Story Problems and Biblical Interpretation: A Revealing Comparison

May 5, 2024 — Leave a comment

Students in a college math class take an exam that has many story problems that they must solve correctly. Getting back their graded tests, many students in the class go the dean and complain that the teacher (who wrote all the problems herself) has a wrong understanding of what the problems say and what the right answers to the problems are.

The students say that what the teacher says the problems set forth is only her interpretation and argue that her interpretation of the wording of the problems is wrong. What’s more, the students even disagree among themselves what the story problems mean and what the right answers to the problems are.

In her defense, the teacher says that she has been giving the same test with the same problems for 15 years. She points out that no students prior to the students in this class have ever tried to say that the teacher’s understanding of the meaning of the story problems is wrong and that her answers are wrong.

The dean says that he agrees with the teacher but tells the teacher that she must also accept as correct the differing understandings and answers of the current students who disagree with her interpretation of the wording of the problems. He says that she has to do that because these students are all top athletes in the school’s athletic programs and their families donate vast amounts of money to the school every year.

The teacher refuses so she is fired because the dean does not want to have problems with the wealthy donor parents of the students who complained. Even the local and national media go along and make an example of the teacher by mocking her as unable to understand the meanings of the wording of the problems.

A Revealing Comparison to What Many Seek to Do in Biblical Interpretation

The hypothetical scenario presented above has many plain parallels to what I believe routinely takes place among many professing believers concerning the interpretation of many passages of Scripture. It also points to the absurdity of the claims of many that those passages could actually correctly mean all the differing things that the people with differing interpretations of them say that they mean.

Most importantly, consider what believers who take such approaches are ultimately saying about God, the perfect Teacher and Author of all Scripture. Was God really not able to say clearly and exactly what He wanted to say in the Bible? Are there really many different correct interpretations of many passages of Scripture?


We must take great care not to be intellectually dishonest before God in our handling of Scripture. God has said what He wanted to say.

We must approach biblical interpretation with the unassailable belief that He intends for us to know what He has said. There certainly are not many different correct interpretations of Scripture passages.

Copyright © 2011-2024 by Rajesh Gandhi. All rights reserved.



Copyright © 2011-2024 by Rajesh Gandhi. All rights reserved.

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