Historical context

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by christianyouth, Dec 20, 2006.

  1. christianyouth

    christianyouth
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    Most people would agree that to understand one of the books of the Bible, one must know the historical context. That is, to understand one of the Epistles, one should have to know what was occuring at the time, what situation they were in, the reasons for writing, ect.

    So, here is the question, do you think knowing the Historical context is an imperative to understanding the meaning of the book?

    The next question is, If so, why did God not record the historical content in the Epistle?

    Next, How do we gain the historical context of a book?

    Lastly, Can anyone give an example of where understanding the historical context has opened up the book to you.

    The reason for these questions, is that I have been rolling along at a decent pace on my Bible study, I am on the book of 1 Corinthians, and I am wondering if establishing historical context would help me to better see the authors meaning.

    God's blessings,
    Thanks in advance for the great responses I know I will get,
    Your little brother in Christ,
    Andy
     
  2. Helen

    Helen
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    Andy, Because the nature of God (and the nature of sinful man) has/have not changed, the historical content is not necessary to understand God's message theologically.

    That being said, yes, there is a great deal to be gained by studying the history of the time. My favorite example is when I was leading a deaf women's Bible study and one of these dear women signed to me "Why salt? Why Jesus say we salt?"

    Instead of giving her the traditional answer of 'because salt tastes good and preserves things', I told her to wait a week and I would look it up.

    I searched every time salt was used in the Bible via two concordances. I thought I was at the end and had found no surprises at all. But then, just to be absolutely thorough, I thought, OK, one more: 'lose saltiness' -- I'll check that last one.

    And yes, I did get a surprise. The phrase which translates 'lose saltiness' twice in the Gospels is used FOUR times in the New Testament. But the other two times that same exact phrase is not translated as 'lose saltiness', but rather as 'become fools' or 'become foolish', in Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 1.

    That is when I realized that a common idiom (at that time) for wisdom was 'salt'. And THAT changed my way of looking at what Jesus was saying rather much!

    The message does not change, but our understanding of it deepens the more we study.
     
  3. Not_hard_to_find

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    Not imperative to understanding the meaning of the book. But thoroughly enjoyed "The Old Testament as History" and "The New Testament as History" college courses taken decades ago.


    I would suggest that study Bible would be an excellent assist to you. I love my Ryrie, but there are others available.

    God bless your enthusiam for learning!
     
  4. LeBuick

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    I agree with the previous two posters, not necessary but it does help. The message is the same to all generations because God doesn't change. The problem is sometimes understanding the message through translations and idiums/customs that don't directly translate. There is a chance the translation can become the official word of God if you're not careful.

    Just like A filthy rag may have more value to a mechanic than to a sergeon. That why it helps to know who mentioned the rag.
     
  5. mountainrun

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    quote "The next question is, If so, why did God not record the historical content in the Epistle?"

    The recipients of the letters already knew the historical context.
    We can know it by knowing our history.


    Historical context is not absolutely necessary but it is very helpful.

    Being a biblical history buff, I place more emphasis on it than most people.

    For instance, if you know that Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians, a group of churches that he established on his first missionary journey, very shortly after the first Christian council at Jerusalem to address the heresy requiring Christians to be circumcised and keep the law in order to be saved, you realize that the Jews who stirred up the trouble at Paul's home church in Antioch had left there and gone to Galatia and stirred up the same trouble there.

    Something that has been really helpful to me has been The Daily Bible in Chronological Order.

    Particularly the New Testament.
    The four Gospels are combined in the best possible chronological order. {Except for having Judas at the institution of Communion and some debateable timing concerning the Magi.}
    The Book of Acts is interspersed with the letters that Paul wrote at the time he wrote them according to his travels.

    While I do not consider rearranged scripture to be accurate scripture, it was extremely helpful in understanding the Old Testament history as well with, for example, the writings of prophets being placed at their proper times in relation to the Babylonian captivity.

    In this historical context, you have a much better understanding of what they were talking about.

    Some here may disagree, but I highly recommend The Daily Bible.

    MR
     
    #5 mountainrun, Dec 20, 2006
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2006
  6. LeBuick

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    Does it come in KJV? I only see it in NIV. I do a class called syncronizing the gospels where I paralell the three synoptics. This will be a great tool.

    Anyther suggestions? I was never a buff but I do love history.
     
  7. mountainrun

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    I think it's just in NIV, but I would definitely advise using it in conjunction with other sources.
    I think it's slightly flawed in minor areas but extremely helpful in understanding the chronology of Jesus' ministry.

    MR
     
  8. Marcia

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    Andy, it is not necessary to know the historical context, but it will add to and enrich your Bible reading and study tremendously!! :thumbs: I cannot recommend it enough. It really helped me, for example, with the wedding at Cana account in John 2 and the whole issue of ritual handwashing. Looking up all that, and the wedding customs of the time, added so much to the passage.

