Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible - eBook  -     By: E. Randolph Richards, Brandon J. O'Brien
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Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible - eBook

IVP Academic / 2012 / ePub

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Product Description

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:
  • Mores
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Language
  • Individualism/collectivism
  • Honor/shame right/wrong
  • Time
  • 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.

Product Information

Format: DRM Free ePub
Vendor: IVP Academic
Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 9780830863471
ISBN-13: 9780830863471
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

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 modesty—that 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.
-Philip Jenkins,
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.
-Soong-Chan Rah,
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.
-Lindsay Olesberg,
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.
-Nikki Toyama-Szeto,
Urbana program director, coauthor of Partnering with the Global Church

Product Reviews

3.3 Stars Out Of 5
3.3 out of 5
3.7 out Of 5
(3.7 out of 5)
3.3 out Of 5
(3.3 out of 5)
Meets Expectations:
3 out Of 5
(3 out of 5)
of customers would recommend this product to a friend.
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  1. Age: 55-65
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Misreading Scripture, hits the mark
    November 9, 2013
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Am pleased that evangelical scholars are taking a serious look at the context of our readings, within historical/cultural definitions. The Lord Jesus provided a similar kind of redirect to the people of His day by looking past the pharisaic customs, designed to aid in spiritual compliance, and pointed them to the principals which they'd represented. This book is neither exhaustive, nor complete, but it provides a template, with good questions for the reader as he or she continues his/her reading of scripture. This a good place to start. I have this in a digital version also, and would love to see it completed text by text with historical and cultural background notes for the complete Bible, and linked to electronic Bible resources, so that they match/synchronize as we read. Yes, this is a beautiful beginning. It's time we Christians get off our pious laurels, and dig deeper for the principals behind this beautiful (and divinely inspired) historical collection of books, letters, and predictive revelations that we call the Bible. Careful reading does NOT undermine the authority of scripture. On the contrary, it validates it.
  2. Gender: male
    1 Stars Out Of 5
    Curious Approach to the Bible
    February 10, 2013
    Gender: male
    Quality: 2
    Value: 1
    Meets Expectations: 2
    I found this book's title intriguing, and it is not badly written. However, its main premise is troubling: people in 21st century America are very different from people in ancient Israel, so it's impossible to say with any certainty just what "living according to the Bible" might involve. Rather than being a book about how to better grasp the Bible, it appears the authors are distancing themselves from their evangelical roots.

    The authors are very provincial, in the sense that they wrongly assume that what was true of their own evangelical churches was true of all. They claim that it was once common for evangelical churches to preach against drinking - certainly true of SOME churches, but by no means all. But aside from being provincial, this anecdote is part of the book's efforts to convince readers that we are all provincial and that pretty much anything we believe about the Bible is likely mistaken. This is a common theme in "evangelical" (have to use quotes here) books today: Christians have been getting the Bible wrong for 2000 years, but the authors (bless their creative little minds!) are here to show us the truth - or at least to make us skeptical of everything we used to believe. So Sodom and Gomorrah were not (contrary to what ever Christian prior to the year 2000 believed) destroyed because of their homosexual sins. In fact, Christians are (the books says) way too concerned with sexual sins, too concerned about heaven, too eager to distinguish between right and wrong behavior - in other words, this is a harsh critique of Christianity that could easily have been written by an atheist working for the New York Times, someone whose favorite words are "multicultural," "inclusive," "nonjudgmental," "global," etc. Such a book, judging from other reviews, is welcome to people in their 20s, who fancy themselves "Christian" in some really loose way, but don't wish to be left out of the hedonistic hookup culture with its sex, alcohol, and drugs (and narcissism), so here are two "Christian" authors giving them the green light, telling them sex is no big deal, "right" and "wrong" are culturally conditioned (and negotiable), this world, not heaven, is all that matters. So, continue to call yourself a Christian and do whatever you please - a delightful message, if you leave out the factor of being accountable to God.

