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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

The Logos edition of Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes equips you for better study with cutting-edge functionality and features. Whether you are performing Bible word studies, preparing a sermon, or researching and writing a paper, Logos Bible Software gives you the tools you need to use your digital library effectively and efficiently by searching for verses, finding Scripture references and citations instantly. Additionally, important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, commentaries, theology texts, and other resources in your library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. With most Logos resources, you can take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

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.


98 ratings

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  1. Jisung Lee

    Jisung Lee


  2. 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
  3. Pastor Monty L. Roark
  4. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson


  5. Richard C. Hammond, Jr.
  6. Tyler



  7. Matt DeVore

    Matt DeVore


  8. JR



    The authors commit many of the same mistakes of which they accuse “Western Eyes.” For example, much time is devoted to interpreting Scripture from the view point of modern Indonesian culture as opposed to Western. When the authors approach specific passages it is often through the lens of the modern concepts such as that of equity and inclusion. It was astonishing to see the authors chide western readers for their individualist interpretations while at the same time shoehorning their own biases, specifically drawing out the framework of racial tensions when Scripture merely mentions someone’s home city. That in no way denies that Scripture records people being people, but the author’s approach is clearly influenced by the current western mores. Further, I found the sections dealing with sin, salvation, and judgement especially telling. Judgment is treated flippantly, and the fear of the Lord is twisted into being afraid of what the community thinks of a believer’s private thoughts and foibles rather than the rightful respect and fear one should have of being in the hands of a Just and Holy God. They make light of personal sin and over emphasize culture and community. The clear error of attributing the definition of sin to culture, even using “the why” as a qualifier should cause any Christian to be leery of this work. Quote from Page 174: “We Westerners should also likely consider being less rigid about the rules we read in Scripture. I (Randy) remind my students that one of the perks of being sovereign is that you get to do what you want. In fact, it often seems as if God is sovereign over everything except his rules. Like the Medes and the Persians, we seem to insist upon God being bound to his own rules. In Indonesia, I learned that one of the major responsibilities of the person “in charge” of an office is to determine when to make exceptions. Rules apply except when the one in charge says otherwise. Westerners might consider this arbitrary; many non-Western Christians consider this grace. Fees apply to everybody, unless the manager thinks someone really can’t afford it. Then he makes an exception.” Why did Jesus die for our sins, when all that was needed was for the manager to “make an exception”?
  9. Glen Taylor

    Glen Taylor


  10. Patrick



    A really good and interesting read. While I don't agree with everything they talk about and there are times where they get a little too speculative, this book points out some excellent points to be aware of when reading Scripture. The premises is that the Bible is written not in American English but in Hebrew and Greek and that it takes places in a time, place, culture, and location that isn't present day American. As a result, what our expectations are and what we want to read into the passage maybe isn't what the passage is talking about. The book is great because it encourages an in depth, slow study of the Bible and causes you to "take a look around" when you read it. This book really knocks it out of the park. There are a few times where I wish they would have looked at things more in depth. This isn't a fully scholarly look into specifics but more of touch and go's on several broad themes such as collectivism vs. individualism, language, shame, time, etc. I wish there was a bit more focus on the Hebrew and Greek language although there is some parts of it discussed. There are also a few times where they make some assertions and, while they make the claim that a passage could include that aspect, they don't really prove it. Overall, I've been recommending this book a lot and going back to it again and again. This is a good challenge and lesson to every Christian to check what traditions, bias, and presuppositions you bring to the table of God's Word. Final Grade - A


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