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Reading the Bible from a WEIRD Perspective

Often the Bible mystifies us because of cultural differences, from simple details to important differences in worldview. It’s hardly surprising, given that thousands of years of time and cultural change separate us.

Kids closeA recent ground-breaking paper in psychology may have revealed another intriguing clue as to why the Bible is so puzzling.

Researchers compared cultural attitudes around the globe, and found that the American (and modern Western) worldview is far from the norm compared to the rest of the world.

Westerners think very analytically. Our culture is also very secular and places a strong emphasis on individual rights and freedoms. Much of the world is far less secular and sees people principally…

In the West, Man is Big and God is Far Away

Atlas Holds WorldI’m always fascinated by the question of what we need to know, culturally, to understand our Bibles better.

So I enjoyed the essay at this link by James Kugel, a Jewish biblical scholar, about a fundamental disconnect between the worldview of the Bible and of our Western world today. It’s from an essay on Psalm 104 in The Great Poems of the Bible.

Westerners see humankind as very powerful and human intellect potentially limitless. But the biblical world viewed human beings as a tiny part of a much larger reality which was utterly dependent on God. A sense of humility, of the “smallness” of man, is woven into the fabric of biblical…