Bible

Session XI: The importance of context and tools

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Be aware of the CONTEXT!

The Bible cannot mean something else from what it does say. The Bible cannot mean what it never meant!

Teachers Study: "Blame SHIFTING"

"The man said, The woman you put here with me‑‑she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it. Then the LORD God said to the woman, What is this you have done? The woman said, The serpent deceived me, and I ate." (Gen. 3:12-13)

As soon as man sinned, he quickly commenced to blame others. One of the effects of sin is the refusal to take responsibility for our actions. This is the attitude, which is so popular today from young people to Presidents. This is the favorite manner in which most people handle guilt, which is they blame others. They do this for two reasons:

§ First; they do not want to live with guilt.

§ Second: they do not want to suffer the consequences of their actions.

Blaming others allows an escape mechanism, like an ejection seat that avoids the consequences (crash = suffering) by bailing out. However, this is not as effective as most people think. Freeing the burden of guilt by escaping only puts it off until later, while in the meantime it grows and spreads out of control, and continues to gnaw away at our conscience. So this defense mechanism only makes matters worse. "Blame Shifting" can be illustrated by visualizing an old fashioned scale. As one side of the scale becomes increasingly loaded with the weight of guilt, the guilt ridden person just shifts the guilt to the other side of the scale. And we all do this by blaming others.

There is just one problem with this (okay a lot more problems), the act of blaming others instead of taking the responsibility for one's own actions flies in the face of the Gospel. It is unjust and serves only to increase the guilt and the problems we incur with others in our relationships. This becomes a pattern of dysfunctional behavior that is an endless loop of a hopeless cycle.

In spite of Adam and Eve's "Clinton-isk" slick blame shifting, God held them accountable and they suffered the consequences of their disobedience.

 

"To Adam he said, Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, You must not eat of it, Cursed is the ground because of you." (Gen. 3:17)

God not only held him responsible for his action, He also held him responsible for listening to the voice of his wife (the influence of others!!!) instead of listening to the voice of God. His excuse only served to increase his personal responsibility and guilt. We must learn that God does not allow us to avoid the consequences of our actions by blaming others. In fact we are held responsible for blaming others. We may think we can get away with it as certain presidents have, but make no mistake, if we fail to hold each other accountable for our actions, you can be sure that God will hold us responsible.

"So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." (Romans 14:12-13)

On the day of judgment, there will be no opportunities for blame shifting. Those who have cleverly "Clintonized" the laws of God will one day discover that God and His Law are inflexible.

Lesson Outline:

Remember to begin in prayer!

· Prayer 5 min

· Only one "Open" option 5-10 min

· Read lesson and bible passages 10-15min (you can do this and discussions

together)

· Discussion groups 15-30 min

· Going deep 5-10 min

· End in prayer and repeat application. 5 min

Total lesson time 45 min- 1 hr

 

"Open"

Gather together some different kinds of underwear for display purposes (preferably clean), and say; "several years ago there was a commercial on TV where a man in an elevator announced he was "feeling good all over" as he was dancing around. And the then the announcer says, "Hanes makes you feel good all under."

§ What is your favorite kind of underwear?

§ Have you ever felt so excited about something that you wanted to announce it to the world?

§ We may not report how much we like our underwear, but what do you report with excitement to your friends?

Read Proverbs 19: 21-23

Ask, what do you think when someone is more concerned how they feel and think over against the truth?

§ Can you think of an example?

§ Is it okay to feel and think wrong as long as you feel it is okay?

§ Is God more concerned with truth or feelings?

§ Is it tough remaining in integrity at your school or work?

Read I John 2:15-17

§ How does this thinking effect the way we interpret Scripture?

Lesson: "The importance of context and tools"

So why do Christians disagree on a lot of points?

