The Bible Must Be Read in Context


The Bible must be read in context. This seems obvious enough, but how does that work out in terms of its literary and historical context, and how does this make a difference?

In today’s video, Dr. Bill Arnold explains how texts like Psalm 14 must be read within its immediate literary context in order to understand its appropriate meaning. Genesis 1 is another text whose lack of immediate context forces us to turn to ancient Near Eastern literature in hopes of building up a literary context. Finally, historical scholarship can aide us in interpretation when realize new archaeological discoveries shed light on passages like Genesis 15, where the connection between the rituals Abraham performs and the covenant between him and God is illuminated by recent discoveries.

Dr. Ben Witherington then helps us understand that some of the statements Jesus makes in the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew’s accounts of the Rich Young Ruler don’t mean that he is denying his own divinity, rather, he is emphasizing the monotheism of the Jewish faith. Further, he turns to 1 Corinthians 12 to suggest that rhetorical insight helps us understand that not all Christians need speak in tongues.

View the rest of the videos in this series:
What Bible Did Jesus Use?
The Divine-Human Authorship of Scripture

Find all of our resources on Scripture here. Read articles from Dr. Bill Arnold here. Watch more videos from Dr. Ben Witherington here. Explore our OneBook Bible Study resources here.

View all of our video interviews here.


Bill Arnold is professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is a "cradle Methodist," having been raised in a Methodist parsonage. When not traveling, he teaches an adult Sunday School class at First United Methodist Church, Lexington, KY. He enjoys Kentucky basketball and Cincinnati baseball, although his wife finds something else to do when games are too intense. He and Susan are survivors of three sons, who are now beginning to provide grandchildren in order to atone for all their offenses against their parents.