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The Literary Context
According to authors J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, “When it comes to interpreting and applying the Bible, context is crucial.” As mentioned previously, there are two major kinds of context: Historical and literary. Historical context was already relayed in “Funsized Bible Study: Historical-Cultural Context.” Literary context deals with the literary genre and surrounding context.
Literary Genre: “simply refers to the different categories or types of literature found in the Bible.” The Old Testament has narrative, law, poetry, prophecy, and wisdom. The New Testament has gospel, history, letter, and apocalyptic literature. Within those particular genres are subgenres, such as parables, riddles, and sermons. The takeaway at this point is: we need to identify which literary genre we are reading so we can fully understand the context.
Surrounding context: “think of it as the textual world in which your text lives.” This entails the words, sentences, paragraphs, and discourses that come before and after the passage you are reading. For example, Peter’s words of encouragement in 1 Peter 5:7 (“casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”) stands in the middle of reminders to submit to authority with all humility because God opposes the proud (vv. 5-6) and to resist the devil knowing that all believers everywhere are enduring the same kinds of suffering (vv. 8-9).
Duvall and Hays encourage us to “give highest priority to the immediate context when determining the meaning of your passage.” Never forget, the Bible doesn’t mean any old thing; it means only what God intends it to. Therefore, do the work necessary to stay true to God’s intentions and discover that meaning.
Check back next week for Chapter 9: Word Studies.
We’ve barely scratched the surface with Grasping God’s Word! We highly recommend you purchase this excellent book here.
 J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 149.
 Ibid, 150.
 Ibid, 152.
 Ibid, 153.