Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The joys of Context

My first summer at the Sem I took Hebrew with many of the 1st/2nd year students (the folks a year ahead of me).  The most frustrating thing about that class was a common phrase we would hear from Dr. Maier - "Context will determine the meaning of the word."  Over and over we would ask, "when we see this word, what is it?"  Context will determine the meaning of the word.

As a note, this should be obvious to any English speaker.  Consider the word "bank".  Is it a place to store money, the side of a river, a bounce, a verb meaning to trust?  Context will determine the meaning of the word.

But Dr. Maier pointed to something that anyone, when reading the Scriptures, needs to remember.  Context shapes what is said and what things mean.  The easiest way to help understand a passage is to read what comes before and what comes after it.  Expand your context.

And more than that, consider the setting.  In my Count Joy Show Podcast we are moving into discussing 2 Peter after having looked at 1st.  And many, many "scholars" will talk about how obviously 2 Peter must be written by someone else.  I say... check the context, or the occasion of the writing.  1 Peter is a nice, general letter.  2 Peter is written by an arrested man who is awaiting his own execution. You think those letters might sound different, might be pointing to different things?


So remember, the Scriptures are not merely a collection of random answers to specific questions that we can look up by chapter and verse.  Each book has it's own flow, it's own purpose and approach.  Enjoy the whole thing, enjoy the context.

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