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

4.32  ·  Rating Details ·  1,060 Ratings  ·  222 Reviews
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 cu
Paperback, 240 pages
Published November 4th 2012 by IVP Books (first published July 31st 2012)
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Mar 06, 2013 Bob rated it really liked it
All of us assume things that "go without saying." And, until we encounter other cultures, we tend to assume that the things that go without saying are universally true. Furthermore, we are not aware of these assumptions ordinarily. We don't see them, we see "through" them.

Richards and O'Brien take these insights and apply them to how we read the Bible, a collection of books situated in different times and cultures (as well as a transcendent perspective!). They draw on their own cross-cultural mi
Amy Kannel
Oct 05, 2015 Amy Kannel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, christianity
This book will mess with your head, but in the best ways. It is smart, funny, fascinating, startling, and extremely readable. In fact, it's just the sort of book the church needs more of: a serious and thoughtful exploration of theology and hermeneutics, yet accessible to the average Christian, not a dry academic tome. The authors' premise (and they have a lot of credibility due to their experience with long-term overseas missions) is that "what goes without being said" in our culture is often ...more
Oct 05, 2015 Eric rated it it was ok
The book rescues itself somewhat in its final chapters. Prior to that, I would have given the book a much more negative rating. The first 3/4 of the books suffers from over identification with Indonesian culture and it itself appears to be a reading based on Western academic assumptions that the West must be wrong

I was amazed to find out that Paul was using a racial slur in his address to the Galatians. Unlike Spurgeon, who critiqued about 1000 commentaries, I do not have a large enough database
Jun 13, 2014 David rated it really liked it
My only complaint was that it did not go into more depth. I feel like it could have been much longer and more thorough; revealing how modern western bias has influenced our understanding of scripture. That being said, the book deftly explains the difference between our individualistic culture and the collectivist culture which was the modus operandi of the time, which cleaves to one of their core points, that the Bible does not speak to the individual in the sense that every passage and verse ca ...more
Adam Shields
Apr 09, 2015 Adam Shields rated it it was amazing
Short Review: My new favorite book to recommend about how culture obscures scripture. Misreading Scripture is as much about cultural anthropology as it is about scripture, but that is a real strength. Culture matters and it especially matters to those that have little exposure to different cultures. (If you were unaware, the bible was written in a different time, culture and place and that matters.)

Misreading Scripture has nine chapters about basic, but important issues, like differences in lang
Chris Giovagnoni
Jan 07, 2013 Chris Giovagnoni rated it it was amazing
An enlightening book. Perfectly titled. Illustrates its points about cultural differences around individualism and collectivism, honor and shame and right and wrong, virtues and vice, rules, time, language, mores, etc. with examples from the Bible.

If you don't like having your faith and what you "know" to be true challenged or viewed from a different perspective, you will not like this book.
Jesse Mueller
Mar 06, 2013 Jesse Mueller rated it really liked it
All Christians should read this book no matter how much they know about the bible! It was fantastic! A simple and insightful look at how culture plays such a large role in the way people read scripture. Informative, interesting, and challenging. This book will help grow you in your faith.
Janna Craig
Mar 29, 2017 Janna Craig rated it really liked it
If you're looking for a book to challenge the way you read and understand the Bible, this is it for sure. For the larger part of my adult life, I've been aware that the way I understand the Bible--the interpretations I put on words and phrases, the assumptions I make about why the author said what he did, my views about the way of life in Biblical times--all that stuff is more likely to be wrong than right. But I've never really delved deep into why it's wrong, what's wrong about it. Until n ...more
Robert Miner
Apr 02, 2017 Robert Miner rated it it was ok
I'm sorry to say that, altho I expected much more of this book, I was disappointed.
I am, myself, a European educated USAian, who has spent the last 30 years in evangelical theological education in the Arab World, so I was hoping to find orientation and insights.
Unfortunately, I found a rambling on about cultural relativity, with examples and illustrations gathered mostly from the authors' personal experiences.
This book would be great for someone thinking that his present culture in the "absolute
Michael Paradise
Jul 23, 2015 Michael Paradise rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book has changed my perspective about our view of the scriptures and our relationship to other cultures in Christianity. I will read this again a time or two and use it in the pulpit.
Mary Cornelius
Absolutely fantastic. I'd recommend this for anyone trying to work through their cultural biases in their approach to Scripture.
Dec 17, 2016 Katie rated it it was amazing
This should be required reading!
Steve Johnson
Dec 10, 2012 Steve Johnson rated it really liked it
I just finished reading Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible (IVP Books (Kindle edition): October 17, 2012). The authors Randy Richard and Brandon O’Brien make compelling argument for considering our cultural bias as we read the Bible. I’m trying a new way of summarizing books below. I hope that you find it helpful for understanding what I read and the big takeaways.


