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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 ·  1,963 ratings  ·  361 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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4.32  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,963 ratings  ·  361 reviews

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Mar 06, 2013 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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christianity, own
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 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
Robert Miner
Apr 02, 2017 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
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
On the whole, an extremely interesting read that I found illuminating. It really draws attention to the assumptions we (Westerners) make without thought.

The most engaging sections for me were about:
• Mores (norms that are socially accepted without question). For example, as a society we’re currently much more concerned with sexual modesty than economical modesty.
• Virtues and vices. Some that we hold onto are cultural rather than biblical.
• The contextual meaning of verses vs our own personal
Aug 31, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is badly needed by anyone who teaches Bible in a non-Western setting. However, you might, like me, have at times wanted to somehow have a physical copy of the audio book to throw out the window of your car. Some of the exegesis is as strained as pulp-free orange juice. Other insights are simply fabulous. This is one to read with all the discernment filters on, but one definitely to read. Really effective at making you aware of your own biases.
Jun 13, 2014 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
Jeremiah Parker
Nov 26, 2012 rated it liked it
I think the primary intent of this book is to help Western Bible readers recognize their own presuppositions (the "things that go without being said"). I think it will do a good job of that. Another positive element is the personal anecdotes gathered from experience with Western and Eastern cultures.

They, rightly, point out an aspect of our culture's teaching concerning marriage that is not exactly biblical. The Scripture values marriage and celibacy, even giving greater honor to the later.

Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not sure I agree on some of the conclusions that were drawn, but the overall message about the differences between cultures is a great one that I had never taken a lot of time to think about. It's definitely worth reading and I recommend it.
Adam Shields
Apr 09, 2015 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
Jesse Mueller
Mar 06, 2013 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 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
Eli Fry
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read twice back to back because it’s such a radical idea. No matter where we’re from, we all need to put more effort in removing our cultural suppositions and try to understand the Bible in its original context.
Mark Copley
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I can’t overestimate the importance of this book. The scriptures came not from a galaxy far, far away, but they did come from a time and a culture much different from our own. If we ignore this fact, we are bound to misread the Bible and use it to support our cultural mores, prejudices, and values. The result will be unfaithfulness to the truth God wants to plant in our hearts. Tainted seed will produce a strange hybrid of Christianity and the harvest will be bitter. Take time to read this book ...more
Jun 11, 2014 rated it liked it
This book offered some tantalizing glimpses into ways that our modern mindset and Westernized culture keeps us from grasping some of the contextual meanings behind a great deal of scripture. Many of the things that 'went without saying' in Biblical times have been lost or have shifted. And many of the things that 'go without saying' when we read scripture now did not when it was written.

A book that gave readers the tools to unlock these lost contextual and cultural meanings would be fantastic.
George P.
Feb 08, 2013 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
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes is an effort on the part of the authors to show ways Western eyes (particularly White America Male Eyes) read Scripture with presuppositions that cause Scripture to be misread. They also intend to “offer a positive corrective” by demonstrating a “discernible pattern” of cultural assumptions. The goal is to develop a reading of the Bible and its application that is more “faithful”.
The book appears to be directed at laypeople in the USA who are
Bryan Sebesta
Sep 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every once in a while, I read a book that changes how I approach some aspect of my life entirely. This book did that. It's essentially a series of smart essays covering nine subjects that cause Western readers to read the Bible poorly. Some of these subjects are simple and expected: language gaps, race, cultural differences in what's considered appropriate. But some are deeper: honor and shame, time, collectivism and individualism. And some are really deep: rules and relationships, virtue and vi ...more
Tommy Keough
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I will never again cite Jeremiah 29:11 as a promise made to me.

An incredible, eye-opening book. Incredibly challenging subject matter that smashed many of my lifelong presuppositions to bits in a very gentle and accessible way.

As Western Christian, it’s easy to view my own approach to faith as the “right” way. This book expands that view and shows the general context of how the Holy Text was written and understood in the Biblical era. There is an emphasis on Western individualism pitted agains
Pete Isenberg
Nov 10, 2016 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.
Michael Paradise
Jul 23, 2015 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.
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Read the final chapter, and you'll get the book.
Mary Cornelius
Absolutely fantastic. I'd recommend this for anyone trying to work through their cultural biases in their approach to Scripture.
Donna Pyle
May 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This books provides amazing insight into Jewish culture that has transformed the way I view and read Scripture. This should be on everyone's must-have reading lists!
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This should be required reading!
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Richards and O'Brien set out to explain why those in the Western world often misread and misunderstand scripture. This is an intriguing read that will challenge Western readers to step outside of their culture to consider the context that the original scriptures were written we, which was in the Eastern world. While they cannot be all-inclusive, or touch on every facet, nuance and intricacy of difference, the book does a great job at laying a foundational understanding for the reader to consider ...more
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An interesting book. Certainly enjoy the historic background the author’s give for some verses, such as the geographical significance of Laodicea to the two cities providing water. The main theme of the book was the Western cultural reading the Bible, and the following interpretations that result from a Western reading. However, the authors do not mention anything about the Western culture itself being influenced by the Bible. In other words, we think the way we think today because of the Bible, ...more
Keturah Lamb
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is one of the best non-fiction books I've read since finished Bonhoeffer.
I do not lie.

It was an easy read that provoked so many good thoughts and I learned a ton. It was especially interesting to realize how our Western culture reads a lot of individualism into scripture while most of the rest of the world sees scripture through a collectivist point of view.

The book talks about rules vs relationship with God.

Doing something because it's right or wrong (of the heart or internal moti
Jason Ingersoll
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
While I was hoping this book would be a scholarly work, it ended up being less academic than I was expecting. And that's okay! This book DOES include some academic work, but is interwoven with anecdotes and examples that make it a more accessible read. The authors make it clear that they are not trying to cover every possible way scripture could be read wrong, but rather, they are attempting to give readers a starting point for thinking about "cultural blinders" when reading the Bible.

What we as
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the other book that Phylicia Masonheimer recommends all the time. My mom, not knowing that, heard about it in an email and bought it. I was excited when I found out because I could finally read it!!!

One of my favorite things ever is when someone explains some background cultural or historical details about a Biblical account and it makes it all come alive!!! This book, and the ways it helps you learn to rethink reading the Bible, will make that a more common occurrence.

The authors do a
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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
“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.” 4 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.” 3 likes
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