When I first read the Shema, the Jewish profession of faith, I assumed it was their Apostle’s Creed. I was shocked because I was looking for doctrines like the “communion of saints” and “forgiveness of sins,” not mundane realities like grass, fields and cows.
Ken Bailey has written a number of fascinating books on Jesus in his Middle Eastern context. In his introduction to Finding the Lost Cultural Keys to Luke 15 (Concordia, 1992), he explains a key difference between how Westerners think and communicate and how Jesus did. Westerners primarily communicate in concepts, but Middle Easterners communicate in […]
The modern Western worldview is far from the norm compared to the rest of the world. Could it be that our culture’s “uniqueness” also prevents us from understanding our Bibles?
I’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 […]
The idea that emotions are irrational and unnatural arose from Greco-Roman philosophy and has influenced Western theology for thousands of years, giving rise to the idea that God is “impassible,” emotionless. Many of our problems with God come from this unbiblical idea.
Our modern, Western culture revolves around the individual. In the biblical world, family was everything. What does that actually mean though, in terms of how they thought? I found a fascinating description of this worldview in The Shadow of the Sun, by Ryszard Kapuscinski, as he describes the peoples he encounters throughout his travels in […]
I love Hebrew words. I can’t count the number of times that learning a definition has deepened my understanding of not just one Bible passage, but many. Recently I’ve posted a couple examples to show you what I mean. In the article “Does God Forget Sins?” I explain how the words for “remember” and “forget” […]
I used to think that Jesus’ command to make disciples simply meant teaching people certain beliefs about God, helping them to accept Christ as Lord, and then educating them in doctrinal truth later on. Though all these are important, this way of defining discipleship showed that I, like many westerners, approached the gospel primarily as […]
We modern Christians struggle more to understand our Bibles than many people throughout history.
In Walter Ong’s classic book Orality and Literacy, he shares a fascinating theory about why our modern Western culture thinks so differently than the way the Bible does. Eastern thinking, like what you find in the Old Testament, is very concrete and image-oriented, and it uses stories and parables to explain rather than abstract logic. […]