Hermeneutics - Lesson 11

Historical and Cultural Context

In this lesson on Hermeneutics by Dr. Todd Miles, the importance of historical and cultural context in interpreting biblical text is highlighted. It emphasizes that understanding the culture and history of the time a passage was written is essential for comprehending its true meaning. The lesson uses examples like the parable of the virgins and Revelation 3:14-22 to illustrate how historical context can help us judge between rival interpretations and provide vividness to the message. The text also stresses that while some historical context can be found within the Bible itself, extra-biblical information can sometimes be helpful in gaining a deeper understanding. It concludes by emphasizing that historical and cultural context is necessary for interpreting biblical passages accurately.

Todd Miles
Lesson 11
Watching Now
Historical and Cultural Context

I. Introduction

II. Why the Historical-Cultural Context Matters

A. Historical particularity

B. Jesus lived as a human

III. Definition of the Historical-Cultural Context

IV. Examples of the Importance of Historical-Cultural Context

A. Revelation 3:14-22

B. Matthew 25:1-13

C. Caution about extra-biblical resources

V. Role of Historical-Cultural Context

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  • From this lesson, you will gain insights into the challenges of translating the Bible, understanding the continuum of translation philosophies, and the importance of selecting a translation that balances accuracy and readability in contemporary language. Dr. Todd Miles underscores the significance of using the best available manuscripts, avoiding theological bias, and staying updated with the latest knowledge of language and culture to ensure a quality translation.
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  • Learn the significance of interpreting Bible passages in the context of redemptive history. Discover the Bible's continuous narrative, emphasizing revelation's progression and God's plan through the David and Goliath story. See how context ensures accurate interpretation, connecting the Bible's parts into a cohesive story of God's redemption.
  • Understanding the Bible through biblical theology is crucial, as it reveals the overarching narrative of God's redemptive plan, centered on His glory and the role of Jesus Christ, enabling a more profound comprehension of individual Bible passages and their relevance to our lives.
  • Dr. Todd Miles underscores the vital role of historical and cultural context in interpreting the Bible. Understanding the era when a passage was penned is crucial for grasping its genuine significance. Using examples like the virgins' parable and Revelation 3:14-22, it demonstrates how historical context aids in discerning interpretations and adds depth to the message. The text emphasizes that, while the Bible offers some historical context, external sources can also enhance comprehension. In conclusion, historical and cultural context is essential for accurate biblical interpretation.
  • In this lesson on Hermeneutics by Dr. Todd Miles, the focus is on understanding the cultural context when interpreting biblical texts. Dr. Miles emphasizes that culture plays a significant role in both the biblical author's writing and the reader's interpretation. He discusses the concept of cultural conditioning, highlighting that everyone, including the biblical authors, the original audience, and modern readers, is influenced by their respective cultures.
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  • Learn about poetry in the Bible by exploring Hebrew poetic parallelism and its emotional power in Psalms. Discover how poetry enhances biblical narratives and offers unique insights.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Todd Miles discusses various types of psalms found in the Psalter and delves into their unique characteristics and theological significance. He begins by providing a list of different kinds of psalms, emphasizing that this list is not exhaustive but illustrative, highlighting the diversity of poetry within the Psalms.
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  • In this lesson, Dr. Todd Miles discusses the interpretation of parables. Parables are a specific literary genre with their own rules of interpretation. Parables are designed to teach a single point, although there might be exceptions. Historical context remains essential in understanding parables, as they are shaped by the situations of the day. 
  • This lesson explores Proverbs and wisdom literature, focusing on its distinct genre, interpretation rules. Dr. Miles highlights its purpose, living wisely with God. It emphasizes the fear of the Lord, touches Ecclesiastes' question of meaning, and Job's theodicy.
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  • This lesson provides practical guidelines for applying biblical principles. Dr. Miles emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit, examining the original context, and identifying parallel situations in the present. He encourages applications to be personal, specific, measurable, and time-bound, ensuring they lead to tangible actions in your life.
  • In this lesson, you'll grasp the Holy Spirit's vital role in biblical interpretation, going beyond changing hearts to enabling comprehension and acceptance of the text. Dr. Todd Miles stresses the Spirit's role in illuminating the Bible, making it relevant to believers, challenging the idea that unbelievers interpret it as effectively, and emphasizing the importance of understanding the text's intent. The ultimate aim is not mastery but being mastered by the text, with the Holy Spirit as a key player.
Hermeneutics is the science and art of the interpretation of the Bible. It's a science because it is an orderly process based on rules you can apply. It is an art because of the nuances in communication and translation.



