Culture & Scripture
Updated: Oct 1, 2021
The Bible is the cornerstone of the fundamental evangelical faith and is upheld as the primary source of knowing God’s will. Moreover, it is positioned to be the manual for how to live a godly life. Yet, there remains to be a harmful dynamic in how the Bible is utilized to harm others.
First- The Bible was first written in Hebrew and Koine Greek; it was translated into various languages (Richards & O’Brein, 2021; Watts, 2021). However, there is little discussion on the variations and linguistic gaps between the languages.
For example, I remember talking with my best friend in high school, who is Korean. I asked her to translate something from Korean into English. After struggling, she informed me there isn’t a good English word for the Korean word/concept. I remember being so confused by that and could not accept that there wasn’t a term. (A lot of this was due to my lack of awareness of the differences between languages. Also, I viewed English as the universal language, so there couldn’t possibly be a word that could not be translated into English.)
As I continue to explore the Hebrew translation of the Bible and learn more about the originating culture, I see how much the English culture has shifted the meaning/wording to fit the White American Christian culture.
Second - The various translations have different concepts/wording based on the cultural framework the translators are from (Richards & O’Brein, 2021; Watts, 2021). A dramatic and horrific example of this is the Negro/Slave Bible. This version of the Bible was edited to remove references to justice, freedom, or other concepts that highlighted the horrific discrepancy of slavery within the Western world, a world modernized for liberty and Protestantism.
The Negro Bible reveals the Bible can and is altered to fit the larger culture and narrative.
Brad Braxton, the Center of African American History and Culture director posits this question, “In our interpretations of the Bible, is the end result domination or liberation?” The Bible by itself isn’t good; it is what the readers do with the Bible is good or bad (Hicks-Keeton, 2020).
I am learning to be more aware of the various Bible versions’ agenda through how the language and included texts are utilized.
Third- Within the fundamental culture, there is a pattern of using the Bible verses out of context to force conformity or push others out of the community. There are endless examples of how the Bible has been used to manipulate others, such as informing women to remain within abusive and harmful relationships due to “biblical submission.”
What is your relationship with the Bible?
How have your culture and experiences shaped your view of the Bible?
How has the Bible been used to harm or manipulate you/others?
Are we able to openly question the Bible and how it is being interpreted?
What is our relationship with others referencing the Bible, and what are the power structures within that relationship/system?
Hicks-Keeton, J. (2020, June 3). The “Slave Bible” is not what you think. The Revealer. https://therevealer.org/the-slave-bible-is-not-what-you-think/
Richards, E. R., & O’Brien, B. J. (2021). Misreading Scripture with western eyes: Removing cultural blinders to better understand the Bible (1st ed.). InterVarsity Press.
Watts, J. W. (2021). Understanding the Bible as a scripture in history, culture, and religion (1st ed.). Wiley-Blackwell.