Context Is King

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Context is king — it rules the meaning of everything.  

This is a maxim I often use. Those who have been in Bible studies with me, or heard me lecture, probably have heard me state the maxim . . . and probably more than once.

Words have meaning within their contexts — verbal and other contexts. When interpreting a text, the primary context is textual. Here words have meaning in constellation with other words.

If we turn to a dictionary to find a definition of a term, we come across a semantic range of meanings. But an individualized and localized usage of a term limits what it can mean.

If I say, “I saw,” what could that mean?

If you are asking about a person or event and I make this declaration, then the meaning is that with my eyes I visually apprehended the person or event.

However, if you are asking about tasks people might accomplish, the same declaration means that I may be a lumberjack, a carpenter, or otherwise skilled in the use of certain cutting tools designed for refashioning certain materials.

These clearly are two distinct meanings for the same exact words. And this illustrates well the point that words have distinct meaning in constellation or coordination with other words — in other words, in context.

So, context is king, and it rules the meaning of everything.