Dr. Todd Miles


Historical and Cultural Context

Lesson Transcript


Well, in prior sessions we had talked about the importance of of context when it comes to interpreting the biblical text. We looked at mainly, though, at literary contexts, the immediate context, the broader context. We took it out as far as the canonical context, thinking about the importance of biblical theology when it comes to interpretation of any biblical passage. We want to ask ourselves, how does this passage fit into the story as a whole? Recognizing that the entire canon, the story as a whole is going to have some influence on the interpretation of any particular passage. Of course, the more immediate context that you have, that the greater the influence on the meaning of the passage. There's another kind of context that we need to consider that's very important, and that is the cultural.


Speaker 2 Context or the.


Speaker 1 Historical.


Speaker 2 Context.


Speaker 1 For example. Proverbs chapter 22, verse 28. We read this Do not move the ancient landmark that your.


Speaker 2 Fathers have set.


Speaker 1 Okay, this is a proverb. So it's supposed to be axiomatic. It tells us how to behave, what the path of wisdom is. But what on earth does that even mean? Don't move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set. Is there any sort of application of that today? I would think that we would have to understand a little bit about what ancient landmarks were and how the father set them in order to.


Speaker 2 Apply that text.


Speaker 1 So we need to consider the cultural context, the historical context, in order to make sense of the passage. We need to ask ourselves, what did it mean then? And only at that point can we ask the question, So what does it mean.


Speaker 2 Now for us?


Speaker 1 What's the significance? The implications?


Speaker 2 How do we apply it?


Speaker 1 So to broaden it out a little more, we might ask the question why even bother with historical cultural context? I mean, shouldn't I be able to pick up the Bible and just read it as God's word to me? Todd Weren't you saying that the Bible is God's speech where He engages us? Why do I need to analyze the ancient your ancient history do or to be more absurd? Do I really need, like, a Ph.D. in Greco-Roman history or ancient Near East history in order to understand the Bible? Well, I'm going to say, no, you don't need a Ph.D. But we do need to consider the importance of historical context. And part of the reason for that is what I like to call the scandal of historical particularity. The scandal of historical particularity. Now, what is the historical particularity? The historical particularity part of this is that God spoke to particular people in a particular language at a particular place in a particular time. He didn't speak to me in the 21st century through the prophets as originally written. And that's what makes it scandalous. I might wish that God spoke to me in the first person every single time I open up the Bible. But that isn't really the case. Again, God spoke his message to Moses, who lived in the ancient Near East, probably speaking Hebrew or Aramaic, I suppose. But the message of Scripture is always located in a specific historical situation. Again, he spoke to people, particular people living in particular places, speaking particular languages, adopting a particular way of life. And when I mean particular, I mean one way and not another. The New Testament is written in Koine Greek. It's not written in 21st century English. We might be translated into that, but it wasn't originally written in that language. It was written to places or people who lived in places like Corinth or Ephesus. Not downtown hipster Portland, for example. Now, the Word of God has application for people who live in downtown hipster Portland. But we can't ignore that historical context in which it was originally written. One reason for this is as Christians, we recognize that history matters. History really matters. The Apostle Paul summed it up well in first Corinthians 15, verses 14 through 17. He writes, If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile. You are still in your sins. It mattered that something happened in time and space history in the past. Jesus Christ literally got up from the dead and in a particular place in a particular time. So if the bodily resurrection of Jesus did not in fact occur, then Paul says, We're all wasting our time. All those who professed faith in Jesus stand condemned in unforgiving sins. And Scripture is full of such arguments and demonstrations from Scripture that the history actually matters. Paul in his summation of the Gospel in First Corinthians 15 versus three through seven, verifies the historicity of the crucifixion and the resurrection. He writes for I delivered to you first of all, that which I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried and that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures, that he was seen by Cephas and by the 12. After that he was seen by over 500 brethren at once, of whom the greater part remained to the present. But some have fallen asleep. After that he was seen by James. Then by all the apostles. Then last of all, he was seen by me also as by one born out of due time. Verifying the the fact of the crucifixion and resurrection were living witnesses there, some of them whom are named by Paul, a fact it's so important that Paul includes this evidence in his basic gospel account. Look, you can go talk to these people. They saw Jesus at the time that Paul wrote. There were people alive that the recipients could have gone to, to fact check the validity of the claims that Jesus got up from the dead. So it's clear from the testimony of Scripture that you can't separate faith in Jesus from faith that he did specific things in a particular time. So so all of that, I think, shows that we can't simply ignore those people living way back then and jump to what God wants to say to us. So understanding the historical context, I would argue, gives us a window into what God was saying to that particular audience. And when we understand what he was saying to that particular audience, we can then begin to connect the dots to what he was saying, what he is saying to us. I summarized that in Axiom number ten. I write for the interpretation of any biblical text to be valid, it must be consistent with the.


