Welcome to the Bible: Chapters and Verses Bring Convenience and Challenges ~ Part 2 ~ Context Matters
God Inspired the Bible. Man Added Chapters and Verses, And a Few Challenges: Loss of Context.
I’m thankful man added chapters and verses to the Bible. I’m also thankful I learned about the challenges that come with them.
Last time we looked at the first of three challenges that come with breaking up the divine text into chapters and verses. (There may be more challenges, but these are the three that stood out to me.)
Today we’ll look at the second of those challenges.
2. Man-inspired chapters and verses can lead to misunderstanding the God-inspired text through loss of context.
3. Chapters and verses can encourage snacking on Scripture rather than dining.
Loss of Context
Chapters and verses cause us to pause.
Sometimes those man-made pauses indicate a change in thought, time, or events. But not always.
Remember, originally, the first word in each chapter or verse was just the next word in the book or letter. They weren’t written with the mindset that they’d be broken up into chapters or verses.
When studying a passage, we need to look before and after the passage to avoid misunderstandings.
Example #1: Colossians 2:21
Forbidden or Free
Colossians 2:21 seems to teach us what we shouldn’t do.
Until we read the verse right before it.
Rather than Paul encouraging physical self-denial, he’s actually preaching freedom from man-made rules—freedom in Christ.
Example #2: Luke 21
The Poor Widow — Commendation or Condemnation?
Most teachings I’ve heard on Luke 21:1-4 never mention the context. They don’t even seem to consider chapter 20 or the verses after Luke 21:4.
The focus most often falls on the poor widow’s generous giving, teaching that Jesus is commending the widow and instructing us to give as generously.
But, when we read this passage in context, we can see an alternative meaning.
Verse 45 begins with the “look-back” word “And,” so we need to keep looking back to get the full meaning.
From the beginning of chapter 20, certain religious leaders attempted to trick Jesus into condemning Himself. They came to Him under the pretense of wanting to understand truth, but Jesus exposed the true motive of their hearts.
Jesus warned His disciples of the leaders’ evil intent and ways, mentioning they “devour widows’ houses.”
It’s right after these warnings that Jesus pointed out the poor widow as she placed her last coins into the temple box. She gave all she had left to survive on.
Jesus commented only on what she gave. Nothing more about her. Nothing about her attitude. Only that she gave all she had left to survive on.
Then He immediately talked about the Temple and warned about being led astray by false teachers and leaders.
Is Luke 21:1-4 a teaching on giving generously or about abuse of the poor by religious leaders?
Is Jesus commending the poor widow or is He condemning the disreputable leaders?
I’ll leave it to the Biblical scholars to debate the correct interpretation of this passage. My point is that when we look at passages in isolation rather than context, it can lead us to see the message of the passage differently.
For more insight check out these links:
Does God Wants Us To Give Everything by Grace To You
Abusing the Poor by Grace to You
Jesus and the Widow’s Offering by Bible.org
Giving, It’s a Good Thing by Calvary Baptist Church
Luke Part 45: Games People Play Part 3 by Matt Chandler
The Widow and Her Two Coins: Praise or Lament? by Boston Bible Geeks
The division of chapters and verses makes studying and memorizing the Bible much easier, but remember to read it in context.
REMEMBER: Man-inspired chapters and verses can lead to misunderstandings. Read Scripture in context, not in isolation.
(For more information check out Don Stewart’s article Why Is the Bible Divided into Chapters and Verses? on www.blueletterbible.com.)