Tim Tebow and Kim Kardashian: Why Every Christian Should Own a Bible Background Commentary

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As Christians, it’s easy to skim through our Bibles without realizing the cultural significance of the stories we’re reading. We’ve read through them—or heard sermons about them—so many times that we forget the real-life complexities and layers of information behind certain historical people, places, and events.

Pastors, Seminary professors, and Sunday School teachers often talk about reading scripture within context, but have we really grasped how important it is? Imagine if the Bible was written today?

For example, the following is the exact text of Judges 16:1-6 from the NIV translation of the Bible (the story of Samson and Delilah). I’m not going to change any wording—except the character’s names:

Judges 16:1-6 (NIV)

One day Tim Tebow went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. The people of Gaza were told, “Tim Tebow is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.”

But Tim Tebow lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.

 Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Kim Kardashian. The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.”

So Kim Kardashian said to Tim Tebow, “Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.”

 

If someone from a remote uncivilized island read this text they would interpret ‘Tim Tebow’ and ‘Kim Kardashian’ as simply another man and woman. But for Westernized Americans, this story has a completely different meaning because we have a unique cultural understanding of who ‘Tim Tebow’ and ‘Kim Kardashian’ actually are—pop icons!

Images of football and reality television and gossip magazines flash through our minds—thousands of opinions and emotions and mental images are associated with just their names. And so it is with many historical Biblical accounts: real people were involved, and these people each had relatives, friends, and enemies—living within a specific time and place and culture.

That’s why it’s important to understand the context of Biblical texts as much as possible—they often add layers of profound meaning. We can’t just rip verses off the page and attach our own agendas to them. We can’t assume we know exactly what’s going on without realizing what’s happening within the context of that passage.

So if you don’t have a Bible Background Commentary yet, go get one, because it’s a good place to start. Obviously, you could devote a lifetime studying the Bible and still not grasp all of the cultural subtleties and meanings—it demands knowing ancient languages, customs, history, and their specific beliefs—along with a litany of other skills. Even those who do devote their lives to it still disagree among themselves about verses, interpretations, meanings, and theology.

We won’t become experts overnight—or maybe not even in our lifetimes—but we should take the Bible seriously enough to start humbly studying it with the intention of better understanding God (and the scripture He’s provided humanity with). He’ll mercifully and gracefully help us along the way.

 

 

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18 thoughts on “Tim Tebow and Kim Kardashian: Why Every Christian Should Own a Bible Background Commentary

  1. lynetteduquette71

    I think that is one of my biggest pet peeves. The other one is when people don’t use the ‘whole’ counsel of scripture. You know, they love using ‘the Bible says!!!’ Yes it does, but over here it also says…

  2. Amen, brother. Study Bibles with commentaries are invaluable, and reading different versions along with their commentaries ensure we’re reading correct interpretations. In addition, take the time to read the margin notes. Those teeny, tiny notes lead you to other Scripture that confirm the origin of some Scripture. Trying to put our agendas on top of Scripture never works. God has His agenda and gave it through the Holy Spirit to the authors of Scripture. Some are for specific circumstances and some can be applied globally. Be sure you can discern which is which.

  3. I really loved how you brought that scripture into the 21st century! I will insert names of loved ones into prayers and psalms but never thought about evaluating scripture in hi manner. Well done! (and thank for the drop by and follow today too) !

  4. Couldn’t find your “about” page, so I thought I’d leave a message here. Great post, and thanks for following FIGHTER FAITH. If you would like to receive regular updates by email and receive a free gift, come on back and join my email subscriber list.

  5. Thanks for sharing this message. Its so true without revelation from God on His word and the meaning of these stories its just a letter soup. I’ve been trying to go deeper and dig deeper into the word to build me up in Christ; it’s been good. But I dont have a commentary though. Which one would you recommend I get?
    And Thanks for following me Stephen! I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  6. Many folks I’ve talked to believe that admitting we might be wrong about our interpretation of
    Scripture is somehow disrespecting God’s Word. For this exact reason, I tell them the opposite is true. Without the humility you are talking about, we assume the Bible is no more meaningful than Harry Potter. Great insights.

  7. Thank you for the “follow,” Stephen, a writer in the context of Christian culture.

    I agree, It’s important to pin our beliefs and interpretation of Scripture on solid biblical sources. That’s why when I do Bible study I use more than one translation and even a different version to get the right “slant” (if that’s possible). Again, thank you for following my blog. I am happy to discover yours today.

  8. Great post, and great point. But part of me is loving that now on Google there’s a reference to Tim Tebow visiting a prostitute – I can imagine him getting quite surprised if his management has Google alerts set up for him…

  9. Great post. It saddens me when I think of the reality of how many church goers and self proclaiming Christians never pick up the Bible. Never study it. I can admit this has been a challenge for me in the past as well. But then I prayed and asked God to reveal Himself through His Word, to give me understanding, and got over feeling guilty for using commentaries.

  10. Stephen Mattson

    Thanks for visiting MELAIEREVANS! Yeah, it’s so easy to just ignore the Bible and fail to read it. I pray that I remain passionate about reading it and striving to follow Christ’s example!

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