Why Is Context Important In Hermeneutics?

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With the advent of the printing press and the protestant reformation in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Word of God became available to the common believer. Now, in the twenty first century, people all over the world, can read for themselves the scriptures in their own languages. Consider the Bible studies going on in any given country on any given evening, where people are encouraged to interact with the sacred scriptures. As encouraging as this may be, it may present a problem. Could discussions of what a scripture ‘means to me’ cloud out what the scripture originally meant? Is it even possible to know the author’s intent? Even if we could understand a first century text as its author intended, can we also grasp what it’s supposed to mean to us?

Answering these questions is the purpose of this essay. I begin by arguing that the Bible cannot be adequately understood independent of its historical context. I concede later that historical context alone however is insufficient, for the Bible is a living-breathing document as relevant to us today as it was the day it was scribed. I conclude we need both testimonies of God at work to fully appreciate how the Bible speaks to us.

Hermeneutics is the study of these questions and whether we can bridge the gap between these different contexts? The significance of each context is crucial for readers to have balanced perspective and balanced reading of historical texts. And context is important in hermeneutics because while the Bible was written ‘for us’ it wasn’t written ‘to us’ .

Corley, Lemke and Lovejoy (2002) agree with the importance of the two contexts defining theological hermeneutics as, the process of thinking about God, thinking after the event of revelation in the...

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