Context – Culture, Practices and Beliefs


When we read the New Testament as a modern fundamentalist evangelical Christian, most of us don’t have a clue to the context of the writings. We view ALL of the scriptures thru our twenty-first century Gentile-Christian “World View Filter”. It is difficult, if not impossible to understand what was written almost 2,000 years ago without understanding the circumstances, religious teachings, common practices and customs of the day. Most, if not all, of the writings are deeply ingrained in Jewish culture and beliefs. We are foolish, naive at best, to believe that we can read a few verses here and there and get the true meaning of the message that is called the Gospel.

Our “World View Filter” affects everything that we do.

Oriental World View: “Among the Chinese, slurping and belching at the table is acceptable, as these gestures are perceived as signs that one is appreciating the meal.” Source

Western World View: “People should see you eat, not hear you eat. This means that slurping, smacking guzzling, sucking the teeth and belching are good examples of bad manners.” Source

So, if we were at a traditional oriental banquet in China and the guests “could be heard slurping and belching” we would view this as rude, crude and socially unacceptable. Since we refrained from slurping and belching, they would view us as un-appreciative and rude.

This silly little example shows the huge difference, opposite in fact, between 2 modern day cultures. Just because the King James Bible seems to say one thing, can we truly know the meaning without understanding the culture, practices and beliefs?

Without the proper “World View”

Here is a scriptural example that was used to try and entrap Jesus and is often used to justify divorce.

Mat 19:3-9 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? (4) And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, (5) And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? (6) Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (7) They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? (8) He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. (9) And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Well that seems straightforward enough, if the spouse commits fornication, or adultery, then divorce is acceptable, and the offended spouse is free to re-marry. But, there is quite a bit of difference between fornication – (intercourse of unmarried persons) and adultery (intercourse with the spouse of another). How could fornication and adultery be used interchangeable? How can there be a circumstance that divorce is alright even though God hates divorce?

Mal 2:1 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

The Proper Perspective

Let’s look at part of the Jewish marriage:

“Betrothal (kiddushin, or erusin) was a much more formal concept in Jewish antiquity than our modern state of engagement. A betrothed couple was, for all legal purposes, considered to be married. For example, men who were betrothed, even if not actually married, were subject to the one year exemption from military service (Deu 21:7). The only respect in which this was not true was sexual—consummation of the marriage before the actual nuptials was forbidden.” Source

So now that we begin to understand the Jewish marriage ceremony – both fornication and adultery would make sense. Fornication – the marriage had never been consummated, Adultery – they were legally married. Since husband and wife had never been joined together, the husband would be free to marry another. Also adultery was a crime and the adulterer would have been tried and sentenced according to Jewish law. Technically the spouse of an adulterer would have been free to remarry, since the adulterer would have been put to death by stoning.

This special circumstance used to try and entrap Jesus still aligns with the fact that God hates divorce, and the Bible doesn’t contradict itself and say that; “Divorce is OK if Adultery was committed”.

Were All foods really made clean after Peter’s vision?

Let’s look at the scripture that is used to say that all animals/foods are clean.

Act 10:11-16 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: (12) Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. (13) And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. (14) But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. (15) And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. (16) This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.

That is straight forward enough, isn’t it?

Let’s look at a cultural fact: unclean animals weren’t forbidden food, they couldn’t be considered food. Telling Peter to eat a pork chop or shrimp would be similar to telling us to chow-down on roach and slug stew. No-way, no-how would we ever even consider eating that – no matter how hungry we were. It just isn’t food.

Peter happened to have this vision while he was hungry, back up a verse and look at Act 10:10 “And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,”

When Peter fell into the trance and saw the vision he wasn’t a little hungry, he was very hungry. What did he say when he woke up? Hey, get me some shrimp, a pork chop, ham and some bacon.

Act 10:17-20 Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate, (18) And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there. (19) While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. (20) Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.

Again, Peter was hungry, very hungry; doesn’t it seem strange that the modern church’s interpretation of that passage is all animals/food are now clean? Act 10:17 “…Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean,” then a few verses later the answer to the vision is revealed:

Act 10:28 “And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?”

Let’s recap:

  1. Peter was very hungry.
  2. He had a vision of unclean animals, he was told to kill and eat, three times.
  3. Peter never ate any unclean animal, not before, not during or after the vision.
  4. Peter wasn’t sure what the vision could mean, and was perplexed by it.
  5. The Spirit tells Peter that three men were seeking him
  6. Three Gentile men come to Simon’s house seeking Peter.
  7. Peter realizes that the vision was about Gentiles and they could receive the Gospel.

From this scripture what does the modern church teach: all animals/foods are now clean! Huh? What!… Why? That is what our ancestors and bible commentaries have taught. But a complete reading of the scripture reveals the truth.

Jer 16:19 O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.

Twisting Scripture

Do most modern day preachers of the Gospel have a 1st Century Jewish “World View Filter” or a 21st Century Gentile “World View Filter”?

2 Pet 3:15-17 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him has written unto you; (16) As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable twist, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (17) You therefore, beloved, seeing you know these things beforehand, beware lest you also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.

We have been taught by teachers that are spoken of in 2Pe 3:16they that are unlearned and unstable.” And what have we believed? An interpretation of God’s word that is twisted, twisted unto OUR destruction.

Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

What will you do?

What you have always done?

What is common and comfortable?


What God’s Word commands.

2 Chr 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

4 Responses

  1. It is our job to question and look to scripture to detect the twisting of the Word. Good article.

  2. Clint.
    Have you changed any of your thoughts on the translation of “the first day of the week? Have you received any disenting opinions?? We met briefly in Branson.
    Thanks, Jerry Canada

  3. Jerry,
    I haven’t changed my view. but I am always open to look and re-look at things. The one thing that I am absolutely sure of is this: The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know…

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>