“The Bible is for everyone. It is not the preserve of the specialist. To allow it to become the book of the expert, on whose pronouncements the average person is dependent, is an abuse and inversion that can lead only to disastrous results. The effect is to take the Bible out of the hands of those for whom it is intended, that is, the totality of mankind. Whatever the difficulties and obscurities associated with particular passages (on which the expert may be able to throw some light), not only is the Bible’s central message, in all its plainness and constancy, addressed to everyone, but it is also accessible to everyone. It is especially pertinent to the one who recognizes in himself or herself the sinner for whom Christ died, and therefore the one who needs above all else to hear and heed the good news of redemption and reconciliation in Christ.” –P.E. Hughes, “The Problem of Historical Relativity” in Scripture and Truth, p. 176
I think that Hughes’s remarks relate most directly to scholars who do their work among people who already have the Bible translated into their native tongue. That being said, I doubt that anyone would disagree with Hughes’s statement in so many words. Nevertheless, I wonder how many of us might disagree implicitly by the way we teach and preach.
Test yourself on this. Do you teach and preach in such a way that the Bible’s meaning becomes plain to your hearers? Or do you teach and preach in such a way that the Bible becomes confusing to your hearers? Do you teach the word such that people feel inadequate to read their Bibles by themselves? Or do you teach in the way that the Bible says gifted teachers should teach? Ephesians 4:11-13 says that God gives pastors and teachers to the church,
“for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.”
Notice that there is an equality of “faith” and “knowledge” in view here, not a differential. That means that all of our scholarship and teaching ought to have as its goal a leveling effect. We want everyone to see Christ with equal clarity when they open the scriptures. We are to be facilitators of that kind of knowledge, not gate-keepers.
So a hearty “amen!” to the late Dr. Hughes. The Bible is for everyone. It is not the preserve of the specialist.