Speaker 2 Historical cultural context.


Speaker 1 Ask yourself this question If our interpretation of a passage would have made no sense whatsoever to the original audience. Well, it's probably not the right.


Speaker 2 Interpretation.


Speaker 1 Of that passage. Now, we need to be careful with this and we'll discuss the limits in that aspect of historical context a little bit later. But but for now, let's let's continue to think about the importance of historical cultural context.


Speaker 2 He might ask.


Speaker 1 Well, what exactly is the.


Speaker 2 Historical cultural context? Well.


Speaker 1 I'll tell you, it's that the historical cultural context is any information about the historical setting or the cultural setting that is necessary and or helpful to understand the passage. Now, you're probably thinking, well, that's not very helpful. How do I know what's helpful and what's not? And the answer to that is, I don't know. I don't know what historical cultural detail is going to be helpful in interpreting or judging between competing interpretations. I'm not particularly sure about that. But but as you study and as you gain familiarity with with both the biblical text and the context in which it was written, I think you'll find that these judgments come come easier because God is the author, though. Because God is the author. And remember, I've said this many times, the biblical authors are really good authors. God himself is an excellent communicator because God is the author, because the Bible is a story. There's a storyline to the Bible.


Speaker 2 Adequate.


Speaker 1 Adequate historical and cultural context can be found in the Bible itself. Adequate. Not exhaustive, but but adequate. Let's let's consider some examples here. In many cases, I think it's vital to place the passage in its historical, geographical, cultural setting. And in one place we find this is of particular help is in Revelation chapter three versus 14 through 22. Revelation 3:14-22.


Speaker 1 I think this comes in the the the chapter chapters two and three where Jesus delivers letters to these churches, these real churches in real places in a real time. Here's verses 14 through 22 of Revelation chapter three. Right to the angel of the church in Laodicea. Thus says the Amen, the faithful and true witness the originator of God's creation. I know your works that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth. For you say I'm rich, I become wealthy and need nothing. And you don't realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I advise you to buy from me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich white clothes. That you may be dressed in your shameful nakedness, not be exposed and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see as many as I love. I rebuke and discipline. So be zealous and repent. See? I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him. And he with me. The one who conquers. I will give the right to sit with me on my throne. Just as I also conquered and sat down with my father on his throne. Let anyone who has ears to hear. Listen to what the spirit says to the churches. Well, there is so much that we could talk about here with regard to context. If we backed up just a little bit and thought about the the literary context here we see in Revelation chapter three, verse 20. See, I stand at the door knock. If anyone here is my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me. A passage that is used in evangelism all the time. But when we read it in context, who is Jesus talking to here? He's talking to a church, he's talking to Christians, He's knocking on the door of the church's heart, so to speak, speaking to Christians and says, Let me in, let me in, and if you open the door, I'll go in and eat with you. I remember teaching this one time and I had a young woman in class who who was a staffer with y wam, and she said, when we looked at that and said, Todd, I understand what you're saying here, that this is really not an evangelistic verse, but I have used this verse all over the world and people have come to Christ with that. I mean, what do you say to that? And I said, isn't God good? 


