Tool 5: Bible History

Lesson ▪ 1997
Tags: Bible; History
Excerpted from Bridging the Gap: Developing Tools for Better Bible Understanding

When the apostle Paul appeared before King Agrippa, as recorded in Acts 26, he testified of Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament Messianic prophecies. In the course of his defense, he made the following statement: “For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things [the life, death, and resurrection of Christ] are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner (Acts 26.26).

Paul regarded the historicity of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to be essential to his credibility. Christianity could not be true if these events had not actually happened. Yet Paul could defend himself convincingly because they had not taken place in a corner, but where everyone could see them. Similarly, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15.14-19 that the historicity of Christ’s resurrection is so important that the validity of the whole gospel message hinges on it. Quite obviously, then, there is a vital historical dimension to the Scriptures.

Just as God’s revelation was given in a geographic context (as discussed in Tool 4 of Bridging the Gap), so it was also given in history. That revelation and history are inseparably interwoven ensures that the Bible is relevant to the real world. The principles of Scripture were given to real people in the past, and they apply to people everywhere and at all times.

Quite often, interpreting a biblical text accurately depends on understanding the text’s historical context. This is true in two ways: First, a text must be understood in the light of the historical circumstances under which it was written. Second, a text must be interpreted in the light of the history which is implicit in its content.