Why Should You Study Biblical Context?

March 1, 2023

“The Bible says in Psalm 53:1 there is no God!” 

Wouldn’t it be ridiculous if I said such a thing? Yes, of course! Let’s look at the whole verse.

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none who does good. Psalm 53:1 (NKJV)

So technically it contains the words “There is no God”, but that is not what it means. The Bible, and any book, speech, or quote, is meant to be understood in its proper context. Because of this fact, it is important that the Bible is studied properly within its context. But what does context mean? 

According to the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the word context is described as “the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning”.

If you want to carefully observe something, you don’t want to do it in a dark or dimly lit area, but rather in a well lit and bright place. And similar to that with the Bible, the way to best observe it is by studying it in context, which can be done in many different ways, but I will highlight three different ways of doing so, which can help us unlock more of the treasures in God’s Word.

Other Scripture

Like I showed I’m the example with Psalm 53, the Scripture surrounding a verse, phrase, or word can immensely help increase our understanding of what something means, just because it helps to fill in the details of why something is said. That is the immediate context of a chapter. But Scripture from other books can help to give more insight too. 

For example, in Ruth 2:2, it mentions gleaning, and that is a practice that was established for the needy and less fortunate which is explained in more detail in Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 24. This is called a cross-reference, and it is found all throughout the Bible. It just goes to show how everything is interconnected in the Bible, and it is amazing to see!

Original Language

The original manuscripts of the Bible were written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, and when anything is translated, even by the best translators, some of the deeper meaning is lost. But fortunately we have many concordances which have each word in the original language written down and explained to a fuller meaning, which helps us to grasp the original intent and meaning of the words, like the Strong’s Concordance. Here is a link to a tutorial on how to use an online concordance to greatly augment your study: https://biblebee.org/htublbtss/

Bible Dictionaries

One final tool that is available both online and in print form are Bible dictionaries. Many of these resources are things many experts have uncovered in their study of the Bible, and while this is not God’s Word, and while we must be careful in which dictionaries we use, they can be very helpful in understanding more of the passages or topics that you look up, especially with things such as geographical and cultural context. 

Some that I have found useful are Easton’s Bible Dictionary, the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, and the Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Again, these are not God’s inspired Word, but can help us know more about it, and ultimately, we can share it with others and apply it to our lives!

Written by NBB Alumnus: William Saunders

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