The Law Of Context

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Another sacred cow is the law of context. People are quick to jump on you when you quote something out of context, usually if they disagree with the point you are making. Sure scripture can be misinterpreted by taking it out of context. But we see this taken to extremes with the implication that any verse taken out of context is an attempt to twist the scripture.

The rule of CONTEXT: The meaning must be gathered from the context. Every word you read must be understood in the light of the words that come before and after it. ... Seeking the biblical author's intended meaning necessitates interpreting Bible verses in context. Every word in the Bible is part of a verse, and every verse is part of a paragraph, and every paragraph is part of a book, and every book is part of the whole of Scripture. No verse of Scripture can be divorced from the verses around it. Interpreting a verse apart from its context is like trying to analyze a Rembrandt painting by looking at only a single square inch of the painting. The context is absolutely critical to properly interpreting Bible verses. Ron Rhodes

This writer tells us "No verse of Scripture can be divorced from the verses around it." Is there any scripture offered to support this? No. How does the Bible deal with verses out of context?

Taking verses of scripture out of context is exactly what the New Testament writers do when quoting the Old Testament scriptures. We have seen it mentioned that the New testament quotes the Old testament over a thousand times. How many of those quotes consider the context? Few if any do. Furthermore in the cases where they do indicate the context it is only to indicate which writer they are quoting.

In the gospels, when Jesus was confronted by scripture quoting opponents, including the Devil, did he ever rebuke them for taking verses out of context? No that was never an issue. [In John 8:5 there was a problem with Pharisees misquoting scripture however. See my article Mighty In Battle. ]

So we see context was not an important issue for Jesus or for the New Testament writers. Why is this? Do we have cases where Mathew or Paul is quoting Moses or Isaiah out of context? Or do we have cases where God is quoting himself, and the context does not matter because it's still the word of God? We even have cases where God quotes himself out of context and does so in a way that deliberately changes the meaning, thereby breaking the law of context! Compare these verses.

Ho 11:1 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.

Mt 2:15 And [Jesus] was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

Context is important in studying scripture, but not always necessary. Taking things out of context is not automatically wrong.

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