Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible

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by E. Randolph Richards, Brandon J. O'Brien
     
 

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Bookwi.se's Favorite Books of the Year, Non-Fiction

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

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Overview

Bookwi.se's Favorite Books of the Year, Non-Fiction

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Nikki Toyama-Szeto
"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."
Lindsay Olesberg
"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."
Mark A. Noll
"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."
Soong-Chan Rah
"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."
Amos Yong
"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."
Philip Jenkins
"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."
Martin W. Mittelstadt
"Whether rules over relationships or correctness over community, respective Western and non-Western worldviews may differ on appropriate conduct, discretion, and exceptions. Randolph and O'Brien write with grace and clarity. Though evangelical, they steer clear of moral or political agendas and give no hint of anti-Western sentiments; they even suggest someone write a complementary sequel: Misreading Scripture with Eastern Eyes. Their extensive range of biblical and contemporary samples makes this an excellent resource for confessional Bible study contexts or an entry-level textbook in undergraduate courses on biblical interpretation."
James Patrick Holding
"Written in engaging prose, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes is a must-have for students of the Bible, and especially students of biblical apologetics. Any seasoned traveler knows that when someone visits a foreign country for the first time, he or she will be well served by a competent guide. When it comes to the social world of the Bible, Richards and O'Brien serve as tour guides par excellence."
Jackson Wu
"For many, [this] book will offer a dose of humility with hope. One is encouraged to admit, 'I don't know' while at the same time is spurred on to study the Bible more. Missionaries will be challenged to think more theologically and to listen respectfully to nationals who live around them. Theologians will be forced to consider how the adage 'context is king' applies to their own worldview. This is a perfect book to discuss within small groups at church or as teams on the mission field."
Glenn Rl. Kreider
"This is an outstanding treatment of a complex and important topic. . . . This would make a good textbook for courses in hermeneutics or biblical interpretation, cultural studies, prolegomena, or theological method, as well as small-group studies in a local church. The book is written at a level that educated laypeople as well as pastors, teachers, and scholars will find helpful."
Worship Leader Magazine
"A politely confrontational book that bids you trade in your cultural spectacles and rethink how your worldview distorts your scriptural conclusions. Sex, money, food, self-focus, prejudices, and much more: developed with apt storytelling and enlightening examples."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780830837823
Publisher:
InterVarsity Press
Publication date:
11/04/2012
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
169,238
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 2.70(d)

Meet the Author

E. Randolph Richards (PhD, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is dean and professor of biblical studies in the School of Ministry at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He is a popular speaker and has authored and coauthored dozens of books and articles including Rediscovering Jesus, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, Rediscovering Paul, The Story of Israel, and Paul and First-Century Letter Writing.

Early on in their ministry he and his wife Stacia were appointed as missionaries to east Indonesia, where he taught for eight years at an Indonesian seminary. Missions remain on the hearts of Randy and Stacia. Randy leads mission trips and conducts missionary training workshops and regularly leads tours of the Holy Land, Turkey, Greece and Italy. He has served as interim pastor of numerous churches and is currently a teaching pastor. He and Stacia reside in Palm Beach, Florida.

Brandon J. O'Brien (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is assistant professor of Christian theology at Ouachita Baptist University and director of OBU at New Life Church in Conway, Arkansas. He is coauthor, with E. Randolph Richards, of Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes and Paul Behaving Badly, as well as the author of The Strategically Small Church.

A senior editor for Leadership Journal, O'Brien has published in Christianity Today, Relevant, and the Out of Ur blog, and has been interviewed by and quoted in USA Today and other national newspapers.

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