    Use commentaries, as well as books about customs and habits in OT and NT times. There are several of the latter on the market. Does your church have a library? If so, they may have commentaries. I would at least purchase one book on OT times and one on NT times to use in conjunction with Bible study. It would be worth it. You don't have to use them every time you read the Bible, but maybe when there is something that interests you or maybe confuses you.

    Some study Bibles have good notes on these areas. There is a new Archeological Study Bible that provides interesting historical material as study notes, for example. It's in the NIV, which is not my favorite version, but the notes are very good.
     
  9. LeBuick

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    I got the wife to order it as my Christmas present. I can't think of a better gift.

    Thanks...
     
  10. go2church

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    I couldn't disagree more, the historical context is vital for understanding what is being said. The writers have purpose in writing, to remove the writing from that purpose is to miss the point.

    1 Corinthians is a perfect example. At one point women are encouraged to cover their heads while prophesying, then a couple chapters later, they are told to be quiet...huh? Without the historical context it looks like Paul is contradicting himself.

    You are going to have to do some reading outside the scripture, history books, commentaries and the like to find the additional information. Scripture very rarely gives the needed background, because they where writing to folks that already knew their situation, they didn't need it explained.

    As for a book opening up by understanding the historical context, I would have to say Revelation became something I enjoyed reading rather then dreading. Finding the historical context and the surrounding environment of Revelation freed me from the confusing dispensational nonsense that I grew up with.
     
  11. mountainrun

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    You'll enjoy it LeBuick.
    One thing I try to do as I read through is when I find something I don't understand, I try to get it figured out as I go.

    I hope as the years go by it won't be such a time consuming devotional.

    :laugh:

    MR
     
  12. LeBuick

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    I do the same, you should see all the half finished books I have. My Dad always said I read AT books instead of read books... :)

    I have a buddy that can read a book cover to cover in a couple of days then years later he can open it right to a quote he is looking for. I hate when he does that while we are "discussing" scriptures especially when he goes into one of my books that I let him read...
     
  13. ituttut

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    I personally think it not best to get bogged down (to begin with) in one segment, as it will come with understanding, and study. To understand the Bible we must get into the habit of noticing Who is talking, and Who that person is speaking (or writing) to. We also must try to determine the other essential "W's" when, where, what, why, and the How of it. We need to know who is talking to us, and who is not. I believe all of the Bible, and I believe it is all written for my benefit for understanding. But I also know all of it is not written to me. I'll use the KJV with only a couple of reference to point out what scripture reveals if we will stick with "W's". We find how God accomplished His purpose. His purpose is Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son.

    The Book of James we note is written by the half-brother of Jesus, and we can make no mistake to whom he writes. James 1:1, "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting." We know who he is, and he directs his remakes only to the nation of Israel. We know Jesus while on earth told us who He came for and why. James did as he saw what Jesus said and did, after James was justified by faith. This is how those of the nation of Israel were to be saved.

    James writes this from Jerusalem, to those of the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) to those scattered around the world. We should deduce from this that James does not, and will not speak at, to, or for a Gentile.

    But what about we Gentiles, and all today are justified as the Gentile. How are we justified? It is through faith. Something had to happen to change the message from "repent and be baptized for the remission of our sins", to "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and we will be saved".

    What event brought about this change of how God justifies us? Where did it happen? Who is involved in this change? When did this happen, and why did it happen? We can find the answer to all the questions in one place (also others) in our Bible. Acts 9:1-6, "And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
    2. And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
    3. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
    4. And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
    5. And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
    6. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." This is a face to face conversation showing who is speaking to one another.

    A little further down in the same chapter (verse 15) we see two others speaking face to face. " But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:" We now know when God means to justify the Gentile, who He will entrust with His (God's) New message, where it happened, what was said, and as we move through Acts and on into the Epistles of Paul we will find out how we are justified, and why.

    We noted above to whom James writes, and we are to take notice as Paul is commissioned to preach to both Gentile, and Jew (to the Jew first). We Gentiles have no other Apostle to look to but Paul. Romans 11:13, "For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:" No other Apostle can make this statement, did not make this statement, nor can they. The others were only given authority to preach the "Kingdom was at hand" gospel of the Jew of "repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins", which see in Acts 2:38 as Peter answers the "men of Israel".

    We try to put two and two together as we go along, using the "W's", and then turning them over to "M's", to Make sure our understanding does not contradict His Word. In this manner of study we can then see what "dispensation" we live in, and to whom we are to listen. We are to listen to Christ Jesus in heaven. "For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
    2. If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
    3. How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
    4. Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
    5. Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;"

    A good reporter will try to use all the W's when possible, and tell you how it happened, in order for us to understand what they are talking about. God furnishes us with this information. We are to study to make ourselves approved, knowing where we fit into His program.
     
