I know I talk a lot about context. However, I have failed to address the entirety of the concept, and in my entries I have limited it to the preceding and following verses of a specific Bible passage. Context, however, is much more than that.
Context is, I believe, the setting, background, history, time, audience, writer’s influence, circumstances, culture, society, government, and everything that influences the construction of something, in this case literature, and it’s delivery to its particular audience.
So, with this in mind, context is much more than the verses or chapters before/after a specific verse. We cannot approach the Bible and believe it is always talking about us or that what we’re reading can be applied to a specific group today just because we believe it must, or we cannot infer doctrine based just on one verse. The Bible is the grouping together of books, which cannot be read separately one from the other. For example, Revelation 3:20 is a good example of a terrible misconception in the Church today (see Debunker no.3), which is solved only by looking at a few verses before and after, BUT also by taking in consideration WHO the audience was and WHAT TIME it was addressed to.
The Church must stop neglecting context. Many Christians contend that all we need is the actual Bible pages, without considering the culture, society, language, age, etc…which take dedication and time to learn, and which I will always be in the process of learning.
Let’s consider a word from the original Greek language:
“His Lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:23; KJV).
This is what we have always heard isn’t it? “servant,” right? Servant doesn’t sound that harsh right? Especially because Jesus used this so many times to refer to His children, right?
Problem: the original word in the Greek language is doulos, which can be translated as follows:
1) a slave, bondman, man of servile condition
a) a slave
b) metaph., one who gives himself up to another’s will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men
c) devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests
2) a servant, attendant
Woah…the problem here is that we have grown up with this connotation of the word servant as something willful, right? However, the Greek language AND the culture at the time clearly teach that the word used here and in many other passages is the word for SLAVE: someone’s whose will is BOUND to his master’s, whose fate and destiny are bound to his master, whose activities are bound to what his master wills, someone who is useful to what the master requires, someone who does not belong to himself, but to his master.
That’s a harsh concept isn’t it? Bye bye carnal christian! When we become open to these things we realize the seriousness of the Bible in many aspects that the Church has softened today, the extent of the commitment we have to our Savior and Lord.
There is so much more to say about this subject. The fact is, we should always interpret the Bible as Jesus and His disciples interpreted it, considering the culture of the countries the Bible’s events took place, the language, the time gap between then and now, the changes occurred to geography, locations, culture, society, etc. See, the problem is that we keep thinking the Bible was written in the 21st century as a poem book to woo us or comfort us in our problems. It was not. We need to understand this basic truth and be open to this only and Biblical interpretation…or else we will be “…children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14; NASB).