Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Reading the Bible In Context

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Some friends of mine used to play a game called, “Quotes out of context.” It was a comical game where you took a snippet of what someone said and made them look silly or foolish. It’s quite easy to do. When you quote someone out of context, you can make them say almost anything. One of my favorite examples of this is from the movie “Dinner With Schmucks.” Steve Carrel plays Barry and in the movie he says, “In the words of John Lennon, ‘You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not.'” Of course John Lennon actually said, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” How we handle another person’s words is quite important.

The same is true of the Bible. Religious people are notorious for having verse wars. This is when one person quotes a verse and another person counters with their own verse. These discussions often do not lead anywhere, and it typically results in people becoming angry or upset. When we only speak in verses, we talk past each other, and we never get to the heart of the passage. The Bible was never intended to be a compilation of snippets, quotations, and verses. The Bible is a collection of letters, history, poetry, and more. The letters and stories that have been passed down to us were meant to be read in their entirety. When a church received a letter from Paul in the first century, they didn’t just read the parts they liked. They read the whole thing.

Verses and chapters were not a part of the Bible when it was written. They were added much later. They make it easy for us to find things, but they can quickly become a crutch that cause us to miss important elements of Scripture. Most verses are not even a complete sentence. When all we do is look at the verse, we often begin reading in the middle of a sentence. We don’t even get the entire thought the inspired writer has given us. This can cause us to misread Scripture and sometimes change the meaning of a text entirely. How do we avoid missing the point of the Bible? Here are a few principles.

1. If you can, read the entire book or letter in one setting. This is how these documents were intended to be read.

2. Read Scripture in large chunks. If you want to study a verse, then be sure and read the entire chapter. If you have time, then read the chapter before it and after it. The more you read, the better.

3. Paragraph Bibles are helpful. Over the years, translators have realized how dangerous it is to read Scripture one verse at a time. Newer versions still have verses, but Scripture is put into paragraphs. This alerts the reader to a complete thought the author was trying to make.

4. Keep in mind that the Bible cannot be reduced to one verse or a handful of verses. Even topics such as the nature of God, salvation, the work of the Holy Spirit, and many others cannot be reduced to a single verse or a collection of verses. The Bible has much to say about all these things, and we do them a disservice when we champion a few verses over what is said throughout the rest of the Bible.

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