I Don’t Think that Passage Means What You Think It Means

By Megan Brown

One of my all-time favorite movies is “The Princess Bride.” 

This love story, sprinkled with hilarious lines and riveting sword play, is always a good “go-to” for our family movie nights. At one point in the movie, there is an exchange between two of the main characters- Vizzini and Inigo Montoya. While standing at the top of a mountain, Vizzini attempts to stop Westley (the Man in Black pursuing them) from reaching the top by cutting the rope he was climbing. Astonished at Westley’s survival, he shouts the word “inconceivable!” – a word he had repeatedly used throughout the movie. 

Inigo Montoya famously replied to Vizzini “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” 

While the Rolodex in my brain is filled with movie quotes, this particular interaction is the one that frequently pops into my head when I hear Christian communicators teaching Scripture incorrectly. 

Scripture, when taught properly, is interpreted through the message it has for the original audience.

While the Bible was absolutely written for us, it was not written directly to us. What I mean to say is that the Bible was written on the historical timeline and on the map. The Scriptures are speaking specifically to a specific people and should be interpreted with culture and context in mind. After we discover this meaning—the meaning the original audience would have understood the message to mean, we must bridge the gap between their understanding and ours. 

We, as biblical communicators, commit error—even sin, when we divorce a Scripture from its original meaning and context. Why? Well, because if we misinterpret the text and misapply it when we are teaching, our audiences miss what God is actually trying to say—to us and to them. 

Here are a few tips. 

  • Ask questions about what you are reading. Where is this Scripture in the Bible? What kind of text is it (history, prophecy, gospel, etc.)? Who wrote this book? Who were they talking to or teaching? What was the author’s intent, or what was the writer trying to say to the original audience? 
  • Figure out how the original audience is like your audience. Do they share similar lifestyles or circumstances? If not, how can the original message speak to your hearers? If so, how does God’s Word instruct your audience specifically? 
  • Lastly, find out how the passage you are teaching ties and connects to the gospel itself. No matter which Scripture you are teaching, it is either leading up to or a direct result of the gospel. There is a connection to salvation, and it is your job to find it, “soak” with it, and share it. 

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Megan is our mil-spouse liaison at the Speak Up Conference.  Do you feel God nudging you to write or to teach?  Join us on July 14-16 and hone your skills as you prepare to carry the message God has placed on your heart to a world in need. Need scholarship assistance? Email Bonnie@speakupconference.com for more information.

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