Speaker 1 It isn't God good that we can take his word out of context and he still uses it appropriately. I mean, there's there's plenty of gospel invitation passages and so, so so saying something along the lines of Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart or Jesus is calling is probably legitimate thing to say. I just wouldn't go to Revelation chapter three, verse 22 to make that case. Okay, But we're not talking about literary context. We're talking about historical cultural context here. Now, what have archeologists found.


Speaker 2 Out about.


Speaker 1 Laodicea? Because Laodicea was a real place, that these are not like made up locations, real place, real people in a real time. What we know is that Laodicea was a primary town in the like his valley. It was it was a banking center. People did well there out to see who was famous for their black wool sheep. They also had this ophthalmology center that produced an eye sav for infections that would occur just because of all the.


Speaker 2 Dust and.


Speaker 1 Stuff that would accumulate as you were traveling. Also, also, there were three primary towns in the lake, his valley. And these are easy to remember because of how they match up with the water sources there. The Colossi and Hierapolis and Laodicea Colossi was known for its cold water springs. Colossi called Hierapolis was known for its hot water springs. Hierapolis hot. That's easy but Laodicea didn't really have their own water springs and so all the water that they had by the time they pumped it in or irrigated it in, it was lukewarm. Laodicea And and so so Jesus here in this letter is playing on all of these actual facts about layout of Syria to make a point. Now many people have read the passage and maybe you've heard this in sermons. I want to ask.


Speaker 2 If you ever taught this yourself.


Speaker 1 But have said something along the lines of Jesus wants us to be there, hot or cold, that is, he wants us to get off the fence either. But what he really wants his passion. He wants us to be there on fire for him or to be against him or be hot for him or be cold toward him either way. But he's sick of these of this fence sitting, this lukewarm, this it's time to fish or cut bait. I've heard from the pulpit and I'm not sure there's any place in the Bible where God's really excited about about us being passionately against him. I think that in if we look think about the historical context here, this letter is saying, Man, I wish that you were hot and valuable. Hot for me and valuable like the hot water that comes from Hierapolis or you were cold and refreshing. Cold and valuable like the cold water from Colossi. But instead you're neither. You're lukewarm and you make me gag, which is what lukewarm water does. I want to puke you out of my mouth.


Speaker 2 Jesus says.


Speaker 1 Now that I think is a legitimate interpretation. And I think you could have gotten that interpretation without knowing anything about hierapolis and colossi. But maybe what the historical, the actual geographical and historical context helps us do here is to adjudicate or judge between rival interpretations. So you could read this passage and think is is God saying be on fire for him or be against him just. But you know, fish or cut bait or I think you could get that from that passage. We might wonder about that because, again, is there any place else in the Bible where God says, Man, I just wish you were on fire against me rather than a fence sitter? Yeah, I don't think so. But let's. Let's call that one. One consideration and then other consideration. Where would be, you know, we all like hot water. We all like cold water. No one likes lukewarm water. And so maybe another interpretation could be, I wish you were on fire for me, like hot and useful. Or you were cold and useful. Refreshing. Be useful for me, though. Don't be lukewarm. Don't be lukewarm. So you have two rival interpretations. Which one is it? Well, I think you could get to the be hot and useful or cold and useful for me just by considering the biblical context. There's no place where we're instructed to be hot, you know.


