Double the Trouble if You Ignore the Context

When you ignore the context, you don’t know what the author is talking about.

When you don’t read the text before and after a verse, you create a context vacuum that you are tempted to fill with your own life circumstances. Since context determines the meaning of the smaller unit of text, your own life situation becomes the new context that changes the meaning of the verse.

 

Never read a Bible verse. Never try to determine the meaning of a biblical text without reading its context. Always read a paragraph before and after. Even better, read the whole chapter or entire biblical book.

You’ve probably heard us at Stand to Reason say this in the past. It’s our way of reminding people to always read Scripture in context. If you don’t, this can create two related problems.

First, when you ignore the context, you don’t know what the author is talking about. That’s a serious liability to figuring out what the verse in question means. That’s because context—more than anything—determines the meaning of the text you’re reading.

Some people think that knowing the original language is the most important element in interpretation. Although knowing Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic can be helpful, it doesn’t tell you everything. The Greek language might tell you the possible options for the meaning of a New Testament word. The context, though, will tell you which of those options is being used in the passage.

When you ignore the context, then, you are ignoring the information the author is giving you to tell you what he’s talking about. If you don’t know what he’s talking about, then it’s possible to misunderstand what he means. If you misunderstand the author’s intended meaning, then you’re misunderstanding what God is trying to tell you.

Second, when you ignore the context, you are more likely to create new context from your life situation. When you don’t read the text before and after a verse, you create a context vacuum that you are tempted to fill with your own life circumstances. Since context determines the meaning of the smaller unit of text, your own life situation becomes the new context that changes the meaning of the verse.

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