Keys To Avoiding Biblical Misinterpretation

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)

Since the very beginning, there have always been a lot of very bad interpretations of what God’s Word is saying. Sometimes, different Bible commentators or denominations will read a slightly different meaning into a verse of Scripture, resulting in a distinction that is rather unimportant in the big picture. No Christian doctrine is really altered by these differences, often they are just a reflection of a divergence in background, culture, or experience. Like two persons from separate parts of the world viewing the “Mona Lisa” or the “Sistine Chapel”, they are seeing something minutely different in what they read in God’s Word, perhaps for no other reason than the Spirit of God is saying something through the particular passage unique to their own need.

Other times, however, the variances in interpretation are not so benign. In fact, some interpretations are so atrocious that they can make us wonder if the person giving the interpretation is reading the same Bible that we are! There is usually a reason as to why such a non-traditional, unorthodox viewpoint is being expounded. Often, the person is simply trying to be controversial and make a name for themselves (and maybe make a few bucks from their idea along the way). Other times, a person may genuinely believe what they are saying, sometimes feeling as if they are one of the only people in the history of mankind clever enough to see this new “true” interpretation that has so successfully eluded the detection of a host of other Bible students throughout the ages.

So, how can we really know what the correct interpretation is for any passage of the Bible? Some parts of the Bible, the Book of Revelation for instance, have been interpreted in literally hundreds of different ways. Is it possible at all to know whether or not one interpretation is more valid than another? How can we tell if one viewpoint is closer to what God intended the passage to mean than some other? Fortunately, there are some very good fundamentals to approaching Scriptural interpretation that can help us to proceed with certainty that we are accepting a reasonable explanation for whatever interpretations we are subscribing to. The Theological discipline known as Hermeneutics is actually entirely devoted to promulgating these principles. But even with such principles having been laid out, there are many who totally ignore them and go about “interpreting” Scripture with reckless abandon. Very often, they are violating one or more of the following basic guidelines:

Context, Context, Context

A lot of Bible students are familiar with the old axiom: “A text taken out of context is a pretext.” When you rip a single verse out of the context in the Bible wherein it appears, you usually end up with a mess! There is nothing wrong with quoting a single verse of Scripture to illustrate a point, but we must be certain that the meaning we are applying to it is the meaning that the surrounding text naturally suggests. One notorious example of taking a verse out of context and interpreting it to mean something which it does not is the use of Philippians 4:13 by the “Prosperity” teachers:

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil. 4:13)

A lot of “Prosperity” teachers throw this verse around like it is an indubitable badge of authority given to the Christian in order that he may do whatever he wants to. But if they took the verse in context, they would see that the preceding verse says:

“I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Phil. 4:12)

Philippians 4:13, when read in context, means that the Christian is strengthened to endure anything that comes their way, good or bad, by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ, we learn how to handle times when we are “hungry” and times when we are “well fed.” Since the Lord Jesus is sufficient for us, we can overcome any bad situation! But to present this verse in its natural context would contradict the “every day’s a rose garden”, non-stop health and wealth orgy of hedonism that these false teachers promote.

The Bible was originally written as 66 separate books, with each book being one continuous text. In other words, there were no “chapter” and “verse” divisions, but these books flowed like any other book would. Therefore, it is no more prudent to rip a single verse out of Scripture than it would be to take a single sentence from the middle of any other book and make it stand alone. But many poor Biblical interpretations do just that, which brings us to our next guideline:

No Doctrine Should Be Built On A Single Verse

"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." (2 Peter 1:20)

Whenever an entire doctrine, especially an unconventional “new” one, is backed up by one or maybe two ambiguous, obscure verses of Scripture, look out! Pseudo-Christian cults are notorious for doing this. Before we can arrive with certainty at a particular interpretation for any verse or passage, we must compare this interpretation with what the rest of the Bible says. Here is an example used by the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints”:

“I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” (Psalm 82:6)

You aren’t going to find anything else in the entire Bible that would even remotely suggest that man is a “god”, but this single verse (and the Lord Jesus’ quotation of it in John 10:34) are used to support the Mormon doctrine that man has the capacity to become divine. Although there are abundant verses that demonstrate that this is in no way true (e.g., Deut. 4:35;1 Sam. 2:2; 2 Sam. 7:22; Is. 44:6-8, 45:5, 21), and although the word translated as “gods” is also translated as “judges” elsewhere (e.g., Ex. 21:6, 22:8 — which is the obvious meaning here in Psalm 82: that these are “judges”, men of authority and power), these two single verses are used to prop up a heresy that has no real Biblical support. By keeping in mind the principle that the whole of Scripture must be in agreement with any doctrine drawn from a single passage, errors such as this could easily be avoided. But the reason that such a bizarre interpretation is drawn from passages like this has a lot to do with our next guideline:

