Does the Bible Forbid "Private Interpretation" by the Laity?

2 Pet 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

When discussing the principle of Sola Scriptura with Roman Catholics, they will frequently quote the above verse at you as "proof" that you have no business privately interpreting scripture. That interpretation, they will say, is the exclusive (private?) domain of the Roman Catholic Church, and not the private individual (the laity). Looks good in a cursory reading doesn't it? But let's look at just a few more verses, and get a feel for the context of this verse-

2 Pet 1:19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
2 Pet 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
2 Pet 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
2 Pet 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

Look at that very closely. No PROPHECY of the scripture is of any private interpretation. Does that say that the Bible is not to be privately read, interpreted, and understood by the laity? What is the passage really saying?

Verse 19- the prophecy found in the Bible is true, that shines like a light in darkness.

Verse 20- none of the prophecy, or interpretation of that prophecy, recorded in scriptures is devised by the prophet himself. While the prophet wrote it, he is not the author of either the prophecy or the interpretation thereof.

Verse 21- The Holy Spirit is both author and interpreter of prophecies in the Bible, not the prophet.

Chapter 2:1 - Warns against false prophets.

How do you recognize a false prophet? Simple. What they predict fails to come to pass with unerring accuracy. A genuine prophet never fails, because the prophecy and it's interpretation come from God, not the prophet's private interpretation, and God does not make mistakes.

In context, this passage is clearly talking about prophets and their own prophetic interpretations. As an example, the prophets Joseph and Daniel, when they interpreted the dreams of the Pharaoh and King, they were not giving their own private interpretations, they were giving God's interpretation. As a result they were 100 percent accurate. So when you read in the Bible where a prophet reveals a prophecy or gives an interpretation of a prophetic dream, or prophetic scripture, they were revealed to the prophet by God Himself, through the Holy Spirit, and can be trusted to be accurate.

Note the following-

2 Pet 3:14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
2 Pet 3:15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
2 Pet 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

That is a warning to the Christian that should be heeded. Beware of those who would twist the meaning of scripture on crucial doctrinal issues. The only way to know for sure when this is happening is to be well educated in the scriptures yourself-

2 Tim 2:15 Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Tim 2:16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.

Clearly there are many Catholics that have little or no understanding of 2 Peter 1:20 at all. Yet, it is quoted repeatedly to bolster the authority of the church. When read in context though, the claimed support instantly evaporates before your very eyes. People simply need to read and study more than that single verse to properly understand it. Single verse proof-texting might very easily lead one astray. You must ALWAYS consider context and other related scripture verses to get the true meaning.

A Catholic rebuttal by Mario Derksen.