- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: IVP Books; 1 edition (December 4, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0830837825
- ISBN-13: 978-0830837823
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 371 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible Paperback – December 4, 2012
|New from||Used from|
$0.82 extra savings coupon applied at checkout.
Sorry. You are not eligible for this coupon.
See the Best Books of 2018 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
"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." (Martin W. Mittelstadt, Religious Studies Review 39, no. 2, June 2013)
"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." (James Patrick Holding, Christian Research Journal 36, no. 5)
"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." (Jackson Wu, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, July 2013)
"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." (Glenn Rl. Kreider, Bibliotheca Sacra, October–December 2013)
"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." (Worship Leader Magazine, May 2013)
"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)
"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)
"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)
"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)
"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)
About 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 Paul Behaving Badly, A Little Book for New Bible Scholars, 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.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Or, maybe we don't. We just think we do.
Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes (MSWWE from now on) is a book that helps to expose us to the fact that people are not like us. The authors, E. Randolph Richards and Brandon O'Brien, show numerous examples of the way our culture misreads the Bible based on our Western presuppositions and that people in other cultures are quite different. This can be shown to be the case in Biblical times, but also in modern times as Richards has several examples in his book from his missionary service in Indonesia.
For instance, if you had an affair, would you feel guilty? Here in the West, you would. In Indonesia, there would be no guilt until everyone else said you did something wrong. What time does that church event start? Here, you could say "Mid-day" and most people would be there at Noon. There, you'd say "Mid-day" and most people would show up when it started to get hot. If you say "All people serving in the church must be eighteen", here it'd be a strict rule. Over there, there would be exceptions.
Much of this seems foreign to our experience, and for good reason. It is. One of the greatest signs of this is our intense individualism where we think everything has to be about us. There is even a chapter in the book on how people take a passage like Jeremiah 29:11 and make it to be about God having a personal plan for them. Somehow, all those Israelites that died during the attack of Nebuchadnezzar missed that.
The authors also bring out important realities of the system that was around then and is still around in most countries today, such as the honor/shame system and the patron/client system. Consider the story of David and Bathsheba. That is a story we all learn something from, but when it is read through the lens of honor and shame, all of a sudden several new facets of the story show up that the Western reader would not notice.
What does this mean? It means that there's further reason to drop this nonsense idea that so many have that all we need is to just have the Bible. Now of course, the Bible contains all that is necessary for faith and practice, but if you want to know all that it contains, you will have to study it well, and for many people, that is anathema, and is in fact part of the individualism that we have today. If God wants ME to get something out of the Bible, He will make it plain to ME.
When speaking about the patron/client model then, we actually make it seem like the problem is that God isn't doing what He's supposed to be doing. If an atheist wishes to discuss the problem of divine hiddenness, it's always that God is hiding Himself, instead of realizing that maybe God has revealed Himself and we are the ones hiding from Him. Skeptics today make the most outlandish claims about what they think God is required to do, such as a cross on the moon or everyone having the same dream at the same time, not aware that all of these are actions that would require further explanation through the social context of each culture.
The ideas that could be embraced if we would but study are monumental. How much different will you approach a text like Romans 8:28 if you realize that God is your patron working all things for good. Now I do have a small disagreement with the authors. I do think God does work all things for individual good. The caveat I would add is that some of that might not happen until in what I call, the after-death. Many people will die with suffering on them that I think God will redeem in eternity. I do agree with their collectivist approach and would contend that all those God will work the good for are Israel. The true Israel is really Jesus Christ and all who are "in Him" are in Israel. (I would even contend at this point that Romans could be about identifying who Israel is.)
I am not really including quotes on this because I find quotes to be inadequate for this one. There are such large pieces of thought that you need the whole context to see them all. I think the reader not familiar with the social context will learn something from every chapter, and I think many of us who already are will have our insights greatly expanded by reading this book.
The authors also do not resolve many of the difficulties. They present the scenario and they leave it to you and I to work out the difficulties in our own reading of Scripture and try to learn to read with new eyes. The authors also give points to ponder at the end to show how we can avoid doing what we've been doing. What questions can we start bringing to the text that will help us understand it?
Also, the authors do present points of application for us to consider, which can also make this book an excellent choice for small groups at churches. (All churches could be greatly benefited by having a small group that is based around this book.) The authors don't want to make this just a detached scholarly work, but they want it to be one that will engage us and force us to come to the text and see if we have been projecting our own culture on to it.
Many works in this field have been extremely scholarly, and I applaud those, but I am thankful now that when someone asks me one book I can recommend on the topic, I will not have to hesitate. MSWWE is on the top of the list!
