Historical Background

This week, while I was in staff meeting, I was struck by a brilliant idea. It wasn’t really that brilliant, but it got me thinking about how I interpret the Bible and how my interpretation affects my teaching. 

When I was in high school, my grandparents bought a house in the country. It’s a cool house in the middle of nowhere Indiana. It wasn’t always so cool. When they bought it, it was disgusting. They had to put so much time, work, and money into making it livable. Now it is livable and they just love being there. 

The house didn’t have a garage at first. Grandpa decided that they needed to have one so that they could store stuff in the garage. They had the master plan. Someone came and poured the concrete. Everything was ready for the framers. 

Those framers just happened to be me and my parents. 

That work/vacation was a blast. I learned how to frame a garage by putting up the studs, and nailing everything in place. We put the walls up. Then we made and inserted the ceiling beams so that we could put on the roof. Once we had the ceiling framed, we placed sheets of plywood on them so that we could walk around. 

Once we completed all that work, we were ready for framing the roof. It was so hard. I never realized how much work went into putting a garage together. It was just a garage. I can’t imagine how hard a house would be to put together. My family and I argued how to build the roof’s frame. We had to get the angle and the height right otherwise we wouldn’t have a roof. It took us 2-3 days just to get all the figuring done before we were able to finish the roof. 

It was hard work, but it was needed. 

The frame had to be right, otherwise the garage would have fallen. We could think that we had it all right all we wanted. However, when we started to put it all together, it was obvious that our frame was wrong. 

The foundation and framework on a garage and house are so important. 

Imagine how hard it would be to build a house without walls or a roof. 

Imagine how hard it would be to interpret Scripture without a framework. 

In staff meeting, we were reading John 6. There Jesus tells a huge group of people that He is the bread of life. We in the meeting read it together and then talked about what jumped out to us. It was a great discussion. Everyone had great insights. It was a humbling discussion where we all tried to deepen each other. 

However, I left dissatisfied. 

It wasn’t anyone’s fault and no one said anything to bug me. I agreed with almost everything that everyone said. 

So how could I be frustrated? 

I was frustrated, because I was basing my interpretation of that text based on my understanding of life today. I didn’t view it through the lens of their way of life 2,000 years ago. 

I made the bread of life about me. 

I injected my systems of postmodernity and my way of semi-urban life into an agrarian life. I forgot the history. Historical context though is huge. 

Without amazing background work and without the framework that everything Jesus said stands upon and within, how in the world am I supposed to understand what Jesus said and how it was received?

Here’s the idea - 

If I went to Bible College, and i struggle with probing the historical context and making sure that it is a huge part of my interpretation of Scripture, how in the world is a jr. high and high school student going to interpret Scripture through that lens? 


They won’t...



unless we teach them and more importantly model it. 

Historical context is huge. The Bible was written to real people who had real issues and struggles. They had a culture that was full of the inside jokes, and idioms that we can only begin to understand. We are so removed from that world. Things have changed. We have changed. Our understanding of the world has changed. We can’t just read the text and go, oh that makes perfect sense. 

Its hard,

The Bible is super complexed. The world in which we live in is complex now and I am sure that it was then. People had to try to make sense of the world. They couldn’t, so that came up with gods. The gods must cause all this stuff because we can’t explain it any other way. That was the culture of the Ancient Near East. Jesus was later born into that framework. 

I want to study so that I can see the text the way the first hearers and readers saw the text. 

Impossible? yes to a point

But I am going to try. 

Dad and I were in a car going to visit an intern from LCU. We had a discussion about teaching while we were there. It bothered me. That student didn’t study much and they were trying to teach high school kids about Jesus and the world that He lived it. On the way back in the car, dad and I debriefed our conversation with the student and his mentor. Together we discovered an important truth in teaching. 

The more time that we are removed from the actual events, the more that we must study in order to understand them they way that they were meant to be understood. 

Thats the importance of framework. 

Your house needs a strong one, shouldn’t your Bible study?