C is for Context

“C is for Context” is the second part of the Understanding Scripture through Common C.O.R.E series. I walk you through an anchor standard of common core and how it applies to our study of the scripture.  www.shellytiffin.com #CommonCore #BibleStudy #DevotionsLast week I wrote the purpose for this series. If you missed it, click here to read why this matters so deeply to me.

This week, let’s dive into the “C” of C.O.R.E.

C is for context. (Click to Tweet)

Although, I can’t say C is for anything without thinking of the cookie monster :)

AND comprehension comes through context. One of the many things I will never forget from my time in college and in being a seminary student’s wife is the importance placed on context.

When it comes to comprehending the Bible, one of the first things we must do is understand the context of the passage we are reading.

Now, for those of us who read their Bible regularly, we may feel we can read the Bible and apply daily truths pretty well without doing all that “work”. And, that’s true! But to gain the depth and richness of meaning that it contains, we have to know some key information.

Some of the questions that need to be answered before reading are:

  1. Who wrote it?
  2. When was it written?
  3. Who was it written too? (Audience)
  4. Why was it written? (Author’s Purpose)

Whether we’re reading an article online, listening to the news, or reading our Bibles, context is key to comprehension.

The passage I will use during this series to demonstrate what I’m talking about is 1 John 1.

It’s important to note that it was written by John (the son of Zebedee) somewhere around 85-95 AD. One key component to understanding this passage is the audience to whom it was written.

Why? Because John uses terminology to directly refute the viewpoints of the time it was written in, namely Gnosticism. If you’ve never heard Gnosticism nor have any knowledge its world view, then you are missing key information to understanding what John is truly saying in this text.

And, if we don’t fully comprehend the author’s audience or purpose for writing, how can we make a fully accurate application to our lives today?

You can see all of this illustrated below.“C is for Context” is the second part of the Understanding Scripture through Common C.O.R.E series. I walk you through an anchor standard of common core and how it applies to our study of the scripture.  www.shellytiffin.com #CommonCore #BibleStudy #Devotions

Even if all we do is read the historical context often offered at the beginning of each book in our Bibles, we are going a lot further towards fully comprehending the text than if we just dive right in without it.

I would also argue that the more time spent in researching and determining the context of a passage, the deeper the depth of comprehension will be.

One more thing on context…

We all have heard people use scripture out of context or have had our own words used against us out of context. Knowing the dangers in this, we should recognize the importance of reading a passage of scripture in it’s context as well.

So, when it comes time to read, don’t just dive in to one small chunk. Read the entire book, not just chapter before you go back and spend time on each chapter. The point of a first read is to understand the main idea. It allows us to know where the author is going.

Trying to digest and comprehend individual chapters of the Bible without first reading the whole book is like going on a scavenger hunt: You are only getting one small clue at a time making it more difficult to arrive at predetermined destination.

I also liken it to map direction online or on my phone. As much as I rely on the detailed list or step by steps on where to go, often times I don’t fully understand where it’s taking me until I look at the whole map and see the overall route. Then, when I go back to individual steps, not only do I comprehend what I’m supposed to do but more importantly why I’m supposed to do it.

What Does This Have To Do With Common Core?

When it comes to my students in the classroom, it’s the same way. The more we spend pre-reading a text, the more time we spend finding out about the author, their audience, and their purpose, the clearer the claims in the article become.

This also falls right in line with a specific common core anchor standard.  An anchor standard is the one that all grade specific standards like it are based off of. It’s the end result for college and career readiness that is broken down in smaller portions over time. Determining an author’s purpose will look a little different in each grade level, but they all hold the same anchor. That standard is…

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6
Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

I don’t believe would argue that these things aren’t important in studying the Bible. So, why do push back on Common Core? It’s only teaching our children how to engage in a deeper learning process with every text they come in contact with.

We typically  just don’t go through all these steps when studying our Bibles.

Why not?

It takes time. It takes effort. It’s work.

However, it yields great dividends in our comprehension and application of the text.

And, if becomes the new “normal” for our children, then taking the time to engage in pre-reading activities with their Bible will be habit and not “work”.

For those of us to whom this may seem overwhelming, keep it to 15-20 min a day. Just keep looking at context in those 15-20 minutes each day until you’ve completed it. Does that mean it may take a person a week or two just to gain some basic context on a passage, Yes.

But most of us have 15-20 min a day and not the hour or two we could easily spend here in one setting. It’s okay to savor the Bible and let it marinate overtime. In fact, this goes a long way towards keeping us meditating on scripture and allowing the Holy Spirit ample time to penetrate our crowded and busy minds.

Context is key to Comprehension. It’s the first step in my C.O.R.E method for studying our Bibles which I am adapting from the Common Core. Next week we will look what the “O” stands for.

What About You?

This is place of community and conversation. A dialogue is taking place. Here are some ways you can participate:

  • Leave a response in the comments below. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? If you’re still not sure what to say try answering these questions:  Is looking at context a normal part of your Bible reading routine? How do you think it might change the way you interpret what you read? 
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