Read The Meaning Out Of The Passage, Not Into It

Solid Biblical interpretation starts with practicing exegesis (reading the meaning “out” of the text), not eisegesis (reading a meaning “into” the text). The reason that the Mormons teach that Psalm 82 teaches that man is a god and the reason that the Prosperity teachers teach that Philippians 4 tells us that we can have and do whatever we want is not because that is the most straightforward interpretation of the text, but because they have already arrived at those doctrines beforehand.

A good crime scene investigator will objectively evaluate all the evidence that they find in order to determine the truth of what has happened. A poor or biased investigator will attempt to interpret the evidence to fit their own preconceived notions. Often, they will ignore, alter, or suppress any evidence that is contrary to what they have already decided to believe. So it is with many who misinterpret the Bible. They attempt to “cherry-pick” verses, ripping them from their context and then twisting them in order for them to fit their own predetermined Theologies. They don’t approach the Bible with the idea of letting it speak God’s Words to them, but rather they approach the Bible and attempt to make it say what they have alreadydecided. We must let the Bible change our beliefs to fit what it says, not change what it says to fit our beliefs.

Consider The Setting

The Bible was not written by 21st Century, English speaking Americans. In order to accurately understand the Bible, we must take into consideration the original setting in which it was written. For those of us living in the United States, we must realize that we are standing more than 2,000 years removed and half a world away from where the Word of God was first written down. To say that the culture is different is an extreme understatement! A lot of skeptics like to bring up issues such as slavery in order to accuse God of doing evil (“why didn’t He condemn slavery in the Bible?”, they ask), and a lot of Christian men like to take the few verses where the Apostle Paul said that “women ought to be silent” and extrapolate them to be universally applicable. I don’t want to take the time in this article to expound on either of these two topics, but suffice it to say that the people living in Biblical times were definitely living in another cultural setting and they did things a little differently than we do today. A good Bible Handbook or volume such as Freeman’s Manners And Customs Of The Bible can help us to bridge the cultural gap and better understand the Word of God.

Consider The Original Audience

There are applications for us from every part of the Bible, but we must realize that not everything in the Bible is written to us. If the passage is addressed to another group, then we should understand that much of it will not directly relate to us. Many promises are made in the Old Testament, for instance, that are specific to the ancient nation of Israel and are not transferable to the Christian living in the age of the Church. Before we claim any portion of Scripture for ourselves, we better make sure it is addressed to us!

Consider The Original Language

As we mentioned, the Bible was not originally written in English (no, the King James Version was not the original version of the Bible 🙂 ). Luckily, we don’t all have to be Greek and Hebrew scholars in order to understand what the original text was literally saying. There are very good literal translations of the Bible and Interlinear Bibles which put the English and the original text side-by-side. Additionally, we have concordances that provide a great deal of linguistic insight into all the words that appear in Scripture. Most serious students of the Bible are aware of these resources and use at least some of them often. Amazingly, many errors in interpretation are made because the original meaning of the word being translated was not considered before a doctrine was concluded (the example above concerning Psalm 82, for instance: the word translated “gods” was the Hebrew Elohim, which can mean “gods”, but can also mean “judges”, “mighty ones”, or even “rulers”).

Consider Other Interpretations

Finally, a very good rule of thumb for avoiding misinterpretation is humility. Despite what many cult leaders and quasi-Christian groups would have us believe, it is not likely that anyone is going to come on the scene with an accurate “new” revelation from God. Yes, people will preach the Word of God in fresh and contemporary ways, but the basic Message has remained unchanged for 2,000 years, and will continue to be. Hebrews 1:1-2 makes it clear that the age of prophets is over; Jesus Christ is God’s final Revelation to mankind.  What He has intended to say has been said. Therefore, any new, unconventional, or unorthodox doctrine or teaching should raise immediate suspicion. It is mind-boggling how many sects have arisen in the past 150 years that all teach that God allowed the Body of Christ to live in darkness for nearly two millenia and now they have the monopoly on truth.

