The Christian Scriptures have been writing ages ago by people from different cultures for people of those societies. How often do we check the facts when we read magazines or newspapers? This tends to remain in the realm of scholars and students, or folks with certain passions. Why do we not do the same with the Holy Bible or sermons?
For the next six weeks we will continue going through Dr George Guthrie’s study Read the Bible for Life.
In regards to interpreting the God’s Holy Word, there are four areas of context (with a fifth to bring it home). Guthrie lists these as follows: historical, cultural, literary, and theological. The fifth one is personal context (more on this later).
As already mentioned, the Bible was originally written for a different audience in a different period. But this does not mean we cannot get anything out of the passages. In keeping the historical context, as we read the Bible, we need to ask: what was going on in the world around them? And for cultural context: why did they do or believe certain things? The questions will answer a lot for us in understanding the passage as the original audience would have understood it.
The next one, literary context, has several layers to it. The first is knowing how it fits within the rest: how does the passage fit in with the rest of the chapter? How does the chapter fit in with the rest of the book? From there literary context merges with theological context: how does the passage fit with the rest of the Bible? Or it can be worded this way: how does the passage fit in with the Big Picture, the overall theme(s) of God’s message?
In my opinion, theological context is the primary context. The reason for this is it asks the reader to dig deeper into God’s Holy Word and at the same time to dig deeper into one’s own soul. What is the passage telling us about God, salvation, the world or humanity’s fallen state? This last part leads to personal context. After we look into the primary contexts and answer them, we have to turn the Scriptures inward: what is God saying to me right here and right now?
These five areas of contexts will be our main headings for our study In God’s Holy Word. Every book, every passage in the Bible has contexts we need to examine, and examine them we will. Stay tuned for more reasons to study the Holy Bible.