Considering the nature of this topic, it seemed best to post the statement of faith and doctrine before this post, for a frame of reference. As an introduction to the teachings of The Job Project website blog, it may seem strange to start with a quote from the following verse.

1 Kings 20:23 And the servants of the king of Syria said unto him, Their gods [are] gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.

Really, this verse could be a very good starting point for a thesis on systematic theology. This article is no such thesis. The reason the verse is a good starting point is because it is wrong. Yes, it is historically accurate, since this report of the Syrians giving this advice is true. It is wrong in a different way. Here it is saying, in the Holy Scriptures, that the God of Israel can only help armies when they are in the hills. I know it does not bother you to be reminded of this flawed reasoning in the Bible, since the context makes it clear that it is wrong — quite clear.

1 Kings 20:28 And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the LORD, Because the Syrians have said, The LORD [is] God of the hills, but he [is] not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I [am] the LORD.

This clarity makes it a good example of a principle of Bible interpretation. You might have noticed that different people come up with different interpretations of what the Bible means. This is to be expected, since there is no limit to the possible errors we can make, causing misunderstanding and faulty interpretation.

It is outside the scope of The Job Project to teach all of the principles of Bible interpretation, but one that applies to the book of Job is that we need to interpret Bible verses in context. In the last portion of the book of Job, God is talking. God condemns some of sections of the book of Job as “folly” and some other parts as “words without knowledge.” Of course, God wants us to base our doctrine, and our lives, on trustworthy knowledge, rather than folly. So, we can completely expect to be able to discern between them, from the context. After all, the Bible cannot be fully authoritative, unless God has given us some reliable way to tell which parts of the record are sound, and which parts God has deemed as folly.

The next blog post will begin to elaborate on this distinction, through an audio drama.

If I say, “I am wearing yellow,” does that mean every thread of my clothing is coloured yellow? On the other extreme, does it mean that some insignificant, hidden thread, holding the toe of my left sock sewed shut, is the only yellow in my apparel? What if I tell you this over the phone, as I am describing my appearance, so you can recognise me, because we are about to meet at the airport? Picture that. Did you imagine someone wearing a shirt or jacket that is mostly yellow? Even with something as simple as the colour of clothing, context makes a difference.

A word can have a very different meaning when used in one context compared to another context. Even a phrase or a sentence can have a different meaning in much the same way.

There are various forms of context that we find in the Bible. The immediate context includes those words that are used together, and the sentence structure, which will help us understand the meaning. So, this is like grammar and syntax, as well as the surrounding passages leading up to and following the text, which can give insights into the intent. There is also the audience. When the words are directed to one group of people, the meaning can be somewhat different than if the audience is another group. Topical context is another very important component in our Bible studies since we can gain a better, more complete, picture of the teaching when we take into account all of the passages in the Bible that inform the subject. In addition, it is good to consider the source. So this is another context based on who is speaking and what effect that has on the meaning of what is being said.

The content of the Bible is not changing, so we can construct a full picture of a teaching by studying all of these contextual views throughout all of Scripture. The biblical phrase for this is: Rightly dividing the Word of Truth.

For example, in Judges 6:23, Gideon is told, “thou shalt not die.” Devoid of the context of the events surrounding this statement, there are several meanings that this short phrase could have. We could have quickly set aside the possibility that the pronouncement is a lie, since the context is that God is telling this directly to Gideon. But, what if Gideon is mistaken, and just thinks God is telling him this? What if he is just imagining that it is God telling him, or he is being misled to think so? Without context, we do not know. Maybe Gideon is being told that he would be like Enoch, who did not die because God caught him up to Heaven instead. Maybe this is just a spiritual death that Gideon will not experience. If it really is referring to physical death, then maybe Gideon is being told that he would live on Earth forever. Maybe he is still alive today! Maybe the world could end before his death! It is likely there are other possibilities that are not listed here. When we look at the context, it is easy to understand “thou shalt not die” means his death is not imminent, and that this conversation with God would not be the reason for his death.

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