Rules of Context
This is one of the most important Bible Study rules of context you want to learn and use:
The introduction and summation of each chapter establishes the main theme, thought, and lesson in the chapter. Themes may be established by key words, thoughts, or contrasts.
Whenever we see contrasts used in the introduction and summation in a chapter, we can expect to see contrasts within the chapter. Contrasts are often more difficult for people to see and learn from. God often teaches in contrasts, so He placed this guide, or red flag within chapters throughout the Bible. This emphasizes the importance of the introduction and summations. Not only do those establish the context of the chapter, they also provide a clue to the writing style and how lessons are presented.
Here is a Bible Study step you want to learn:
I use a free Bible Study program called E-Sword. With this free program, you can add a number of free Bibles. One you have to download is called the KJV+. This is the version containing Strong’s numbers and works with the Strong Concordance, a very important Bible Study tool containing Hebrew and Greek dictionaries. In this example, I looked up the word Herod in the KVJ+, looked at the Strong’s number to find it was the name of four kings in Jerusalem. One of the Bibles you may want to buy is the NLTse (New Living Translation, second edition).
When something is unusual, it is time to pay attention.
When God repeats Himself, it is time to pay attention.
Another important Bible Study rule is, when you see scripture quoted by an author, always look up the original texts. An inspired writer will only quote a small portion of scripture. Just enough to point you back to the original texts. It’s your job to open up and read the original texts. And remember to check to introduction and summation for the chapter the original scripture is located. This a a major way God uses to communicate with us. An easy way to locate the original texts is to use a chain reference in a Study Bible. Or you can use the TSK (Treasury of Scripture Knowledge) you can download and use with E-Sword, and other Bible computer programs.
Symbols always point to something far greater.
Symbols can only be interpreted by God’s Word.
Key words help to point to scripture explaining the meaning of a symbol.
The meaning of a symbol is often explained within the chapter it is recorded.
Symbols must always be interpreted within context.
Authors repeat key words to draw attention to their use as symbols. Remember, symbols always point to something far greater.
God’s timing is best explained using what we view as a linear, or strait, one dimensional time line. God of course has a different view of time. He knows nothing but eternity and has the power to see future events, as well as having a perfect memory of the past. Since we do not possess those qualities to the same degree as God, He arranged the Bible in a manner we should find easy to understand. The fulfillment of a prophecy represents one point on that linear time line. As we study, using the basic rules of context, we find events and lessons intersecting that point. In this example, John’s conception and birth are intersected by the prophecy in Malachi chapter 4. Some fulfillments have a number of lines intersecting their point in time. Each intersecting line teaches a lesson. Each line travels on an angle in its own associated time period. In this case, the symbol, Sun of Righteousness, covers the same time period in one aspect of time, and much more.
When you see patterns forming, list them in a chart. Charts make it much easier to see the connection between related events and where they are leading.
Once a pattern is established, and we see a break in it, this is an indication to pay attention. It often indicates a movement into a new event. Often a break in an established pattern leads into a sever warning or a wonderful promise of fulfillment.
This is one Bible Study method many people are familiar with. It is refereed to as the 5 – W’s of Bible Study. Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Each question is listed and answered. Make sure you stick to information in the Bible and do not add in outside reference material. Think of using this method to place God’s Word on trial. Think of yourself as cross examining God’s Word. Anything outside the Bible is circumstantial evidence and not allowed. This can take some digging, but as a general rule, answers are found by looking back a chapter or two. References can also be used from other books in the Bible.
Here is one of the most important Bible Study steps you want to learn and use:
Always look back to see how the author led into the event at hand. Most of us know in original scripture, neither the Old or New Testaments were divided into chapters and verses. That came much later. That has little to do with this rule, but to understand scripture, we have to look for patterns. One of those is how the author led from one event to the next.
Key words are words the author repeated to draw attention to his main thought, point, or lesson. Key words are words that are the SAME, SIMILAR, or RELATED.
It may take a bit of practice to develop a pattern highlighting key words. I look at it as a fundamental and necessary way for God’s Spirit to slow you down and get you to listen. It’s difficult to thoroughly highlight all the key words in one pass. You have no choice but to go back and forth over scripture to do a complete job. Many people have heard of other texts in the Bible that show us how to study, such as line upon line, and using a churning method of going back and forth over scripture. Now you know what that means.
Key words are also contrasts. In this case a simple contrast is shown between new and old. Always look for contrasts used as key words. When contrasting key words are used, look for contrasting examples teaching the same lesson in the chapter.
There is another study rule called the rule of first mention. When a word is repeated throughout a chapter, look back at the first verse it is mentioned in. Look how it is used in that verse. This will establish a direction sometimes based on the emotional side of the spiritual context used in the chapter. Don’t forget to look at similar and related words.
Looking back for information works the same way and teaches the same lesson the disciples had to learn when it came to healing and helping people. Looking back relies on God’s Word and His Spirit.
Examine chapters by first comparing the introduction to the summation. This will give you clues by telling you want to look for within that chapter. If they are contrasts, the chapter will have contrasting stories and characters teaching the same lesson. If the introduction contains contrasts, the summation will most likely contain a contract. When you see this, stories within the chapter will also contain contrasts. The literal form of the introduction and summation will show what types of details to pay special attention to.
Compare introductions from a series of chapters in numeric sequence, such as chapter 9 and 10. If chapters share the same or similar introductions, it is a repeat of the same lesson. The inspired author is drawing attention to the same subject because additional information is being provided. The series of stories in each connecting chapter are arranged to add details and emphasis to the same lesson.
A minimum of three points in a series of stories have to be linked together to see the deeper meaning God placed in texts. It takes a minimum of three points to support a foundation. Any number of related points can be added. The more points that are added, the stronger the foundation becomes. In other words, it is important to understand a story by seeing how the author led into the story and its outcome to understand details in the story. Separating any of those details takes away from the intended lesson. By separating facts from events, the lesson becomes a man made phenomenon.