The authors, both well-credentialed evangelistic theologians, have each spent significant time in various locales ranging from Arkansas (Brandon) to Indonesia (Randy) and use their experiences in far-flung stations to make good points about how an expression in one place is interpreted quite differently in others. “The most powerful cultural values are those that go without being said” (12). Unfortunately, most of the cross-cultural examples come from 21st century Indonesia (Randy), not 1st century Palestine. Arguably, the collectivist, family-oriented Indonesia of 2002 is a good place to make a case for not assuming that all people understand things the same way, but gives little insight into what may have been going on in Nazareth 2,000 years ago. Although there are hundreds of scriptural references, from Genesis to Revelations, very few of them actually provide any insight into how we moderns are supposedly misreading scripture based on our 21st century mores. And many of the putative insights are little more than minute, nitpicky differentiations, as in the discussion of 1st C “modesty” where they make a big deal out of the difference between “sexual modesty” and “public modesty” in the matter of women covering their heads (43). Another notable example is the discussion of what it means to be “first” (relating to Paul’s letter about Adam being born first and thus having authority over women in teaching). The authors claim that it’s our modern understanding of ‘first’ as meaning “better” which leads us astray, since in biblical times the rules of primogeniture simply meant the firstborn received the greater inheritance, the family title, assumed responsibility etc.….the authors say (13). But if that doesn’t somehow mean “better” or “preferred” it’s hard to know what would. In fact, its seems to the modern reader to be a rather dodgy apologetic for giving women 2nd-hand status.
That said, one excellent insight has to do with the use of the Greek word 'makarios' in the Sermon on the Mount (the Beatitudes), usually translated as “blessed” or “blessing.” But the Greek more properly translates as “a feeling of contentment” or “when one knows one’s place in the world and is satisfied with that place” (75). The English language prefers clear subjects for its verbs, so it goes without saying (for us) that God blesses people. So we interpret the verse at Matt 5:9 as “If you are a peacemaker, then God will bless you.” But what the Jesus figure really meant was: “If you are a peacemaker, then you are in your happy place.” In other words, you will experience the feeling of contentment with your life if you are a peacemaker. This is part of a discussion on the important Whorfian hypothesis (aka Sapir-Whorf) to account for how our language shapes our worldview and in turn filters what we notice and how we interpret reality (71). Unfortunately, having made the point about makarios, the book doesn’t then go ahead and relate this wonderful theme to the actual subject matter of the book. We do however get a delightful example of the many distinctions of the word ‘rice’ in Indonesia compared to Western society (73) — as well as the Indonesian ideas of “privacy” and “quiet time.”
Interestingly, we also learn that the term 'Galatae' (as in the epistle to the Galatians) was used by the Greeks to denote Celtic tribes in the 270s BCE. The "Land of the Celts" is the Latin transliteration of the Greek 'celtica.' However, the authors don’t even get this quite right, calling the Roman term for Galatia a “mispronunciation of the word Celts” (57).
Alas, along the way the authors make what we might politely call “rookie mistakes,” considering that one (Randy) is a Ph.D. and dean of the School of Ministry at Palm Beach Atlantic University and the other (Brandon) is completing his doctorate in theology. For example, they try to introduce a point saying, “assuming the first gospel was written by the disciple Matthew” (79) — yet most biblical scholars acknowledge, and have for decades, that Mark was the first gospel composed (despite the conventional order presented in the N.T.) . Furthermore, Matt is usually dated toward the last quarter of the 1st C, attributed to a Greek-speaking anonymous Jew in Syria, not an Aramaic-speaking contemporary of Jesus. This is first-year theology school stuff.
Another oddity has to do with the question of whether there were female apostles in the early church. The authors bring up Junia and co-laborer (or husband?) Andronicus, whom the authors say are “both called apostles” in Rom 16:7. The effort to show how our modern culture clings to “rules” rather than “relationships” is laudable but once again their scholarship is lacking. They do acknowledge that scholars hotly debate about Junia/Junias, but then make the wild claim that “scholarship has now shown conclusively that Junia is a feminine name” (172). But that’s either a red herring or simple lack of awareness of the debate since the question has never been whether ‘Junia’ is feminine, but whether the Greek word Paul uses is <I>᾿Ιουνιᾶν</I> or <i>᾿Ιουνίαν</i> [‘iounia(s)] and is therefore best translated as Junia or Junias. Further, the real debate questions whether Paul was saying “of note among the apostles” to mean “prominent among” or “well known to the apostles.”
This IVP publication is full of gross over-generalizations (“In the West, rules must apply to everyone and they must apply all the time”) (168) and, many people thought the world was going to end in 2000…so we called it Y2K (145); and Westerners think mainly in terms of 'chronos' (like clock time) whereas ancients thought in terms of 'kairos' (seasons, situations) (142). Of course we get an excellent Indonesian example of the difference there (139).
Nevertheless, while the concept of this book is excellent — because the Middle Eastern bible was written in terms of collectivism, honor and shame, and family expectations, we need to be sensitive to the differences in cultural outlooks — there are much better treatments of the theme like Spong’s <i>Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy</i> or his <i>Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes.</i> or Scott Korb's <i>Life in Year One</i>. These (and others) address the “misreading” issues in a much more scholarly and on-topic way with fewer diversions into well-meaning but generic Intro to Anthropology discussions.
Finally, a style note. Because there are two authors with different missionary experiences, the authors chose to write incessantly in first person mode with “I (Randy) was often struck that telling stories for Indonesians…” (147) or “My (Brandon’s) acting career…” (100). This was fine for a while but after about a hundred instances, we yearn for a simple 3rd-person style: “Brandon’s acting career…”