. On Christian Trinkets and Bad Exegesis

On Christian Trinkets and Bad Exegesis

Internet meanderings recently landed me on the Amazon product page for the bookmark below. It’s the kind of bookmark you’re supposed to give to a friend or loved one, and it bears two Bible verses. Notice the citation from Genesis 31 in particular.

heretical bookmark

Do you see what I see?

Somebody forgot to read the context of Genesis 31. In that passage, Jacob finally escapes the clutches of his conniving uncle Laban. Unable to travel very fast with all his children and herds, Laban catches up to him. Violence is in the air. But God warns Laban in a dream to say nothing to Jacob. Nothing: “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” And Laban pretty well manages it. He couches his threat in conditional language, “If you do such and such…” And the “apodosis”—the consequences Laban threatens—he leaves in the hands of God:

The LORD watch between you and me, when we are out of one another’s sight. If you oppress my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no one is with us, see, God is witness between you and me.” (Genesis 31:49–50 ESV)

Laban is not saying with a big smile on his face, “Good luck, dear friend! Even if you get some additional wives and, um, oppress my daughters, I pray God protects you!” If he did that, he’d be violating God’s prohibition about saying anything good.

Neither is Laban making a threat, exactly—at least not a threat about something he’ll do. He’s saying, “Watch out, buddy. You mess with my daughters, and I’ll. . . I’ll. . . [Here he thinks of the dream he had the previous night.] God will see it!”

In the words of Bruce Waltke in his excellent and innovative commentary, “This is an imprecation that the Lord monitor the treaty, not a benediction” (434). (And Wenham, in his excellent commentary, points out that it’s a little ironic that Laban, the one who pushed Jacob into bigamy, should warn him not to get any more wives.)

Understanding Scripture accurately

The other verse the bookmark makers cited truly is a benediction, and a beautiful one, Numbers 6:24. And I’m sure I commit errors in my own Bible interpretation (my wife, who has a seminary degree, has sometimes had to point them out). And the misuse of Genesis 31:49 doesn’t exactly count as heresy. Should I give this bookmark a pass—or maybe buy it and use only one side?

No. As a matter of principle, I can’t support decontextualized Bible reading—what would OLSHA members say? I am driven by a desire to understand the text of Scripture accurately—in part so I can obey it myself and in part so I can teach it accurately to others. And where do errant teachers get traction except in persuading people that their views of relevant Scripture passages are accurate?

You aren’t meant to interpret the Bible completely on your own. Christ gave teachers to his church (Eph 4:11–14), and they bear a responsibility to watch over the sheep precisely because of the presence of wolves (Acts 20:28–30). But the best thing sheep can do to make sure the wolves don’t get them is to develop their own skill in Bible reading.

You should care about casual twisting of Scripture. You shouldn’t stand for it. Even if the item is kind of pretty and your friend would like it and it’s 50% off today only. Join me in boycotting all teal bookmarks on Amazon which include polka dots, a photo slot, and Bible verses lifted out of context—will you?


Commentators are supposed to help you make sure you’re reading Scripture with adequate care. If you are studying Genesis, pick up Waltke or Mathews, both of which are appropriate even if you don’t know Hebrew. Wenham is great, too, but a bit more technical. And don’t forget to get the always observant Calvin and the always stimulating Kidner.

mark ward
Mark L. Ward, Jr. received his PhD from Bob Jones University in 2012; he now serves the church as a Logos Pro. He is the author of multiple high school Bible textbooks, including Biblical Worldview: Creation, Fall, Redemption.



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Written by
Mark Ward

Christian, husband, father, writer, ultimate frisbee player when possible.

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  • I knew where you were going with this post. I've probably read that passage 40-50 times, in the Hebrew no less! But you are spot on! It's one thing when secular companies like Amazon do it. That's bad enough. But sometimes "reputable" bible teachers do it. It is a real pet peeve to see scripture taken out of context like that. A professor of mine in Bible college always used to say "Context is king." He couldn't drum it into us often enough. Thanks for the good post.

    • Context is king. And love is high king. (And Christ is king of kings.) If we really love God and people, we will not abuse the words of God or of his servants the prophets.

  • As a mature age theology student exegesis is my love but my stumbling block as well.

    I could never just read the Bible; yes I learnt the story but not its meaning or the reason for its inclusion. Bible quoting Christians were a horror to me and I wondered if that is that they were, “Bible quoters” without any real knowledge or, knowledge that suited their purpose. It is still the same stumbling block.

