Understanding the Context of a Book of the Bible

When you start studying the Bible, it’s really important to understand the context of the book you are reading. Studying the Bible without knowing its background is like exploring a new place without a map. To really understand the messages in the Bible, you need to look into several things: the author, date written, audience, purpose, major themes, cultural context, literary features, and keywords. Let’s explore why these are important for understanding the Bible.

1. Researching the Author

Knowing who wrote a book of the Bible helps you understand its message and purpose. Each author has a unique perspective and experiences. For example, knowing that Paul wrote many of the New Testament letters helps us appreciate his teachings, as he had a dramatic conversion and was a dedicated missionary.

2. Determining the Date Written

The date when a book was written helps you understand the events and situations happening at that time. For example, knowing that the Book of Revelation was written during a time when Christians were being persecuted helps us understand its messages of hope and endurance.

3. Identifying the Audience

Knowing who the original audience was can help you understand why certain things were written. For example, Paul’s letters to the Corinthians were written to address specific problems and questions in the Corinthian church. This helps us apply his teachings to our own lives and church today.

4. Clarifying the Purpose

Every book of the Bible was written for a reason. Some books were written to instruct, encourage, rebuke, or prophesy. Understanding this purpose helps us grasp the main message of the text. For instance, the Book of Psalms was written to provide hymns for worship and prayer.

5. Exploring Major Themes

Finding the major themes of a book helps you see the big picture and understand what God wants to communicate. Themes like covenant, redemption, grace, and judgment appear throughout the Bible. For example, the theme of covenant is important in Genesis, showing God’s relationship with humanity.

6. Understanding Cultural Context

The cultural context includes the customs, traditions, and societal norms of the time when the book was written. This helps us interpret the text correctly. For example, understanding the patriarchal culture of ancient Israel helps us better understand the stories and laws in the Old Testament.

7. Recognizing Literary Features

The Bible includes different types of writing, like poetry, stories, prophecy, and letters. Recognizing these literary features helps us interpret the text correctly. For example, the symbolic language in the prophetic books, like Ezekiel’s visions, needs a different approach than the historical stories in the Kings and Chronicles.

8. Identifying Keywords

Keywords and phrases can carry important meanings and help us understand biblical passages better. Studying these words in their original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) can enrich our understanding. For example, the Greek word “agape” means love and helps us understand the depth of God’s love for us.

Some of my favorite resources for context research:


The ESV Study Bible

The ESV Study Bible is very helpful. It is packed full of study notes, maps, and articles that explain each book of the Bible. It tells you who wrote the book, when it was written, who it was written for, and what it’s about. The ESV study Bible also goes into depth on the literary features of each book.

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains the culture and history of Bible times. With notes and articles from experts in biblical backgrounds, it helps you understand the customs, traditions, and societal norms that influenced the biblical text.

Unlocking the Bible by David Pawson

A fantastic book for learning about the historical context of the Bible. This book explains the history and background of each book of the Bible. This helps you understand what was happening in the world when the Bible was written.  It's easy to understand and has become invaluable to my research of the cultural context.


This is a free online resource. By using PreceptAustin.org, you can gather a ton of important information about the context of each book of the Bible.  It provides a detailed introduction to each book, historical background, themes and purposes, cultural context, literary features, and some commentary!  It's definitely worth checking out during this research stage.


I love sitting back and watching the short video on the book that I'm getting ready to study.  If you aren't utilizing The Bible Project, you're missing out!  It's awesome!

My all time favorite tool to organize and record the context I gather


Studying the Bible is a powerful and transformative journey. By learning about the author, date written, audience, purpose, major themes, cultural context, literary features, and keywords of each book, we can understand the Bible more deeply and accurately. This understanding helps us uncover the richness of God’s Word and apply its timeless truths to our lives today. So, before you open your Bible, take the time to explore its context—you’ll find your study more rewarding and your faith stronger.

  • 1 comment

    • Diana Paige

      Thank you for this resourcr. Concise but lots of information.

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