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Out of Context

“People say that I hate chocolate. That’s not true, I love chocolate. It tastes sweet.”

If someone were to claim that I said, “I hate chocolate,” Then they are clearly taking my words out of context. If someone said that, “I love chocolate” they are also taking my words out of context. However in the second instance, they have accurately summed up my opinion, while in the first instance, they are misrepresenting my opinion but in both cases they have taken my words out of context.

Many times Christians will make the claim that I am quoting a Bible verse out of context. Of course that is true, but I am not misrepresenting what was said, but rather summarizing it. For example, one of my favorite verse is Numbers 31: 17-18 which states:

“Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”

The context of this verse is that God ordered Moses to rape and murder the entire Midianite village because the villagers worshiped Ba’al Zebul instead of Yahweh. Some Christians will claim that God didn’t use the words “rape” and “murder” but it is fairly clear from the context of the verse that was the meaning. Some Christians have even pointed out that the villagers were engaging in sexual rituals that were quite cruel. This is true according to the Bible, but that wasn’t the reason why God gave the order to Moses. According to the context, the Midianites broke the first commandment.

Now I am sure some Christians are going to respond and try to rationalize this away and that is fine, but that isn’t the point of this blog. The point of this blog is to discuss context. Context does matter, but it doesn’t matter all the time. Sometimes, one can quote a verse and the context is obvious. Sometimes people put in their own context to misinterpret what was said to suit their needs. Sometimes, that is fine (like when talking about poetry or music). Sometimes it isn’t fine. One has to look at the context to know if context is important or not.

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