    My thought processes led me to a combined OT/NT commentary and then separate Testament and now individual commentaries.

    Theology College and “Bible Interpretation” was my ultimate and even then my critics claimed that the Bible was emphatic that College training was not necessary. God alone did the explaining and the training. Eisegsis was their motivation.

    I attended a small country church and eventually I left because of the attitude.

    Today, my big question as I read is this: Why did God really include the narrative?

    • D.A. Carson has pointed out in his excellent little book, Exegetical Fallacies, that knowledge of those exegetical fallacies can be “highly calorific nourishment for pride.” But so can ignorance of them. I have experienced a little of what you describe, and it is indeed unutterably sad: why would members of Christ’s body cavalierly dismiss a serious attempt to understand what he says? The NT counsels patience and meekness for church teachers who find themselves in such a situation (2 Tim 2:24–25).

  • You mentioned that followers of Jesus should “develop their own skill in Bible reading” to help us avoid the “wolves”. I would like to emphasize two issues of “skill in Bible reading” that are sometimes overlooked in our society (in contrast to China or South Korea.) The first issue is our need to stop and pray to the Father to use the Holy Spirit to help us understand and apply the passage we are about to read. The visual on the Logos homepage of today is from 2 Peter 1:19 which urges us to pay attention to the prophetic word as to a lamp shining in a dark place. That means we need the word now to keep from stumbling around in the dark. Peter then explains that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation, because no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. If we want to keep text in context (and avoid “cons”) no one can help us like the Holy Spirit Who produced the text and context in the first place. 1 John 2:26-27 says, I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive [trick] you. “But the anointing that you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you” [to avoid the cons]. “But as His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in Him.” Abiding in Him means talking to Him and asking for His help. 1 John 4:1-6 gives us more guidance about recognizing “the Spirit of God” speaking to us. The second issue about “skill in Bible reading” is respect for the Bible itself. The Bible is not just another book. God’s precious Word to us in not a career/means of making money (you can’t serve God and money) or an ego-booster (I know something you don’t know). God’s Word is about me and God’s expectations of me and whether I’ll receive a “well done” because I “received” that Word. 2 Tim.3:16-17 says, “Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” That means the Scripture tells me what is expected of me, warns me if I get off the path, helps me to get back on the path, and helps me stay on the path so that I will be ready for whatever comes next in my life. The word of God helps me to understand the “thoughts and intentions” of my own heart (Heb.4:12). Memorizing Psalm 119 can be a good place to start in respecting the Bible. Respecting the power of the Bible is necessary for me to avoid a wasted life. I need more than my intellect and logic to keep me from taking the text out of context.

  • A better way to have said that was, My intellect and logic are necessary but not sufficient to keep me from taking the text out of context.

    • Right. The Bible is the revelation of a divine person to persons made in that same image. It is not a set of coded computer instructions. It is the hinge point in a relationship Christians have with God.

  • So I would have to ask the question: why did the Lord include this verse in His Bible? God would never give us scripture as a model to speak a curse, nor to seal a covenant with a threat using His Holy name. So what IS His purpose for including it? The “why” here could be the focus of deep exegetical research, and probably already has. What does this verse say to us today? We should never forget ALL of the components of inductive Bible study: Observation, Interpretation, and APPLICATION. Scripture must always be APPLIED to our lives not just studied, and the Holy Spirit sends different messages to us at different times, and sometimes different messages from the same verse or passage. There is ALWAYS application in scripture for us today, fresh rhema words of encouragement, direction, admonition, or conviction for the moment where the Holy Spirit breaths on His living, active logos Word and speaks it to us in our circumstances. He can and does use unlikely passages to guide and direct us. This is not taking scripture out of context when we seek His face sincerely and humbly and listen to His voice with open minds as He shapes His Word just for us and writes it on our hearts. It never ceases to amaze me how he shapes us through application of His Word. Do I believe in literal interpretation of the scriptures? BY ALL MEANS, YES! Does God want us to interpret His Word out of context? NEVER! But even some of the Gospel writers are accused of this very thing. An example is Matthew 1:22-23 quoting Isaiah 7:14. If we zoom out and take a look at Isaiah 7:14 in context, it looks at lot different than the beautiful quotation of it in Matthew 1. I have no doubt we all agree that this prophetic verse speaks the hope of salvation into all of mankind, even though it was given by weary, grieving God specifically to closed-minded, hypocritical King Ahaz. Are we going to toss out the encouraging application of Jeremiah 29:11? Does God know the plans He has for our lives? Of course! Does He want us to know they are good plans? Without question! Who knows how many people’s lives have been radically changed for Jesus by Jeremiah 29:11 in spite of the fact that, in context, it is being given specifically to the rebellious exiles in Babylon. Do I believe God tailors His Word specifically for us in our circumstances? BY ALL MEANS, YES! It is amazing some of the unlikely verses that the Holy Spirit has used to speak life into me and direct my faith walk. So we should be careful about judging someone else’s APPLICATION of scripture. If the bookmark in question above speaks life into someone’s heart and draws them to Jesus, I praise God for it!

