Biblical Context is Important


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In a recent article Keita said the following “So, Christians: I concede. It’s possible that I simply lack understanding of how to interpret the bible. So explain it to me.”

Now Keita, there can be many different answers to this and the answer is not a simple one. The Bible is made up of 66 books with 40  authors. These books were assembled into one volume long after they were written. The Bible was also written in a number of languages, some of which do not have a literal English translation. The English language can be a hindrance when trying to understand the Bible. That is why Biblical context is so important.

In July Koos Luerre posted the following “

"... the Bible is a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and 'improved' by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries"

— Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion)

A dishonest person could say the following about the above quote :- Richard Dawkins said, in The God Delusion, that the Bible was “composed, revised, translated and improved by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries.” Clearly this is a misrepresentation of what was intended.

Sadly when non-believers read the Bible and try to understand what is written they make similar mistakes.  Let me pose another example:-

 I can make the following statement :- “I had lunch with Godfrey, a Christian man and a literary genius.”  I ask the question how many people did I have lunch with, one or three? In order to answer that question the reader would need to know more about Godfrey. In this case those that know Godfrey, aka atheitis or GB Garrett, would know that as Godfrey is not a Christian, there would have been myself plus three others at lunch. Without this little bit of information about Godfrey, the statement could be debated for a long time.

English can be a very misleading language the following statements show this :-

  1. The average North American consumes more than 400 Africans.

  2. I am much better at holding my liquor than a panda bear

  3. Pilots asked to alter course

In the past, when I came across a Biblical passage that I struggled with, I would conduct a great deal of research. I would look at different Bible translations, I would see what respected theologians would say and I would then be able to form my own conclusions. In a sense I “pursued  the truth” until I was satisfied. I did not give up. The easier way would have been for me to give in and say that the Bible contradicted itself, or was not the inspired word of God. Paul describes the Christian life as a race and the victors crown is given to those that persevere to the end. NOT to those that come first.

So I say to Keita, and those that are genuinely looking for answers try the following :-

  1. Read the passages before and after the particular text.

  2. Look at different translations. Study Bibles give more background and can be of great assistance. An excellent resource is David Pawson’s “Unlocking the Bible”

  3. Read what respected theologians have to say e.g. Mathew Henry, John Piper, Philip Yancey etc. When doing this, follow those that have overcome the difficulty that you are currently facing. One word of caution, remember that these opinions will be those of men and need to be cross referenced with the Bible. Check what people are saying with the scriptures.

  4. Ask God for His guidance.

  5. Persevere until you make sense of the passage.

In short, to mention something that Rools said, you do not have to have a Phd to read the Bible. Understanding the Bible is the same as any other subject. If you want to understand biology you read biology books, and the more you study the deeper your understanding will become. It is sad that so many give up trying to understand the Bible as soon as they come across a passage that does not make sense to them.