This Series Topic

HOW TO GET THE MOST FROM
YOUR BIBLE STUDY

June 9, 2010

1
Learning How to Interpret Scripture
Through Context

2
1.

2.

What do I believe about my
faith?
How can I know the will of
God?

3
 We observe the historical-cultural context to see

what God was saying to the biblical audience.

 This time-bound mess...
 Once we understand the meaning of the text in its

original context, we can apply that meaning to
our lives in ways that...
 Information about

 the biblical writer
 the biblical audience
 any other historical-cultural elements
 Relates to j...
 Relates to the context within the book

 the form a passage takes
 the flow of argument within the book
 the meaning ...


What is historical-cultural context?
 Biblical writer

 Who was the author?
 What was his background?
 When did he ...
What is historical-cultural context?
The Biblical Writer Example
Hosea
1.What’s special about Hosea? (Hosea 1-3)
2.God’s i...
What is historical-cultural context?
The Biblical Writer Example
Hosea
1.What’s special about Hosea? (Hosea 1-3)
2.God’s i...
What is historical-cultural context?
The Biblical Writer Example
Author of 1 and 2 Chronicles
Repeats much of the inform...


What is historical-cultural context? (cont.)
 The Biblical audience

 Who was the biblical audience?
 What were thei...


What is historical-cultural context? (cont.)
 Other background elements

 Social
 Religious
 Political
 Economic
...


What is historical-cultural context? (cont.)
 Geographical – Jesus parable of the Good

Samarian (Luke 10:30)

14


What is historical-cultural context? (cont.)
 Geographical – Jesus parable of the Good

Samarian (Luke 10:30)
 Social...


What is historical-cultural context? (cont.)
 Geographical – Jesus parable of the Good

Samarian (Luke 10:30)
 Social...


What is historical-cultural context? (cont.)
 Geographical – Jesus parable of the Good

Samarian (Luke 10:30)
 Social...


Dangers associated with studying background
 Not studying historical-cultural context at all
 Getting bad information...


Conclusion
 Studying historical-cultural context is only a tool

to help us grasp God’s Word.

 Some people are convi...
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Learning How To Interpret Scripture Through Context

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Adapted from Grasping God's Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, Duvall, J. Scott; Hays, J. Daniel (2009-05-26) and Workbook: Journey into God's Word: Your Guide to Understanding and Applying the Bible. This lesson explains the elements of context when interpreting Bible Scripture.

