Outsiders: Reading the Bible Out of Context

reading the Bible from afar

The Bible was written thousands of years ago. The languages it was written in bear little resemblance to English. The people who wrote it saw the world differently than we do. The culture the Bible emerged from was radically different than the cultural context we read it in today.

When it comes to reading the Bible, Dr. John Walton says, “The message transcends the culture, but the form is culture bound.”

Take your place in the Bible’s audience

Being separated by culture or language barriers doesn’t mean that the Bible has no meaning for us today. It means we need to read it through a different lens to grasp it’s meaning.

Walton says, “If we are going to get the full focus of God’s revelation to us and get the full force of its authority, we have to try to take our place in that audience, and try to hear as that audience would have heard it.”

The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). We don’t study the Bible’s to dissect it like an entomologist examines a dead bug. We study the Bible to apply it to our lives—today. The more we know about what the Bible was saying to its original audience, the more clearly we can understand what it is saying to us.

Read the Old Testament in context

Dr. Walton is a firm believer that our understanding of Near Eastern literature and cultural context can transform the way we understand and interpret the Bible—ultimately leaving us with a clearer picture of what God says today. That’s why he teaches a course on Old Testament genres—to provide a strong interpretive framework for his students to grapple with the Old Testament. To see how Scripture fits together, Dr. Walton encourages its readers to ask broader questions about the overall purpose of the Old Testament and God’s revelations through it.

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Comments

  1. says

    Who is the Outsider and the Insider ? This is a very interesting question. In can fit the ‘Story of the Holy Bible’. The Bible, The Living Word of God, is just that, very ‘story’. The Outsider is a Gentile, a member of the ‘Nations’. The Insider is an ‘Israelite’. A group even smaller, within the Israelite is the ‘Obedient Israelite’. These obedient Israelites aspire to become ‘Sons of God’. Here is the inside position that will enable a person understanding and wisdom, of The Gospel of The Kingdom of God. A little fear of Eternal Father will beget a little wisdom. And from here, it just snowballs into a deeper understanding of Our purpose, here on Earth, and what Ever Living Creator Ever Living Father has intended for Us since the Foundation of the World.

  2. Joshua Lieder says

    I wish Logos had a built in feature as you read the NKJV for example that says (click here for more info) and would pull up this cultural stuff to set it in context properly for us “blinded” modern readers.

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