    • Tim, I see what you’re saying, and you raise some valid points. I don’t believe Scripture “means” anything for anyone until it is applied—that is, (as John Frame says), if you don’t know how to use a passage, then you don’t know what it means. And I can praise God that even when people misuse Scripture he can and does bring good out of it. But I would indeed “toss out the encouraging application” of Jeremiah 29:11—or at least that particular application. We have no authority to tell someone, even a Christian, that God has good plans for them, plans for hope and a future. They could die tomorrow in God-given poverty; we don’t know. We can, however, appeal to New Testament (and Old Testament) passages which already have more general application. Romans 8:28 comes to mind. And we can say, “Look what kind of God you serve, the kind who is this merciful to his rebellious people.

      That, in fact, seems to be one of the big things going on in Genesis 31. God has chosen Abraham and no one else in his generation, Isaac and not Ishmael, Jacob and not Esau (see Romans 9), and God will protect and bless these people no matter what scrapes they get themselves into. When it is seen as part of a grand story of redemption, one worked out in God’s providence almost solely through this one nation, the story takes real shape.

      Here’s what Bruce Waltke suggests about theological and personal application in that excellent commentary I hope you already have:

      God’s providence also entails justice. Laban exploited Jacob and his daughters for fourteen years and still experienced God’s blessing because of his gifted nephew. In the end, however, God turns the tables. Jacob and his wives walk away with the riches they have earned and triumph majestically over Laban without lifting a sword. Laban’s greed robs him, leaving him without wealth or daughters and their children (see Prov. 16:7).

      Divine Guidance and Faith
      In the scene’s opening (31:1–3), we are given a cameo of God’s program of guidance.184 Jacob decides it is time to leave because of God’s words to him to flee, his own discernment of the mischief intended by Laban’s family, and his providential hearing of their hostile conversation (31:1–3). In addition, he has the consent of the community; his wives have their own grievances. Jacob responds at once, trusting God to protect him in his flight, knowing that Laban will pursue him with a greatly superior army.

      The twelve tribes repeat Abraham’s migrations to the sworn land from Paddan Aram (see 12:1–9; 35:23–26) and later from Egypt with great wealth (see 12:10–20). The tribes’ exodus from the house of bondage also foreshadows their Exodus from Egypt (see Deut. 26:5–8; Hos. 12:12–13). They go in response to God’s call (Gen. 31:3) to worship in the land of Canaan (31:13, 17–18); they spoil their enemy of wealth and gods (31:17–21); they are pursued and overtaken by superior forces (31:22–23); and they are delivered by divine intervention (31:24). All this is an example of new Israel’s pilgrimage to the heavenly land (see 1 Cor. 10:1–4).

      Laban is a classic example of sin’s irrationality (Prov. 16:2; Jer. 17:9). The deluded scoundrel, who has repeatedly cheated Jacob, unabashedly complains that Jacob has wronged him (Gen. 31:26–30)! He is blind to the significance of the dream that vindicates Jacob and condemns him. He is deaf to the silence of his daughters, which shouts out against his delusion. Although he does not even attempt to rebut Jacob’s evidence of innocence, he continues to claim pretentiously his right to the property and offers no apology. Contrary to all evidence, he presents himself a loving father, full of beneficence, who would send his homesick nephew and family away with song. Though he has egregiously wronged his daughters, he makes Jacob swear not to wrong them! Laban is a man without excuse. On several occasions he testifies both to the providential protection and provision of Abraham’s God on Abraham’s family (24:50; 30:30) and to God’s dream to him (31:29). He is without excuse for hardening his heart against God out of love for himself.