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  • We believe that the way we approach the Bible (i.e., the way we listen to God) should match how God gave us the Bible (i.e., the way God chose to speak).
    Otherwise, we will likely misunderstand what God is trying to say to us.
    Since God spoke his message in specific, historical situations (i.e., to people living in particular places, speaking particular languages, adopting a particular way of life), we should take the ancient situation seriously.
  • Grasping the text in their town = understanding God’s meaning = applying meaning to my life
    Guiding principle: For our interpretation of any biblical text to be valid, it must be consistent with the historical-cultural context of that text.
    Remember that the Interpretive Journey moves from the meaning of the text for the biblical audience across the river of differences (e.g., time, place, culture, situation) by means of the principlizing bridge to the application of those theological principles in our lives.
  • By historical-cultural context we are referring to information about:
    the biblical writer,
    the biblical audience,
    and any other historical-cultural elements touched on by the passage itself.
    Historical-cultural context relates to just about anything outside the text that will help you understand the text itself
    (e.g., what life was like for the Israelites as they wandered in the desert, what the Pharisees believed about the Sabbath, where Paul was when he wrote Philippians
    We will look at each of these elements.
  • Literary context, by contrast, relates to the context within the book
    (e.g., the form a passage takes, the flow of argument within the book, and the meaning of the words and sentences that surround the passage you are studying).
    Why is it necessary to understand literary context?
    Let’s look briefly at each aspect of historical-cultural context and mention a few resources you can use to uncover that context
  • Try to find out as much as you can about the writer’s background.
    Try to determine when he wrote and the kind of ministry did he or she have?
  • Hosea’s ministry was linked to his marriage to his infamous wife, Gomer.
    Hosea’s life, and relationship with his straying wife, is a living metaphor for God and his love for his people. Hosea’s story is interspersed with poetic statements of alternating anger and love from God to Israel. The mingled anger at Israel’s rejection and promises of forgiveness if they would repent make for an emotionally powerful reading.
  • You will also want to understand more about the specific relationship between the writer and the people he was addressing
    Note Paul’s different tone in his letter to the Galatians and his letter for the Thessalonians. What was the two tones?
  • Perhaps the most important thing to know about the biblical writers is why they are writing.
    Why does the author of 1 and 2 Chronicles, for example, repeated much of Samuel and Kings?
    The answer lies in the writer’s purpose. The Chronicler (perhaps Ezra) is writing for Israel after the Exile (i.e., for the restored community).
    He is trying to show that God is still very much interested in his people after judging them by the Exile.
  • Discovering the historical-cultural context also involves knowing something about the biblical audience and their circumstances.
    Take Mark’s Gospel as an example. Mark makes a point of emphasizing the cross of Christ and the demands of discipleship throughout his Gospel. He saw Jesus as “servant”.
    Many scholars believe that Mark’s original audience was the church in the vicinity of Rome and that Mark was preparing them for the persecution they would soon face at the hands of Emperor Nero during the mid-60s AD.
    To encourage these believers to remain faithful in the midst of suffering, Mark stresses how Jesus remained faithful during his time of suffering.
  • Jesus starts his parable of the good Samaritan with the statement: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho” (Luke 10:30).
    You would certainly go down from Jerusalem to Jericho, descending from about 2,500 feet above sea level to about 800 feet below sea level.
    In addition, the trip would not be a walk in the park. The distance is almost twenty miles and would take you through some rugged desert country that offered plenty of hiding places for
  • Studying Ephesians 5:21 – 6:9, you need to know something about Greco-Roman household codes in order to make sense of your passage.
    These rules were developed primarily to instruct the head of the household about how to deal with members of his family.
    In Ephesians 5:25 Paul breaks the mold when he instructs husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
    Paul’s exhortation for all members of the household to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21) would have been even more radical.
  • On his second missionary tour (Acts 15:39 – 18:22), Paul plants a church at Philippi.
    There Paul and Silas meet a slave girl who has a spirit by which she predicts the future.
    She continues to bother the missionary team until Paul finally commands the spirit to come out of her.
    Her enraged owners then drag Paul and Silas into the marketplace, where the magistrates order them to be stripped, beaten, and later imprisoned for causing trouble. All this happens because the demon-possessed slave girl has been earning a lot of money for her owners
  • In the Acts 16 episode notice what happens next to Paul and Silas.
    After spending time in prison the magistrates send word that the missionaries may leave the city (Acts 16:36 – 40).
    Since it was illegal to publicly beat and imprison a Roman citizen, especially without a trial, the Roman officials act quickly to apologize for their actions.
    Paul and Silas probably demanded an escort out of town in order to make a public statement about their innocence for the benefit of the church in Philippi
  • Watch out for inaccurate background information.
    For example, those who say that the “eye of a needle” in Matthew 19:23 – 24 refers to the “camel’s gate” in Jerusalem are likely mistaken.
    There is no evidence for this kind of gate and the “eye of a needle” meant essentially what it means today (i.e., the eye of a sewing needle).
    Jesus is using the largest animal in Palestine and one of the smallest openings to make a forceful statement about how hard it is for the rich and powerful to enter God’s kingdom.
  • When we take time to understand the context, the passage comes alive and explodes with relevance (sometimes more than we can take).
    We are able to see that God was speaking to real people struggling with real life and that he continues to speak to us.
  • Learning How To Interpret Scripture Through Context

