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Never quote a bible verse out of context

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 9:53 am on Thursday, June 14, 2007

We all heard many times that we should not quote Bible verses out of context. I must say I was personally guilty of this on several occasions, latest being misquoting Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” to mean that Jesus is always in the midst of our gatherings and prayer meetings. Looking at the context in verses 15-19 makes it apparent that Jesus didn’t mean this at all. Here he speaks on church discipline and the authority he gives to decide what’s right and wrong in terms of practical application, not some general presence in some random gathering. Another very common misquotation is “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” in Matthew 7:1 and parallel verse in Luke 6:37, which commonly mistaken to mean that we should avoid judging others. Looking at the broader context reveals that both verses apply only to hypocritical judgment. So there is nothing wrong with passing judgment on others when they sin, and we are told to do so in Matthew 18:15-18. See Never read a Bible verse article by Gregory Koukl for other common mistakes. Not sure if you agree with his conclusions regarding verse memorization and devotional reading, but at least we should all be aware of this problem and make a serious effort to avoid this kind of mistakes.

4 Comments

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Comment by Cedric Campbell

November 22, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

Psalms 109:8 “Let his days be few; and let another take his office.” Those who spread this verse as an anti-presidential message should be aware of their sins. It is sad that this has been passed around and chuckled at in Sunday School classes. Those who quote the Bible for their own purposes are insidious.

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Comment by Law Professor

March 22, 2010 @ 9:27 am

I agree: “Never quote a bible verse out of context”. Thye problem is, you’re quoting Matthew 18:20 out of context.

Jesus was, in Matthew 18, engaging in a time-honored rabbinical tradition: the linking of thoughts one to another, in a stream of consciousness. Sort of a Hebraic poetry format. Examples can be seen in other parts of the scriptures, e.g., Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, or in ancient rabbinical literature. Thus, there is no overarching “context” involved; only one with a Greek/Western/Hellenistic mindset would look for one in this type of passage.

Loosely put, Jesus starts his discussion with children and the Kingdom of God, then discusses abuse of children by evil people, what evil ones who lead little children astray ought to do with themselves (i.e., better to commit suicide), what to do with evil people in a church body context, how one ought to have two or three witnesses to confront them, then picking up on the two or three theme, how whatever we ask in the father’s name will be given if two or three are asking, then, again picking up the two/three theme, He states that God is with us when we’re gathered in grouops of two or three.

Each of these are timeless truths standing alone, they are linked only by theme, by common words or thoughts–-again, very much a Hebraic poetry format–-but not by overall context, to try to do so does violence to the truths Jesus was conveying.

These truths are not linked in a pedantic manner, such that the last “two or three” reference in verse 20 need be related to church discipline, evil doers, children, or suicide by drowning! We need to take the text for what it is, understanding that Jesus was an easterner speaking to easterners. His ministry was not to the gentiles, and He most certainly did not speak to them or their mindsets. For several sterling examples of transcendent truths put into linear and deductive western thought, see the Pauline epistles; don’t try to order Jesus’ thoughts around western logic, you will almost invariably come to the wrong conclusions.

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Comment by Marty

April 17, 2014 @ 3:48 pm

The original scriptures were written without chapter/verse division. There are no “verses” in the actual scriptures. The bible wasn’t written with the intent of having sentences or partial sentences ripped out of their context then interpreted as independent thoughts.

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