Divine Revelation and Context: An Interplay of Influences

Boubakar Sanou, Andrews University


The impact of culture on the production, interpretation, and communication of the Word of God is an ongoing debate. Some believe that “the biblical documents were produced in and to some extent influenced by culture” (Slate 1992:145). A question that comes to mind is, Why would God take into consideration the human framework in the process of re- vealing his Word? Do contexts shape the way people understand the gospel? Glenn Rogers responds by pointing out that “God uses human culture as a vehicle for interaction and communication with humans because human culture is the only context in which humans can communicate. This is not because God is limited. It is because humans are limited. Human culture is the only frame of reference humans have. If God wants to communicate with humans it must be within the framework of human culture” (2004:28). In this interplay of influences, divine revelation quite often challenges human contexts because human activity has been tainted by sin and be- cause humans cannot intelligibly relate to what is outside their frame of reference; therefore, God uses what is already available in human context to package his revelation. It is important to state that God very often used the cultural material available to his hearers to express his will for them by purging the available cultural material of any evil implications. This article aims to consider some of God’s usages of culture in the process of communicating with humans and the implications of this on mission and ministry practices today. Four biblical cases showing the interplay of Scripture and culture include covenant-making and divination in the Old Testament, the incarnation of Jesus, and the cultural considerations of mission and ministry in Acts 15. [Introduction]