First we may make a lot of "LOGICAL" errors, and misinterpret it, take a passage(s) out of its context, or rush through it. We look at one ambiguous text and ignore the clear scores of others. Christians are not perfect and are subject to reasoning and judgment fallacies. Even the greatest scientific minds disagree for these same reasons! Hence why there are so many theories in science, and they are always changing.

Second, we are limited by the education and knowledge we process, and by the information at our disposal, and knowing how to use that information! Our perspectives are limited and we do not always see the big picture, thus our interpretations are sometimes flawed, or adequate work and effort were not put into it.

Third, One of the biggest causes of errors is our prejudice. That is our preconceived ideas and biases that cloud our thinking. Such as believing in a particular mode of baptism. We may grow up in a church that practices "believers baptism" or "infant baptism" only, thus are unwilling to look deeper theologically at the other views.

People tend to rationalize their faulty beliefs instead of researching and discovering the facts for themselves. Or they do not want to know or grow beyond their limited experience, or base decisions on emotions and do not seriously see the logic.

 

Fourth, we are still full of sin and fall way short, thus we are susceptible to the influences of Satan and are unable to reason with true perfection!

For example in John 1:1, the Jehovah's Witnesses believe Jesus is not God, but "a god" as Lucifer to is "a god" in their theology. In I Corinthians 15:29 the Mormons believe it is okay to baptize people who have already died. In Mark 16:18, some American Appalachian sects handle poisonous snakes to prove their faith. Some Bible teachers on TV use III John 2 as an excuse to teach the "health and wealth" gospel. Yet when you examine these texts they do not teach any of those things! These are classic cases of bad interpretation for the reasons fore mentioned.

· The Bible does not teach anything we please.

· The Bible cannot mean something else from what it does say. The Bible cannot mean what it never meant!

These are three crucial areas of "exegesis" that we have to know before we can interpret correctly:

1. We must be aware of our nature, that is we as fallen humans will compare all that we see hear, read and understand to what we have already previously experienced and have learned. We also have to take into account our culture, education, emotional level, and anything else that makes us human and separated from the pure character of God. Thus we are extremely limited in our scope to perceive in a pure logical and precise way (hence why people disagree on every subject known).

2. We must be aware of the nature of Scripture and the Divine Authors intent. There are several different types of literature or as scholars say "genre" (pronounced jon-ra) types, by different human writers with different cultures, education and audience, all Divinely inspired.

3. In the same thought, God has given us a very capable brain and resources to use. In other words "you can do it."

Thus we are the interpreters! What we read all filters through our will and perceptions and then we try to make sense of it. It also filters through the types of literature, the "dual nature" of Scripture, which is the Divine Author and the human hand that penned it (God's Word is still infallible and inspired through this dual nature). We cannot just infuse our experience and limited understanding into the text what is not there and give the credit to the Holy Spirit. We cannot think that our way of thinking is the correct and only way (hence why there are so many denominations). Because even the meaning and expression of a word can vary from person to person as we add our perceptions into everything.

· The Bible was written by the words of people through their cultures, times and histories, all Divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit!

· The Bible speaks to us through every language and culture that has ever or will exist!

When we are aware of this "tension" between the Bibles language, history and literature, and our perceptions, then we can be careful interpreters. We can be on guard, and be in prayer: So that we are focused on Christ and His Word and not our self.

See appendix A for list of "genres" literature to be aware of.

Be aware of the CONTEXT!!!!!

There are two main areas of "context" we always need to be aware of and ask the text: "what are the "historical" and what are the "literary" settings." That is the content of what is going on in the text. What is going on preceding and after our text, the type(s) of literature, and the various cultural factors? What is the point and train of thought? This in scholarly circles is called "Hermeneutics" the study of interpretation. See Appendix A

1. The Historical Context: This is the type of literature "genres" that refer to the time period and culture of the people who wrote it and are writing too. The Locations such as the travels of Paul and Jesus, and the time and the sequence of events. This refers to the "occasion" and "purpose" of the Authors intention and how and what it means to them and how and what it means to us.

