Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Taking it all out of context

I was at lunch when someone partly quoted Matt 7:7, "ask and it shall be given", without realizing that it is from the bible, and was taking it out of context. 

I then realised that quotations taken from famous people may also be taken out of context. I suppose people in general would freely take quotations to be applied in whatever ways that are suitable and relevant to them. And I'm sure the originator of the statements quoted would mind their words being taken out of context.

Christians, particularly bible scholars and theologians, as we all should be, take the context of bible verses very seriously and we would not misinterpret them as we please. We read them in immediate context of the passage and in overall context with the whole of Scripture. 

We must not take bible verses in isolation and interpret them as we like. If we do that, we can take the Word of God to mean anything we please and that we must avoid. The intention of a writer of any books or of a speaker of any speeches is very important. If I say or write something, I am intending it to mean what I intend it to mean, not as what you would want it to mean as you please. More importantly for the Bible when it carries the gospel, a life giving message. 

Dr James Davis of says, "When it comes to making claims about what the Bible means, sometimes we hear comments from Christians or non-Christians like the following: “Well, that’s just your interpretation.” “The Bible can be made to say anything you want.” “You can’t really understand the Bible. It is full of contradictions.” “No one can understand the true meaning of anything anyone says.” Or, someone sitting in a Bible study might say, “This is what the Bible means to me.”"

So how are we to know what the bible is really saying?Some verses are very commonly taken out of context. One of them is definitely Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." If you read it with its previous verse, you will see that Paul was talking about the immense suffering he was facing and with that, we cannot apply it to ourselves so freely. 

Paul said, "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:12-13)

Davis gives 7 principle of biblical interpretation. Do you agree with them? Check it out here for the details. 

Principle 1: Interpretation must be based on the author’s intention of meaning and not the reader.
Principle 2: Interpretations must be done in the context of the passage.
Principle 3: Interpret the Bible literally (or normally) allowing for normal use of figurative language.
Principle 4: Use the Bible to help interpret itself.
Principle 5: Interpretation must be distinguished from application.
Principle 6: Be sensitive to distinctions betweenIsrael and the church and Old Covenant and New Covenant eras/requirements.
Principle 7: Be sensitive to the type of literature 


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