In another discussion, a claim was made that the Bible was written so that even a child could understand it. I used to share this same sentiment. However, after a considerable time reading and studying, I am beginning to question that idea.
A few things are going against this idea. One is that even the disciples in the Bible didn’t understand many of the things Jesus said, which we have recorded in the Bible. And the stories were relayed to them in a time, place, context, and language that we do not share. The claim that even a child can understand what the disciples could not seems incorrect prima facie.
Further, we have the eunuch who is reading the Bible, who says, “How can I understand this unless someone explains it to me?”
I can see that there are some very plain things in Scriptures. However, there are many things which are not clear at all. These things take a tremendous amount of time to work out.
At the very least, you need at least one other person to read the Bible plainly, the translator. Often that translator has made several theological decisions in their translation, affecting the “plain reading.” Just look at the Latin Vulgate versus out translations now.
Speaking of the Latin Vulgate and the Reformers, even they walked back on the idea of Sola Scriptura. They used to think that the interpretation was open to anyone. Anyone could pick up the Bible and begin to perform exegesis. Then the Anabaptists came along and were saying things with which the Reformers emphatically disagreed. The was a considerable gap in the scholarly approach to the Bible the Reformers took vs the Anabaptists. The Anabaptists defended that they didn’t need Greek or commentaries or to read tradition. All they needed was the Bible!
At this point, many reformers decided that Sola Scriptura wasn’t Sola Scriptura at all. Proper exegesis had rules and methods. Those rules and methods should be followed in order to come to as close an interpretation as possible to the thoughts of the authors.
This is, in part, why there is a ministry of teaching. To teach people the Word and how to go about performing good exegesis. Now, anyone can do this process. There is no “one appointed person” (such as the Pope) whose interpretation is the law. But, the idea that you can pick up the Book and understand what you are reading there on a first pass without any further study doesn’t seem like a stable path for the Church.
Now, that doesn’t mean that a person can’t access what they need for salvation. That would be demonstrably false. This happens all the time. But, there are many things a person could not access without some scholarship, in my opinion. I would love to hear other’s thoughts.