“Context is key.” I can still hear my instructors and professors in my Bible classes at Faulkner University saying that over and over and over. They are right, “Context is key!” Anyone can take a single verse or a collection of verses from the Bible and make a point. The point or lesson may or may not be valid or worse even an accurate observation. Critics of the Bible are good at pulling various verses out of context to attempt to disprove the Bible. Those of us who claim to be Christians can also be guilty of pulling verses out of context to prove our arguments.
What follows is an example that I am using to show how someone can misuse the Bible. It is an extreme example of pretexting or eisegesis. (** WARNING ** What you are about to read is incorrect, even if the words are straight from the Bible. DO NOT follow the instruction I am about to give you.)
” . . . he departed, and he went and hanged himself.” Matt 27:5b
” . . . You go, and do likewise.” Luk 10:37b
” . . . What you are going to do, do quickly.” John 13:27b
Without the context of each verse one might believe that Jesus wants him to commit suicide quickly. AGAIN — this is NOT what these verses teach! However, if I can pull verses to supposedly say that, what else can I twist scripture to say, intentionally or not?
That is why “context is key.” When considering context, look at the verse with the following in mind:
- Where does this fit in the theme of the Bible?
- What is the book that this verse (passage) is in, and what is this book about?
- What does this specific section (group of chapters) in this book teach?
- What does the thrust of this entire chapter relate about this verse?
- What is the topic of the paragraph around this verse?
- What do the verses immediately before and after say?
- Who is speaking? Does this person speak for God, himself, mankind, or the devil?
- Who are they speaking too? Does this have a specific message for specific person (or group of people)?
- Why are these words said?
Another hint at context is the genre of the book, section, or chapter. Genre will help determine how I apply or what I learn from a verse or group of verses. Is this verse or passage from:
- Figurative language
This is enough to digest today.
Keep reading, keep studying, keep learning, and keep growing.