    In short, what you get in this book is the same temptation Eve got in the garden: follow you own path and make yourself a god, deciding what's right and wrong. The authors, posing as Christians and publishing the book with what was once a Christian publishing firm, can't state this message bluntly, so they have to package it in the guise of multiculti relativism - the secular ideology that professors (even some who claim to be Christian) bombard them with daily. Despite the book's subtitle it is by no means an attempt to "Remove Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible." The aim it is to convince the reader that there is such a culture gap between 21st century America and ancient Israel that we would be quite foolish to try to "live according to the Bible." This is the same message of Rachel Evans' book Year of Biblical Womanhood, but here the authors are "scholars" and so their stance on the Bible needs to be taken seriously. It's quite obvious in the book that the authors are embarrassed by their Southern evangelical pasts and thus they bombard the reader with anecdotes designed to make Southern evangelicals look like narrowminded and dimwitted. If you find what I just wrote offensive, stop and consider that this "deconstructing" is exactly what these two authors do to the Bible and Christianity. They say our understanding of it is "culturally conditioned" - but the problem with that relativistic approach is that it can be applied to the authors as well. Why should we consider their insights (such as they are) worth listening to, since they too are culturally conditioned? Are their views worth taking seriously - or is the book's real aim to convince the reader that they are two wise, cool, cosmopolitan types who abandoned the Deep South variety of Christianity? This is where relativism and multiculturalism lead to - not much certainty that we can live a life pleasing to God, so enjoy this world and don't knock yourself out trying to fit those tired old culturally conditioned concepts like "righteousness," and don't give a thought to "sin." After all, these two "scholars" said it was OK.

    It's a wonderful message, making no demand on the reader. But it isn't Christianity, nothing remotely embracing Jesus' command to "take up your cross daily" and Paul's challenge to "fight the good fight of faith." This is a cheap sham version of faith, no real content at all, no ideals to strive for, just the comforting assurance that all the Christians who lived before us were dead wrong about all this sin and righteousness stuff.

    I suggest that if you want to (as the subtitle says) "better understand the Bible," do the obvious thing: read the Bible. That can be challenging, even confrontational, but the Bible can enrich life, and this book cannot.
  3. Harrison, AR
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Made some good points
    November 29, 2012
    Debbie from ChristFocus
    Harrison, AR
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    "Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes" is a book about some cultural differences between the "East" and "West" and how this might help us to better understand the true social dynamics going on in the Bible.

    They covered topics such as "bad" words, sexual taboos, how money is viewed, what things are eaten as food, ones view of people from different parts of the world or with different skin color, how Hebrew and Greek don't always easily translate into English, the use of idioms, a focus on efficiency versus focus on the human element, the individual making decisions based first on his own desires versus based on the advice of the extended family or village, honor and shame compared to right versus wrong, views of time, that rules should always apply versus rules are good guidelines but have exceptions, patron and client relationships, what a culture values as a virtue or calls a vice, and applying "Bible promises" outside of the original context.

    The authors avoided going through the Bible to identify all the major instances of the idea they were talking about. Instead, they hoped the reader would understand the concept and be able to recognize and apply it as they found it in their Bible reading. I've heard many of these concepts in other books, but none of those books went very in-depth.

    In this book, the authors did an awesome job of clarifying some concepts that I'd read about before. For example, they did a great job explaining the patron-client relationship. Occasionally, though, I wasn't sure that the authors' take on a verse was correct, but I also wasn't always sure that I fully understood the idea they were trying to apply. Or I could see how it applied in the examples that they gave, but I didn't feel like I could accurately identify or apply the concept while reading other passages in the Bible. I plan to re-read the book and see if that helps solidify some of these ideas.

    Overall, I'm glad I read this book. It did bring out some good points about cultural blind spots. But I think I'd only recommend it to people who are fairly familiar with the whole Bible and have already done some study of the Bible-times cultures. The authors tended to refer to Bible events--from both Old and New Testaments--as if the reader was fully familiar with the story as told in the Bible, and it was also easier to understand the point the authors were making if you could think of some other examples that their point might apply to in the Bible.
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