If a doctrine is worth believing, chances are there have been a lot of Theologians, Preachers, and Bible teachers who have already taught it in times past. There are, of course, some very few exceptions. Some of the specific details of the Book of Revelation are only relevant to a single generation, and God has decided to conceal them until the time for that generation to live is at hand. But as far as there being a “new” way to receive Salvation, or a “new” way to approach God, or a “new” way to receive God’s Grace,well, there is nothing new under the sun.

By adhering to these simple guidelines, many of the misinterpretations being promoted today could be easily refuted. Before we accept or advance any doctrine, we should consider them in light of these principles.

27 thoughts on “Keys To Avoiding Biblical Misinterpretation”

  1. Theosis Jesus Christ’s church must represent man’s potential correctly 1 Corinthians 8:5-6

    Divinization, narrowing the space between God and humans, was also part of Early Christian belief. St. Athanasius of Alexandria (Eastern Orthodox) wrote, regarding theosis, “The Son of God became man, that we might become God.” Irenaeus wrote in the late 2nd Century: “we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods” Justin Martyr in mid 2nd Century said: “all men are deemed worthy of becoming ‘gods,’ and of having power to become sons of the Highest” Jerome wrote that God “made man for that purpose, that from men they may become gods.” Clement of Alexandria said worthy men “are called by the appellation of gods, being destined to sit on thrones with the other gods that have been first put in their places by the Savior.” Origen in reference to 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 said “Now it is possible that some may dislike what we have said representing the Father as the one true God, but admitting other beings besides the true God, who have become gods by having a share of God . . As, then there are many gods, but to us there is but one God the Father, and many Lords, but to us there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.” The Gospel of Thomas (which pre-dates the 4 Gospels, but was considered non-canonical by the Nicene Council) quotes the Savior: “He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him,” (Gospel of Thomas 50, 28-30, Nag Hammadi Library in English, J.M.Robinson, 1st ed 1977; 3rd ed. 1988) For further information on this subject, refer to The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) agrees with Early Christian church leaders regarding theosis.

    To paraphrase Origin’s thoughts in the words of Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) Apostle, Bruce R. McConkie: “There is and can only be one who is supreme, who is the head and to whom all others are subject”. Becoming like God is not saying we will ever be equal to Him, frankly we won’t and can’t He, and only He, will forever be worshipped by us.


    1. “Theosis” itself is a concept which is not universally agreed upon as to the extent to which “divinization” occurs in the life of man. In other words, one person might say that “Theosis” means that man can become like God, while another might say that man can become a god. Having its origin in Eastern Orthodoxy, it is not surprising that some of the language defining Theosis is found coming from the lips of the early “Greek fathers” of the early Church. But it should be understood that not all of them were referring to the same thing. Some did, in fact, teach that man could become an exact replica of God (a fact clung to by the LDS Church), but many were referring to no such thing. Their intent seems to be that, in Christ, man could become like His Savior in the sense that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 10:25. That through the Sanctification of the Holy Spirit, man could be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29), moreover, that by yielding to the leading of God’s Spirit, the fruit of His Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) would be made manifest in the believer’s life transforming his behavior and character to be more like his Lord’s.

      That man can be “exalted” to the status of deity is a concept found nowhere in Scripture. The Lord Jesus Christ was indeed “exalted” by His Father, but not before He first humbled Himself into becoming a man (Phil. 2:8-9). Jesus Christ was not a man who became a god, but rather God Who became a man. The distinction is paramount.

      As far as your interpretation of 1 Corinthians 8:5-6, well, may I refer you to the keys to avoiding misinterpretation that I mentioned in this post. If we adhere to the context of the passage, we see that the subject here has to do with eating meats sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 8:1,4). A cultural understanding shows that the meat markets in Corinth in that day were all part of the temples of Pagan gods. The animals slaughtered to be sold as meat were first “offered” in sacrifice to these “gods” for their “blessing.” The Corinthian Christians were concerned about eating meat that had been offered in sacrifice in this manner. Far from teaching that there exists many real “gods” (and even farther from teaching that man himself could become a god), Paul explicitly says: “There is no other God but One” (v.4). He goes on in verse 5 to say that though there are many that are called gods, there really is only One God. None of the Pagan deities being worshiped in these temples were even real. To conclude that 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 is teaching anything about “man’s potential to become divine” is to grossly abuse the straightforward meaning of the text.

