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

The Roots of Your Faith Go Deep

The Roots of Your Faith Go Deep

Do you know how deep? Somewhere inside you suspect there must be so much more. As you read the Bible some pieces of the puzzle are missing and some things just do not make any sense. The roots of your faith run deep, indeed, they are quite ancient. The matter of the disconnect and misunderstanding which many people experience is related to the fact that the faith experienced through the pages of the Bible stems from ancient Israel. But how much do most people know of ancient Israel? How much teaching from the Jewish perspective have you personally experienced? What about those from whom you learned what you know? How much do they actually know about the Jewish thought world to lay the accurate foundations to take people deep into the world of ancient Israel?

The stubborn fact is that the Scriptures present us with living world of ideas and values that cannot be discovered from the pages of the Bible itself. Israel are a people, a nation which has an unbroken link of spiritual thought, traditions, customs, heritage, a long and intimate relationship with God’s words that sustained the people till today. Yet so many seekers of the roots of their faith choose to discover their own alternative path. Having a living faith and God’s Spirit helps, but the God has chosen not to reveal all objective truths supernaturally. That does not appear to be God’s only way of revelation. That is why we have always had teachers and disciples. Our human shortsightedness, pride, lack of hunger for truth is the limit of our capacity to know his way.  The roots of faith the Bible inspires run so deep, yet many people do not even try digging and settle for the most surface understanding. It is the lack of satisfaction, the yearning for more that keeps people seeking and pursuing deeper and deeper truths. And the if you are still reading this, it is likely you are at that point.

Imagine that the Scriptures gave us only snapshots, frozen frames of reality that could be compared to a movie footage.  We look at these ancient still images, as if perusing someone’s old family album, analyze them the best we can and walk away with an idea of what this could mean. Besides that, each one of us has paradigms, systems, prisms through which we perceive and interpret everything in this world. You may not recognize it consciously, but you have a system which you utilize to interpret what you perceive. We all have a unique prism through which we view the world. The Bible you read has some built-in cultural paradigms too, some schemes that lead one to read it in a particular light. However, it is most unfortunate that early in their history Christians developed their own way of reading Israel’s Scriptures.

The roots were severed or ignored, depending on how one looks at it. The history transpired in such as way that there was a rift between Israelite culture from which the gospel message came and the Greco-Roman world from which the new majority of Jesus-followers came. The Jewish followers of Jesus, the Apostles, their disciples who understood the original Jewish context of their message peculiar were eventually outnumbered by the new majority of those to whom the Jewish context was quite foreign and even strange. As a result, many early Christians used their own cultural paradigms, their philosophical training and Greco-Roman thought to understand God’s revelation that came to them through the people Israel. The historical roots were ignored and dismissed.

That is the understandable but truly unfortunate turn of events. This reality divorced from its natural context, however, produced a trajectory and tradition of reading the Scriptures which Israel has never taken on its journey. And now, centuries later, after countless strange heresies and reactions to an untold amount of biblical misinterpretations, after many highly sophisticated theological ideas and political twisting, Christians follow the well-worn path to reading their Bible. Yet this path was unknown to Jesus and his disciples. Can the original path be hoped to be discovered?

The sad part is that so many teachings of the Bible are read of out of their natural cultural context. But that is not all. They are often infused with new non-natural, foreign context, and as a result misunderstood and misinterpreted. Yes, new meaning comes out of that process. Often they are spiritual and seem to be good and beneficial. But is that what God meant for us to see?  The depth that lays deep below at the roots is rarely reached and Scriptures remain veiled, locked away and incomprehensible to so many people. The roots of your faith go deep. Are you beginning to realize how deep? Without hunger, without seeking, without digging they cannot be uncovered. Today they lay below the well-worn paths and roads of modern biblical interpretations.

Pinchas

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.


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