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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sitz im Leben

You may have heard that you need to understand the historical context of a passage before you can really grasp what the text is about.  Do not buy that.
Do you have to know the history of the times of the Bible to understand it?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Ok, I will admit that knowing the history of the time can add depth to your Bible study.  But the reality is most of what we know about the early church is contained in the New Testament.  There are “scholars” who will recreate what they think was happening but most of that is vast speculation based on half vast data.  If it were the case that one needed to deeply understand the history to understand and apply the Bible, the Bible would only be the domain of historians.  The rest of us would be out of luck.

Do not buy that.  Paul tells us that all scripture is inspired and profitable, 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17.  John tells us that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth, John 16:13.  If it were the case that you would need secondary history sources to profit from God’s Word.  Those verses would read differently perhaps the 2 Timothy passage would read something like, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable after you read all of the commentaries on the book and fully understand the historical context then it will instruct you…”  But it does not say that, does it.

You can benefit from God’s Word just by reading and observing the text.

You know if it is important, God probably put it in the text.  A quick example.  In a session in another country we were studying 2 Peter.  It was observed that the book was written close to the end of Peter’s life.  One of the men asked how he could find out how old Peter was when Peter was killed.  He said it would help him understand the text better.  I pointed out that in several cases that God did tell us how old people were when they died.  Genesis has a number of them.  But He does not tell us how old Peter was.  I suggested that apparently it was important to know how old Adam were when they died but not Peter.

The point is that God has put what we need to know in His Word.  The secondary sources can help sometimes but they are not necessary and frankly can in some cases be a problem.

1 comment:

  1. The next to last sentence is very enabling and honoring to the Holy Spirit who moved holy men to write according to the will of God, "The point is that God has put what we need to know in His Word." Emphasis on the word, "need." My curiosity often wishes to go beyond what is written. But although I love the history of the ancient Middle East and the Bible era (particularly Abraham on) it is not necessary to get God's meaning for me.

    One example is Paul's letters to the churches; just beginning to start a study on the book of Acts, I already see an incredible amount of perspective regarding the potential conditions of these churches that help to illuminate Paul's words, means and what potential insights and applications may arise from those that I may not have seen before. Apparently the Holy Spirit wants me to understand some of that as He went to the trouble to have that recorded and preserved for me over the last 20 centuries. I rejoice!