Such as what is the personal background of Isaiah, what was his position (job), who was he writing to, what were the people like (culture and customs), what were their expectations are some of the key questions to know what is going on. Careful reading the text and Bible Encyclopedias, Handbooks, and Dictionaries will give you those insights. But make sure you make your own observations first!

2. The Literary Context: This is the meaning of the words; the Nouns, Verbs, and Adjectives. Both the meaning of the word(s) itself as well as what they mean in their context of sentence structure and surrounding passages. You can do this quite simply by comparing the word you wish to "dig" by looking at a Concordance and at various translations, such as the word "Denarius" in the Gospels. You may automatically think it is money. And you are right, but what kind of money, what was it used for, what is the amount and its worth are critical questions to understand the meaning of the passage. Be aware that the verse numbers, paragraphs and chapters are not part of the original text!

Discussion:

(This lesson is designed to show the importance of context and how we make mistakes in interpretation when we read the Bible. For this session you need a Concordance, Bible Dictionary, Commentaries, Word Study books, (see Appendix C), you should be able to find these books in your church library or from your pastor.)

In this lesson we are going to learn the importance of the tools to the Bible and how to use them (try to have the books in hand to show). When we come to a text that we do not understand or we need to gain new and better insights, we then (only after you pursued the questions to your passage) go to a commentary or "tool!" There are several good sets available.

(From the classic "Matthew Henry," to more modern versions such as, "With the Word" by Wiersbe and "Halley's Bible Handbook." These are single devotional style one volume books, simple to read and understand, and great for general overviews and insights. There are two great study Bibles I recommend, "NIV Study Bible" or the "New Geneva Study Bible," that have a Bible and notes on most of the passages. Then there are multi-volume sets, pick from such solid Biblical publishers, as Tyndale, Inter- Varsity, Zondervan, Moody Press, Eerdmans, Baker, or Thomas Nelson.)

If you do not know which one to choose, ask a pastor you trust. Unfortunately, there is a lot of garbage out there. Beware and be discerning. Always compare Scripture to Scripture, and do not rely just on people's opinions!

· Learning to think "exegetically" will give you a deeper and richer experience in your relationship with Christ. Because you are in a deeper and richer understanding of His Word!

· Your study and reading will become more enjoyable and exciting!

One of the great themes of the Bible is God's love and saving grace to us who do not deserve it!

Remember Too: Make an emotional identification into the text. Place yourself as a participant, being active in it; As if it is your story; As if you are there!

Look up in your Bibles III John.

Read the whole book (it is very short) first in a paraphrase, then the King James, and then the NIV. Ask these questions you have already learned. Remember to overview then take a careful look at a specific verse; verse 2.

§ What does this text say?

§ What does this text mean?

§ What is it saying and what's the meaning in the context?

§ Does this text have anything to do with financial prosperity?

§ How does it compare to the character of Christ and His teachings?

§ Look up in a concordance the key words, "good," "health," "well," and compare them to similar passages. Then look at a Bible that has the references in the margins, and look them up. What did you find? (Sometimes the words we look up have a lot of references. Some, or even most, may not correspond to the text, or there are no references.) Now look up this text in a commentary, what did you find?

§ A lot of people teach that this verse means that God will never allow you to get sick, unless you have no faith. Also that God desires you to be wealthy and in good health, and if you are not, there is something wrong with you spiritually. So are they right?

§ What rules did they break in their interpretation?

Application:

§ How can you know yourself better and your ways of thinking?

§ What can you do to guard yourself from making such mistakes?

§ It is great to be excited about Scripture! But we must not allow our excitement and expectations to influence bad thinking and bad interpretation.

"Going Deep:"

Read Matthew 5: 3-12 in a paraphrase by candlelight, then remain silent for 3 minutes.

© 2000, Rev. Richard .J. Krejcir Ph.D. Discipleship Tools www.discipleshiptools.org
Into Thy Word � 1978-2016