      Finally, it is up to each individual to decide what authority they are going to trust. I admit that I have not verified the quotes that you have presented, but I will say for the sake of argument that they are accurate. Even so, we must decide whether we will trust the Word of God or whether we will disregard its plain meaning in favor of someone’s misinterpretation of it. I know the decision the LDS Church has made. However, you should consider that, while referencing the quotes of a few figures from the early Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church might seem to lend credence to LDS doctrines that are in disparity with mainstream Christianity, doing so presents a contradiction in itself with what previous Mormon doctrine has taught:

      “My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right—and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight …. He again forbade me to join with any of them” (Joseph Smith 2:18-20, emphasis added).

      I am curious why you would quote Church leaders whom Joseph Smith claimed the angel of the Lord told him were wrong?


  2. Hi Loren,

    This is a most EXCELLENT post. Much of the crazy doctrines out there occur exactly for the reasons you stated.

    Verses and chapters is man’s invention — and it’s a very good invention. It makes finding verses much easier. But it has a down side in that it makes it really easy to pull out a sentence and make a doctrine out of it. No sentence in any book, including the bible, stands alone for it always must be taken in context from which it was pulled.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you — we must read the bible and understand it from the cultural context that it is being spoken. The folks in the bible are not speaking to a 21st century audience — we must understand their culture.

    I just started reading a book “Our Father Abraham” and in the very first chapter, it discusses this very thing that you talk about. I don’t know about the rest of the book yet as I haven’t finished it (I just started reading the book yesterday).


    1. Hey Tishrei,

      I just looked again at what I wrote and I realized that I forgot to also emphasize the usefulness of chapter/verse divisions! I hope nobody thinks I was insinuating that they were unnecessary 😦 Like you said, they are an invention of man, albeit a very helpful one. The down side is that it lends to people doing exactly the sort of thing I mentioned.

      In regards to cultural differences: not only can having a proper historical and cultural understanding prevent error, it can also enrich understanding. I recently wrote about Abraham’s covenant with God in Genesis 15. Without a cultural understanding, Abraham’s activities in Verses 7-11 seem quite strange indeed. But when we learn that this was the common method of ratifying a contract between two parties, we gain a deeper understanding of what was going on. When we see that God alone “passed between the carcasses” (traditionally both parties would do such), it tells us even more about what happened in that God alone is the One with the ability to fulfill the terms of the agreement.

      Let me know how the book you’re reading turns out….sounds good.


      1. Hi Loren,

        Yes, I agree, there are many instances in the bible that seem very strange to us in our Western 21st century thinking. That’s why I have, for many years now, thought that it behooves us to learn the ways and culture of the people of the bible. If we apply our western 21st century way of thinking to the Bible, we lose the meaning and end up with something else.

        It’s hard to imagine the Bible without chapters and verses. It sure makes finding things easy and quoting where in the Bible something is would be next to impossible. Yet, even so, we should remember that it is written as a book and we would no more pull out a sentence from a regular book and assign it meaning out of the context than which it was taken.


  3. Loren,

    Very well put!…. If we want God to approve of us so that we don’t have to be ashamed on Judgment Day of how we have handled His word of truth, we need to study His word in the right way….. Some people don’t study God’s word in the right way, simply because they don’t know how — being new to His word.

    Others very purposely distort God’s word for a profit, because they are greedy and like to have control over people….. That is why it is vital for everybody to study God’s word with all the principles you have listed, so they don’t get fooled into following a cult….. Paul in his teachings told the people to study God’s word diligently on their own and check things out for themselves the way the Bereans did….. So, even God’s word tells us to search the Scriptures….. Thank you.



    1. Margaret,

      What we teach others from God’s Word (or even in His name) is very important and we must study and pray so that it will be accurate. We find many solemn warnings in Scripture about how we present the Word of God. James writes:

      “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1 ESV)

      As you mentioned, many errors are made simply because a person is new to Christ and unfamiliar with the Word of God. It is even more crucial during this period that they exercise humility and retain a teachable heart. This is why Paul wrote to Timothy that those in Church leadership should not be new converts (1 Tim. 3:6), since pride is a very common malady that results from relatively new believers finding themselves in leadership positions too quickly. Not coincidentally, we might add, this is a common attribute among many of the founders of pseudo-Christian cults. There have been giants of the Faith who were able to present the Gospel in fresh and compelling ways, men and women whose ears were maybe a little more attentive to what the Spirit was saying, but there has never been an individual (aside from our Lord, of course) to whom God exclusively related His Message to humanity.

