Last post we considered how easily we slip into opinion sharing as acceptable for seeking truth in studying the Bible. This time we will consider the recommended approach that will help ensure wise analysis and prevent the “this is what I think” approach that can turn Scripture into a mystical game board for seeking what we desire.
As previously asked, what does it mean to evaluate a word or biblical concept “within context”?
When proponents of contextual analysis refer to this, they often limit their meaning to three aspects of context: the particular passage of the Bible within which the word or concept is embedded, the scope of definitions within the original language, and related history. All three are very appropriate, but by themselves they can still miss the mark.
There are actually 10 distinct layers of context and a well reasoned approach will travel through all 10 layers. The first six elevate aspects of Scripture itself, the last four consider additional aspects within our human realm of experience that illuminate understanding of statements within the Bible. Of the above three, only the first one mentioned actually rests upon the words of God.
Before citing the layers of context, it should be pointed out that the 10 do have an order. It is an order of approach, but not entirely of importance. Of course, the first six maintain primary revelatory authority, but within those six, each layer is equally reliable because they all are layers of Scripture itself.
However, it would be a mistake to assume that any one layer is sufficient for understanding the truth being sought without considering how the Spirit of God may be revealing or confirming in other parts of Scripture. Also particularly with regard to the first six layers, if discrepancies persist, then there is probably something amiss with our understanding for right review will always find unity in biblical revelation.
I find it most helpful to view the layers like concentric circles – ripples that are considered from where we dip into the well of truth. So when seeking to understand a particular word or idea being presented within the Bible, here are
the ten Commandments of Context:
- In Sentence
- In Passage
- In Book
- In author’s other Writings
- In Covenant
- In Scripture as a whole
- In Language
- In History
- In Practice
- In Faith
Next we will take a brief look at each and see how they operate.
What types of important distinctions can you recognize in the above list of approaches?