Read Scripture Blog: Week 10

“Wow. Your breath really stinks!” “Man, your nails are like Wolverine’s claws!” “Stop yelling at the mailman; he’s just doing his job!” – The way these phrases are heard and understood is drastically different if I am talking to my wife versus if I am talking to my dog. Buster. The meaning and the tone can be different as well! This is why context is so important to communication!
Have you ever gotten a text from someone with no context? They may have thought that you had some understanding of what provoked the text, but in actuality, you had no idea. And so, you are left to try to decipher the meaning with what little you have! It can be confusing, frustrating or sometimes offensive, because having no other foreseeable alternative, we tend to read our own assumptions into the text! “Well, they probably meant this, so…”
The same is absolutely true for reading Scripture. If we are blind to the context of the passage we are reading – the author, the audience, the time period, the reason why the book was written, what came directly before, what themes in this passage are also seen in this book previously, etc. etc. – then we end up either getting confused, frustrated or even offended, because having no foreseeable alternative, we tend to read our own assumptions into the text.
That process of reading our own assumptions into a text is downright dangerous, not just in your communication with your mom or your friends, but also in reading Scripture. It’s a process called “eisegesis” and it occurs when we read or own biases, assumptions or desired outcomes into the text, thus leading to an interpretation of an entirely different message than originally intended. Eisegesis can take many forms, but it has been used by many pastors, teachers and commentators to fool congregations into presuming that the Bible says something that it clearly doesn’t.
As faithful readers of God’s Word, we need to be careful not to undergo this process ourselves. Instead, we need to take care to know the context of what we are reading and develop our understanding of the passages we read based upon that context. Not everything in the Bible was written to us, but everything in the Bible was written for us. And so, instead of taking every statement at face value, as if we were a fellow Israelite wandering the wilderness with Moses, we need to understand the passage in its context, seeing the principles that undergird the passage and seeking to apply those to our own cultural context.
The process of reading Scripture in that way is called “inductive study* and it’s the basis for the D.U.A. method that you’ve heard Charles reference many times before. Discover what the author is saying to their audience in its context. Understand what the passage means to that audience by understanding the applicable principle within it. Finally, apply the principle of the passage to your own cultural context. This process is vital in deterring Biblical misinterpretation, and it all starts with knowing the context! So, as we read this week, let’s seek out that context and faithfully read what Scripture says, rather than telling Scripture what we think it means!