September 2014, Vol. 33, No. 9

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Context Can Keep You From Drowning

posted on February 7, 2019

[487 words]

It is possible to twist the scriptures, particularly those portions which are harder to understand, to one’s own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). Satan misuses scripture to cloud the thinking of those he wishes to lead astray (Matthew 4:6), and he certainly has not gone out of business in the information age. We have so much information available to us nowadays, but much of it is bad information. When we fail to study for ourselves, but, instead, swallow whole what purported experts have to say, we make ourselves more susceptible to false teachers.

False teachers sometimes attempt to drag their objectors into deeper water so they can drown them in false doctrine. One example of this is the misuse of the original languages in which the Bible was written: Hebrew, Aramaic (in which only some very small portions of the Bible were written), and Greek. It is sad when those who are unlearned in the original languages concede to false teaching just because they believe going to the Hebrew or the Greek ultimately settles the matter. Thankfully, we have defenders of truth that are able to swim in these deeper waters of original languages and expose the falsehood. It is so good to have sound scholars in these original languages to consult from time to time.

Not every Christian needs to be a scholar in Hebrew and Greek to remain faithful to God. However, there is at least one principle in regard to consulting the original languages of the Bible of which every member of the church should be aware. It is context. How a word fits into the sentence in which it is used, as well as the paragraph, the book, and the overall teaching of the Bible is tremendously important. The chief component in deciding a meaning of a word is to see how it is used in its context. Though lexicons and other language tools can help us understand the origin and root meaning of word and its essential idea, Hebrew and Greek words are just like English words in the sense that their meaning depends on the context in which they are used. So if someone cites an original language in the Bible passage you are studying and gives you some grammatical rules that you don’t understand because you have never studied them, remember to consider if what they are saying will fit into the context of the passage at hand. Hebrew and Greek lexicographers and grammarians are too often looked to as the ultimate authority when in reality they too must consider the context and do some interpretation in arriving at the meaning of a word.

Do not be overwhelmed by the use of languages unknown to you. Though they are a benefit to those who take the time to learn them, you can know what the Bible says by consulting some reliable English translations and remembering to consider the context.

Mark Day
Flatwoods Church of Christ
Flatwoods, KY

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