Use of context to improve interpretation of individual Bible verses

By: Teleios
Use of context to improve Bible interpretation
Use of context to improve Bible interpretation
CHARLESTON, S.C. - May 18, 2021 - PRLog -- The Bible represents the source of spiritual truth for the Christian faith. Therefore, accurate Bible study methods might assist gaining the most information about the triune Godhead, salvation and the Christian life. Proper Bible study technique typically includes a student assessing an individual verse within context of the surrounding passage. However, this precept has not been tested to our knowledge.

Teleios evaluated the use of scriptural context in performing verse by verse Bible study as interpreted by both a seminary graduate student (experienced Bible student [EBS]), and second year university student (inexperienced Bible student, [IBS]). Verse 10 of each chapter from the Pauline books from Romans to Philemon were used in this study (excluding Corinthians).

Each interpreter first analyzed a verse without context and then again, using context. Differences between the two meanings were graded on a 1-5 scale by each interpreter (1 = no clear interpretation possible, 2 = same meaning as the interpretation without context, but less confident using context, 3 = no difference between the two interpretations, 4 = same meaning as the interpretation without context, but more confident using context, and 5 = a different meaning was derived from the use of context).

The results showed using context improved understanding of the individual Bible verses. Results for the IBS: 1%-Grade 1, no interpretation; 6%-Grade 2, less confident; 37%-Grade 3, no change; 37%-Grade 4, more confident; 19%-Grade 5, different meaning. For the EBS results, 0%-Grades 1 and 2; 4%-Grade 3; 39%-Grade 4; 57%-Grade 5.

The IBS found the same definition, or lack of benefit of context, in 44% versus 4% for the EBS. In contrast, 56% analyzed by the IBS found an improvement or completely different interpretation using context compared to 96% improved or better interpretation using context (P<0.001).

William C. Stewart, MD, co-founder of Teleios, stated "These results are exciting because they show, for the first time, that using scriptural context can improve Bible study interpretation. Further, even the inexperienced Bible study student can sharpen their interpretation using context; while with even more Bible education, context further improves Bible study interpretation."

This study showed that scriptural context is advantageous for both the inexperienced and experienced Bible student to gain a better understanding of individual Bible verses. The value of context is enhanced the more the Bible student learns. More research is needed to further describe the importance of detailed first by verse study in understanding.

More findings from Teleios can be viewed on their website (

WC Stewart, JA Stewart, LA Nelson, J Hummel

Teleios is a non-profit foundation that demonstrates the truth of scripture by providing evidence for the positive results of a biblically based lifestyle and produces practical tools for scriptural understanding and confidence.

Lindsay Nelson - Teleios
Location:Charleston - South Carolina - United States
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