I suspect I’m not alone in my whole world being flipped upside down this last month or so. This has born out in my personal life but also professional life. In the grand scale, our companies marketing plan has completely shifted and in the smaller scale, every article and even sentence needs to consider how it reflects the pandemic.
Simple statements like “viral messaging” suddenly have a connotations that we don’t want to spr…want to pas…want.
As I read my notes on exegesis for study yesterday, I realized that this is a perfect example of the importance of historical context.
How COVID is affecting our Historical context
In the space of a couple month, the global zeitgeist has changed in a way that I honestly can’t think of an equal comparison.
- Working from home has become a common topic
- We’re all encourages to “stay home, save lives”
- Hand-washing is a common topic of conversation
- We’re being encouraged to take advantage of our free time
- Everyone and their parents know what zoom is
- People are anxious
- People are afraid
None of these ideas or themes are new but they are more common and have extra significance now.
In 100 years’ time, if someone looked back at an article in a newspaper without knowing about COVID-19, they might be surprised at the content on display.
For example, I just found a headline on the BBC website about the best books and films for isolation. Without understanding our context, the reader might assume that some people were choosing to isolate. He or she might then conclude that this was a time when we wanted to stay apart.
Without understanding our historical context, we might miss key details.
Historical Context and the Bible
Unfortunately, not all historical context is as obvious as COVID, but it may be just as present in writings such as the Bible.
We may know about the Roman occupation but do we know how it actually affected the lives of people? When Jesus says the centurion had the greatest faith he had encountered, how would the people around him have reacted?
While we can still read and be transformed by the Bible without fully understanding the historical context, adding some to our knowledge can enrich our own study and reading time.
Historical context and Bible reading take on a new meaning as I think about it now.
Do you have any thoughts on how else someone reading a headline 500 years out might think?