Thursday, January 27, 2011

Text, Context and Supporting Texts

Text, Context and Supporting Texts
Thursday, January 27, 2011

Psalm 14:1
The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God."

They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds;

There is no one who does good.

When it comes to studying Scripture, there are some guidelines that can be extremely helpful. Since we are 2000 years removed from the New Testament and even longer from the Old, how can we be certain that we are interpreting the Bible according to the intended meaning of the author? That is a great question. There are three steps that will greatly enhance the likelihood of accuracy. They are:

1. Text
2. Context
3. Supporting texts

Start by reading the biblical text. Read the books of the Bible in their entirety. Rather than pick an isolated chapter here or there or a verse here or there, read the Bible as it was written, in books. For example, read Matthew or Luke or the Psalms systematically, straight through. If you are reading a given verse or verses within a given book, it is important to remember its broader context. What sentences are immediately before it, what follows. For example, Psalm 14:1 says that "there is no God." Out of context, I could claim that the Bible teaches that "there is no God." However, if I look at the context, the verse actually says, "The fool has said in his heart, 'there is no God.'" This does make a difference in interpretation. The final step is to look at supporting texts. So, in the example above, you might look up additional times the word fool is used in the Bible. Or you could examine verses in Proverbs that outline characteristics of the wise and foolish person. This would give a fuller understanding of the "fool".

There are other principles that we could mention that are helpful in studying the Bible, but these three will take us a long way and will keep us from faulty views and pitfalls that have caused many to stumble. Take some time today to study your Bible. Remember, that study is simply the first step. Knowledge without obedience is incomplete.

Father, cause me to hunger and thirst for You and Your word. I need You. Fill me Holy Spirit. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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L. Douglas Dorman, President
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