      All who desire to know God and to learn His Word do well to do as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11) and search the Scriptures to see if what they are being taught is true. At one time, I bought into the teachings of the “Prosperity Gospel”, an error that I would have avoided if I had heeded this admonition to “search the Scriptures” for myself and test what these false teachers were promoting. I would strongly caution people to “test” what any teacher of the Gospel is saying (including myself) against the Word of God to insure that it is Biblically accurate.

      Thanks for the great comments,



  4. This post is excellent.

    The best way to keep verses in context is to study a chapter (or better yet a book of the Bible) verse by verse. Michael Spencer warns that picking verses from the Bible is not like selecting ingredients for a recipe; you can’t just stroll up and down each isle and grab one of these and a couple of those. A good sermon on sin is not developed by turning to the concordance and grabbing 3 or 4 verses that mention sin. Supporting one’s position by quoting random verses is not the same as looking at the body of evidence then choosing a position.


    1. Thanks, Clark, good points!

      I think a lot of people do in fact approach the study of God’s Word the same way that they might approach making a stew: a little bit of that, a little bit of this, a dash of something else; oh, but I really don’t like that ingredient, let’s just leave it out altogether!

      Studying the Bible by book, with a “verse-by-verse” approach is definitely a solid approach to take. There really is no other way to properly understand the context of what is being said. Personally, this is exactly why I feel that an “expository” approach to preaching is also preferable over a more “thematic” approach. Preaching by “theme” is OK, but it should at least be based in a portion of Scripture, with added references being used to elaborate and illustrate. I would agree with what you mentioned about preaching on sin, for example, that basing a presentation on the topic based on 3 or 4 random verses is probably not the best way to go about it. Preaching an expository message on say, Romans 3:21-28, and maybe tying it in with a quote or two from elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., 1 John 1:9, or 1 Peter 2:24) seems to me to be a much better way to go about it. Doing such also helps to safeguard from drawing questionable conclusions about what the Bible is saying. It is a lot harder to twist and misinterpret an entire passage of Scripture than a single verse!

      Thanks again for the great comments!


  5. Hi Loren,

    An excellent post! As I was reading through I realized that I have been doing most of the things you mentioned without really thinking it through consciously. I have been reading the Bible on and off for about 35 years, and the first time through my understanding of it was very poor. I just didn’t have the context.

    I have a much better understanding now, and also the knowledge that there is much that I still don’t know. Also seeing where I was led astray in the past, makes me very cautious about taking someones word for what a certain passage means.

    Of course we make use of various translations and concordances which help a lot. My wife has a rudimentary knowledge of Hebrew and a copy of the scriptures in Hebrew (Old Testament original text; New Testament translated from Greek to Hebrew). Sometimes checking with her can clear things up.

    I note above that Tishrei is reading Our Father Abraham. I read this about 7 years ago, I think, and it is an excellent book. It greatly increased my understanding of the Bible, and our (gentile Christian’s) proper relationship to God and His chosen people.


    1. Thanks, Ed, for sharing some wonderful thoughts about this!

      I actually wrote this article keeping in mind of some of the errors in interpretation that I personally have made in the past. Long before I had ever bothered to really read the entire Bible for myself, I had made my mind up about a lot of doctrinal issues based on the thoughts and opinions of others. Honestly, I believe that most of those people reached their own conclusions based primarily on the thoughts and opinions of others, too. As you said, the first time we do actually read through the Word of God for ourselves, our understanding is very limited indeed. On top of that, we often carry a bias into reading it that prohibits a better, objective understanding. We tend to read the Bible looking through a “lens” of denominational predisposition and by filtering our interpretations through what we have previously been taught. This is one of the things that makes it so difficult for those ensnared by the cults to ever be free.

      I, too, have been led astray at many points in the past and exercise the utmost caution before embracing any unfamiliar interpretation of Scripture with too much enthusiasm. I don’t believe that any doctrine should be maintained if it is unable to withstand careful scrutiny and, like you said, I encourage everyone to “test” any teachings against what the entirety of Scripture has to say.

      Various translations and concordances are certainly a great help. You are fortunate that your wife has some knowledge of Hebrew as I am sure that this is a great benefit to capturing the original tone and flavor of the Scriptures. So much of that is lost in our English translations. The closer that we can get to properly understanding where the Bible’s writers were coming from, the more accurate our understanding becomes.

      I will definitely have to read “Our Father Abraham.” Based on some of the current headlines in the News, this sounds like a very timely subject matter!

