Julie D. has pointed out a book that makes a tremendous point about why we are not supposed to just pick up the Bible and read and interpret Scripture on our own. Like her, I’d never heard it put quite this way, but it makes so much sense.
Here’s a bit of the book, called Catholic Passions, that she posted:
Early church leaders insisted that the Scriptures be read and understood within the context of the church’s tradition. They had learned by experience. Many of the problems and heresies of the early church had stemmed from a rejection of this principle, as charismatic leaders and sects advanced wild theories and fanciful speculations they said were based on the Bible.
“The Devil himself has quoted Scripture texts,” Jerome noted ruefully, referring to Satan’s temptation of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. “We could all, while preserving the letter of Scripture, read into it some novel doctrine.” [ED: link added by me]
But God did not send his word into the world only to leave it alone to be interpreted according to the whims, dictates, and tastes of whoever heard it. That is why the word was given to us in the church. This is the message of a dramatic scene in the Acts of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit tells the apostle Philip to strike up a conversation with an official of the queen of Ethiopia’s court. Seated in his chariot, the official is reading the prophet Isaiah. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asks. The official replies, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” So Philip interprets the Scriptures — “starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.” Then the man asks to be baptized.
This book looks like something I’d love to have!