|Subject: May I share a simple story to help?|
Bible Note: You write: "I have found in the past, that knowledge of certain cultural customs, or ancient language information has helped me to see some interesting points. However, I believe this knowledge to be unnecessary for understanding of the Bible."
Following is an alternate viewpoint, one held by EVERY reputable Bible scholar.
"How to Study Your Bible: Closing the Gaps"
"...in order to get the most out of God's Word, in order to really understand what God meant by what He said we have to close some gaps.
"The gaps in our understanding of the Bible are related to an ancient document. We're dealing with an ancient document. This book is a very old book...it is ancient. It was completed, as you obviously know, in the first century A.D., that's 2,000 years ago, and so we have a very old document. That creates some gaps for us. If we're going to understand the Bible we have to close those gaps.
"Gap number one is a language gap. The Bible was not written in English. [It was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.]
"So knowing the language is very important. Somebody has to know the language. If you as a Bible student don't know it, you have to have somebody who does know it informing you about it. That's where commentaries come in to be of help to you and study materials and Vine's Dictionary of New Testament Words and Dictionary of Old Testament Words and those kinds of things that help you to come to grips with what the words mean.
"A second gap that has to be closed is the culture gap. That deals not with the speech but with the customs. Speech is connected to custom.
"You can't recreate the scenery biblically unless you know the culture, that's very, very important unless you know the background. Understanding many things about culture, Jewish culture, Greek culture very, very important in interpreting the Scripture. The culture of the mystery religions, the culture of the Pharisees, the culture of the Sadducees, the Romans, the whole situation there, the culture around Israel, the polytheism, the polytheism meaning the many god pagans, the culture of Baal worship, all of that stuff that surrounds the biblical data is part of understanding the framework in which language exists and in which stories are told.
"Thirdly the geographical gap, the geography gap.
"[First] you understand much about [the language and] the culture of the Bible, [then] you understand much about the geography of the Bible, and then you're going to get to understanding the fourth point which is the history, the plot itself. You have to close those gaps.
"Now let's talk about those...those four gaps...the language gap, that gives you the speech; the culture gap gives you the customs and the idioms; the geography gaps creates the scenery, the actual scenario around it; and the history gap is the plot, what's going on historically around that. What is the context of history. I have found through the years that spending a maximum of time on these matters is crucial to all effective Bible understanding."