Basic Bible Interpretation:
The Importance of Context in Understanding Bible Language

What Does the Context Include?

The Immediate Context of a Passage

Examples of Interpreting in Context

Understanding the Overall Flow of Thought

Scripture Interpets Scripture

A Final Challenge

Resource List for Understanding the Context of a Passage

Ranked in order beginning with the least complicated and least costly resources in each category.

Bible Handbooks

Bible Handbooks provide outlines and overviews of every book in the Bible.
  1. Halley's Bible Handbook
  2. New Unger's Bible Handbook
  3. MacArthur's Bible Handbook
  4. Larry Richards, The Illustrated Bible Handbook
  5. Willmington's Bible Handbook and Willmington's Guide to the Bible
  6. Book introductions and outlines in Study Bibles, Reference Bibles, or commentaries.

Bible Surveys

Bible Surveys provide helpful overviews of the entire Word of God.
  1. Henrietta Mears, What the Bible is All About
  2. Bruce Wilkinson and Ken Boa, Talk Thru the Bible
  3. Jensen's Survey of the Old Testament and Jensen's Survey of the New Testament
  4. Bryan Beyer and Bill Arnold, Encountering the Old Testament and
    Walter Elwell, Encountering the New Testament
  5. Paul Benware, Survey of the Old Testament and Survey of the New Testament
  6. Robert Gundry, Survey of the New Testament
  7. Merrill Tenney, New Testament Survey

Comparing Scripture with Scripture

Topical indexes and cross-reference resources provide ways to locate parallel passages in Scripture.
  1. Nave's Topical Bible
  2. The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
  3. Topical Index of the Bible
  4. Harmony of the Gospels
  5. Marginal cross-reference systems in Study or Reference Bibles.


1 A. Berkeley Michelsen, Interpreting the Bible, 104, 113.
2 Robertson McQuilkin, Understanding and Applying the Bible, 163.
3 McQuilkin, 156.
4 Michelsen, 105.
5 Michelsen, 100.
6 McQuilkin, 164.