Questions From Readers
● What did the apostle Peter mean when he said that “no prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation”?—E. M., U.S.A.
The apostle Peter wrote in reference to prophecy: “You know this first, that no prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.”—2 Pet. 1:20, 21.
The writer was not considering the application, meaning or interpretation of previously written prophecies. The context shows that he was discussing the surety of the prophetic word, why Christians can depend upon it. (2 Pet. 1:16-19) He then pointed out that they can have confidence in the prophecies recorded in the Scriptures because their source was not men’s imagination but Jehovah God himself.
For example, humans could of themselves observe the political or social conditions in some country and, on the basis of their own interpretation of the data, make some prediction for the future. Such a private interpretation and the subsequent prophecy would not be inspired of God. This occurred with four hundred false prophets during the reign of King Ahab of Israel. When asked whether Ahab and Jehoshaphat should fight against Ramoth-gilead, the professional prophets prophesied success for the two kings. (2 Chron. 18:4-11) That prophecy was the result of their personal interpretation of the situation.
In contrast, Jehovah’s prophet Micaiah foretold that Ahab would not return in peace. Was that a prophecy springing from his personal interpretation? No; before speaking with Ahab, Micaiah said: “What my God will say, that is what I shall speak.” (2 Chron. 18:13-27) The death of Ahab in battle proved undeniably that the prediction of the false prophets was based only on their own imperfect human reasoning. On the other hand, Jehovah’s prophet Micaiah did not make any private interpretation of events, but Jehovah was the one who made the decision regarding matters; consequently the prophecy he gave through Micaiah was accurate and came true.
So, as explained at 2 Peter 1:20, 21, we can have confidence in the prophecies recorded in the Scriptures, because they are not based on a human interpretation of matters but originate with God. He is the One who, by means of holy spirit, moved his servants to speak and record them.
● I work for a large company that annually gives a Christmas bonus to all its employees as a gift. Should we as witnesses of Jehovah accept such gifts?—R.K., U.S.A.
It would not be Scripturally wrong for a Christian to accept a present or bonus given to him by his employer during the Christmas season. Some business firms give a yearly bonus to all their employees (not to outsiders in general) and they simply choose this time of year to do it. So acceptance would not mean the recipient was celebrating Christmas, for a bonus is what is paid to an employee above his regular pay. It is a recognition of his having been employed by his employer over a period of time, and that with profit to the employer. Of course, if a person’s conscience disturbs him at the thought of accepting the bonus, he can kindly and tactfully decline and thus maintain an untroubled conscience.—1 Pet. 3:16.
Christians are Scripturally required to commemorate, not the birth of the babe Jesus, but only the death of Christ. (Luke 22:19, 20) Since the Lord’s Evening Meal is the only annual observance Biblically binding upon them, those who adhere closely to the Bible do not celebrate Christmas or other holidays. (Gal. 4:9-11) They do not attend holiday parties or send cards or gifts on worldly holidays. Hence, if one of Jehovah’s witnesses accepts a bonus or gift during such a season, he would undoubtedly want to disassociate any expression of thanks from the holiday itself. Also, when it is appropriate to do so, he may be able to clarify tactfully his Biblical position respecting Christmas or other holidays for the benefit of his employer.