This is a guest post from Sara Cole, bchearts.net See below for her Biography
Looking at the context of passages in the Bible is critical to understanding them. I felt compelled to write on the importance of context because it is amazing how many arguments come from incorrectly quoting anything, let alone Scripture.
Out of Context No. 1
Many of you may have heard this little example:
The Bible says in Psalm 14 that there is no God.
Wait, what? Why would the Bible say that?
When you look at the entire sentence, it says: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'”
This small example shows that you can make the Bible say anything you want to by taking stuff
out of context.
Out of Context No. 2
Another example I found was in a book arguing against the validity of the Bible. (For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the book). The author argued that Christians believe in a God who forbids birth control based Genesis 38:9-10. In this passage, God kills a man named Onan for refusing to impregnate his wife. When you look into the context of this Scripture, you find that this was not the reason at all as to why God killed him. In understanding the culture of the time, we see that Onan was deliberately disobeying a law given in Deuteronomy 25:5 and selfishly refusing to raise up kids in his brother’s name. He was only concerned about himself and not about the Lord or poor Tamar.
Besides just taking verses out of their immediate context, people will to take passages out of their intended genre as well. For example, Moses wrote Genesis to be an accurate recording of events that actually took place. Some people try to add a poetic meaning to creation to reconcile the biblical account with modern day “science” and the theory of evolution (believe it or not, there is a crazy amount of scientific evidence for creationism).
Sometimes people take the poetic psalms and the guiding proverbs out of the genres. For example, I have seen people use David’s songs of praise to be taken as concrete promises from God to every Christian. And the proverbs were intended to taken as guiding principles for life, not as strict promises of black and white (If that was the case, then all wealthy people would be Christians and all poor people would be “evil doers.” But that simply is not the case).
The Point of It All
Essentially, don’t just take people at their word when they quote Scripture to prove their point. Read the verses around the passage and even look for other Scriptures corresponding with that one.
The Moody Handbook of Theology lists three main steps in interpreting the context:
1. Study the immediate context.
-This meaning the paragraphs before and after the passage
2. Study the more remote context
-This meaning the chapters before and after the passage
3. Consider the context of the entire book
-This meaning to look at the emphasis of the entire book
My name is Sarah Cole (aka sarahbeth). I strive to have my friendship with Jesus be the relationship that defines me first and foremost. This striving is my lifelong endeavor, because my sin keeps me from fully accomplishing it in this life on earth. Secondly, I am the wife of my amazing husband, Cameron. I also expectant mother coming September, 2015!
I am currently a junior undergraduate student at the College of Biblical Studies going for my Bachelors Degree in Biblical Counseling. I blog over at bchearts.net