7 Reasons to Study the Cultural Backgrounds of the Bible

Posted by on 04/24/2017 in:

1. Understand the audience: Grasping the original audience’s perspective helps us understand the setting to which the inspired authors communicated their message.

2. Understand how the text communicates: A text is ideas linked by threads of writing. Each phrase and each word communicates by the ideas and thoughts that they will trigger in the reader or hearer.

3. Biblical writers made assumptions: Biblical writers normally could take for granted that their audiences shared their language and culture; some matters, therefore, they assumed rather than stated. Think about what happens when later audiences from different cultures read the text without the same un-stated understandings as the original audience.

4. Understand the differences: We can see the differences between [ancient people] and us. To better understand how they would have interpreted what was being shared to them.

5. Understand what issues were being addressed: When we hear the message in its authentic, original cultural setting we can reapply it afresh for our own different setting most fully, because we understand what issues were really being addressed.

6. Prevent imposing your own culture: If we know nothing of the ancient world, we will be inclined to impose our own culture and worldview on the Biblical text. This will always be detrimental to our understanding.

7. Fill in the gaps: As each person hears or reads the text, the message takes for granted underlying gaps that need to be filled with meaning by the audience. It is theologically essential that we fill [the gaps] appropriately.

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

Add the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible to your Olive Tree library today!


  • Andrew Osakue says:

    This really good to know. Thanks.

    • adamu addisu says:

      Waw it’s very good and in fact without knowing the past and existing culture we don’t knoe in what way we communicat with the people who are living in different cultural perspective…..

  • Atwood Cherry says:

    I believe the only way to understand the Bible is for us to place ourselves, as closely as possible, into the lives of those who lived in the decades, centuries and millineums prior to the IndustrIal and Scientific Revolustions. It isn’t the people of biblical times were ignorant, it is though, before the knowledge base we have today. Context is the key and the ideas that guided the thought of the people of the Bible are necessary before we can accurately apply biblical truths to our lives.

  • Joel E Clark says:

    Great teaching for every believer to apply when reading & studying the word of God. This is especially important for teachers & ministers when they deliver their teachings or sermons.

  • Adebayo Emmanuel says:

    This is good for better understanding of the Bible

  • HezMadumere says:

    Very apt indeed. In this scientific and jet age it is not very easy to appreciate why Jesus had to ride a donkey instead of messianic limousine.

  • What is the best (easiest) way to learn how to grasp “the original audience’s perspective”?

    • Ihuoma says:

      Show me where it is said in the bible that a woman should not preach on the pupil

      • Gale Kane says:

        The operative verse is 1 Tim 2:11-12. “(NKJV) Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.”

        That said, this must be contextualized with the rest of Scripture, and with an understanding of what Paul was dealing with in his ministry. The Bible presents women who preached and lead in both Testaments.

        To start with, the Protestant concept of the pulpit ministry did not exist in the Bible, and even into Early Modern times. But the little we know about the 1st century church gives the impression that the worship services were liturgical in nature. Thus the congregation was lead by what we might recognize as a priest, who was understood as a type of Christ, interceding between God and man. He necessarily was male, as Jesus was. The iconography compelled then – and now – a male priesthood, which had been the case since Aaron. The Reformation backed off of most of that model as papist, and later American revivalism pretty much dropped everything that was not (in the most legalistic literalist sense) found in the Bible. At this point, in America, if you are a woman, and are called to preach, there are many avenues. However, “called” means something. Male or female, be reminded that these are holy things and you better not handle them presumptuously.

        ( Yes, I am a woman. I do know about the sexist bias that burdens many people. Titus 2:3-5.)

  • Steve Hendrix says:

    I think you should be very careful here. It may lead to people claiming things like, “the reason women shouldn’t be in the pulpit is because of that is the old culture.” When obviously God’s word is straight forward on that subject.

  • Gale Kane says:

    I have experienced great richness in considering context in my personal Bible reading. Part of the blessing is the copious notes that Olive Tree allows me to make in my texts. I do look for archeology, history, Jewish commentary, Church Fathers, and studies of 1st cent Rabbinic thought, among other things. It is not just one source.

    As much as all of this enriches my understanding of my Bible, it remains that it is also written for the ages, and thus speaks to our time and our context as well. It is all too easy to get off on rabbit trails in the archaeology digs. In my thinking, I aspire to balance Biblical context and contemporary application simultaneously. And, just as in the time of the Gospel writers, we are required to discern the Holy Spirit – you answer to Him.

  • B says:

    This is very interesting opinion sharing topic.
    This Bible dictionary will help one to understand Bible contents and share it with the knowledge of reasons ” Why , How, When and Where” the events happened.
    There are many contexts in the Bible causing confusions which we attach importance to instead of fo using on God.
    Example is covering of heads in he church. We need to understand what Paul meant and circumstances why he suggested it.
    Now this covering of heads take priorities in some churches.
    What is the usefulness of covering your head and your heart is evil. God says “Come as you are”. Some one has mentioned “Women to be quite in the church.” My understanding is that we all have our callings. Brethren so mean Brothers and sisters, Men and women. Thank you for this Bible Dictionay.

  • Mackinly Kabaghe - Malawi says:

    Thanks very much for this information. Yes, it has came in the right time when we are having a Training of Telling Bible stories. We need to be working on it in every teaching or preaching

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