Literary Context

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Points out the importance of reading a passage in its literary context, and with regard for the appropriate genre (e.g., the psalm, the proverb, apocalyptic). The concentric circle diagram is not available for you to look at, but you can draw it from the description Dr. Guthrie gives in the lecture.


Literary Context


I. Words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs have no specific meaning apart from a specific context.

A. The danger of flying planes.

B. The meanings of the word table.

C. The word stop.

D. We want to hear what God is saying to us and to hear it well we must hear it with a specific context.


II. Two areas:

A. What is the broader literary context?

1. Literary context - The material that works with and surrounds the passage under consideration.

2. We have several layers of context and we must consider:

a. How each fits into the passage.

b. How each fits into the paragraph.

c. How each one fits into the section of the book.

d. How each fits into the book itself.

e. How each in the New Testament fits into Paul's other works.

f. How each fits into the New or Old Testament.

g. How each fits into the Bible itself.

3. Tools that might help in studying literal context.

a. A commentary

b. A study Bible

c. A Bible dictionary

d. "How to read the Bible - Book by Book"

4. Philippians 4:13 - How do people usually read this passage?

a. Most read it in terms of physical ability

b. Paul isn't talking about that. He is really talking about contentment. V10ff

B. What is the genre or type of literature of this part of the Bible?

1. The rules of the game. There are certain rules we have to follow when we are dealing with different kinds of genre.

a. We read history different than we read fiction. This is true even in the Bible

i. The Old Testament

ii. Narrative

iii. Law

iv. Poetry

v. Prophecy

vi. Wisdom

vii. Gospels

viii. Paul’s letters

ix. Apocalyptic

b. Examples:

i. Psalms - Psalms are a hymn or song that expresses worship to God.

a) The Psalms are divided into 5 different types

b) We need to tune into what emotion is being expressed. Is it a lament or a psalm of wisdom?

c) The concluding application of the psalm should be on our worship.

d) Psalm 18:37-40 - How do you respond to this particular psalm?

ii. Proverbs - Proverbs are generalized truths about life

a) Proverb 12:1-11

b) These are principles for how we approach life.

iii. Revelations- Revelation is apocalyptic - highly symbolic.

a) Revelation chapter 9

b) The fifth trumpet - v. 3ff and Hal Lindsey

c) Locusts are a symbol of God's judgment

d) What is the symbol intended to mean?


III. How sensitivity to literal context can help us.

A. It tips us off to the authors point.

B. It can help communicate the force or power of what is being communicated.

Moses and the children of Israel

C. It can keep us on track in terms of application.

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