Literary Context Conclusion

We study literary context because the interpretation that best fits the context is the most valid interpretation. When we disregard literary context, we run the risk of forcing the Bible to say what we want it to say. This may appear to satisfy people’s immediate needs, but ultimately, this approach hurts people by robbing them of God’s liberating truth. People are seeking time-tested answers to problems that are staring them in the face, answers that contemporary culture simply cannot supply. When we take the literary context seriously, we are saying, “We want to hear what God is trying to say to us.”

In this section we have learned that literary context consists of both literary genre and the context surrounding your passage. Literary genre functions like a covenant of communication between the author and the reader. As readers it is our job to be faithful to this covenant by playing by the game rules established by the author. The surrounding context shows us that every passage lives in a world surrounded by other passages. We ourselves communicate by connecting our words, sentences, and paragraphs into a coherent message, and the Bible does the same. We reviewed two of the most common dangers associated with disregarding literary context and underscored the importance of knowing the immediate context of a passage. We concluded by suggesting three steps to identifying surrounding context, using Philemon as our example. As you honor the literary context of a passage of Scripture, you will be saying through your actions that above all, you want to hear what God has to say to you through his Word.

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