Ambiguity, Context, and Biblical Interpretation

By Kyle Hendricks

Definitions in Context

The SAT is a standardized test that many students have to take.  One type of question in the reading section is called a vocabulary in context question.  These questions will ask the reader what a particular word in the passage “most nearly” means and it will provide four different answers to choose from.  The tricky thing about these types of questions is that, often times, all four options are legitimate definitions of the word in question.  To know which meaning of the word is being used in the passage, the reader has to read the context that the word is in, usually by reading a few lines or even an entire paragraph of the passage.  Only by looking at the context can the reader figure out which of the answer choices provides the correct meaning of the word in that passage.  Context is important in everyday life too.  If you walk into a room and hear me say “I killed that guy” to a friend, that may sound like I committed a crime.  However, if you heard the whole context, you would know that I’m talking about a video game I played earlier.  By “kill” I didn’t mean “murder,” I meant that I took out the avatar that he was controlling.  The phrase takes on a whole new meaning in your mind when you learn the context.  Context is also important when it comes to the Bible.  As many people have pointed out when teaching hermeneutics (the art and skill of proper interpretation), one must know the context of a word or verse in the Bible to really understand it.  This helps with apologetics and our personal devotions.

This graphic claims to show all of the contradictions in the Bible. Here are two verses that contradict each other according to this graphic.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
(Isaiah 40:28)

Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
(Isaiah 1:14)

One verse says that God does not get weary.  The other one says that God is weary.  Is this a contradiction?…


Ambiguity, Context, and Biblical Interpretation | The Resistance