      Thanks again, Ed.


  6. There is a teaching prominent in religious circles, based mostly on a misunderstood view of a phrase found in Exodus: 20;5 and 34;7 and repeated again in Numbers: 4;18 and Deu:5;9. The phrase goes something like this: “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” The teaching purports, that Christians are the victims of “generational curses” placed on them through no fault of their own, but by the wrong actions of preceding generations. These “curses” then predispose us to commit or “hold on” to certain sins (the same ones committed by their predecessors). Hence, an alcoholic today can claim that he’s not responsible for his drunkenness; as it is simply a result of a curse put on him by his alcoholic father. As a young man growing up in a Christian home and attending a “Jesus Saves” preaching church, this “gospel” was not in evidence, when and where it came from I have no idea. How it came to be part of our current “collective understanding” and part of our modern Christian teaching, I do not know.

    It was further established in the Law that the children would in fact, never be punished for the sins of their fathers

    Deuteronomy 24:16, The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the
    children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.

    II Kings 14:6. But the children of the murderers he slew not: according unto that which is written in the book of the law of Moses, wherein the LORD commanded, saying, The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall be put to death for his own sin.

    There is only one true nature of God clearly represented in the Word and that is LOVE!
    1 John 4:8 clearly states that, “God is love.” He doesn’t just love at times – LOVE is the nature of God!
    LOVE is His unchanging and permanent nature. Jesus gives us the clearest representation of the true nature of God. God is not a “double minded” God and he doesn’t say one thing and do another, Never has and never will. The same yesterday, today and forever.

    Comments welcom: Rakau


    1. Rakau,

      Thanks for reading this and taking the time to share your comments!

      I am familiar with this sort of teaching. I agree that it seems proponents of this “generational curse” doctrine have taken these passages out of context. In addition to the passages you pointed out in Deuteronomy 24:16 and 2 Kings 14:6, I believe that passages such as Psalm 62:12, Matt. 16:27, 1 Peter 1:17, and Rev. 20:13, 22:12 make it clear that God judges all persons based upon their own actions; not their ancestors’. The only penalty for sin that we have “inherited” is the penalty of death resultant from Adam’s sin (Romans 5:18). Nevertheless, Scripture makes it abundantly clear that even aside from “original sin”, we have all earned God’s judgment and condemnation for no other sin than our own; moreover, no one will be condemned solely for the sin of Adam, but rather his own. This curse passed down to us from Adam, however, is easily remedied once we place faith in the Last Adam: Jesus Christ.

      A few years ago, a teaching was advanced which was a blending of “12 step” addiction psychotherapy with a fixation on Christian spiritual warfare that prescribed performing certain rituals and ceremonies (including rites for the breaking of these “generational curses”) that more resembled superstition and Voodoo than sound Christian doctrine. This approach did gain quite a following and achieved some popularity because there is always an attraction for many to the occult and the sensational. I suppose that blaming our ancestors and performing elaborate rituals rather than accepting personal responsibility for our sins and turning fully to the Lord in repentance is easier and more gratifying to our own sense of empowerment, but it does nothing to make us right with God.

      My own belief concerning what Exodus 20:5 is talking about has to with the fact that we can, in fact, bear temporal repercussions for the sins of our parents simply because we are influenced by the environments we grow up in; good or bad. The example you cited concerning the alcoholic son of an alcoholic father is one that we see often, not because the son is “cursed” by God to repeat the misdeeds of his father, but because his father’s example affected him and he followed in his footsteps. Even secular psychologists tell us that children of alcoholics are much more likely to struggle with alcoholism themselves than those who are not. The “Apologetics Study Bible” puts it like this concerning Exodus 20:5:

      “Although this verse seems to say that God punishes children for the sins of their parents, that is not the case. God does not condemn children because of their parents’ misbehavior (see Dt 24:16; Ezk 18:20). However, children suffer the consequences of their parents’ sinful choices. A parent’s adultery, substance abuse, manipulation or other dysfunctional behavior establishes a pattern that children model as they mature. The result can be a repetition of their parents’ emotional brokenness leading to conflict, divorce, poverty or other conditions that make their children’s, and even their grandchildren’s, lives difficult.
      In this verse God suggests that one reason we should obey Him is for the sake of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Like ripples spreading across a pool of calm water, our actions have consequences for generations to come. We can create waves of difficulty or blessing (v. 6), according to the choices we make.”*

      Finally, I think that we must properly understand that the meaning of this verse is not to imply that the “third and fourth” generations are completely innocent themselves — they are obviously in rebellion against God just as much as their predecessors were. We never see anywhere in the Old Testament a person turning to God from idolatry, only to be judged because their parents and grandparents were idolators. After all, Abraham’s own father was an idolator (Joshua 24:2) and he (Abraham) certainly was not cursed by God.