      Bruce K. Waltke and Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 435–437.

    • Jeremiah 29:8-14 is actually in the middle of a chapter about false prophets (with good intentions) taking God’s word out of context and making false and harmful promises. Jeremiah is very upset about this practice. “For thus says YHWH of Resources, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream,  for IT IS A LIE that they are prophesying to you in My name; I did not send them, declares YHWH. For thus says YHWH: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you My promise and bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I have for you, declares YHWH, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you.  You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, declares YHWH, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares YHWH, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” Sometimes we falsely classify as “blessings” things which are not good for us at all. Applying the Bible is about our relationship with our Father and trusting Him to show us how to understand His message. [It is true that much good has come out of old Ben’s sayings: “God helps those who help themselves.” and “Cleanliness in next to godliness.” but pretending that those concepts came from the Bible is a slap in God’s face.] Good can come out of misapplication as well as out of application, but our goal should be to handle God’s message with integrity and to trust God to help us in our limitations.

      • To summarize Jeremiah 29, taking God’s Word out of context may have some short-term benefits, but it is destructive in the long-term. In the end,
        God wins, and he can use even our mistakes for our good, but being still and listening for His voice now is the very best both short-term and long-term.

  • Thanks for the post. I had a recent heart-rending confrontation with a member of my leadership team over his knowingly twisting Scripture during a sermon. It didn't end well (he and his family left the church). A timely reminder for all who present the word of God to others.

  • First, let us acknowledge that Laban was not speaking God’s word to Jacob. Job’s “3 friends” are identified by God Himself as not speaking correctly, and Job had to intervene on their behalf. Not all things in Scripture have equal value, they’re included because they actually happened, not necessarily to convey Truth or God’s Will.
    Second, Scripture is not God’s Word to anyone, anytime, anywhere, in all situations. This goes beyond mere context evaluation. Also, not all are teachers and yet so many practice as if they were.
    Third, we must recall that saying “The Lord says…” when God actually did not, is a terrible thing. It may make sense in our culture or experience, but we are to be seeking the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness. We are in the world, but not to be “of the world”.

    I saw a bumpersticker on an elder’s car in our former church’s parkinglot awhile ago. It said to pray for our President, then listed Psalms 109.8. I was glad we left that church. That is a threat, a vicious pretense at holiness, a mockery of God’s Kingdom, and more. It was not humorous.

    • Saying “The Lord says…” when God actually did not, is a terrible thing.

      It would be hard for me to pick a sentence that more animates me when I write or speak about the Bible.

  • I wholeheartedly appreciate you pointing out how easily we can take verse out of context to suit our decor or agenda. Yes, yes, we must consider context and the counsel of the wise, and look at the whole of Scripture and not just the parts that sound good.

  • "Join me in boycotting all teal bookmarks on Amazon which include polka dots, a photo slot, and Bible verses lifted out of context—will you?"

    How many times did you rewrite this? I think this is a great sentence.

    • And if we use passages to say something they’re not saying, we actually remove any authority or power we have—even if what we ultimately say is true.

        • That’s great. I like that. Yeah, it’s really like saying, “Uh, sorry, but I’ve got something better to say.”

          I don’t want to heap scorn on people. We are not just fallen but finite, and I believe there are such things as well-intended mistakes. I also don’t hold church members responsible to nearly the same degree to which I hold pastors responsible for doing this sort of thing. James 3 says that those who teach will receive a stricter judgment. I want to be measured by the same measure with which I measure, not a harsher one. I myself have made numerous mistakes in exegesis in public settings. Most often, I think, I end up thinking of a cross-reference and then using it without really thinking through its context. Many times I’ve been in the middle of quoting or summarizing a verse, extemporaneously, and I suddenly have the thought: “Am I really using this verse according to its intended purpose(s)?”

  • I have a few questions, for you. Mark, did you act on your knowledge, by leaving a comment on the product page? Did you then contact Amazon’s Customer Service department (1-888-280-4331 or 1-866-216-1072 or via email at amazon.com/help/customer), with your concerns?

    This is a marvelous forum to reach, share, read, teach, learn and lead with scripture knowledge. Beyond Logos, there are many other forums, in which each of us, can impart the attributes, I mentioned. Amazon, and the companies that sell on this site, is just one forum of many, in which to inform the uninformed.

