Accordance Bible Study –– 4. Text in Context
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Sample Accordance Bible Study

K. Allison Brannon

Introduction

This article will focus on adding surrounding details to the passage we are currently studying. In reading a given passage in the Bible, it is important to read the context, and to cross-reference any verses that are repeated or reflected elsewhere. The context of a passage refers to the surrounding verses or chapters that tell you the rest of the story. To take a few verses out of their context is to possibly misinterpret them and risk misunderstanding the text itself. Cross-references are verses elsewhere in the Bible that contain the same or similar words or thoughts. They are important to read with the passage being studied for many reasons: to understand the historical and literary links between the Old and New Testament, to follow descriptions of people and places, seeing how the authors of various books in the Bible connected people and events with prophecies in other parts of the Bible, etc.

Checking the Context

Because the passage we are studying, Mark 1:1-11, is the very first part of the Gospel of Mark, to understand the context of the events happening, cross-references will prove more helpful. However, it is important to know how to access the context of a given passage and why that is an important part of studying the Bible.

Accordance makes it easy to pull up contextual texts relating to whatever is currently being studied. The quickest way to do this is to simply tell Accordance to increase the context on the Context Slider. First, type in Mark 1:1-11 in the Search Window. You will find the Context Slider below the Search Window and at the top of the Search Results area. Clicking and holding the mouse on this will allow you to choose 0, 1, 2, 3, etc. This refers to how many verses of context you wish to add. Notice that if you choose A (meaning All), the original verses in your search will be marked with a blue bookmark on the right side. Because our passage is at the beginning of the book of Mark, the verses you choose will only follow the passage; if our passage had been in the middle of a book or chapter, Accordance would have displayed the number of verses you chose, before and after the selected passage.

It is important to read the context of a given verse or passage to add to your understanding of what is being said or done. Without knowing the surrounding circumstances, it would be easy to misread or misinterpret the text. For example, if you were to read Mark 1:9 out of context, although you would know Jesus was baptized, you would have missed the prophecy about John the Baptist, the description of John and his ministry, and John's words about Jesus. All of this set the stage to show you why John the Baptist was important, what he was like, and how he saw his relationship to Jesus. Without this information, we do not understand the background to Jesus' baptism.

Parallel Text

In the Library is a tool that will be of great value to you as you dig deeper into cross-references. Called Parallels, the tool is very useful in finding and displaying parallel passages for you.

To access this tool, select text from verse 1 to 11 and amplify to the Parallels section of the Library. Since we know from previous study that the quote in the beginning of the passage we are studying is from the Old Testament, we will choose the OT in NT option. This will open up a new window where Accordance will find all the parallel passages in the Old and New Testaments that are related to these verses. Depending upon how big your display window is, you may see two arrows on the right side, showing you that there are more available than you currently see. Adding panes by clicking the arrow will display these passages as well.

Beginning in Mark_4_1

(click image to see at full size)

In the box on the right of the window, you will see that there are two cross-references in the Mark passage: Behold I Am Sending a Messenger Before You and The Voice Calling in the Desert. Clicking on each of these will display the passages that parallel them.

Suppose you just wanted to see the parallel passages in the Gospels? Use the pop-up menu at the top left of the parallel window and select Gospels. This will give you a list of cross-references in each Gospel, topics such as John's Messianic Preaching, The Baptism of Jesus, Jesus' Witness Concerning John, and more. Explore these to see how different Gospel writers describe the events we are studying.

This tool is valuable because reading the same account in another book can very often give you more or different details, explain something difficult, and round out your knowledge of the passage. For example, if you click on The Baptism of Jesus and read the Matthew version, you see in Matthew 3:14 that John the Baptist is reluctant to baptize Jesus, even to the point of refusing. He tells Jesus that John needs to be baptized by Jesus, and not the other way around. This detail, left out of Mark’s account, gives depth to our understanding of John the Baptist by displaying his humility and his high view of Jesus. Other verses and details that differ from one book to another can add similar richness to our study.

Recap

In this article, we have discussed context, cross-references, and parallel texts in both the Old Testament and the Gospels. You have learned many different ways to add context and find other passages that repeat or reflect words and ideas found in the passage you are studying. The Parallels tool makes this especially easy, displaying side-by-side passages that are related. Each time you use a tool provided by Accordance to dig deeper into the Bible, you are gaining a more complete understanding of the passage you are studying.

(Article content and image updated September 2013)

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