One of the first rules that one learns in seminary and also at the Training College is that “a text out of context only serves as pretext”. This means that to truly be comprehended the biblical truth must be understood through specific filters, or to perceive it clearly it must be observed through certain lenses.
Let me explain, as a missionary presented her son to an elderly African man she became outraged when he spat on her child’s head. However after understanding that in the old man’s culture this gesture meant to bless someone, her annoyance turned into joy. If she had stayed with her first perception she would have misinterpreted the situation.
The issues can have different meanings in distinct epochs and distinct places. Therefore the Bible reader must always have in mind the historic and geographic context of the content being read. The question “what meaning does the content read had in the epoch which happened and in the place of the world that it occurred?” must honestly be answered to help avoid a series of wrong interpretations. Besides the historic and geographic context, another filter or lens to be used is the biblical parallel, that is, to sincerely respond “what does the Bible say about the same issue in other biblical passages?” this will also contribute to prevent erroneous interpretations.
There are other biblical interpretative rules but if we at least use the historic-geographical context and the biblical parallel we would rightly understand many biblical truths and transfer them with integrity avoiding the heresies that flourish when there is lack of knowledge.
True knowledge doesn’t exclude God but emanates from him. Therefore as conscious children we must understand and share his Word in depths realizing that knowledge enables building but ignorance allows for destruction. As it happened to the missionary lady, to understand the context makes us aware of the magnitude of the blessing.
Which are the bible texts that you have difficulty to understand?
How can you deepen your understanding of biblical issues?
(Ignorance of the Scriptures, Mathew 22:29 – Knowledge of the faith, 1 Peter 3:15)