In Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes
biblical scholars Brandon O'Brien and Randy Richards shed light on the ways that Western readers often misunderstand the cultural dynamics of the Bible.Drawing on their own crosscultural experience in global mission, O'Brien and Richards show how better self-awareness and understanding of cultural differences in language, time and social mores allow us to see the Bible in fresh and unexpected ways. They identify nine key areas where modern Westerners have significantly different assumptions about what might be going on in a text. They include:
- Race and Ethnicity
- Honor/shame right/wrong
- Rules and Relationships
- Virtue and Vice
- God's will
Getting beyond our own cultural assumptions is increasingly important for being Christians in our interconnected and globalized world. Learn to read Scripture as a member of the global body of Christ.
What was clear to the original readers of Scripture is not always clear to us. Because of the cultural distance between the biblical world and our contemporary setting, we often bring modern Western biases to the text. For example:
- When Western readers hear Paul exhorting women to "dress modestly," we automatically think in terms of sexual modesty. But most women in that culture would never wear racy clothing. The context suggests that Paul is likely more concerned about economic modestythat Christian women not flaunt their wealth through expensive clothes, braided hair and gold jewelry.
- Some readers might assume that Moses married "below himself" because his wife was a dark-skinned Cushite. Actually, Hebrews were the slave race, not the Cushites, who were highly respected. Aaron and Miriam probably thought Moses was being presumptuous by marrying "above himself."
- Western individualism leads us to assume that Mary and Joseph traveled alone to Bethlehem. What went without saying was that they were likely accompanied by a large entourage of extended family.
Biblical scholars Brandon O'Brien and Randy Richards shed light on the ways that Western readers often misunderstand the cultural dynamics of the Bible. They identify nine key areas where modern Westerners have significantly different assumptions about what might be going on in a text. Drawing on their own crosscultural experience in global mission, O'Brien and Richards show how better self-awareness and understanding of cultural differences in language, time and social mores allow us to see the Bible in fresh and unexpected ways. Getting beyond our own cultural assumptions is increasingly important for being Christians in our interconnected and globalized world. Learn to read Scripture as a member of the global body of Christ.
Randy Richards and Brandon O'Brien have written a useful and enjoyable book, which makes excellent use of good stories to illustrate the points they make. The reader will leave the book with plenty of challenging questions to ask about approaches to Scripture. Interesting, thoughtful, and user-friendly.
distinguished professor of history, co-director for the program on historical studies of religion, Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University, author of The Next Christendom
This is a revolutionary book for evangelical Bible-believers. If its readers end the book motivated to ask the questions it invites and even inspired to identify other possible misreadings because of Western cultural blinders that have not been discussed, they will be more ready to live out the kind of biblically faithful, Christ-honoring and God-fearing lives that they desire to and that the world needs.
-Amos Yong, J. Rodman Williams Professor of Theology, Regent University School of Divinity, Virginia
Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes is an important book that comes along at a critical moment in global evangelical history. Helpful examples reveal our cultural tendencies and biases that could hinder a deeper reading of Scripture. The authors help us to recognize our blind spots and offer insight that honors the intention of Scripture to be read in the context of community. I am grateful to the authors for their effort to be self-reflective and engage in a critical examination of our engagement with Scripture from within Western culture.
Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary, author of The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity
The authors of Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes make a convincing case that those who trust in the Bible should (for biblical reasons) be more self-conscious about themselves. Their demonstration of how unself-conscious mores influence the understanding of Scripture is as helpful as the many insights they draw from Scripture itself. This is a good book for better understanding ourselves, the Christian world as it now exists and the Bible.
-Mark A. Noll,
Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame, coauthor, Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia
Richards and O'Brien open our eyes to the crosscultural nature of the Bible. Their book is a helpful resource in understanding Scripture on its own terms, without imposing our assumptions on the biblical authors and their first readers.
author, The Bible Study Handbook, and senior associate for Scripture engagement, Lausanne Movement
A fascinating guide for any serious Bible reader! Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes reveals the 'habits of the mind' that might blind us to the Bible's intended message. Richards and O'Brien unpack the intricacies and nuances of cultural communication to help people better understand the Bible. To help you know--and live--the Christian life more faithfully.
Urbana program director, coauthor of Partnering with the Global Church
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