Thursday, August 05, 2010

Taking Text out of Context

It's easy to do. We get an idea in our head, search the Bible concordance to find references that might apply, and voila! There's the magic verse that proves our case!

Except, a lot of the time, we've taken the verse out of context, making it say something that it does not say, putting meaning into the text that God did not put there, instead of getting meaning out of the text.

For example, many of my brethren are convinced that drinking any alcohol is a sin (no matter that alcohol consumption is never directly condemned in the Bible, Yahshua declared all foods clean, and Paul stated that "everything is permissible" but not necessarily "good"). (The Bible does, however, condemn drunkeness, and it makes clear that alcohol is dangerous and the wise person will leave it alone.)

As support of their position, they will sometimes point to Habakkuk 2:15:
15 “ Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor,
Pressing him to your bottle,
Even to make him drunk,
That's pretty slam-dunk, I'd say. Based on this one verse alone, it's clear that Yahshua would not turn water into alcoholic wine at the marriage feast of his neighbors.

Except, the verse is taken out of context. Let's finish the verse with its last line:
That you may look on his nakedness!
Wow! Okay, that changes the entire tone of the passage. It's not about giving alcohol to your neighbor; it's about trying to get your neighbor drunk so that you can take advantage of him.

And when we look at the rest of the chapter, we see this latter interpretation meshes well with the surrounding context.

Starting at verse 4, the condemnation is against he who is proud, whose soul is not upright in him.

Then in verse 5 he gets bravery from a bottle, gets proud and cocky, and goes and attacks those around him, trying to become world dictator.

In verse 6, those he attacks complain that he's taking what is not his.

Verse 8 speaks of his violence and plundering.

Verses 9-10 mention how he cheats to get ahead.

Verse 12 condemns him who uses evil and bloodshed to build an empire.

In verse 15 is our passage under consideration: woe to him who gets his neighbor drunk so that he can take advantage of that neighbor.

In verses 16 and 17 God warns that He will turn the tables on the perpetrator in verse 15, making the perp drunk so that he will then be exposed, making the violence that he has done come back on him.

I'm in agreement that alcohol consumption should be avoided; I believe it's stupid. (I also believe soft-drink consumption (and Twinkie-consumption, etc) should be avoided; I believe it's stupid also; just not so car-crashing immediately stupid). But Habakkuk 2:15 is not a condemnation of social drinking; it's a condemnation of using and abusing others.

1 comment:

ElderChild said...

Few indeed are those who read, trusting and believing that The Holy, Set Apart, Spirit will reveal all things ;-(

Most simply ignore all scripture that is not compatible with their presupposed beliefs ;-(

So it is that a catholic will read scripture as a catholic, a christian as a christian, a mennonite as a mennonite, a baptist as a baptist, etc.......

And they all seem to ignore Gen 1:3 ;-(

And what of "The Light" in Gen 1:3?

The Creator spoke HIS Word, "Let there be Light and there was Light"!

What of such Light?

Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this wicked, evil world, for "the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one" ineed and Truth.......(1John5:19)