SEEK THE CONTEXT: Biblical Texts, Language, Cultural Background & Meaning. Context Changes Everything!

If you Forgive the Sins

If you Forgive the Sins

Have you ever wished you did not hear or see something? What we see and hear is hard to put back into a box of non-existence. Once we experience something we simply cannot put it out of our mind.  Basically, we can’t unknow what we know. This is true when it comes to interpreting Scriptures. Knowing the context of any passage usually helps immensely in interpretation. The original languages help too, but sometimes what holds us inches away from a better interpretation is what we know, or rather, what we have been told. Here is an example of what I am trying to explain. Take this verse from the Gospel of John.

“If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” (John 20:23 NASB)

A seemingly simple verse, very straightforward teaching. It is very easy for Catholics to interpret, but a tough one for non-Catholics. Is Yeshua really saying that his disciples have the power to dispense the forgiveness of sins? It sure looks that way. They can also choose not to issue forgiveness and those sins will remain. The Protestants naturally struggle with sin absolution as they recall the practice of church selling indulgences in the Middle Ages. And for Jews, this teaching makes no sense either. This stubborn verse is hard to explain away. How else has can one read it except that the apostles have the power to dispense forgiveness of sins to anyone they find worthy?

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I am an educator, researcher, a faculty member and an avid believer in online education. My specialties are Sacred Texts and Cultures (Second Temple period, early Judaism and nascent Christianity). I am passionate about meaning, context, and cultural transmission of ancient texts. My preoccupations with history, ancient languages and contextual interpretation often find expression in my blog posts. Every human has a pretext, every message has a context. Context changes everything! Enjoy reading.