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“Bible in One Hand, Newspaper in the Other!”

The Swiss Reformed Theologian Karl Barth is purported to have said “hold the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other”. I find this quote very helpful in our effort to make our reading of the Bible become more meaningful. We know for a fact that the Bible is relevant. However, due to the gap between our time and the period it was written and published, though it was not written in one specific year or period; the earliest ones being approximately written 3,500 years ago, most of us find it hard to understand.

Reading the newspapers alongside with our reading of the Bible, makes us cognizant of the current situation of our community, country and the world at large. Any serious reader of the Bible must be kept abreast of the latest developments in his surroundings.

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To illustrate this, here are some examples from the Bible:

The Old Testament prophets spoke based on contemporary political and religious landscape of Israel and other Near Eastern countries. The prophet Isaiah for example, dealt primarily with the “Assyrian threat” (Fee & Sturat: 175), he opposed the social evil of his time and consistently tried to persuade Judah of the risks of engaging in foreign alliances.

Jesus in his parables engaged the political and religious stalwarts of his time. In one of his encounters with them (Jewish leaders and including the Herodians) in the Gospel of Luke, he was asked about his authority as a teacher and about paying taxes (Luke 20: 1-26). They wanted to trap Jesus so they can find something to charge him. As to his authority to teach, his answer put them in a dilemma. As to the paying of taxes, Jesus asked for a denarius (v. 24), the primary coin of the Roman empire during Jesus’ time, and asked them, Whose image and inscription are on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. (NIV)

That’s where the answer became obvious. One should “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (NIV). Luke further stated that the stalwarts “were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.” (NIV)

The truth is, almost everything you read in the Bible are all based on contemporary events in people’s lives, their relationship to God, to their fellow human beings, and to their government. We will do well in our reading of the Bible if we are in touch with the current events.


Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Manila: OMF Literature INC., 2004.

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