Understanding Cultural & Historical Context of Scripture

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There are many reasons why knowing the cultural and historical background of the New Testament is vital to properly understanding it.  Dr. Gutierrez states in his book The essence of the New testament: A Survey, “the Bible was written for us, not to us.”[1] The New Testament was written at different times, in different places, by different people, and to different people. Without knowing things like: background, situation, audience, location, etc. -one can’t entirely grasp the full context of the scripture. For instance, the ministry of Christ would have been hard to understand without first knowing the history of Israel and all the events recorded leading up to Jesus’ birth. Knowing the historical background of the Old Testament sets us up for the New. Knowing the history and cultures of the authors of the New Testament is also very important.  For example, Matthew was originally a tax collector for the Romans (Matthew 9:9-10) and Paul persecuted and killed Christians. Knowing the authors puts context and perspective to their testimonies and shows how God miraculously moved within their story. The culture at the time the New Testament was written is very different from our culture today. There was a different economy, different traditions, different beliefs, down to different food. Therefore, it is important to consider these things when interpreting scripture. The more that we can learn about the culture and history of the New Testament, the better we can contextualize and relay the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

[1]  Towns E. & Gutierrez B. (2012). Essence of the New Testament: A Survey. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing

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