Historical-Cultural Context Conclusion

We study the historical-cultural background of the Bible because God chose to speak first to ancient peoples living in cultures that are radically different from our own. As we recapture the original context of God’s Word, we will be able to grasp its meaning and apply that meaning to our lives. Remember, a valid interpretation of any text must be consistent with the historical-cultural context of that text.

So far in this unit we have talked about the tools you will need to identify the historical-cultural context of a book and a specific passage. Bible handbooks, Old and New Testament introductions or surveys, and commentaries are particularly useful for grasping the historical-cultural context of the book as a whole. We recommend using atlases, dictionaries or encyclopedias, commentaries, background commentaries, Old and New Testament histories, and special studies to discover the historical-cultural context of a particular passage. We strongly encourage you to add some of these tools to your personal library.

While some may label background studies “boring” and “irrelevant,” we argue the opposite—that knowing the background of a passage can clarify its meaning and heighten our understanding of its relevance. Does knowing all that Paul means by “come before winter” make his words less relevant or more relevant? Does understanding the significance of God “running” in the parable of the prodigal son make the story less practical or more practical? We believe that studying the historical-cultural context of a passage is among the most practical things you can do when it comes to Bible study.

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