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Historical and Cultural
Context of Scripture


Key Biblical Dates

A list of significant biblical dates to provide a framework for the flow of biblical History.

Overview of the Bible's Storyline

A chart showing the basic timeline and storyline of the Bible with significant people and writings noted.

Community and Testimony: Cultural Influence in Biblical Studies

A contrast of ancient tribal cultures' concern with community and communal ways of thinking with modern individualism, and its implications for understanding Scripture.

Old Testament

(Note: Some articles may have relevance for both Testaments)

Survey of Old Testament History

A menu page for access to short summaries of OT History as a background for biblical interpretation.  The history is organized around eight major periods:  The Patriarchal Era (1800-1290), Exodus and the Period of the Judges (1290-1050), Early Israelite Monarchy (1050-750), Assyrian Dominance (750-640 BC), The Rise of Babylon and Exile (640-538), The Persian Period and Return (538-323), The Greek Wars/Maccabean Period (323-63), The Rise of Rome (63-3).  Some of these pages are in preparation and will be made available as they are completed.

Israelite Prophets Date Chart

Chart of the ministry dates of the major prophets of the Old Testament.

Israelite Kings Date Chart

Chart of the reigns of kings of the United Monarchy and the Divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah to the fall of Jerusalem (1050 - 586 BC), color coded to show good and bad kings, as well as those deposed or assassinated.

The Judges of Israel

Overview of the military leaders in the Book of Judges, with brief comments on the theological role of the book compared with Joshua.


Information on the Prophet Elisha and the role of the Elisha traditions in biblical narratives. 

Hebrew Calendar of the Old Testament

Chart and information about the Hebrew and later Jewish lunar calendar in use in the Old Testament, including the names of the months and the growing seasons associated with each.

Baal Worship in the Old Testament

Brief survey of the mythical background of Canaanite Ba'al worship and its impact on Israelite religion.

The Enuma Elish

The full text of the Enuma Elish, the Mesopotamian myth of creation, with introductory comments and a summary of each tablet.

Speaking the Language of Canaan [Available in .pdf Adobe Acrobat symbol ]

A paper dealing with the Israelite appropriation of metaphors, symbols, and conceptual categories from the "pool" of ancient Middle Eastern culture, noting both the similarities and differences, and the implications both for understanding the OT, as well as for addressing the modern conflict of science and religion.

Comparison of World Views: Perception of the Physical World

A graphic to go with the article Speaking the Language of Canaan, comparing various ways of understanding and talking about the physical world.

Sons of God and Giants: Cultural and Historical Context in Genesis 6

The cultural and historical background of the reference to "sons of God," "daughters of men," and the giants in Genesis 6.

Metaphors for God: The Plural "us" in Cultural Context

An analysis of four Old Testament passages that use 'us' to refer to God, concluding that they are cultural metaphors drawn from the imagery of God as a high king.

Demons in the Old Testament

A detailed analysis of Hebrew terms in the Old Testament that are sometimes translated 'demons,' seen against the background of ancient Near Eastern culture.

The Yam Suph: "Red Sea" or "Sea of Reeds"?

The traditional translation 'Red Sea' in the Exodus account has led to unnecessary debate; the text actually reads 'sea of reeds,' although its location is unknown; the account is more concerned with theological confession than providing details of geography.

Travelers and Strangers: "Hospitality" in the Biblical World

Short article dealing with the implications of  Near Eastern social customs relating to travelers and resident aliens.

Israel's Codes of Conduct Compared to Surrounding Nations

A comparison of Israel's social laws as based on the Ten Words (Ten Commandments) with those of surrounding nations; while they shared many aspects, Israel's laws differed in three important ways.

Genesis Bible Study

This is a detailed examination of the first 11 chapters of Genesis, containing some practical applications of cultural background to the interpretation of biblical texts.


Rulers of Egypt and Palestine - Intertestamental

A chart with brief comments of the Seleucid, Ptolemaic, and Maccabean/Hasmonian control of Palestine between the time of the death of Alexander of Macedon and the Roman occupation under Pompey (323 - 63 BC).

New Testament

(Note: Some articles may have relevance for both Testaments)

First Century Roman Political Rulers of Palestine

A table of Roman Emperors, Procurators, and Kings who governed Palestine in the New Testament era.

Palestine Under the Rule of the Herods

A chart and brief history of the rule of the various Herods in Palestine during the New Testament era.

The Symbolism of "Vine" in Scripture

Short article examining OT uses of the metaphor of vine and vineyard as background for John's account of Jesus as the true vine.

Tax Collectors and Sinners

Short article identifying these two groups in the social background of 1st century AD Judaism.

John The Baptist: The Man And His Influence

Short article on John the Baptist and his setting in 1st century Judaism.

Inheritance Practices in the First Century Era

Short article providing background for Luke's story of the Prodigal son.

The Resurrection: Influence on the Church in the First Decades

Short article examining the idea of the resurrection of Jesus in the context of first century thought, and its Christian expression mainly from 1 Corinthians 15.

The Needy in Jewish Tradition

Brief look at the development from biblical perspectives of ways of dealing with the poor and needy in Judaism.

See also the PhotoTour for photos and maps that relate to the historical and cultural background of Scripture. There are additional topics not listed here available in Short Bible Topics

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2018, Dennis Bratcher - All Rights Reserved
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