Speaker 2 Cold towards God.


Speaker 1 But the historical, cultural context here, where we know that there were these cold water springs and hot water springs and ought to see a like the water from both of them, because all they had was lukewarm water. Knowing the historical context helps us judge. No, I don't think I don't think we can go with that first interpretation. We need to go with the latter one, and the historical cultural context helps us with that. It more. More content here. Jesus. Jesus is saying, the boy come to me and I will make you rich. Come to me, I will clothe you, I will give you salve for your eyes. It it appears that the people of leprosy had become very self-sufficient, that they had become, again lukewarm towards Jesus and Jesus saying, You really need me. You feel self-sufficient? Yes. You're known in the city for this great banking center, this ophthalmology center, this this this textile industry. But Jesus says, you need to come to me. I will give.


Speaker 2 You salve for your eyes so you can see, I will clothe you.


Speaker 1 I will make you rich.


Speaker 2 Now.


Speaker 1 Do we need the historical context in order to understand that passage? Maybe not, but it sure adds a lot of.


Speaker 2 Color to it.


Speaker 1 And and I do think that it helps us to judge between rival interpretations. Matthew Chapter 25 Verses one through 13 is another passage that helps, where historical context.


Speaker 2 Helps us understand a passage.


Speaker 1 This is towards the end of Jesus's ministry. And he's he's now telling parables about the kingdom, where he's saying, this is how I want you to behave while I'm away, because I'm going away for a really long time. And he tells this parable. At that time, the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they didn't take oil with them, but the wise ones took oil in their flasks.


Speaker 2 With their lamps.


Speaker 1 When the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep in the middle of the night. There was a shout. Here's the groom. Come out to meet him. Then all the virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish one said to the wise ones, Give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out. The wise ones answered, No, there won't be enough for us. And for you go instead to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves. When they had gone to buy some. The groom arrived and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet and the door was shut. Later, the rest of the virgins also came and said, Master, Master, open up for us. He replied, Truly, I tell you, I don't know you. Therefore, be alert because you don't know either the day or the hour. Jesus is instructing his disciples on on what you're supposed to do while He is away. He has told them that he's going away for a while, but hasn't told them how long, but it's going to be longer than they think. So he gives this parable to instruct them. The final message there is he sums it up. He says, Be alert. You don't know either the day or the hour. But what about this parable? What what does this teach us? And this is probably unlike any wedding that any of you have ever been to. Unless you live in the ancient Near East. You might notice here that the bride is not even mentioned. Contrast that with accounts of Western modern weddings, where you get great detail about what the bride wore and what kind of flowers she had and what was in her retinue and. And maybe they'll mention the name of the groom, maybe in this. So everything is really flip flopped here. And what's this about? A wedding party and people being being ready and waiting that the virgins or the maidens are there. They're like bridesmaids. Why aren't they just with the bride? Aren't they supposed to be standing around the altar or something, waiting for a pastor to pronounce the man and wife? Well, again, this would be confusing for us because it doesn't look like any wedding we've ever been to. But in the ancient Near East, this was like every wedding. This was every wedding. And so when Jesus was giving this parable because Jesus lived in the year, I don't know, 30 A.D. or so. Not in the 21st century. He spoke.


Speaker 2 Parables.


Speaker 1 Taught parables in a manner that was compelling and made sense, was relevant to the people who were listening in the engineer. The focus was on the groom, and in the wedding processions, there would be a trip to the home of the bride and then to the groom's place. So the wedding party with the groom would go to the bride's place, pick up the bride and come back to the groom's house. And only the special people accompanied the party on the way to the bride's home. But many would join the procession on the way to the groom's. Now, the focus here in Jesus story, it turns on the fact that the groom was delayed. And notice here that there's no blame. There's no problem with the fact that the the the maids, the wedding party of the bride fell asleep. It was a it was a long delay. Everyone fell asleep. The issue, though, was that not all of them were ready. And to be ready was to have sufficient oil to be part of the party that went back to the groom's home. So here comes the groom. There's that. And everyone joins the party and heads back to the groom's house. But the party crashers are kept out. And this was just a typical village wedding. So Jesus is saying here, keep watch, because you don't know the day or the hour. And the point here is eschatological. In these parables, Jesus is telling us how to wait. He's going to go away. He's going to go away for a very long time. And so he gives the parable of the virgins to say, I'm going away for a very long time while you wait for my return. Be alert and be ready for.


