Favorite Quotes

Making the Case for Context

Those of us who know the Bible story well can suffer from knowing it well. – Alistarr Begg

The authors of the Gospels have given us the parables of Jesus in first-century settings. To strip away those settings is to substitute our own. – Kenneth Bailey

The Gospel writers assumed their readers lived when, where and how they do. They have no need to explain what everyone knows. They just thought you knew. – Randall Smith

We have forgotten that we read the Bible as foreigners, as visitors who have traveled not only to a new geography, but to a new century. We are literary tourists who are deeply in need of a guide. – Gary Burge1

Context rescues truth from the “familiar.” – Kenneth Bailey

The NT (New Testament), after all does not come in the form of timeless aphorisms; every text was written in a given first-century time/space framework. Indeed the NT authors felt no need to explain what were for them and their readers common cultural assumptions. – Gordon D. Fee

When reading the Scriptures, we see what we know but do not always know what we see – Unknown

The Christian who is careless in Bible reading is careless in Christian living. – Max Reich

If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folks from digging into the Bible – J. I. Packer

A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text – Unknown

Reading the Bible through fresh eyes constantly reminds us of the depths that still remain to be discovered there. – Phillip Jenkins

There is no substitute for reading the Bible (in context); it throws a great deal of light on the commentaries! – Unknown (added)

I never saw a useful Christian who was not a student of the Bible – D. L. Moody

The Bible is an Eastern book. We see it through the colored glasses of Western culture. Much is lost. We miss the subtleties of humor and many of the underlying assumptions. We do not understand the ingrained attitudes that illuminate a story or illustration. Christ spoke to a Middle Eastern peasant people. Even most of the educated would have had their roots in that peasantry. What lies between the lines, what is felt and not spoken, is of deepest significance. – Kenneth Bailey

Village life was so deeply ingrained and so clearly understood at every level of that society that the customs reflected in biblical narratives did not usually have to be explained with the narrative. Widely known attitudes did not need to be articulated. Longstanding social customs required no explanation. Nevertheless, these unspoken but culturally understood ideas gave color and meaning to Jesus’ stories. – John MacArthur

Any interpretation (of the parables) that does not breathe the air of the first century cannot be correct. That requires listening in a context not our own and presumes some familiarity with that context. – Klyne R. Snodgrass

Most of us have never encountered some of the most common first-century social institutions, for example, patronage/clientage, household slavery, a resident foreign army. And conversely, first-century Palestinians would not share some of our most common institutional experiences, for example: voting, public education, free choice of spouses and careers. The challenge, then, is to imagine ourselves “into” the world of the people we encounter in the New Testament. This requires conceptualizing scenarios – ways of acting, thinking, valuing, perceiving, and structuring the world – appropriate to their life-world. – K. C. Hanson and Douglass E. Oakman

All literature is born from within a cultural landscape. It will pick up themes and images from within that cultural landscape, use them generously, and build a framework from which stories can be told. This is no less true for the Bible. The land and its culture, not merely the history that happened there, are an indispensable aspect of the biblical story. – Gary M. Burge

At some point in ecclesiastical history, someone snatched away the inceptive Hebrew blueprint by which Jesus’ movement was being constructed and replaced it with a non-Hebraic one. As a result, what has been built since is at best a caricature of what was intended. In many respects, it is downright contrary and antagonistic to the spirit of the original believing community. – Brian Knowles

An individualistic Christianity leads inevitably to an individualistic god. Those who have been suckled at the breast of American culture will not easily be weaned from the milk of individualism ( and thus can miss much of the Gospel’s community emphasis). – Don McCullough1

The narrative of the New Testament from its beginning to end assumes the reader is familiar with the physical setting that served as a stage for the unfolding drama. – Anson Rainey & Steven Notley