Interpretation of the Bible based on culture and times

One of the things I’ve been hearing lately from pastors and leaders that some of the things in the Bible (NT) are not applicable anymore due to cultural background and that times are different now (like before when women were treated lower than men). Two questions I have on this are:

  • Does this mean the entire Bible now needs to be “updated” on the basis of culture and according to new times?
  • If God is outside time and space, can He not make commands that are not bound by time and space?
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I think this a very good question and I will share my journey in the hopes that it will shed some light on this subject.

I don’t think that this means that we need to ‘update’ the text but we do need to view and understand what was written with the lens of western culture removed and the 2nd Temple period lens applied. In other words Try to put yourself in to that audience.
From my own experience, one of the things that dawned on me some time ago was that this Bible we all read is a Jewish book about a Jewish people and their God. At best I was an outsider looking in with no historical or cultural reference point except what I was taught in Sunday school, preachin’ and Wednesday night prayer meeting which was presented with material and knowledge from a Western cultural bias and to that add a Southern Baptist grounding and you have a snapshot of most me and of the people who are near and dear to me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting I was mislead or worst, taught false doctrines but I had more questions than answers and perhaps more importantly I had no idea of where to go and find these answers.

It might also be helpful for you to understand that I don’t believe that the Bible was written **to us but for us **. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t apply to modern day people or events or problems. It is supremely relevant and trustworthy, and I believe divinely inspired (God breathed), it just was not written to the 21th century western culture. So how are we to understand what Paul or any Biblical writer for that matter meant and perhaps more importantly what would I understand if I was in the audience in the 1st century? If you think about this for a moment, the most complex and dense letter Paul wrote was Romans and it was Phoebe who likely delivered, read and perhaps even explained the letter of Romans (mind blown). This letter had to be understood by her and the audience that it was read too. Do you think there was a Q&A?

Here is a quote from John Walton’s Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible.

If we do not bring the information from the ancient cognitive environment to bear on the text, we will automatically impose the parameters of our modern worldview, thus risking serious distortion of meaning.

As too your 2nd question:

I would humbly summit that I think he did, Grace.

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@pkblaquera Great question :slight_smile: There is an entire class on this topic of how to study the Bible when you go to seminary, so there is not a brief answer that will do it justice. But I did find these super old school videos of Gordon Fee preaching with some fire about how to properly read the Bible. I’ve also included his book below, which I highly recommend reading if you really want to begin to understand this issue of culture, translation, and application of Scripture in a modern context.

@pkblaquera Hi, great questions the Bible is the transcendent revelation of God to us (mankind) and for us (in the 21st century) as well. To the Jew first chronologically then to the gentiles. Since God is eternal and does not change then his revelation to us of Himself can never change and will always be perfectly current and applicable to us because our condition as human beings hasn’t changed since the fall of Man. Yes circumstances change ,the manner in which we live changes, technology, lots of things change about how we go about our lives but again our condition hasn’t changed. The Bible is about God revealing himself to us so that we understand our proper place in the context of his creation. The idea that parts of the Bible are no longer applicable because of cultural differences is to miss the entire message of the Bible itself that man is in rebellion and has an ungodly heart which leads to unrighteousness. ( This is the part about us that never changes)
it doesn’t just stop there of course but I don’t want to go on and on. the Bible will always be relevant and I agree with my other brothers that it is very important to understand the cultural context in which it was written. We have to know what it meant to Corinth before we can ever know what it means to Cleveland.
As to the second question, all of the decrees of God come from within him and so by their very nature are outside of time and space because he is outside of time and space.
Hope this helps ,blessings.

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