The Most Abused Verse in the Bible?

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Romans 8:28 has been read as a free-floating logion for years (at least in the American Bible culture), divorced from a context that would, if properly respected, lend it a much more limited meaning.

Everyone knows that biblical verses should not be taken out of context, and most people can probably name a few examples of verses that are often abused in this way. I would like to suggest that one of the most commonly quoted verses in popular piety today is abused in this way, and hardly anyone seems to have noticed. The verse to which I refer is Romans 8:28. I quote it in the King James Version because that is how it is most often interpreted:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

I have yet to see anyone draw attention to the fact that Romans 8:28 has been read as a free-floating logion for years (at least in the American Bible culture), divorced from a context that would, if properly respected, lend it a much more limited meaning. I have probably heard this verse quoted hundreds of times, but never in agreement with its original function within Paul’s discussion. Placed back into the eighth chapter of Romans, a different meaning emerges from that which is commonly attributed to it.

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  • Jack Poirier

    Jack Poirier

    Jack Poirier is the chair of biblical studies at the newly forming Kingswell Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio (scheduled to open in Fall 2008). Jack earned his doctorate in Ancient Judaism from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, where he wrote a dissertation…
    [Read more about author]

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