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Tips to Understand Your Bible - Tip 1: Context

The primary rule of Bible interpretation is to take into consideration the context of a passage. At times, understanding the correct context of a particular passage written in the Bible can be difficult since we are now living in the 21st century, and what we now consider to be our canonized scripture was written thousands of years ago shaped by a different world view. This means that the way we interpret scripture can be very different than what was originally intended by the author. Here are 5 main contexts that should be considered while reading your Bible:

  1. The immediate passage or what was written write beforehand.

  2. The context of the book in which it was written.

  3. Other books of the Bible written by the same author.

  4. The entire Old or New Testament in which the book or verse was written.

  5. The entire narrative of the Bible.

Understanding the theme of a book, chapter, or even the whole narrative of the Bible can be immensely helpful when trying to gain insight into difficult passages. For example, in I Corinthians 8:13 Paul says, “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” Now, Paul is not recommending a meatless diet for all believers. When we take a closer look, the context shows that Paul is actually talking about abstaining from meat offered to idols so he would not cause a fellow brother to stumble. Only when we begin to ask ourselves the questions listed below do we start to gain a better understanding of what Paul was really saying in this verse.

  1. Who is speaking?

  2. Who is the audience?

  3. When did this happen?

  4. Where did this take place?

  5. What is the main theme of the passage?

  6. What is being said?

This may seem like a lot of work initially but it will really pay off as you begin to find answers to some of these questions. It will ultimately help you better understand the history, cultural differences, and narrative of what we now refer to as the Bible.

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