  14. christianyouth

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    How did I know I would receive such enriching answers? :)

    Once again, the posts have proven useful.

    ituttut - That advice which you have given me is helpful. Your right, it is neccessary to interrogate the Bible passages that we are studying with the 5 W's and the H, however even after applying this method, there still seems to be some ambiguity.

    As my brother go2church said, how is it possible to understand Revelation without consulting some form of extra-biblical resource? It is not. Even after thoroughly studying that book, you would not be able to deduct that number of the beast was really a reference to Nero, who at the time was intensely persucuting Christians. That makes it seem like history IS neccessary, and that indeed extra-biblical history is neccessary.

    If indeed extra-biblical history is neccessary, then no longer is the Bible all sufficient, is it? If I need to go consult historical documents ( fallible ) to interpret the Bible, which we as Baptists regard as infallible, how is it infallible?

    I agree with you, that it is possible to become 'bogged down', as you put it, with so many books ABOUT the Bible, that we do not spend enough time to study the Bible in its self.

    I am just not decided on this issue yet, so sorry to sound like a rambler. ;)

    On a personal note, In 7th grade I had a great youth pastor. Once a week, he would take time to invest in all of the boys in the youth group, to take them aside and show them how to study the Bible. He was running us through pretty in-depth books, so needless to say I did not retain anything. The thought was great, then unfortunatley he got fired, seemingly because there was an authority issue, and that ended that. He gave me a book by Charles A. Bonnadai, and I just started picking it up about a month or two ago.

    In the book, Bonnadai gives a great example for historical context, It really stuck with me so I would like to share it, if you dont mind.

    "Imagine looking out your window and seeing a man slap a young child across the face with his hand. Since the window happens to be small, all you can see are the man and the child. The scene gets your blood boiling so you run outside to stop the man, while calling for your neighbor to phone police. However, upon ariiving at the scene, you see that the man is not in a rage but crying while desperatley calling for help. As the child's eyes slowly close, you look down and see a bottle marked "POISON." It is now evident from the 'larger context' that the child, the son of the father, has just ingested some poison, and the father is desperatley attempting to keep his son awake until the ambulance arrives. You now realize that the father;s motive for slapping his son wasn't rage. Hisactions were motivated completley by love and fear. Without the larger context, you would have missed what was really occuring."

    That chronological Bible sounds interesting, I have never heard of it before. Well, I suppose if I ask the 5 W's and the H , get a good study Bible, maybe even the chronological Bible, I'll be set!

    Thank you guys,
    have a merry Christmas,
    Your little brother in Christ,
    Andy
     
  15. go2church

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    Sufficient for what?

    The bible is not given to answer all of life's questions, but to answer the most important question, what must I do to be saved?
     
  16. ituttut

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    I find in study of His Word, the Book of Revelation is a book we study to make ourselves approved, as with all others, but it is not written to us today. Paul informs Christ gave to him a "dispensational" gospel. As Paul is taught by God (Galatians 1:11-12), his words and thoughts are those of Christ Jesus from heaven for this dispensation we now live in. Paul is allowed to only reveal what Christ revealed to him. We notice Paul was in heaven but he can't tell us what he knows from that visit. There are something's we are just not to know. But God, over time reveals in time what and when the things He wishes us to know.

    Before Damascus Road is "prophecy", and after the "rapture" is prophecy. We, in the "Body Church", were not prophesied. Nowhere in the gospel of Paul can we find we are involved in the Book of Revelation. In fact he tells us we will not, dead or alive, be involved (we are caught to Christ Jesus in the air) in the awful terrors of the "great tribulation").

    Why then should we worry about what Revelation reveals if we cannot see ourselves in it (other than being with Christ when it happens). This "prophecy" is given in our day, and we are to use this to scare the pants off the unsaved. The everlasting gospel is to FEAR God. Where are the "Men of God today", those proficient writers, preachers, and teachers of yesterday that preached H**l and Damnation? Few and far between.

    God always has a "testimony" on earth, and today their voices are being drowned out by the worldly political and religious correct masses. For heavens sake we dare not warn anyone for it will shake them to the core, and their feelings will be hurt, and it will only confuse them. And the "blood"? Ugh! How revolting, so we must not mention that. My goodness, the madman just doesn't understand that God loves us all, for we all know God is a God of Love and Loves everybody. Since He is Love, He just would not do such a thing to anyone as that bigoted ignorant dogmatic jerk says.

