Reading the Scriptures (3)
Biblical interpretation is quite difficult. I want to show you an exercise in how right the Pharisees were (yes you read that correctly) as well as how wrong they were. Recall how they often complained that Jesus "ate with sinners". Did you know that they did not make this idea up? Psalm 1 tells us not to "sit with sinners", and Sirach says we should never gather in an assembly with sinners. If we cannot sit with them or gather with them, then eating seems to be out of the question as well.
Then Jesus shows up and has dinner with them. The Pharisees were right to seek to obey these (and many other similar) commands. The problem was that there was more involved in the situation than the Pharisees were aware of, so they ended up interpreting Jesus' actions completely wrong. He was not "sitting with" in the sense that He was a participant in their sins, condoning what they were doing. He was "sitting with" in the sense of being a "light to the Gentiles" to lead them to salvation. Both are types of "sitting" but the difference depends on how you sit (even though that sounds odd). Jesus knew what He was doing; the Pharisees did not know what He was doing because they did not know how to interpret the Scriptures.
Another example is found when Jesus tells the Pharisees that God "desires mercy and not sacrifice". He is quoting from Hosea chapter 6 (and there are about 20 other similar references in the Old Testament in support of this). The Pharisees rejected what He said though, because they were thinking about all the commands in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy about sacrifice (not to mention the references in the prophets, like Malachi, that tell of God receiving a fully pure sacrifice through the Messiah).
The issue, made even more clear in the last paragraph, is that Scripture cannot be pitted against itself. There is no place in Scripture that contradicts any other place in Scripture. It is true that we may not understand how certain things fit together, but they do fit because they were inspired by a perfect and all wise Divine Author. We must maintain this truth--no contradictions--in order to understand what God is telling us in Scripture.
The Pharisees (and any other sect that separates from the One, True, Church) always has an atomistic understanding of Scripture. This means that they will look at one particular passage of Scripture and neglect others, which leads them to false interpretations. We must know all of Scripture in order to understand any of Scripture. That is very hard to do, and that is why God gives us the dogmas of the Church. Clear and unchanging anchors of the truth are the only ways for us to know truth with certainty.