Speaker 2 My.


Speaker 1 Return because you don't want to be kept out. And then in the next parable, he gives the parable of the talents where he's saying, I'm going away for a very long time. How is it that you'll be ready for my return? You be working be working for me while I'm away. The lesson that Jesus taught here with this parable, it would have fallen very easily upon his audience because they were familiar with the marriage styles in your typical Palestinian village. So some historical cultural context helps us understand.


Speaker 2 What's going on there.


Speaker 1 Now. I have said to you, I have said to you that like with the with the Revelation three passage, that you could probably arrive at the right interpretation of the passage without knowing all the details of these three significant.


Speaker 2 Towns in the like US Valley.


Speaker 1 But these patterns, this historical cultural context, does help us to judge between rival interpretations. I also said that that knowing some historical cultural context gives us some color as well. It helps us to understand. It makes it makes the lesson more vivid, perhaps more understandable. And it and it helps us to discern as well. Is historical cultural context necessary for the interpretation of a biblical passage? And to that, I will say yes, absolutely, because the Scriptures were written in a particular place, in a particular time to a particular people. We have to have historical cultural context. I've also said that the biblical writers are really good writers and there is one divine mind behind all of it. Therefore, I do believe that in the entirety of the Scripture, adequate historical cultural.


Speaker 2 Context, adequate.


Speaker 1 Historical cultural context can be found in the Bible itself. But not exhaustive, not exhaustive, historical cultural context, and sometimes some extra biblical that is sourced outside the Bible, which is what I did when I talked to you about the like is valley in hot water from Hierapolis in cold water from Colossi. You don't find that in the Bible anywhere. Sometimes information like that can be very.


Speaker 2 Helpful to us.


Speaker 1 There's an individual who who was a Hebrew professor of mine named John Sailhammer, or who who was who was very much against extra biblical.


Speaker 2 Historical or cultural context.


Speaker 1 And and even though I don't entirely agree with him, I do want to walk you through his argument, because I because I think it provides perhaps a good caution for us in our application of extra biblical data. Sailhammer recognized the tension that was inherent in trying to balance the importance of God's holy acts in Scripture with the holy.


Speaker 2 Text of the Bible.


Speaker 1 Itself. And so he wrote in his introduction, Old Testament theology recognizes the importance of the inspired text of Scripture. Evangelicals want to affirm that a theology of the Old Testament should look to the text itself as the source. However, wanting also to affirm the importance of history and God's actions in real events, they, for good reason, do not want to relinquish the importance of actual historical events. What he's saying there is it actually matters that these things that are written about in the Old Testament or the New Testament.


Speaker 2 For that matter.


Speaker 1 Actually happened and they happened in real time and space history. But the question that same hammer raises is this Where does special revelation for the reader of Scripture actually lie? Is it in the revelatory events of history or in the biblical text itself? Because it's easy for anybody reading a narrative. So, you know, a story from the Old Testament, those make up a large portion of the Bible, as we'll find when we get to narrative.


Speaker 2 Analysis here later.


Speaker 1 It's easy to suppose that the biblical text merely offers a window into which the reader can become a spectator to the holy acts of God in the past. That is, the biblical text gives us a view of the really important thing, which was the event itself. And when that supposition is made, then the text becomes a means by which God's holy acts in history can be known. And the events of history are where the revelation actually lies. Let's consider, for example, the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites and the Egyptians who made it halfway across.


