Taken Out of Context

Communication in our modern world is often reduced to small catchy ‘soundbites’.  This trend has not excluded the Bible or the modern Church.  We have all read online commentary that quoted a Bible verse to substantiate a point of view.  Many times these verses are taken out of context, mistranslated, misunderstood, or simply misused.  I’m not saying this is done intentionally or with malice.  Often it is not.  What I am saying is that we must insist that those who quote the Bible go beyond mechanical repetition.  We must encourage others to read for themselves firsthand, and fully understand the Word if it is to be used wisely and appropriately and we must demand the same of ourselves.  Informed belief is preferential to blind faith.  (Proverbs 2:2-3, 3:13, 4:7, 8:1, Colossians 2:2-3, James 1:5, 1 John 4:1)

Furthermore, “because the Bible says so” is not a responsible argument for or against the issues we face in modern times.  Many laws, codes, and Biblical customs no longer apply.  For example, Christ’s death nullified Mosaic Law, or the Law of Moses.  (Matthew 5:17, Romans 10:4, Galatians 2:21, 5:4, Ephesians 2:15)  Included in these are the laws that forbade wearing clothing made of two fabrics, or eating shellfish.  Clearly, not every law or moral code that is written in the Bible is applicable to Christians today.

The Bible is an immensely large volume which contains many laws, codes, commandments, and stories to help guide its readers through life.  There are two testaments, Old and New, sometimes complimentary and sometimes contradictory.  The Old Testament is the Biblical record of creation, a history of man, mankind’s struggle and need for a Savior, and many prophecies later fulfilled by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. The New Testament is a guide for worship, spiritual living, and growth.

“The following are some comparisons between the Old and the New: Death versus Life (II Corinthians, 3:6-8). Bondage versus Freedom (Galatians 5:1). The Old was to Jews only (Mal.4:4) while the New is to all men (Matt.28:18-20). Temporal versus Eternal (Galatians 3:19 and Matthew 24:35). Carnal versus Spiritual (Hebrews 9:10 and John 4:23-24). Continued Guilt versus Pardon (Romans 8:2 and Hebrews 9:12-14).” http://www.bible.ca/b-Why-OT-NT.htm  “The Old Testament shows the wrath of God against sin (with glimpses of His grace); the New Testament shows the grace of God toward sinners (with glimpses of His wrath).” http://www.gotquestions.org/difference-old-new-testaments.html

I would also like to speak about the danger of quoting a single verse as if it were the definitive Word of God on a subject, without taking its context into account.  Let me give an example.  Ephesians 5:22 says “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” This verse (as well as Colossians 3:1, and 1 Peter 3:1) has been used to justify misogyny, domestic violence, and gender inequality in general.  However, read in its full context, the chapter in Ephesians is encouraging love and mutual respect in spousal relationships, not obedience and/or persecution.  I cannot stress enough the importance of context!

Women have become equal to men in most modern countries.  Women are able to get an education, provide for themselves, and even hold positions of authority over men.  Most marriages are not arranged.  First world women are not property and are no longer expected to be submissive or subordinate.   Women are no longer vehicles for continuing patriarchal blood lines.  The Biblical ideal of a wife is therefore not identical to our modern definition.  This fact does not alter or de-value the Scripture, or require that women give up their equality.   What it means is that believers must go beyond the words to find the deeper meaning of the passages.

Here’s another example: The Bible says in Deuteronomy 7: 3-4 “You shall not intermarry with them…” and in Daniel 2:43 “they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together” and also the New Testament in Matthew 25:32 it says “Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another…”  Does this mean God is against interracial relationships and believes people should be segregated?  That’s debatable, especially when referring to the Old Testament.  That is my point.  The Bible says many things that are now peripheral or even seemingly contradictory.  Taken out of context, the Bible can be used to affirm or condemn almost anything.

So how do ancient Biblical laws and codes of conduct apply today?  Biblical laws, rules, and codes should be understood as either passive or active.  Those that apply today and should continue to be followed (such as the Ten Commandments) should be considered active.  Those rules that are no longer applicable and consequently need not be followed, should be considered passive.  We may refer to passive rules as historical record and appreciate their past purposes and applications.  In order to consider the Word to be ‘living’, which indeed most believers do, we must rectify the idea that every rule is to be followed literally simply because it is written.  Believers must understand that because the Word is timeless, it is therefore adaptable.  We must read the Bible carefully, fully understand the rules, and discover their purpose from the context of the passage.  Language is equivocal.  We cannot draw accurate conclusions if we only read a fraction of the story.  We cannot gain insight from repetition, shallow reading, or having our ears tickled.  (2 Timothy 4:3)

The Bible tells us not to add to or subtract from it.  “If anyone takes away any words from the book of this prophecy, God will take away his portion of the tree of life and the holy city that are described in this book.” (Revelation 22:19)  I believe this to summarize my point clearly.  The Bible has tolerances and intolerances that we do not, and some of those ideals continue to be used in harmful ways.  Reciting portions of verses and/or passages to convey a message that was never intended is wrong.  If believers understand the Scripture better, it will bring God closer.  I would like to see a more embracing, compassionate church filled with loving rhetoric where ALL are welcome.

This blog will be my attempt to educate.  If you take this journey with me, please do not take my words for fact.  Read the passages I site for yourself to see if you come to the same conclusions.  I will document my sources so that you can follow my research.  The Bible says a lot.  There are nearly 800,000 words in most English versions.  It’s time to seek the true meaning behind those words.  Only then can we apply Biblical rules appropriately to our modern lives.

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2 thoughts on “Taken Out of Context

  1. I am grateful for people like yourself who want to not only understand, decipher and educate others on this subject, but have taken the time to put it out here with full references. I am not a “reader” of anything in length and certainly not the Bible old or new. I do however enjoy being educated by intelligent and gentle people like yourself and appreciate the fact that you not only research and compare but clearly have an astounding understanding of what you are writing about. I do hope your blog gets the attention and readers it deserves whether or not they have the same beliefs. I look forward to more 🙂

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