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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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  • A-Dizzle

    I’ve pretty much given up on trying to discuss Bible passages with Christians because of this exact reason. The Bible means whatever the person reading it wants it to mean.

  • Leo

    Similar, I was taught that if I needed anything that I could pick up the Bible open it to any random page read any passage and it would work better then any fortune cookie! I was also taught that if I broke any commandment it was as bad as breaking them all. Maybe that is what this passage is speaking too? The Midianites had also broken the other laws…but this passage directly points out that if you break the first rule, you die.

    Assimilation?

    • Leo

      Also, double KUDOs today!

      • admin

        Coming from you that means a lot. You keep me honest Leo. We don’t always agree, but I do respect and value your opinion.
        -Staks

  • Curious

    Why are you so certain a god doesn’t exist? I can’t prove he does exist any more than you can that he doesn’t. This is why I find agnostics more credible than athiests.

    • admin

      I’m not “certain” that a god doesn’t exist and I don’t think I ever claimed to be such. My position is that of an agnostic atheist. But I don’t think you really understand the difference. I will have to blog about that next week I think. Then we can have that discussion. Today’s blog is about context.
      -Staks

  • Curious

    What the hell is an agnostic atheiest? Why don’t you just call yourself an agnostic? You just said that you’re uncertain of god’s existence. That’s the definition of an agnostic.

    • admin

      Actually, that isn’t what I said nor is that the definition of agnostic. But I will talk about that more in a blog sometime next week. This blog is again about context. So I would appreciate it if you stayed on topic and waited a few days for me to blog on this particular topic which I promise you I will. Thanx,
      -Staks

    • http://theperplexedobserver.blogspot.com/ TPO

      One can be fairly certain a particular deity does not exist based on available evidence without having to prove said deity’s nonexistence. Thus I can be an atheist in the sense that I do not believe in the existence of your god (or any other god for that matter) and still be an agnostic in the sense that I have no empirical method of knowing what is purported to be unknowable, such as some infinite being that exists outside space and time and thus is beyond the comprehension of a meager mortal like myself.

      You shouldn’t get hung up on semantics but since you insist just know that an atheist means the same damn thing as non-theist. I am not obligated to prove that your supernatural being does not exist in order to disbelieve its existence just as you are not required to prove your divinity’s existence to me in order to retain a belief in in said deity’s reality.

  • http://theperplexedobserver.blogspot.com/ TPO

    Excellent points and great blog.

  • DarthKiljoy

    I realize that I’m not adding anything to the conversation by saying this, but I love taking out of context the quote from Jesus in the Book of Revelation where he says “I come quickly.”

  • Debby

    I love it when I use scriptures against them. Especially when it’s old testament. First they say that it’s old testament and Jesus came to change it. Then I come back with the question of how they can pick and choose what they feel like. Then I ask why they keep the old testament if Jesus made it null and void. So then they say it’s all up to interpretation yet they turn right around and say the word of god is always constant and never changes.I always ask them about when they were little how their dad would tell them to do something. Would they ponder and try to interpret his orders or would they do what they were told with no questions asked. They can never give me a straight answer on anything. It’s as if they are spitting out what a lifetime of different pastors with many lifetimes of different points of view have drilled into their heads.

    • http://www.myspace.com/andrewtheatheist AndrewtheAtheist

      Jesus allows you to eat shellfish, but still condemns gays. Didn’t you know? It was two barly loaves and 5 shellfish.

  • existential blues

    Hi Dangerous, I left this Christian Economist (!) blogger a post about his defense of God regarding the Jericho massacre. I’d like to remind him of the Midianite village massacre, but I can’t put up a seccond comment. Would you please remind him of Numbers 31:17-18, where God gives the direct command to kill everyone?

    http://getrad2.blogspot.com/2008/08/old-testament-violence-10-joshua-at.html

    • existential blues

      I was able to leave a comment about the Midianite massacre — not sure what the problem was. (by the way, his defense was:

      “Discering God’s intentions and feelings does not require my interpretation. Jesus made God’s heart clear. Joshua did not know Jesus, so he did not fully understand God.”

      He seems to be saying that pre-Jesus God was imperfect — which is odd, since Jesus was God, if he’s not a polytheist.