The idea that the Bible possesses inherent interpretative clarity (“perspicuity“) persists among Evangelicals and other “Bible Only ” Christians. Indeed, it must – for if the Bible is not sufficiently clear for the average person, then the specter of authoritative interpreters is raised which opens the door to the need for an infallible Magesterium. That the Bible is not formally sufficiently clear is often most clearly (pun intended) proven by the very groups that espouse it (example, example), and I was recently shown another interesting test case.*
The Book of Jude is one of the shortest books in the bible (about 600 words long). Yet it has apparently generated nearly 700 questions including concerns over textual variants, authorship, origin, recipients, destination, opponents, dependency, and commentary stances.These questions have resulted in a vast array of opinions among scholars. Some intrepid Logos users have attempted to gather all this data into a series of summary reports.
Indeed, nearly every word of the text has grammatical issues that biblical scholars disagree upon.
It would take hundreds of hours to come to grips with all this material.
That a scriptural text can generate more questions than it has words seems to me elegant testimony that the Bible is simply not as clear as many imagine it to be – at least not according to the experts whose job it is to know such things.
Why, then, does this myth persist?
I believe it must persist because if God gave humanity an authoritative body to dispense his revelation rather than just an easily-misunderstood book, then “Bible-Only” groups are necessarily and fundamentally wrong. To the degree that such a conclusion is unacceptable, the premise that the Bible is sufficiently clear must be maintained even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
*Thanks to Greg Masone for pointing this material out to me!