Speaker 2 Halfway across. Reminds me of a joke here that I.


Speaker 1 Heard often growing up in Southern Oregon. Well, why did the possum cross the road? To get to the middle.


Speaker 2 Of.


Speaker 1 It. Why did the Egyptians cross the sea? To get to the middle? Yeah. So that happened in time and space history, and it's very, very important. And our access to it is the Bible. But. There's other points of access.


Speaker 2 Perhaps.


Speaker 1 Ancient theory, history, archeology, culture. And what Salamo was concerned about was that when the focus is on the event itself. What what can happen is that the Bible becomes one of many windows to which we have access to the actual thing itself. And so he points out the danger here. He says in reading the text as such is not the focus of the reader's attention. The reader focuses on the events recorded as if they were the real thing right before one's eyes. One is thus led to focus on a holy history behind the text in place of a holy history within Scripture itself. And his concern is that. Archeology. Historical analysis, ancient near East history, sociology, all these other things become legitimate pathways to this real, real, redemptive, revelatory act. And the Bible just takes its place alongside each one of them. And you're saying that can't be because we're all Protestant here, right? The Scriptures are the norm ing norm that have no norm. We have to privilege the Bible. Now he makes a very thought provoking point that calls into question the application of historical grammatical interpretation. Long, a bastion of conservative evangelical hermeneutics. Where is the emphasis of study to be? Is it on the text of Scripture or is it on the historical context? And where might the balance be? Now, I'm not going to go as far as Sailhammer did and say. Therefore, I'm not interested in any extra biblical historical context. The reason for that is because I think there are places in the scriptures where the authors just assume that we know things that aren't actually written in Scripture. For example, John presupposes his knowledge of the historical context in his gospel. In many places, in John Chapter seven versus 14 through 37. He speaks of the Feast of Tabernacles. And it with Jesus great statement where he says, if anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Well, if we know something about what the Feast of Tabernacles had morphed into, by the time we get to Jesus, where there was a lot of water. Right? Ritual. Thanking God for bringing water, then Jesus, his statement. If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me. That is super profound. It almost sounds like a claim to deity. Whereas if if our understanding of the Feast of Tabernacles comes only from the gospel itself or from the Old Testament, where the Feast of Tabernacles was commanded, we don't get that association, but we know what was actually going on in the first century in the Feast of Tabernacles. Also, John talks about the feast of dedication, as though we all know what it is the feast of dedication that was celebrated, the purification of the temple that happened during the entire test, a mental period times we can go to the book, to the to the apocryphal books of of first and second Maccabees, for example, to read about that. But you won't find anything about the feast of dedication anywhere in the Bible until you get to John, and he just assumes we know about it. So I think the biblical authors assumed that we would know some things that we don't actually know. And because of that, I'm not willing to say no extra biblical context.


Speaker 2 Cultural context whatsoever.


Speaker 1 I'm not willing to say that. But I. I do appreciate Sailhamer's concern. We ought not to elevate. History or sociology or archeology too, where they rival scripture at all. So I give you an axiom. 11. The first and best place to look for the historical cultural context is in.


Speaker 2 The Bible itself.


Speaker 1 I do think adequate, adequate, not exhaustive, adequate historical cultural context is provided on the pages of the Bible itself so that we can rightly interpret it. Extra biblical context, I believe, is important.


Speaker 2 For.


Speaker 1 Judging between rival interpretations or adding some color and some application that it makes it easier for us to understand what what is there in front of us.


Speaker 2 In the text?


Speaker 1 Now there are two errors, I think, both on the extremes that we can commit with regard to historical cultural backgrounds. One is just ignore the cultural context completely and read the passage as though it's written specifically to me in my 21st century Pacific Northwest hipster Portland Context. That hopefully that I've demonstrated that that would be very, very difficult because I would not know what to make of of the parable of the virgins, for example.


Speaker 2 If I did that.


