The Expository Files


Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary says that context is “the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light upon its meaning.” At the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Web Site, the etymology is given: “Middle English, weaving together of words, from Latin contextus connection of words, coherence, from contexere to weave together, from com- + texere to weave,” {© 1996 by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated}.

When I teach a class on HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE, I identify at least six different kinds of context:

(1) The Immediate-Literary context: the words, phrases and information that surround the passage.

(2) The Historical context: this is the time factor, the dispensation and events that have some bearing on the passage.

(3) The Cultural context: there are certain words, expressions and sayings that are best understood in their cultural context. Many statements in the New Testament have a Jewish cultural context.

(4) The Geographic context: this brings into your study any pertinent geographic facts.

(5) The Remote context: all other Bible passages that have some bearing on the verse or passage.

(6) The Personal context: the people mentioned in the context; their attitude; sins; qualities or circumstances that bear upon the passage.

The attention we give to context simply means, we intend to bring into our study of a single verse or passage everything in the Bible that can help us, whether on that page, in that book or wherever there is anything connected with the matter at hand.

I ran across this a few days ago. The English Bible translator, Miles Coverdale, whose version became the basis for the King James Version, listed his own Bible study techniques in the preface to his 1535 edition. Written in the English (and spelling) of his day he wrote:

It shall greatly helpe ye to understand the Scripture,

If thou mark

Not only what is spoken or written,

But of whom,

And to whom,

With what words,

At what time,


To what intent,

With what circumstances,

Considering what goeth before and what followeth.

{From Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustations & Quotes, edited by Robert J. Morgan, p.#66.}
Quotes From This Issue

One of the pressing needs of our time in the home, the church and the nation is noble male leadership! Women cannot do it all. Women have their assignment from God and great power and influence comes to pass, when godly women accept the challenges and duties, which in some cases – men have neglected and shunned! But let us never give up calling upon men to be accountable; to learn noble leadership from Bible examples, like this one in 2 Chron. 32.

In Bible reading and study we will not get the point and not be in position to respond properly, if we neglect to see how things are connected. {The word “context” relates to how words and phrases are connected.}

The fact that a man can speak in public or “hold” a preaching job is no reason to believe what he says. Audiences should demand proof from the source, God’s Word.

Many have a very diluted concept of the fear of God if they have any concept of it at all. This is unhealthy; as unhealthy for us spiritually as it is unhealthy physically for a child to have no fear of fire, or deep water, or some other serious situation. Jesus certainly taught "the fear of the Lord" (Matthew 10:28).

By Warren E. Berkley
Front Page
From Expository Files 10.9, September, 2003