Basic Bible Interpretation:
Understanding the Setting of a Bible Passage


An Overview of Bible History

Old Testament Times

New Testament Times

What is Included in the Setting of a Bible Passage?

Examples of Understanding the Setting


Understanding civil or international affairs at the time the passage was written.


Understanding the religious practices of God's people or those of surrounding nations.


Understanding the significance of the places and physical surroundings of the biblical author.

Business / Economics

Understanding the way business was carried out during the time the passage was written.


Understanding the law system of the time when the biblical author wrote.


Understanding the methods of waging war during Bible times.


Understanding the seasonal agricultural practices during the time of the Bible writer.

Domestic Affairs

Understanding the details of household life in biblical times.

Social Customs

Understanding the expected behaviors and expressions of civility during the period of the biblical writer.

Concluding Thought

Resource List for Understanding the Setting

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

Bible Dictionaries

A Bible dictionary provides brief articles on almost everything mentioned in the Bible.
  1. Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary
  2. New Unger's Bible Dictionary
  3. New Bible Dictionary

Bible Encyclopedias

A Bible encyclopedia provides more detailed articles on almost everything mentioned in the Bible.
  1. Zondervan Pictorial Bible Encyclopedia
  2. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Bible Atlases

A Bible atlas provides maps as well as brief descriptions of the events that took place in each geographical area mentioned in the Bible.
  1. Holman Bible Atlas
  2. Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible
  3. Moody Atlas of Bible Lands
  4. Macmillan Bible Atlas

Bible History Resources

These resources provide more detailed descriptions of the historical situations faced by the Bible writers throughout the period covered by the Scriptures.
  1. Old Testament Times, R.K. Harrison
  2. The Old Testament Speaks, Samuel Schultz
  3. New Testament Times, Merrill Tenney

Bible Culture Resources

These resources provide more detailed information about the practices and customs of the people during Bible times.
  1. New Manners and Customs of Bible Times, Ralph Gower
  2. Today's Handbook of Bible Times and Customs, William Coleman
  3. Manners & Customs in the Bible, Victor Matthews
  4. Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, J.I. Packer and Merrill Tenney

Bible Introductions

Despite the title, these resources are typically not "introductory" treatments of each Bible book, but provide very detailed and scholarly information about such critical issues as the dating and authorship of every book in the Bible.
  1. Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Gleason Archer
  2. New Testament Introduction, Donald Guthrie


1 Robertson McQuilkin, Understanding and Applying the Bible, 91.
2 Roy Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, 79.
3 Zuck, 89.