“What Does It Mean?” - Part Two

“Book, chapter and verse!”

This is a common criterion among those of us who wish to know what the Bible says – and where! If someone is going to assert that the Bible is saying a certain thing, we will not take that assertion for granted – we want to see it for ourselves. Such diligence is good practice.

However, we must also remember that the Bible wasn’t written with chapters and verses. Consider that when we write a letter to someone, we do not parse the letter into chapters and verses. Otherwise, we could possibly reference a certain verse within our letter which could mean one thing all by itself, yet, without the verse markings, would mean something else – probably because it is attached to and influenced by other thoughts or phrases in the letter. This is one of the weaknesses of the chapter and verse markings in the Bible, often making it easy for us to practice “proof-texting.”

Proof-texting is using a specific text (such as a particular verse or sentence) to prove a point (a doctrine, a teaching, etc.), whether the text is actually making that point or not. Overall, this is poor interpretive practice. Yet, we all are probably guilty of having practiced it at one time or another (I know I certainly am!). Thus, when we are trying to draw the meaning out of a passage in the Bible, it is good for us to examine as much of the passages surrounding context as possible. The meaning of a verse or paragraph is usually not written in isolation from the other thoughts and phrases that surround it, and it is often influenced by them.

Again, interpretation can often be difficult work, but the end results are enriching! You will be blessed for your efforts!