Understanding the Past To See the Present

**As I progress through my doctoral program I will be placing some of my work on here. Please feel free to engage with me in the learning process to seek greater depth in understanding of leadership, scripture, and life.

The gap between the writers of scripture and the readers creates a great challenge to understanding all God is trying to convey to mankind.  In order to fully understand the message of the Bible, and to insure meaning is not imposed upon scripture, it is necessary to for the reader to enter the historical-cultural context of the passages being read. (Ellis, 1980, p.152)  By understanding the historical-context of a passage, the reader understands who the writer was, who the audience was, and what was happening in real time at the time of the writing. (Duvall, 2012, p. 100)  In a very ‘me’ focused culture, it is easy to forget that, though God loves us individually and specifically, the writing of the holy scriptures was initially for a group of people who lived long ago with real lives and circumstances. (Duvall, 2012, p.99) Understanding the historical-context will bring clarity and depth to the scriptures for the reader.

For instance, understanding the “wise men from the east” (Matthew 2) traveled a great distance, so much so they were not present the night Jesus was born.  They had first inquired of King Herod in Jerusalem before making their way to Bethlehem, so a lot of time would have elapsed due to travel.  So when Herod orders children under the age of two years killed, it makes more sense given the amount of time necessary for the wise men to travel.

Another example of historical-cultural context bringing clarity to scripture is found in authorship. Luke, the physician and historian, seeks to write an accurate chronological account of the life of Jesus (Childress, 2006, p. 8), while Matthew is writing as a disciple of Christ (Campbell, 2008, p. 14) to the Jewish audience, which is why he includes more customs and prophecies throughout his account.

Campbell, I. D. (2008). Matthew’s Gospel. Leominster: Dayone C/O Grace Books.
Childress, G. (2006). Opening up Luke’s Gospel. Leominster: Day One.
Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: study Bible: English Standard Version (ESV text ed.). Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles.
Duvall, J. S., Hays, J. D., & Strauss, K. J. V. and M. L. (2012). Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible (3 edition.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Ellis, K. C. (1980). The nature of biblical exegesis. Bibliotheca Sacra, 137(546), 151–155.


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