      Thanks again for reading this and sharing your insightful comments, God bless you!

      *Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (115). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.


  7. Thank you Loren, well said.

    As to the phrase “children, and children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth
    generation”, this is an idiom or word picture used several times in scripture to illustrate how long a parent’s wrong example will affect the family. Here, God is actually promising to forgive iniquity in each succeeding generation. God knows that every generation is going to have problems with sin and His promise is that His mercy will be available for all generations (Luke1:50). Moses certainly understood the true intent in the word of the Lord, “since I have found favor and loving kindness in your sight” In no way did Moses consider that which the Lord was saying, was intended to be as a “curse” upon his future generations, but rather understood it only as a blessing….
    To confirm the fact that God was actually offering His mercy to Israel, look how Moses
    responded in verses 8 and 9. In verse 8 he hurried to bow his head down towards the ground and to worship the Lord in thanksgiving when he recognized the Lord’s heart of compassion.
    In verse 9 Moses responds to the Lord’s offer of mercy by saying: “since I have found favor and loving-kindness in Your sight, please Lord, be our God and dwell in the midst of us, even though we are a stubborn people: forgive us of our rebellion and iniquity and allow us to be Your possession forever.” Moses responds with the words, “since I have found favor and loving-kindness in Your sight” Moses thanks the Lord for Gods blessing given, and then asks.
    (1) For the Lord to be their God.
    (2) To dwell in the midst of his people.
    (3) Forgive them for their rebellion and iniquity.
    (4) Allow them to be Gods possession forever.
    (5) And in spite of the fact that they are a stubborn people. Once again to forgive them. (His intercession for his people)

    Moses knew Gods Grace for his people.
    O that we may fully know, Gods Grace for us.

    Yours in Christ:


  8. Question.
    What do you think is the correct interpretation of homosexuality considering all of the points you included above?
    I’m not here to start an argument. I’m just trying to figure myself out during my walk with God. I’m having a hard time with some things and I would love some help and other peoples opinions.
    Thank you(:


    1. Hi, Jourdan, thanks for reading this post and taking the time to post your question 🙂

      First of all, let me just say that my thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time. When God begins to work on our hearts (and He does so with everyone who comes to Him in faith), it can be a trying time that can leave us confused and uncertain. Things which may have never bothered us before suddenly leave us with feelings of remorse and guilt. This is normal and even a good thing because that means that God is changing us to see things the way that He does. All of us who come to trust in Christ struggle in one area or another as God works in our hearts, conforming us to become more like our Lord (Romans 8:29). Things that we may have never really thought about as being sinful and offensive in God’s sight before suddenly bring us feelings of guilt, everything from those “little white lies” to gossip, selfishness, and pride.

      Over time, God changes our attitudes and feelings about certain things in our lives as He searches our hearts and makes us aware of that which displeases Him (Psalm 139:23). This is what is known as conviction, and it is one of the works of the Holy Spirit in the heart of man (John 16:8-9). The very fact that you are struggling with a certain area and have taken the time to seek out the truth about it is a good indication that God is revealing something to you concerning it. Doubtless, when it comes to all matters of sexuality, there are a lot of differences in opinion and there are a lot of “voices” competing to be heard. Sexual urges, of all types, are very powerful motivators and many people are willing to cling to any validation, regardless of how slight, in order to justify their own sexual desires. Desperate to have their own guilt alleviated, many people will argue vehemently in order to persuade others that their sexual desires are acceptable and permissible in the eyes of God.

