As important as the question of evil and suffering is, it’s kind of a heavy topic, don’t you think? Instead of writing three blogs on evil and suffering in a week, let’s talk about context. There are actually a few kinds of context, and they’re each important so what I’m going to do is explain a few kinds of context over the course of a few blogs, and then I’ll show you how some of these kinds are important when reading Scripture.
Context is important because it gives you a better grasp of situations and meanings behind different things. Without context, there’s a lot of room for misinterpretations and errors.
Here’s a pretty cool link to a website that talks about different kinds of context. When we read a text, the first kind of context we might think of is the text that comes before and after what you’re reading that could affect how you understand what you’re reading. That’s called symbolic context.
But there are lots of other kinds of context.
If I’m writing to a professor at school, I’ll probably start with “Hello, Dr. _______” Have a short body, and then conclude with a “Thank you for your time” or something to that effect, and sign off. I have a lot of respect for professors, and I want to have some professionalism in my emails. I also have a lot of respect for my friends, though, and I don’t talk to them in the same way. The way I know my friends is different than the way I know my professors, and we talk differently and more colloquially to each other in messages. My message might start of like, “Yooo g I gotta tell you about this thinggg that happppenneeeed.” My grammar is weird, there’s slang… I just talk differently. I could be conveying the same message but the way I say things would change with who I’m talking to. If I sent a message like that to a professor or an employer, they might think it was a little weird, or maybe even disrespectful. If I sent a message like what I send to a professor to my best friends, they’d probably hop in the group chat and be like, “Girl, are you okay?” The relationship between the sender and receiver, or the author and the audience, is called relational context.
Are you starting to see the importance? Good. We’ll keep looking at context, and we’ll apply some of these kinds of context to actual literary examples, including Scripture, too.