This final guideline provided by Grant Osborne (The Hermeneutical Spiral) is pretty simple. It’s known as the Ignoring the Context fallacy. It’s almost too self-descriptive, right? Osborne is quite helpful in suggesting why this is so important. He writes,
“In one sense ignoring the context is the basic error that encompasses the others and makes them possible. For instance, etymology is misused as formative of meaning when the diachronic history of a term is given priority over the context. I have already noted that context and the current semantic range of a word are the two aspects of the synchronic dimension. The failure to note context may be the most frequently occurring error, since the majority of commentaries are organized around a word-by-word approach that usually isolates each word from the other terms surrounding it and as a result fails to put the message of the text together as a coherent whole.” (p. 93)
So what is a good example of this? Osborne points us to the issue of Christ’s divinity and Philippians 2:7. He writes that,
“… in Philippians 2:7 heauton eken?sen (“emptied himself”) has become the focus of widespread debate centering on the kenotic theory, namely, whether Christ “emptied himself” of his deity. The traditional evangelical approach has been to respond that Christ emptied himself of the prerogatives and glory of deity but not of his divine nature (cf. v. 6; see J. B. Lightfoot). However, as Gerald Hawthorne has noted, this ignores the context (1983:25–86). There is no (genitive of) content given for the “emptying,” and it is better in this light to recognize the intransitive nature of the verb. In the semantic range another use fits the context better, to “pour out” or “make himself nothing.” This fits the transition from “did not consider equality a thing to be grasped” to “took on the form of a servant” as well as the parallelism with “humbled” in verse 8. A proper regard for context removes the necessity of debating the kenotic school on their own grounds.” (ibid.)
So yeah, don’t ignore the context. Maybe you think Duh!, when you read that. But you can’t underestimate it’s importance! Study the text and it’s surrounding context in order to consider the intention of the passage!
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.