    • I actually did leave a comment on the product page. This happened several years ago. I wish I had been a little more gentle (2 Tim 2:23–26); that’s why I didn’t share my response in the post.

  • “You aren’t meant to interpret the Bible completely on your own. Christ gave teachers to his church (Eph 4:11–14), and they bear a responsibility to watch over the sheep precisely because of the presence of wolves (Acts 20:28–30). But the best thing sheep can do to make sure the wolves don’t get them is to develop their own skill in Bible reading.”

    But who are those Christ-given teachers who bear the responsibility of watching over sheep like me? How do we know who they are? Who or what, if anyone or anything, can attest to someone’s status as a Christ-given apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, or teacher? If I am supposed to figure out who the Christ-given teachers (etc.) are from my own discernment, what’s the point in Christ sending them? If I know the Bible well enough to be able to determine on my own who the Christ-given teachers are, do I really need them to teach me what the Bible means? And if I can’t reliably separate the Christ-given teachers from the errant ones, how am I supposed to figure out much of anything? If skill in Bible reading were enough, wouldn’t basically all Bible-focused theologians agree with each other, at least about all or even most of the important stuff?

    To put my question another way: Mark Ward, if you end up becoming a pastor somewhere some day, how will I be able to tell if you are a Christ-given teacher or an errant one?

    • These are such excellent questions—and so well written, well written enough that I wonder if I’m being baited by an anonymous professional… =) Questioners who think clearly enough to write like this generally have answers in mind already. I have given careful attention to the issue you raise over a long period of time (I’m reading on it now, in fact) and I can barely resist the opportunity to chime in. But I’m going to have to. I let this sit for many days and worked for a good while on a response, but it’s just going to have to become a blog post. I need space to develop some thoughts.

      A precís: if some authority justifies, validates, or proves the Bible, that authority stands over the Bible. So, finally, all I can do is quote the Bible to you. And I hope to do that in a future post.

      I recommend Michael Kruger’s book Canon Revisited on this topic, as sort of foundational (it deals with canon). I also profited greatly from Mark D. Thompson’s A Clear and Present Word. And I’m excited to get into Timothy Ward’s Word and Supplement: Speech Acts, Biblical Texts, and the Sufficiency of Scripture and his follow-up, Words of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God .

  • While I completely agree with the first part of this post about taking scripture out of context and reading what you want it to convey since it fits your theological world view (isogesis), but would be interested to know how you know that “your” particular interpretation is actually correct and the interpretation of the person next to you or down the street at a competing church is wrong? Especially when they espouse a belief that is 180 degrees from what your church teaches.

    You cited Eph 4:11-14 which is an excellent example of what Jesus left to the Church, the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit to lead the Church into the fullness of the faith. Earlier St Paul in Eph 4:4-6 states that “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.” So if there is one body (meaning one body of Christ which is the Church) and there is one Spirit (one Holy Spirit that was left to guide the body of Christ through the Apostles), that there is one faith (one faith and teaching that was given to the Apostles, who were guided by the Holy Spirit, to lead the Church and pass on to their successors, we are all to believe and hold the same faith and beliefs), one baptism (one becomes a member of the body of Christ by valid baptism) etc., then how did we get to where we are now with anywhere from 2000 to 20,000 different denominations? Many of these denominations claim to be “the one, true church that Christ founded”, but how could that be so since they are usually founded by someone who didn’t agree with what was said at one church and then went and founded another that then taught what that person wanted to believe and agreed with. It seems to me that if we are trying to understand scripture accurately, we cannot just rely on what seemed to make sense to this or that teacher but rather should be looking at how the Church always understood and interpreted the scripture. Novel (new) interpretations of scripture are usually discovered when the context of scripture is removed and replaced with the pretext of what we have been conditioned or taught to believe, usually by well meaning people who may have been just as wrong.

    Nothing was intended to offend in my post, just some thoughts on this post and the state of Christianity in the world today.

    • Not offensive at all. I sat on this for the same reason I sat on the similar comment I just replied to: I wanted to provide an answer as good as the question. I decided it will have to wait till a future blog post—although I can offer you no good reason to wait for any pronouncement I might make. I’m just a redheaded stranger from the Internet.

      However, I will ask you a question I imagine you’ve heard. You said,

      We cannot just rely on what seemed to make sense to this or that teacher but rather should be looking at how the Church always understood and interpreted the scripture.

