What Happens When the Church Reads the Bible Out of Context (Part I)

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What happens when the church reads the Bible out of context? Some of our most cherished beliefs, songs, and platitudes are based on proof-texting, which means that the original historical and literary context of the Bible is ignored.

What happens when we re-examine commonly referred to Bible passages in light of their context? Dr. Craig Keener helps explain the original meaning. In this Part I of this video series he tackles four passages:

  1. Psalm 50:10 – “for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.” In this passage, God is suing his people in a covenant lawsuit. The point is that he does not depend on the sacrifices of his people.
  2. Psalm 118:24 – “The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.” In this passage, the day that the Lord has made is actually a day of judgment on Israel’s enemies and of victory for his people.
  3. Song of Solomon 2:1 – “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.” In this passage, the author uses ancient romance language, and does not serve directly as a description of the church’s relationship with Jesus.
  4. Joel 2:9 – “They rush upon the city; they run along the wall. They climb into the houses; like thieves they enter through the windows.” In this passage, God likens locusts to the judgment his people will experience at the hand of an invading army; the subjects are not the people of God.
  5. Joel 3:10 – “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, ‘I am strong!'” In this passage, God is taunting the nations of the world—the weaklings—to withstand his judgment; the subjects are not the people of God.

Stay tuned for Part II.

Get The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig Keener

Get The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament by John Walton

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Craig Keener is Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. He has authored over 17 books, four of which have won book awards in Christianity Today. His IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament has sold more than half a million copies. He and his wife, Dr. Medine Keener, reside in Wilmore, KY.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you for this useful post!

    I am wondering if you could comment on the pesher practice used by rabbinic and pre-rabbinic writers? E.g., can one find examples in the NT of use of OT passages out of context?

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