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“Did I tell you what I read today in Misreading Scripture?”
While reading this book, I think I asked my friends, co-workers and family this question constantly, wanting to share with them every little thing I read. I couldn’t stop talking about it. I was blown away by the insights and evidence the authors provided to explain the cultural differences between when the Bible was written and now.
Even without consciously knowing it, we all bring our own biases and assumptions with us when we read the Bible. As a 25-year-old female who was raised in America, I am going to interpret verses through the lens of our individualistic society, placing my rules and understanding of language and time into God’s Word. The worst part? I wouldn’t have even known I was doing it until I read E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien’s book, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes.
The more I read this book, the more I realized what I didn’t understand about the Bible, and what I thought I knew might not even be right! According to the authors, we have cultural blinders that keep us from seeing what the original intent of the biblical author was, given the many differences between Western and Eastern cultures. We can learn from knowing how the Eastern authors understood the world, God and everyday life in order to properly receive what they were trying to communicate.
One of the parts that struck me was when the authors talked about virtues and vices. According to the authors, as Westerners, we supplement the biblical lists with virtues and vices from our own culture. An example they use is self-sufficiently, which is more likely a vice in the Bible because we should be relying on God and putting our faith in Him, not our own plans. We also focus more on avoiding sins and vices instead of focusing on putting on the virtues of the Bible.
Another example that was convicting was that when Paul tells women to dress modestly, Westerners usually will jump to thinking this means to make sure to not wear revealing clothes. But, the authors say, Paul was probably actually talking about dressing modestly in a financial sense, to make sure you weren’t showing off your wealth by what you were wearing. Wow.
Being aware of our cultural blinders can help us understand what the Scriptures meant to the original audiences, but that doesn’t mean the process of change is an easy one. By working hard to re-think assumptions, being teachable, and reading the Bible with others and an open heart we can see the Bible in new and even unexpected ways. Bringing their own personal experience, especially Richards’ Indonesian missionary work, and their easy-to-read style, this book is a great read for anyone who wants to learn more about the historical context of the Bible and how it affects us today.
“If our cultural blind spots keep us from reading the Bible correctly, then they can also keep us from applying the Bible correctly. If we want to follow Jesus faithfully and help others do the same, we need to do all we can to allow the Scriptures to speak to us on their own terms.”
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