Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Study Skills 101: Context

I was reading an excerpt from a column this morning about Muslims and Christians, and how Christians think the Quran is full of violence. I thought it was interesting, given yesterday's post. Actually, the excerpt was called "The Bible's endorsement of violence." Eye-catching title, isn't it? The author mentioned Matthew 10:34, where Jesus says, "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

And that's it. That's the only part of that section he quoted. Just looking for something about a sword.

The author then said, "Scholars from both faiths can provide context that helps explain these troubling quotes from a more primitive time. But why is Islam alone held responsible for the violence in its holy book?"


Jesus wasn't talking about actual violence in that verse, dude.

Context is everything.

You can pull any verse out of anywhere and make it sound awful. You can pull a sentence out of any book you read and try to make it say what you want it to say. The difference with the Bible is that it's saying what God wants it to say. You have to really look at the context. Always.

FACT: If you're studying the Bible without considering context, you're not studying the Bible.

What about that particular verse, Matthew 10:34? If you look at the verses before and after it (Matthew 10:32-39), you'll see that the sword is not a sword of violence or death—it's a sword of division. He's explaining that when we follow Christ, it'll cause divisions in our lives. Our families or friends may not believe that way we do. We have to be willing to sacrifice those relationships for our walk with Jesus.

When you see a single line from the Bible anywhere, whether it's in print somewhere or your pastor pulls a single verse into his sermon to prove a point (yes, even some pastors ignore context to make a point), be wary. Go read around that verse. Look for the context. Find out what God is trying to say, not the human feeding it to you.

And, trust me, you don't have to be a theologian or Bible scholar to study the Bible effectively. It's meant for every follower of God to understand.


  1. So true! I love how people pull things out and just interpret the way they want to as long as it sheds a negative light on Christianity. Ignorance is not bliss, but I can't post it on everyone's forhead I guess so prayer is all I can do.

  2. I guess that ou can put a negative spin on anything if you try hard enough. It's a shame that some people use religion-meant to embody love, understanding and acceptance to endorse the antithesis.

  3. So true. Scary how many "Christian" authors take the Word out of context too. Some books in Christian book stores really shouldn't be there...

  4. Totally agree with you. And never having read the Quran, I would say we might want to remember that we need to keep it in context, too. Just sayin.

  5. So true.We are to study the Scriptures for ourselves just like the new believers in the book of Acts, it says they examined the Scriptures for themselves and they had Peter as a pastor! Context is a huge issue, you are right. Everything has to be read in context.


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