    We have gotten away from The Book, The Word of God going after the Theology of man. If we "in Christ" will just stay with His Word, The Bible, He shows us how we are caught up (I Thessalonians 4:13-18), so we are not to worry about being involved in that tribulation period. When will this happen? Just before the "man of sin is revealed" (II Thessalonians 3:1-3). We know and we don't know. It is sufficient however for we know we will not go through that awful part prophesied.
    We do live in this world, so we do need to know some history. We find outside help from those that have "understanding" as Peter tells the Jew in II Peter 3:15-16. We see Paul has wisdom others did not. Then why does John sound so much like Paul? John wrote all of His Books about 30 years after the death of Paul. This type of history helps us to understand how God uses us for His purpose. We notice some things such as John 3:16 Jesus said while on earth, but no one could understand it, so God did not allow certain verses in the Bible to be written until the wisdom of Christ is presented to us in the gospel of Paul, which Christ Jesus from heaven gave to him.

    In history we find collaboration of what the Bible presents. We are not to interpret the Bible, as the Holy Spirit has already done that for us. Once we learn and believe our God is a God of "division", we are to go on "rightly dividing the word of truth". We can begin in the very first chapter and verse in the Bible, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Then in verse three God brings forth light, and we again see division in verse four. He shows "division" as He further reveals His Word to us. Let His Word tell us what has and will happen, as well as pointing out when He dispensed His Grace through faith, separating us from His former justifying by faith in His Mercy and Grace. Hebrews 11 goes back to the beginning to show until after Damascus Road, through faith was unknown to man.
    Not at all. I figure it took Him somewhat over 30 years to get through to me.
    A great example pointing to truth. The "secret" is getting a better look at the situation, or a better position. This is what I find in the gospel of Paul. Paul is our Apostle today and he is the "heavenly" Apostle. We can see much better from up there than from down here. In Acts 18:26 we see it put another way. "And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly."
    Just a Bible will do. A study Bible is put together by someone's interpretation of the Word. There are good Commentaries that get much of it right, and some that don't. I prayed for understanding, and He guided me to certain places and to finally that place where X marks the spot. We are to find the bulls eye, the very center of it. The Book is where it is, and it ain't easy to believe. But it is true. The Prince of the world has his ways. We must find and stand on the Word of God. That is not to say there are not books available and periodicals that correctly divide His Word to help us along the way.

     
  17. ituttut

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    No argument there as to who and what we are to believe.

    Agree there is information outside the Bible, but are we to believe everything we find outside the Bible before we absorb what is in the Bible? To answer life's questions can we with assurance, without His Word, know what we find is true?

    Without The Book I would most likely believe in what looks to be convincing evidence that we evolved from the animal world and have become human beings. In our formative years and through schooling, if we don't know, or disregard what is in the Bible, we will believe man. But I know better, for I find evidence in His Word that man lies, and the answer to where I came from. Some do not think they do it (lie) intentionally, but in their own wisdom they find evidence they believe that makes it so. They don't believe the Book, and I don't believe them. They do not have the answer.

    The answer is in the Book, not outside of it. We can find things outside that augment or backs up truth, but what is new under the Sun? We were the first to compute, and since we can we made it possible to make computers. Transportation? Since we were able to compute, we invented things to help us get from place to place. Since we can compute we decided to improve and improvise with new dishes, or items to eat. We now have Hamburgers, and Hot Dogs. There is no evidence in history that says their computer had thought of these combinations yet. History is empty on many matters, for there is nothing there.

    To make sure I was well rounded, and with great understanding in my younger years, I wanted also to understand and perhaps learn more by reading writings of other men, and their thoughts. The history books can help me understand, as can the Astrologers, the Scientist, the Philosophers, and the fathers of the past. I'll take all these "truths" and add to His Word, and I will then have the full truth of all things relevant to where I came from, where I am, and where I will be, and what makes the world go round? Faulty thinking on my part.

    We naturally get some of this in our schooling of Shakespeare (a bible to some-their god), Plato, and Socrates, then the other religions, and denominations. This is pretty much what we all do. There is nothing wrong with being well rounded, but what is our motive for doing so? I found it was becoming impossible for me to sort out the trash and find what I was looking for. I emptied the trashcan, and I went to the Book, His Word, the Bible. It is cloaked but it is uncluttered, unabashed, unvarnished truth. Cutting to the quick, knocking us down, many insults and corrects us at every turn. We know what was, how it is, and what will be. As said, we can augment the "was", and "is", but nowhere but in His Word can we find the future.

    He says I have put everything you need to know in My Book, as to what you are supposed to believe and do, how you are to live and love, who I am, and who you are. I tell you where you came from, and where you are going. Why did I do what I did? It is for my pleasure I made you because I love you, and I wish to dwell among men. When did I do this? From the beginning through to the ending. I have nothing above Me, before Me, or beside Me. He says, "Don't believe Me," "Then those can go to where I am not."

    He is enough for me.

     

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