      You mentioned that you are seeking help and other people’s opinions. In the area of whether or not homosexuality is forbidden in the Bible or not, that is to say, if it is really sin or is not, you can find a lot of different thoughts and opinions. I trust, however, that you are most interested in knowing what God thinks about the matter and what the Scripture really has to say about it. When carefully examining passages such as Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:27-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:10, it becomes very clear that the Bible condemns the practice of homosexuality. I have seen interpretations that twist and torture these verses to the point that any real meaning is completely robbed from them, but it is obvious that these “interpretations” are desperate attempts to bend the Scripture to fit an agenda and a premise rather than letting the Word of God plainly speak. I offer a comprehensive defense of these verses and the subject of whether or not the Bible condones homosexual practice in my post, “Does The Bible Say That Homosexuality Is A Sin?” (

      The Bible does make it clear that homosexual practice is a sin, but so is every other sexual practice that is contrary to the sexuality that God intended for mankind to enjoy. In Genesis 2:22-23, God brought the woman to the man and, in doing so, instituted marriage and established that it would be within this relationship that mankind would fulfill his sexual desires. Anything that deviates from this, whether it is heterosexual pre-marital or extramarital sex, or homosexual sex is sin. God has provided a sanctioned means for people to enjoy their sexuality (Hebrews 13:4), and when we attempt to fulfill our desires through any other means, we are in rebellion against God.

      Now, many people have asked why a person would experience homosexual urges if that was not the way God intended them to be? Since the person desires a homosexual relationship, how can they overcome this desire or should they even try? We should understand that simply experiencing a desire does not mean that God condones that desire. How many times have all of us had the desire to steal something that we thought we could get away with, or cause someone bodily harm who upset us? Surely these are not desires condoned by God, are they? Additionally, most heterosexuals have struggled with the temptation to engage in pre-marital sex at one time or another (as most teenagers can verify!), yet we know that pre-marital sex is sin. Simply having the desire to do something in no way means that God sanctions that desire.

      Again, my heart goes out to anyone struggling with homosexual tendencies who desires to please God and obey Him. I can imagine the inner struggle and turmoil suffered between the desires of the flesh to satisfy its urges and the desire to live for God. Even so, all Christians suffer this struggle in one way or another as we seek to live for God in our spirits and deny the lusts of our flesh. We all need to rely on the Lord to conform us into the people He wants us to be, to live to please Him and to make no provision for fulfilling our sinful lusts (Romans 13:14). Although I have not personally read the material, I understand that there are a lot of good ministries and books available provided by Christians who have struggled themselves with homosexual tendencies, perhaps their counsel would be of benefit to you. I have heard that the book in this link is a wonderful volume on the subject (

      I pray that God will give you the peace and contentment that you long for and that your own struggle will quickly be resolved. So long as we live on this earth, temptation will always rear its ugly head from time to time, seeking to pull us away from fulfilling God’s will for our lives. One day, sin itself will be put away and we will never struggle with such things again 🙂

      Thank you again so much for visiting this website, I hope you do so again. May the Lord bless you and clearly show you the steps He has planned for you to take.

      To God goes all glory. In service to Him,



  9. What ALL people miss (or don’t even realize), when it comes to the Bible, is this one and definitive fact: The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelations, is the story of just one family line – the Line of Adam. The Old Testament, with the creation of Adam by God, is the justification in the New Testament for Jesus being the Messiah because His line echoes back directly to the progenitor, Adam. This is why there are so many passages of begetting without any back-stories to the people mentioned. These are lists to show decent directly from Adam. Whether or not there is anything special in the genes for that family line it really does not matter. What does, however, is that the three main religions (which over two-thirds of the planet’s population follow), ALL source Adam as the progenitor. We have all turned a huge family saga into religion, and threw out the Creator as that in which we should truly believe. Unscrupulous and lazy control-freaks latched-onto this story to rule and take advantage of people through manipulating their belief. This is real reason why so many misinterpretations of Biblical verse exist. How many can claim to have read The Bible from cover-to-cover even once? How many have read exactly what it says without interpreting a single word or passage? We have to read what is there and not what we think it says. Try it – it is a real experience.


  10. You do not need religion to be a moral or good person, and the facts show the direct opposite in behavior with many people who claim to be devout and “God-Fearing”. You do not need “God” to attain any sort of Paradise, or eternal Damnation, in an afterlife. You know – your soul knows, exactly the sort of person you have been and currently are, and the afterlife will be where your own soul decides will be the place for you. Heaven and Hell are just ideas, at any rate, and no one can tell you what either place is really like. If you hear a claim or some story, it is only the point of view of that individual person. Those who try to make people believe they have seen the other side will automatically fall back to the general indoctrination of their own particular religion, sect or cult, because this is the only frame-of-reference that person has in order to reach commonality with those they are telling of their experience. There is a huge difference between what The Creator is and our worlds’ concept of God. They are not the same, and by constantly concluding that The Creator and God are one-in-the-same, is to fully not understand what is going on.


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