The following especially helpful words on biblical context were written by Gary Collier. I respect Gary’s exegetical bent and his scholarship and asked his permission to repost these words here.
The gospels are especially helpful in seeing the problem of “dumping” texts from each other onto each other, and then reading them all as just one massive gospel. (As if . . . “What one says, they all mean . . . even if they didn’t say it!”)
So it is best to read them one at a time for a while, letting each say its own piece. For example, study Luke 6:20-23 in light of Luke only. What is the flow of the text? Are there themes or motifs that surface? E.g., how do the “poor” function in Luke? How does Luke 6 function within that context?
Doing this might take a while. If we’ve never read the gospels like this, then we might need to spend days, weeks, or even months holed up with just one Gospel. Once this begins to sink in . . . then we do the same with Matthew—letting only Matthew speak. After a while of this—getting to know the gospels individually—we’ll then be in a position to ask, “How do they relate? Why are they different? How do specific stories function within each Gospel?
Do this and your Bible reading life will be changed forever.
BTW: One day, I intend to write a piece called “The Gospel According to Wyatt Earp.” In this piece I will take a look at four movies made on this American Legend: “My Darling Clementine,” “Gunfight at OK Corral,” “Tombstone,” and “Wyatt Earp.” (There’s more of course, but these four rise to the top in the current “canon” of movies on this man.)
Nearly everyone gets lost in the shallow end of the pool when talking about these movies—with comments like “Val Kilmer is the best Doc Holliday,” or “Kevin Costner can’t act,” bla bla bla—it all misses the point! The question is really about how “story” is told, how characters are depicted, how plot is developed. What would anyone think if we did a cut-and-paste from various movies to blend all of these movies together? Why, it would be a mess! Ridiculous! But that is our primary way of reading the Gospels.
It not only does not make sense . . . it is embarrassing.
For more from Gary Collier, whom I personally know to be a highly qualified, energetically mission-driven New Testament scholar, visit one of his websites: http://coffeewithpaul.com or http://bibledashboard.com.