      Do you really believe the Church has spoken with one voice? Abelard, of Sic et Non fame, didn’t.

    • You mean, if someone gives me the bookmark? I’ll pick another battle. But if my daughter or best friend gave me one of those necklaces split in two and citing this verse, and if I was expected to wear it… Then we might have a little talk! =)

  • Katherine Harms my friends know the scriptures and so does my kids and grand kids. They are not confused. It's a great tool to use to explain why we should be bereans and study the Word of God. Now if you feel that strong about it call the company and let them know. Explain it to them.

  • So much of this is so quotable. It is written in an appropriately prophetic tone, and, although some might take exception to your sounding “harsh,” I do not. Not at all! I particularly loved the 2nd paragraph under the heading “Understanding Scripture accurately.”

    I’m officially joining that boycott, although boycotts are not generally my style. Now, where can I sign up for the OLSHA? Seriously. Can we at least have a virtual club? :-)

    P.S. In a related matter, early today, I posted a quote from a Logos course/training video on my blogsite about supposedly translation and supposedly-word-for-word ones. If you happen to know of a different attribution I should give, or if Faithlife/Logos wouldn’t approve of my quoting in this way, please advise. https://blcasey.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/there-is-no-such-thing/

    • Thanks so much.

      Boycotts aren’t my style either. Most of mine are tongue-in-cheek. =)

      Quoting Logos material is totally fine. If you’re able to give the direct link while citing, that’s best. But it’s not the end of the world if you don’t. My team, the Logos Pros, made that training course and we’re so glad you’re benefiting from it!

  • Thank you for this post. I recently had a conversation with a fellow Christian about the importance of understanding the proper context of Bible sctiptures.
    Through your post, we see how easy it is to get caught up over a trinket containing scripture versus that are not in right alignment with the proper context of the verse.
    Thank you for sharing!

  • Thank you for this post. I recently had a conversation with a fellow Christian about the importance of understanding the proper context of Bible sctiptures.
    Through your post, we see how easy it is to get caught up over a trinket containing scripture versus that are not in right alignment with the proper context of the verse.
    Thank you for sharing!

  • I think it was on the first day of my first undergrad Bible class when Professor read Matt. 18:20, "when two or three are gatherd in My name [says Jesus], there I am…" And asked, "What does that verse mean?" To my simple understanding at that time I thought what a silly question, Jesus said exactly what He meant. Several gave typical answers, but then Professor laid down context to us and the critical, absolute importance it has for correctly understanding Scripture. The context of that verse is in a church discipline scenario, not so much a pass on corporate worship or as many well-meaning people have decontextualized it to refer to a smaller, humble gathering.

  • Thank you for a pointed – and GOOD – observation, Mark. One of the things I noticed as I finished up another year of reading through the Bible is the way that the written record tells us how the prophets and the apostles quoted and used Scripture. Now, I've not done any tight and scrupulous (Sp?) exegesis on any given passage, but it seems to me that (at least) some of the proof-texts were not carefully observant of context. Willing to be corrected on this matter though.

  • 'Scuse me. I don't think as quickly as I used to . . . . All I meant in the previous post was, well, let's not make an idol of context. I have literally preached context through the years. I am firmly convinced it is vitally important. But, let's not worship context, 'cause those folks, back in the day, thought differently and spoke differently than us Rationalism-oriented, sophisticated, super-educated, PC and inclusive Westerners.

    • I’ll admit that this is a tough issue. Two quick thoughts: 1) the author of Hebrews, it seems to me, performed the kind of exegesis of Old Testament texts that expository preachers today tend to promote, so it’s not as if that kind of grammatical-historical interpretation is foreign to the NT. And 2) if you don’t force the NT authors to use the word (or concept) “fulfilled” in precisely the same way everywhere, but are open to allusions and echoes that aren’t claimed as “fulfillments,” some of the problems go away.

      We’ve got a great commentary, a helpful handbook, and a helpful interactive tool that can help you dig deeper into this issue.

  • Very good post. You manned my soap-box admirably!

    Since it seems you are always on the look-out for material for future posts, I wish you would consider a follow-up in which you analyze the inspired writers apparent mis-contextualization of the OT in the NT. I request this for two reasons:
    1. I want to personally use God’s Word as His Word shows us to.
    2. I do not want to be inappropriately critical of others’ handling of the Word.

Written by Mark Ward