“Unremarkable” is the word the nurse used when she told me the results of a recent chest x-ray. “
Unremarkable? Really?” I asked. “That’s disappointing.” I wanted to be remarkable, above-average, extra-ordinary.”
“Oh, no,” she laughed. “Unremarkable is good. It means nothing wrong is showing up on the x-ray.” “You’re normal.”
I don’t know about the normal part but I do know what she meant. So, “remarkable” in the medical world is bad. “Remarkable” in the rest of the world is good.
Lesson? When it comes to communication, context is crucial.
The 66 books of the Bible communicate to us. How would knowing the cultural and historical context help us to properly interpret, understand and apply some of those “head-scratching” passages?
*Women not teaching or having authority over man – 1Timothy 2:1-12
*God giving rules on when and how a man was allowed more than one wife – Exodus 21:10; Deuteronomy 21:15-16
*Greeting each other with a kiss – 2 Corinthians 13:12 (Five times the N.T. tells us to do this). Maybe we should supply mouth-wash at our hand-sanitizing stations!
*How about Titus 1:5-6 – “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.” Now isn’t that interesting. A literal application of these verses would disqualify a lot of leaders.
*How about the “God as a warrior who kills a lot” passages (Deuteronomy 2:33-34; Joshua 6:21; 1 Samuel 15:2-3)? Check out the thoughts of Peter Enns.
I admit that trying to understand and apply the Bible in light of its cultural and historical context isn’t as easy as saying, “Well, the Bible says so and so we do it,” but I’ve never said this wouldn’t get messy.
While being “inspired” the Bible was written by people in certain cultures and languages. We can best encounter the Bible by taking into account those contexts. What other passages would be better understood by a better understanding of their cultural/historical contexts?
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Does this mean God doesn’t hear us the first time that we have to pray continually? I believe he heard me the first time, and I turn it over to him. I don’t keep praying about it, because I know he heard me, and he will answer in his time. I take this verse to mean, pray always… keep communication lines open between you can God. Confess my sins daily, list them and thank him for forgiving me every day.