Sunday, February 16, 2014

Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes

Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders To Better Understand the Gospel, by  E. Randolph Richards and Brandon O'Brien

 I first heard of this book last year and it has been on my wishlist ever since.  Richards and O'Brien talk about the pitfalls of reading the Bible--a collection of books written anciently by people from a culture very different from our own-- from the point of view of a modern American (or Westerner generally).  They are specifically tackling the troubles a modern American might have, and suggest that others write books about different cultural blinders too, since of course we all have them.  Nobody is going to be able to read the Bible from the point of view of, say, a first-century Christian.  (In fact no one who has ever lived would be able to read the entire Bible from a 'native' viewpoint.)

This is a concept that became very familiar to me in high school, when I spent a year as a foreign exchange student.  The materials from my exchange organization used the same metaphor that the cover of this book invokes, and over and over they exhorted us to remember that we had grown up with 'blue sunglasses' and that now we were living in a 'yellow sunglasses' culture, and we would have to learn to change the color of our sunglasses.  Once you've lived in another culture and, especially, learned another language, you know how this works; learning another language involves learning to think differently too.

Richards and O'Brien try to explain where and how ancient Hebrew/Jewish/Greek/early Christian culture differs from ours, and how it can often be easy to miss vital clues about how to understand an event or story because we are not thinking in the same way.  They are really pretty good at it.  I found their explanations to be fascinating and very helpful, and I read with great interest. 

Many things are just simple explanations of cultural facts that we may or may not know, such as all the geographical markers that are used.  Further in, the authors try to dig deeply into serious cultural differences, and then use those to point out where Westerners may overlook important things about how to live as a Christian.

An excellent book!



I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

6 comments:

Jenny/Teachingmybabytoread said...

OOOOOOOH! I want to read this!

Jean said...

It would be right up your alley, Jenny!

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Sounds fascinating! My mother got her master's degree in pastoral theology when I was in high school, and she was always telling us "yellow sunglasses" facts and ideas that she learned in her classes about the Bible.

Christèle said...

Thank you for this recommandation... i will do my best to find it! You went with YFU ? (I had the same "training and it did stick !)

Jean said...

Ha! Indeed I did go with YFU! It was 89-90.

Jenny/Teachingmybabytoread said...

In the time it took me to read this book, you've read about 15 and then I had to scroll back through your blog to find this post. Wow!

It was really good. I was disappointed at first that it was for an audience that thinks Mathew wrote Mathew, but I still felt like it had a lot to offer to a United Methodist like me.