Biblical Backgrounds

If you’re a long time reader or just a friend of mine, you know that I love studying backgrounds of the Bible. One of my areas of specialization is biblical backgrounds. A year ago I took a PhD course from one of our resident archaeologists entitled Biblical Backgrounds. Rather than delving directly into the labyrinth of cool background “stuff.” I'd like to discuss why I love backgrounds, and you should too.

I remember my mom talking about how she was terrified of the Wizard of Oz as a little girl. Furthermore, I recall her talking about the movie in black and white, and how the recolored version made more sense. Though painting the movie into color did not change the story, it did suddenly add more depth. Suddenly, the yellow brick road was well… Yellow. Also suddenly Dorthy’s ruby slippers were well ….. ruby. Scripture likewise is understandable in black and white, but I have found that it makes so much more sense in color! I’d like to give you a few reasons why backgrounds should matter to you, and how it will bring color to the text.

  1. Provides Background Information
    1. What Seems to be obvious is often neglected by the “Bible only” camp. Scripture does not give us all of the information needed to grasp a particular passage / story / setting.
  2. Authenticates Biblical History
    1. For millennia people have doubted the validity of Scripture. Every day that scholars and archaeologists accomplish the task of background studies it further authenticates Scripture. A caution given by my professor, “Archaeology is the art of finding something and then weaving a tale.” Thus, there are indeed people who do archaeology to undermine Scripture, so be careful who you read. My advice is to read how other scholars have handled the supposed undermining data.
  3. Completes the Biblical Record
    1. THere are sections of time that Scripture seems to skip over due to the focus of the text. A for instance would be the achieved studies on Sumerian / Ur culture where Abraham came from. What many think is a singular man leaving his home country would be astounded to find that there was a mass exodus from Ur in 2000BC. Further studies, we have learned that Abraham came from an astrological cult. THese types of studies just add brilliant color to the narrative that we already have in Scripture.
  4. Aids our Biblical Interpretation
    1. My greatest reason for studying biblical backgrounds is that it greatly aids our biblical interpretation of the biblical text. One that I love to note is the background of the “fruit of the Spirit” found in Galatians 5. Once I learned that the Zealot movement was trying to recruit Jews from the diaspora during the time of Galatians’ writing I had a major lightbulb moment. The Fruit of the Spirit are directly contrary to the practices and “spirit” of the Zealot movement. Though this revelation does not undermine the millions of sermons preached on this passage, it does give us a great new foundation to think on the text. (The spirit of man leads to the direct opposite of the Spirit of God.)

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