    1. 1. This Series Topic HOW TO GET THE MOST FROM YOUR BIBLE STUDY June 9, 2010 1
    2. 2. Learning How to Interpret Scripture Through Context 2
    3. 3. 1. 2. What do I believe about my faith? How can I know the will of God? 3
    4. 4.  We observe the historical-cultural context to see what God was saying to the biblical audience.  This time-bound message contains eternally relevant theological principles that we can discover and apply to our lives. – Historical-cultural context gives us a into God’s original meaning as reflected in the text. 4
    5. 5.  Once we understand the meaning of the text in its original context, we can apply that meaning to our lives in ways that will be just as relevant.  Guiding principle: For our interpretation of any biblical text to be valid, it must be consistent with the historicalcultural context of that text.  We must determine what a text meant in “their town” before we can determine what it means and how we should apply it in “our town.” 5
    6. 6.  Information about  the biblical writer  the biblical audience  any other historical-cultural elements  Relates to just about anything outside the text that will help you understand the text itself  Examples  What life was like for the Israelites as in the desert  What the Pharisees believed about the Sabbath  Where Paul was when he wrote Philippians) 6
    7. 7.  Relates to the context within the book  the form a passage takes  the flow of argument within the book  the meaning of the words and sentences that surround the passage 7
    8. 8.  What is historical-cultural context?  Biblical writer  Who was the author?  What was his background?  When did he write?  What was the nature of his ministry?  What kind of relationship did he have with his audience?  Why was he writing? 8
    9. 9. What is historical-cultural context? The Biblical Writer Example Hosea 1.What’s special about Hosea? (Hosea 1-3) 2.God’s indictment of sinful Israel (Hosea 4-14) 3.God’s love is unshakable (Hosea 11) 9
    10. 10. What is historical-cultural context? The Biblical Writer Example Hosea 1.What’s special about Hosea? (Hosea 1-3) 2.God’s indictment of sinful Israel (Hosea 4-14) 3.God’s love is unshakable (Hosea 11) Paul’s letter to the Galatians and Thessalonians 10
    11. 11. What is historical-cultural context? The Biblical Writer Example Author of 1 and 2 Chronicles Repeats much of the information 1 and 2 Samuel and Kings 11
    12. 12.  What is historical-cultural context? (cont.)  The Biblical audience  Who was the biblical audience?  What were their circumstances?  How was their relationship to God?  What kind of relationship did they have with each other?  What was happening at the time the book was written? 12
    13. 13.  What is historical-cultural context? (cont.)  Other background elements  Social  Religious  Political  Economic  Geographical 13
    14. 14.  What is historical-cultural context? (cont.)  Geographical – Jesus parable of the Good Samarian (Luke 10:30) 14
    15. 15.  What is historical-cultural context? (cont.)  Geographical – Jesus parable of the Good Samarian (Luke 10:30)  Social: Greco-Roman code – A study (Ephesians 5:21-6:9) 15
    16. 16.  What is historical-cultural context? (cont.)  Geographical – Jesus parable of the Good Samarian (Luke 10:30)  Social: Greco-Roman code – A study (Ephesians 5:21-6:9)  Economical – Slave Fortune-Teller (Acts 15:39-18:22) 16
    17. 17.  What is historical-cultural context? (cont.)  Geographical – Jesus parable of the Good Samarian (Luke 10:30)  Social: Greco-Roman code – A study (Ephesians 5:21-6:9)  Economical – Slave Fortune-Teller (Acts 15:39-18:22)  Political – Paul and Silas’ prison release (Acts 16:36-40) 17
    18. 18.  Dangers associated with studying background  Not studying historical-cultural context at all  Getting bad information  Focusing on background matters to the neglect of meaning and application 18
    19. 19.  Conclusion  Studying historical-cultural context is only a tool to help us grasp God’s Word.  Some people are convinced that background studies are tedious ways of making the Bible less relevant.  Knowing the historical-cultural context makes the passage explode with relevance—sometimes more than we can take. 19

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