Let’s talk passage pairings and the right (and wrong) ways of using Scripture to explain Scripture!
Swipe through for the do’s and don’t to ensure you are tethering your Scripture digging to proper biblical interpretation, and an example of an unexpected passage pairing you might not have thought of! (This is the first of what will be a new series of weekly, unexpected passage pairings to breathe new life into your morning!)
But, before we get there, let me first explain what, exactly, passage pairing is:
Passage pairing is the art of combining two different Bible sections to create a richer narrative than they otherwise have apart.
Just like with anything else, there are right and wrong ways of pairing passages:
Rule #1: There is safety in numbers.
The more verses you read surrounding the Bible passages, the safer you are in correctly understanding and combining them.
Do: Keep the context. Understanding a passage’s historical, cultural, and literary context keeps your study grounded.
Don’t: Detach the verse. Isolating a verse from its context detaches it from its meaning and can distort its interpretation.
Rule #2: Keep your story straight.
Your Bible passages should combine to tell one cohesive story that is consistent both conceptually and also theologically throughout the entirety of the Bible.
Do: Align the concept. The passages you are pairing together might not have overlapping words, but they should mirror the same theme or idea.
Don’t: Create dispute. The Bible passage pairing should tell a narrative that does not contradict the rest of Scripture as a whole.
Now that you know the basic rules, let’s put it into practice.
Psalm 2 + Acts 24
Read Psalm 2 (with an emphasis on verse 1), followed by Acts 24.
First, let’s talk about Psalm 2. The very first verse is a question we could ask just as aptly today as when it was posed more than 3,000 years ago: Why the big noise, nations? Why the mean, empty plots, people? Why do you rage? Why do you both create and live in constant commotion and tumult? It’s a question that even Paul wondered right there in the book of Acts as he sat in his prison cell – the victim of the noise and tumult of the people and the plot they devised for his arrest. You can find the culmination of it in Acts 24:25-26, where he stands before the governor of Judea and Samaria (with the entire city of Jerusalem watching). Paul, who was preaching the gospel there, was accused of stirring up riots among the people. But, if you read back through the story that led up to his arrest, you can see that wasn’t the case.
Now, let’s flip over to Acts 34. The Ephesus riot in Acts 19:21-41 caused the mob around Paul, but he didn’t start it. The riot began with one man who thought his career was over because of Paul’s gospel testimony. That man told a handful of other men who, in turn, became angry. And soon, the entire city was up in arms. But here’s the clincher: nobody knew why they were angry. But they gathered and raged and protested anyway. Three months later, in Acts 20, Paul traveled to Macedonia with seven other men, including one named Trophimus. A handful of months (maybe a year) later, in Acts 21, Paul made his way to Jerusalem, where he was arrested in the temple and accused of (among other things) bringing Trophimus into the temple with him. The accusation was based entirely on a supposition (or what is today referred to as circumstantial evidence).
However, the problem was a detail Paul included at the end of his letter in 2 Timothy 4:20: Trophimus never made it to Jerusalem. Paul left him sick in Miletus (Acts 20:13-16), so he couldn’t have possibly been in the temple that day. Nonetheless, the Jews stirred up the crowd. The entire city was in an uproar from their baseless story of Paul defiling the temple by bringing a Greek man into it. The tumult of the multitude was so loud and so confusing that the arresting commander couldn’t even ascertain the truth. It wasn’t until Acts 24 that the charge of inciting riots came out (the same riots that the Jews themselves had started). But the only incitement Paul was guilty of? Inciting the Jews to repentance. Yet, they refused. And the rest is history.
Knowing that story, can you imagine Paul quoting David’s Psalm-2:1 words to himself as he sat in the prison barracks?
As you study the Bible, you might find passages that ping your brain to another verse in another book. Look them up, and see how they compare, following the rules you just learned because, when you do, you are actively learning how the Spirit of God speaks to you, guiding your study.