When it comes to reading Scripture, context is key.  

Too much of our current biblical study focuses on isolated verses and neglects the context of which the verses were originally written.

 

As we study Scripture, we must acknowledge the reader’s context and identify the author’s context.

The Reader’s Context

  1. Preconceived Notions
    1. Preunderstanding is the dangerous collection of preconceived notions that we bring to the text before actually studying the text itself.
    2. Preunderstanding includes previous exposures (positive and negative) to the text.
  2. Traditional Experience
    1. Our spiritual upbringing has created a filter with which to view Scripture.
    2. We can tend to interpret Scripture based on how it makes us feel.
    3. Even our familial and ministerial relationships have the ability to skew our understanding of Scripture.
  3. Theological Bias
    1. We can approach the text looking for a particular slant to a specific topic.
    2. We tend to avoid, ignore, or defend passages that do not agree with our personal convictions.

The Author’s Context

  1. Historical Context
    1. To understand the main point of a passage, we must acknowledge the timeframe of when it was written.
    2. Understanding a passage in context of the grand narrative of the Bible will assist us in allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture.
  2. Cultural Context
    1. Reading any portion of Scripture forces us to enter into a culture of which we have never been a part.
    2. Gathering solid resources can help you understand geographical locations, cultural phrases, and social customs.
  3. Authorial Context
    1. The more information we can gather regarding the author, the better we can understand the passage.
    2. In reading the Bible, we attempt to discover the authorial intent.
    3. A text cannot mean what it never meant.
  4. Literary Context
    1. We must respect the genre, organization, and flow of a scriptural passage to discern its theological contribution.
    2. If we only read Scripture through small sections without respect to the literary context, we miss the fuller picture of each book of the Bible.
  5. Reader’s Context
    1. Each passage of Scripture was God’s Word to “them” before it became God’s Word to “us.”
    2. To gain the fullest meaning of a text, ask the question, “How would the original readers interpret this passage?”
    3. If our present interpretation would not make sense to the original audience, we probably have an incorrect interpretation.

Travis Agnew is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. He serves as the Senior Pastor of Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is What God Has Joined Together.