Speaker 1 The other error I think we can make is by overemphasizing the cultural context. I'm always concerned by pastors who in their preaching spend a lot of time with extra biblical context, giving you all sorts of detail, and I know why they do it. One, it's kind of interesting and two congregants will be very.


Speaker 2 Impressed by it.


Speaker 1 I've heard many people say, Oh, Pastor John is so great. He knows so much about history and he just makes the text come alive. I would be really concerned, though, if I preached a sermon, and the only thing that people remembered were the little historical tidbits that I gave them about what life in the Greco-Roman world was like, or the ancient Near East. What I want to do when I teach or preach is I want people to walk away thinking, Wow, this is what the text means. And it's right there. Why didn't I see that before? Why didn't I see that before? I don't want to give people the impression that they have to have a Ph.D. in ancient Near East studies or Greco-Roman History in order to interpret the Bible.


Speaker 1 So there are a couple approaches we can take to the historical background of a passage. One, again, ignore the historical context completely or just get partial information. And this occurs, I think, when we move outside or leave out the historical situation completely. We read a passage as if it were written to our generation specifically, regardless of how different our culture might be. For example, you could go to First Corinthians Chapter 11 versus four through seven where where Paul is talking about head coverings. And as you read the passage, it becomes very clear that there's some sort of connection between submission and head covering. And I'm not precisely sure what that connection is, but apparently there were women in Corinth who were who were showing up to the worship service, refusing to wear a head covering, and that was seen as rebellious. And Paul appears to be saying the worship service is no place to be demonstrating how.


Speaker 2 Rebellious you are.


Speaker 1 In our culture, though, head coverings don't communicate anything about submission. They don't communicate that at all. And so if we read First Corinthians 11, we just say, well, Paul says here, wear head coverings, so therefore I have to wear a head covering. I think we might be making a mistake. I'm not totally convinced of that, but I think we might be making a mistake there. Paul's language of for the sake of the angels kind of throws me for a loop at that point. But when Scripture is separated from history, the Bible can often be seen as mythological. It becomes untethered. It just becomes these kinds of stories and commands that are just floating out there, apart from any real meaning or purpose to the commands. Another thing we can do is to bring the historical situation into our contemporary situation. And I think this occurs when we leave our contemporary situation, get the complete historical situation, and then we bring it back.


Speaker 2 Through the text.


Speaker 1 And if we use that approach, if we ask what did it mean back then, then we can ask, what does it mean for us? So maybe in that first Corinthians 11.


Speaker 2 Passage.


Speaker 1 Where Paul is talking about head coverings, we we look at what head coverings communicated in that context and realize that Paul is making a big general point with specific application in that particular context. And we might think, okay, what's the big point that he's making? I don't think it's developing a theology of head coverings. It's more about the proper attitude when the body gathers.


Speaker 2 Together for worship.


Speaker 1 And and then we can think of culturally relevant ways where we can demonstrate.


Speaker 2 That.


Speaker 1 And apply it. One example.


Speaker 2 That I have of this.


Speaker 1 At a church that that I was that there was some conflict between the youth pastor and and the elders and the senior pastor and the whole youth staff resigned. But before they did, they were.


Speaker 2 Allowed that.


Speaker 1 Huge mistake, but they were allowed to lead the last worship.


Speaker 2 Service.


Speaker 1 They had been signed up for that it was going to be kind of youth led and they decided they were going to.


Speaker 2 Just stick it to everyone in this worship service.


Speaker 1 And and they blasted the music so loud, so loud that literally some of the elderly people in.


Speaker 2 Our congregation had tears coming out of their eyes.


Speaker 1 And it wasn't because they were so moved by the spirit, it was because it hurt. And they took a worship service as an opportunity to be defiant and to make some sort of point that had nothing to do with leading the congregation.


Speaker 2 In worship of Christ.


Speaker 1 I think that is probably a better application or not. Doing that would be a better application of first Corinthians 11 than just requiring.


Speaker 2 All the ladies to wear head coverings.