The most powerful cultural values are those that go without being
Feb 20, 2017 Ruth rated it really liked it
Because I spent a year living in Asia, I know a teeny bit about how differently the Eastern and Western worlds think. That being said, I was still surprised to have some of my undetected cultural assumptions challenged. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and highly recommend it. 4.5 stars.
Dave Courtney
Nov 20, 2016 Dave Courtney rated it really liked it
Far from exhaustive, but arguably necessarily so, Misreading Scripture is a welcome addition to the conversation of understanding the relationship between scripture and culture. It becomes clear early on that this book was going to leave me wanting more, certainly when it comes to providing the tools for putting the discipline into action, but it does a nice job of bringing the conversation to the table.

The essential premise is built around the idea that we all bring our untold assumptions to t
Clint Walker
Jan 07, 2013 Clint Walker rated it it was amazing
When I began studying for the ministry, I had textbooks that began to introduce the application of tools from cultural anthropology and socio-historical ways of approaching biblical interpretation. Especially prominent in our reading in our New Testament classes was the work of Bruce Malina, who wrote such books as The New Testament World and The Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. I learned much from these insights, and found that these works were helpful for pastors and scholars ...more
George Paul
Feb 08, 2013 George Paul rated it really liked it
Richards, E. Randolph, and Brandon J. O'Brien. 2012. Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.

Who we are affects how we read the Bible, and culture shapes who we are to a significant degree. For example, a married, middle-aged man from Springfield, Missouri, interprets the Bible differently than an unmarried, teenage girl from Banda Aceh, Indonesia. This doesn’t mean that Scripture has no correct interpretat
Jan 16, 2013 Cheryl rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
In this informative book, the authors--E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O'Brien--take the reader through the multiple (but not all) ways Western Christians misread words written hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago, in cultures far removed from ours. This misreading is done by interpreting Scripture through the wrong lenses, and some of these lenses are: race & ethnicity, language, individualism and collectivism--where conduct isn't determined by an individual, but by a larger group-- ...more
Tony Fiser
Jan 01, 2016 Tony Fiser rated it really liked it
This has been a challenging book. It is easy to read it a bit shallow and go on as if nothing just happened. But if you read this book carefully, I fail to see how anyone could avoid having some deep currents of presupposition nudged. This material will require further study so I am glad the authors included recommended additional reading to continue on. The authors do a good job of pointing out how we are affected by our culture in our reading of the Bible since Westerners do not share the same ...more
Matt Miles
Sep 08, 2015 Matt Miles rated it really liked it
I'll get my nitpicking out of the way first: in order to make this book accessible (which I appreciate) the authors skimp from time to time on definitions and clarifications. This was most glaring when out of the gate they assert that the Bible is a foreign land. I agree with this statement, but I could see a reader asking "How so?" I get that this is a catch-22 because pausing to clarify everything would bog this book down in academic writing and prevent most readers from encountering it. In th ...more
Mar 24, 2015 Emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, nonfiction, 2015
The running theme throughout this book is that the values that are intrinsic to any culture go without being said. The things that go without being said in one culture can make it very difficult to relate to people of other cultures and make it hard to identify what exactly the problem is, since the ideas aren't foremost in our minds. They're just there.
The authors of this book approach reading the bible as a cross-cultural experience.
We want to unsettle you just enough that you remember biblic
Mar 06, 2013 Peter rated it it was amazing
Very eye-opening. This book will change the way I read scripture. I cannot recommend it highly enough. For Western Christians who consider the Bible normative, this book is a must-read, especially for white American evangelicals.

