When someone with an academic bent studies human behavior, he/she looks at context. People who quote the Bible also say they look at context. The two groups, however, are talking about different concepts of context.
When historian/behavioral scientists look at context, we’re looking at the social and economic circumstances surrounding the behavior. The Bible believer, however, means by context other Bible verses that might help explain the issue at hand. It is my understanding Bible believers would consider it an affront to say economic and social forces influenced what was written since it was guided by a sovereign God.
Secular context would be to review what was going on in the world of “gods” in the few centuries leading up to the Jesus story. The Jews had one god. But, what the god was varied. Sometimes it had human characteristics, sometimes exclusively divine. So, we could expect if a new god came on the scene, it would also have both. Influencing their views would have been the Roman occupation.
Then, there were the gentiles. Their god world had several gods. It included various gods for various purposes. Gods were born and then died. We would expect any new concept of a god to fit into the model they were familiar with. I want to talk more this in another blog.
What’s clever about the Bible was its way of making up a new god, Jesus, who had stories to fit the very different contexts of Jews and gentiles.
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