“And Always Let Your Context Be Your Guide”: Reading the Bible in Context

Over at Jesus Creed, the inveterate and insightful blogger “RJS” has begun a discussion of the role of historical context for biblical interpretation.

RJS begins the post by talking about creation in the Bible vis-a-vis science, and rightly suggests that how one reads the biblical material is affected by how one understands the historical/literary context of Genesis.

In other words, progress in the science/faith discussion involves not simply reading Genesis literalistically, as if that is a default approach of faith by which science must judged, but learning to read Genesis in context, which means reading it as best as we can with ancient eyes (a major point that drives my book The Evolution of Adam as well as my popularly written e-book Genesis for Normal People.)

RJS then shifts focus to address the issue of context more broadly, linking to my recent post (posts, actually, going back a couple of weeks now) on God’s violence in the Old Testament. RJS cites the question I raised at the end of the linked post:

Do these episodes of violence tell us what God is like or is the picture of God in the Old Testament mediated for us through ancient tribal culture the Israelites and their neighbors participated in?

Of course, though phrased with intentional provocation, this is a huge question, filled with layers of nuanced intermingling of a host of underlying issues.

I am glad to see RJS and others asking these sorts of questions, and I hope the comments at Jesus Creed lead toward greater insight.

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