Taking the time to carefully understand the Biblical culture of the passage at hand
“We can easily forget that Scripture is a foreign land and that reading the Bible is a crosscultural experience. To open the Word of God is to step into a strange world where things are very unlike our own. Most of us don’t speak the languages.We don’t know the geography or the customs or what behaviours are considered rude or polite. And yet we hardly notice… we tend to read Scripture in our own ‘when’ and ‘where’, in a way that makes sense on our terms.” 1
Those who have had the opportunity to travel overseas understand the need to learn about local culture in the places they are going to visit. It could be dangerous not to! You might behave quite differently in Dubai compared to how you would in London or New York. Yet we can be so familiar with the Bible that we forget that opening its pages is an experience of different languages and cultures to our own. Continue reading “Bridging the Gap – Culture and Language”
To really understand our Bible, we must find ways to bridge the gap between its time and place, and our time and place.
We are separated from the people who wrote and received books of the Bible by between 2000 and 5000 years. That’s a long time! We look at black and white pictures of our grandparents or great-grandparents and wonder about how different their world was. They lived only a hundred or so years ago, the Bible is from 2000 years ago.
How Christ’s audience would have understood his teaching on the salt of the earth
Very early in the Sermon on the Mount, straight after the opening discourse on the blessings on mourners, peacemakers, and the merciful, Christ used two metaphors to describe what the disciples were to be: they were to be the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. We’re going to look at the first of these. Continue reading “The Salt of the Earth”
Through our 21st century, western eyes, Psalm 29 seems to be about how God shows his strength in the natural world. He thunders, he breaks cedar trees, and he sits enthroned on a flood. The psalm also contains language that is not so familiar and gives us the uneasy feeling that we possibly don’t understand it as well we might. For example, God’s voice flashes fire (v7), he makes Lebanon skip like a calf (v6), and he shakes the wilderness of Kadesh (v8) – the significance of these phrases is not obvious. By the end of the psalm we’re not sure exactly what it’s about, but are pretty comfortable that it’s somehow a declaration that God’s power is shown in dramatic weather events like thunder, lightning, and floods. Continue reading “Ascribe to Yahweh”
How Christ’s audience would have understood his teaching on the eye being the light of the body
Compared to the verses that surround it, Matthew 6:22-23 is hard to understand:
Mt 6:22–23 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”1
It is not immediately apparent how the eye is the body’s lamp, or in what sense the eye was said to be healthy/unhealthy, or how a healthy eye results in the body being full of light, or how a body can be full of light at all. Continue reading “The Lamp of the Body”