I have quite a bit of cross-cultural experience, including 9 years spent in Asia and two visits to Africa, so I thought this book might be a bit of a review, but I found it still had plenty to teach. There are so many cultural assumptions that go without saying and color
Apr 21, 2015 Nate rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
This was a good reminder that what we think the Bible means, and what it actually does mean, do not always line up. Culture is one factor that is often overlooked. It's not just about language and historical context. There are a lot of cultural assumptions, or as the authors put it, "what goes without being said," that affect our readings of scripture. I would have liked a more nuanced treatment of the authority of scripture, and what that even means, but I think the authors' main objective was ...more
Logan Carrigan
Jan 04, 2017 Logan Carrigan rated it it was amazing
I read this for school and it helped me realize a lot of things that I don't regularly think about when it comes to how I interpret the Bible. I question a couple of things that they have said but overall it has been a very insightful way of helping me start to remove the cultural blinders that cause me to misinterpret Scripture and even if you are not training to become a Bible teacher or pastor or anything like that, I would still recommend it. As Westerners there are s lot of things that we d ...more
Jan 12, 2013 Ladawn rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that I really needed to read and now that I have, it will forever change the way I study the bible and apply scripture to my daily life. The book is fascinating, yet very easy to read and understand. It purposely avoids going in depth with the examples presented of ways we misread or misinterpret the Word which allows the reader to focus on the point--where we live influences how we think about our Christian walk. A better exercise for all readers and hearers of the Wo ...more
Feb 10, 2016 Jane rated it it was amazing
So often when reading scripture something seems off, or bizarre, some key information missing. This book helps you understand how cultural baggage makes it difficult to understand scripture and gives you tools and strategies to help compensate and think critically. This book helped me deepen my understanding of scripture and analyze my cultural blinders but also provided a warning against over correction while acknowledging how hard it all is. I now feel like I know nothing. I guess that is a go ...more
Joel Wentz
Jan 12, 2013 Joel Wentz rated it really liked it
What a great little book! I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who is steeped in Western culture, particularly if you have never had the opportunity to visit or experience other parts of the world. The book is helpfully organized into 9 sections that steadily progress into more subversive, subtle ways that Westerners bring presuppositions into biblical texts. I found the chapters on food, ethnic identity, and honor/shame vs. internal values particularly helpful.

Get this book! It's an accessible, quic
Nov 04, 2015 Linda rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended to me. I decided that this was the year I would read the Bible from cover to cover. In doing so, the Old Testament left me with more questions that answers. It also left me very sure that the vast majority of us haven't actually read very much of these books and that we apply a very different frame of reference to what we have read. I feel this book is a good companion to the Bible. It is well written and thought-provoking so far and don't anticipate it will become any ...more
James Swenson
Jan 01, 2015 James Swenson rated it really liked it
An intriguing analysis of the ways that readers' brains use familiar cultural assumptions to fill in the elided detail. The authors draw on their experience of mission work in Indonesia to illustrate how differently the same stories can be understood in different times and places.

Incidentally, the book serves as a straightforward rebuke to the sort of naive literalism that leaves some of us struggling to be exactly as wise as serpents.
Pete Isenberg
Nov 10, 2016 Pete Isenberg rated it it was amazing
I made the mistake of finishing this book and passing it around to my friends prior to writing a review. I have recommended it many times and still do. However, six months later I am ill equipped to write a detailed review. What I can say is that if you are looking for something that will challenge you to reconsider your assumptions when you read Scripture, I can think of no better resource. I highly recommend this book.
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InterVarsity Pres...: My review of Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes 1 18 Apr 13, 2015 06:02AM  
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Ernest Randolph Richards (M.Div. and Ph.D., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is dean of the School of Ministry and professor of biblical studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida. He is coauthor of "Discovering Paul: An Introduction to His World, Letters and Theology" and "The Story of Israel: A Biblical Theology." He is the author of "Paul and First-Century L ...more
More about E. Randolph Richards...

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“If we're not careful, our individualistic assumptions about church can lead us to think of the church as something like a health club. We're members because we believe in the mission statement and want to be a part of the action. As long as the church provides the services I want, I'll stick around. But when I no longer approve of the vision, or am no longer "being fed," I'm out the door. This is not biblical Christianity. Scripture is clear that when we become Christians, we become-permanently and spiritually-a part of the church. We become part of the family of God, with all the responsibilities and expectations that word connotes in the non-Western world.” 3 likes
“Some of these proverbs sound as if they come from Scripture (and many people believe they do), like this one: 'God helps those who help themselves'-which is likely anti-biblical. God helps those who rely on him.” 2 likes
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