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

, 2012
ISBN: 9780830863471

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What was clear to the original readers of Scripture is not always clear to us as modern readers. Because of the cultural distance between the biblical world and our contemporary setting, we often bring modern Western biases to the text that influence how we read Scripture. Sometimes these influences lead to utterly misreading Scripture. In this highly readable book, the insights of biblical scholars Brandon O’Brien and E. Randolph Richards shed light on the ways Western readers often misunderstand the cultural dynamics of the Bible. They identify nine key areas where modern Westerners have significantly different assumptions about what is going on in a text than what the context actually suggests. Drawing on their own cross-cultural experience in global missions, the authors show how greater understanding of cultural differences in language, time, and social mores allow us to see the Bible in fresh and unexpected ways—helping us to avoid misreading Scripture.

Throughout this text, Richards and O’Brien point out numerous examples of misconceptions as they bring awareness to the distorting factors we can bring to biblical texts, causing misreading based on cross-cultural assumptions.. For example: when we as Western readers hear Paul exhorting women to “dress modestly,” our first response is to think in terms of sexual modesty; but, most women in the culture Paul was addressing would never have been wearing racy clothing—rather, the authors argue, the context actually suggests Paul is more concerned about economic modesty (that Christian women not flaunt their wealth through expensive clothes, braided hair, and gold jewelry). Other examples include that readers might assume that Moses married “below himself” because his wife was a dark-skinned Cushite. However, as the authors point out, it was the Hebrews who were the slave race, not the Cushites who were highly respected. Aaron and Miriam probably thought Moses was being presumptuous by marrying “above himself.”

Getting beyond our own cultural assumptions is increasingly important for Christians in our interconnected and globalized world. Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes is a great place to begin learning to read Scripture as a member of the global body of Christ. And in the Logos Bible Software edition of this text, you have access to near-instant search results for words, people, places, and ideas as it will link with a wealth of other resources in your library. With the most efficient and comprehensive research tools all in one place, you can deepen your study with just a few clicks; and Logos tablet and mobile apps let you take your study wherever you go.

Resource Experts
  • Makes a great entry level text in hermeneutics or cultural studies
  • Sheds light on difficult biblical passages
  • Brings the authors’ cross-cultural mission experience to bear on biblical interpretation

Top Highlights

“In whatever place and whatever age people read the Bible, we instinctively draw from our own cultural context to make sense of what we’re reading.” (Page 11)

“We can easily forget that Scripture is a foreign land and that reading the Bible is a crosscultural experience. To open the Word of God is to step into a strange world where things are very unlike our own.” (Page 11)

“Mores are the social conventions that dictate which behaviors are considered appropriate or inappropriate” (Page 26)

“ we tend to read Scripture in our own when and where, in a way that makes sense on our terms” (Page 11)

“In a shame culture, it is not the guilty conscience but the community that punishes the offender by shaming him.” (Page 117)

Randy Richards and Brandon O’Brien have written a useful and enjoyable book, which makes excellent use of good stories to illustrate the points they make. The reader will leave the book with plenty of challenging questions to ask about approaches to Scripture. Interesting, thoughtful, and user-friendly.

—Philip Jenkins, co-director for the program on historical studies of religion, Baylor University

This is a revolutionary book for evangelical Bible-believers. If its readers end the book motivated to ask the questions it invites . . . 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

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

  • Title: Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible
  • Authors: E. Randolph Richards, Brandon J. O'Brien
  • Publisher: IVP
  • Print Publication Date: 2012
  • Logos Release Date: 2013
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Subjects: Bible › Criticism, interpretation, etc; Bible › Social scientific criticism
  • ISBNs: 9780830863471, 0830863478
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2022-09-30T01:38:13Z

E. Randolph Richards is dean of the School of Ministry and professor of biblical studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida. He has frequently served as an interim pastor, and from 1988 to 1996 he was a missionary with the International Mission Board, SBC, stationed in East Indonesia. His scholarly articles have appeared in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Southwestern Journal of Theology, Bulletin for Biblical Research, and Biblical Illustrator. 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 Letter Writing and The Secretary in the Letters of Paul in the Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament series.

Brandon O’Brien received his PhD in historical theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and serves on the editorial board for Trinity Journal. He is the author of The Strategically Small Church, and has also written for Leadership, Christianity Today, and Relevant.


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  1. Peter Chen

    Peter Chen


    “Bible study” had always mean the study of the Bible, and not the study of people’s opinions of the Bible. That has been reversed with this book. This is one of those books that is a project of a philosophical opinion in Standpoint Epistemology. The point of the book is to speak about how someone in the Philippines may read their modern Translated Bible in their own language today. It is not a book about what the Philippians would have thought in reading the letter of Paul to them. The approach of this book and ones like it is basically modern cultural speculation and the product of sociology that has been taken over by Cultural Marxism (this is clearly seen in the economic claims of the book). It is not the written version of the supposed “Bible study” which is just going around the room asking “how do you feel.” Some of the claims about time and relationships is strange and honestly foolish. Some of the claims say to me that the authors are gullible people. Someone calls you “uncle” and there for you send them money as if you take pain giving them away as a blood relationship? If you want to do so, do it, but Filipino people are people like you. Chinese people and Filipino people are not that much apart as to have no sense of time. We talk about “Chinese time” but Mexicans know to not show up to the party on the time listed, unless they know the friend starts on time the food it going to be gone. Come on! The silliness claims of this book makes me laugh at time, and at other times it is frankly insulting.
  2. James Doyle Moore
    I would not recommend this book for seminary students. The authors appear to have the latest liberal American bias.
  3. Steven A. Oroszi
    HUH? I understand the premise - so much of our interpretation is indeed clouded by cultural considerations. But do the authors also understand their own bias in calling into question the "Western" mind? After all, it is those very same Scriptures we seek to interpret correctly that produced the "Western" eyes in the first place. Are they really willing to hold the Western mindset hostage to their own bias as it were, "drawing on their own cross-cultural experience in global missions" as the basis of their quest? In my estimation, the authors seem to make some of the same sorts of mistakes as those they levy these charges against.
  4. Jisung Lee

    Jisung Lee


  5. Tim Kuhn

    Tim Kuhn


    How this gets so many good reviews is beyond me. The authors use anecdotal evidence to make their point. When they speak of racism, it is ‘white western males’. A Korean pastor will experience racism for the first time when he comes to the USA, because we know there is no racism in Korea. Any time a region is mentioned by someone in the Bible, they are showing racism. ‘unfair privilege of majority peoples’ and other such language. Sodom’s sin was hospitality, let's ignore Jude 7. It’s pretty clear the authors don’t want to look through Biblical eyes, they want to look through their own blue tint glasses. Paul used ethnic slurs -I have so many books to read and this is not worth my time. this one is going back to Logos. Too many other issues to list There is only anecdotal evidence for this, of course. But it suggests that white Americans, at least, make a number of gut-level assumptions about and distinctions between people of different ethnicities. p 53. So what goes without being said—especially by white Western males—about ethnicity? p 55. First, we are likely setting our Korean missionary up for trouble. He will be blindsided by the first racist he meets, and he will surely meet one. p 56 When the churches in this region act foolishly, Paul writes to chasten them. He addresses them harshly: “You foolish Galatians!” (Gal 3:1). This is roughly equivalent to someone in the United States saying, “You stupid rednecks.” p 58
  6. Pastor Monty L. Roark
  7. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson


  8. Richard C. Hammond, Jr.
  9. Tyler



  10. Matt DeVore

    Matt DeVore



Print list price: $22.00
Save $11.01 (50%)