Is There an Infallible Authority to Interpret the Scriptures?



Roman Catholics believe that there is an infallible authority on earth to interpret the Scriptures because the Bible says that private interpretation of the Scriptures is difficult and dangerous.

2 Peter 3:16 His (ie Paul’s) letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Private interpretation of the Bible also leads to many divisions as may be seen among Protestants today. The true church of Christ must be united.

Eph 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, (KJV)

Matthew 12:25 (NIV) Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.

Protestants believe that there is no infallible authority on earth to interpret the Scriptures. In fact, the Bible encourages the private study of Scripture to see if what has been taught to us is true.

Acts 17:11 (NIV) Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

2 Peter 3:16, therefore, is not talking against the use but the abuse of private interpretation of Scriptures. The word “ignorant” refers not to those uneducated in the academic sense because Peter and the other apostles were academically uneducated (see Acts 4:13). It refers to those who refuse to learn from the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that it is the Holy Spirit who guides us into a correct understanding of the truth, not an infallible authority.

John 16:13 (NIV) But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

Finally 2 Peter 3:16 further proves that the Scriptures in Peter’s time were left to the people to interpret themselves and not to some infallible authority. If not, Peter would have called attention to such a tribunal since he was warning of the danger of distorting the Scriptures. We also note that nowhere in the New testament does Jesus Christ tell us anything about an infallible authority to interpret the Scriptures.

It is true that private interpretation of the Scriptures has led to divisions among the Protestant Churches but the Roman Catholic Church is not without its own division even with Papal infallibility. As discussed earlier, Popes have been known to contradict other Popes. Even Councils have contradicted other Councils. Who do we believe? True, Protestants may differ on certain matters of doctrine but they are united on the vital questions of what is necessary to be saved.

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