Understanding Biblical Context

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Alicia Batten talks with a student.Professor Alicia Batten teaches New Testament in Grebel’s Theological Studies program. She is writing a commentary on the Letter of James for the Illuminations Commentary Series—a close look at the letter as a whole, combined with attention to the reception of the letter and its impact over the centuries.

Because the books of the Bible were written in a different place and time than today, Batten emphasizes how “it is essential to study the cultures, societies, and religious and political ideas of the ancient world by studying literature, archaeology, history, and anthropology of the ancient Mediterranean. By understanding some of this background of the Bible,” she explains, “we can then approach the texts and lessen the risk that we might read them in an ethnocentric manner. We must be careful not to impose our own presuppositions and cultural mores on the biblical texts.”

“Biblical research benefits the church by providing tools and resources that people can use as they study the Bible together. Biblical research does not provide the final answer to what these ancient texts meant or mean, but it does point out that despite the multiplicity of conclusions that we may come to about the Bible, some conclusions are better than others.”

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