In this second episode of the series on Bible study, Dr. Heiser discusses what interpreting the Bible “in context” really means — taking the Bible’s own primitive context seriously. Rather than filter the Bible through creeds dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, or even the period of early Christianity, the Bible’s actual context is the one that produced the biblical books — the era stretching from the 2nd millennium BC to the first century AD. All other contexts are foreign to the Bible, no matter how persuasive they are in denominational traditions. The student of the Bible must make all foreign contexts subservient to the Bible’s own context. That means replacing our own worldview with that of the biblical writer living during this ancient time span in the ancient Near East and eastern Mediterranean. The way to do that is to immerse ourselves in the intellectual output of those cultures in which the biblical Israelite and later Hellenistic Jews lived when God moved them to write Scripture. The episode ends with suggestions about resources for familiarizing oneself with the literature of all these cultures. These guides are the first step, and set the stage for a discussion of where to find these texts in English translation, as well as informed discussion of that material for enriching Bible study.
This episode begins a series on learning how to engage the biblical text in ways that take you beyond merely reading the Bible. Dr. Heiser overviews a popular Naked Bible blog post (“Heiser’s Laws for Bible Study“) as an introduction. You don’t have to be a scholar to learn to engage the biblical text and move beyond just reading the Bible in English. There are tools that will help you penetrate the text, and techniques for reading more carefully.
This episode builds on the previous one, where Dr. Heiser discussed the context of Paul’s teachings on the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11 — namely, the three chapters prior, 1 Corinthians 8-10. Those chapters show Paul laying out the “fellowship context” of the Lord’s Supper, that Paul wants believers to know that they “partake” of a meal by which they enjoy fellowship (koinoinia) with the Lord. His context for that thought is the partaking of OT priests in sacrificial meat (though not of the sacrifices for atonement or sin offering), and the demonic “fellowship” that is the result of pagan sacrifice. This episode moves into 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul describes the Lord’s Supper in relation to a fellowship meal. This context is crucial to understanding the focus of the Lord’s Supper and the admonitions of Paul in connection with observing the Lord’s Supper.
This episode transitions the discussion of a biblical theology of the Lord’s Supper to the primary passage in the New Testament on the topic: 1 Corinthians 11. The episode focuses on the context of 1 Corinthians 8-10 for informing what Paul says about the Lord’s Supper in chapter 11. The “fellowship context” of the Lord’s Supper is shown to be important for understanding the issues Paul will get into in 1 Corinthians 11. Paul wants believers to know that they “partake” of a meal by which they enjoy fellowship (koinoinia) with the Lord. His context for that thought is the partaking of OT priests in sacrificial meat (though not of the sacrifices for atonement or sin offering), and the demonic “fellowship” that is the result of pagan sacrifice — his primary concern in the disputation over meat sacrificed to idols in 1 Cor 8-10.
Today’s episode continues the problem of John 6, the “bread of life” passage. We explore the rest of the passage, drawing attention to two items: that the second half of the passage needs to be interpreted in light of the first half, and that John 6 is not an account of the Last Supper, which the epistles are clear was the context for the Lord’s Supper or Communion.
When I introduced this topic and series, I said that I’m convinced that this doctrine is one of the least critically examined of all biblical doctrines. This episode gets us into some territory that illustrates the pervasive influence of assumptions about this topic. Anyone who has studied the doctrine knows that it is linked to the Last Supper. They also know about the problem of John 6, the “bread of life” passage. But did you know that John 6 isn’t in the context of the Last Supper? Most students don’t, and the observation begs the question of whether the controversial “eat my flesh and drink my blood” wording in John 6 has anything at all to do with the Lord’s Supper, despite centuries of assuming that it’s central to the topic.
Today we begin a new topic, and with it a short series on a doctrine that most listeners will have heard of or experienced firsthand. I think it would be difficult to find anyone who has spent any time in a Christian church of any denomination who has not heard of the Lord’s Supper, also known as communion or the Lord’s Table. But while most listeners will have heard of the doctrine before, I’m willing to bet few have really thought about or, perhaps stated more precisely, have ever questioned what they’ve been taught about it in light of their own reading of the Scriptures. As familiar as you might think it is, I’m convinced that this doctrine is one of the least critically examined of all biblical doctrines. If I made a “Top Ten” list of things churches do without much thinking, this would be in the list for sure.
Our next problem passage related to baptism is Acts 2:38. The interpretation of this passage involves the Greek preposition eis as well as the overall context of the book of Acts when it comes to repentance and baptism.
Acts 22:16 is a passage that often provokes debate due to its apparent connection between baptism and “washing away” of sins. But that idea is connected to other phrases in succession in the passage. How should Acts 22:16 be interpreted amid these other phrases and the verbal actions described? This episode takes listeners into some Greek grammar for the answer.
1 Peter 3:14-22 is an odd, controversial passage since it amalgamates, baptism, salvation, Noah, the ark, and Jesus’ descent to preach to spirits in the Underworld. The key to understanding the passage is to recognize that Peter embraces the worldview of non-canonical Jewish literature like 1 Enoch and seems an analogy between the events of Genesis 6-8, salvation, and baptism.