we strive to stay close to the Source in love.

      1. Thank u for clarifying. Yes I have to agree. “Where then is boasting” – let us boast in the Lord alone. We will know them by their fruit, deep calls unto deep. Blessings, Rich

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