1 Question: (Why) Does the Church Need to Read the Bible Interculturally?

In his interview and article (“Reading the Bible Interculturally: An Invitation to the Evangelical Covenant Church and Evangelical Christianity”), New Testament professor Max Lee advocates the value of intercultural biblical interpretation for the evangelical church. To stimulate consideration of Max’s proposal – and the topic of our upcoming Quarterly issue – we asked Covenant pastors and leaders the following question: (Why) does the church need to read the Bible interculturally?

What do you think? Is an intercultural reading of Scripture desirable? beneficial? possible? How does or might this practice impact your reading, teaching, and preaching of Scripture? Join the conversation below.

Martinez“When the church of Christ reads the Bible interculturally, it acknowledges not only that Scripture was written for all people of the world but also that other cultures read it differently. In our exegetical ambition, we cannot claim a ‘one application fits all’ mentality. God is the creator of all races, ethnicities, and cultures; therefore, we should care about how others receive Scripture.” Danny Martinez, senior pastor of Grace Covenant Church, Spring Valley, California

Bros“Everyone brings presuppositions to their interpretation of the scriptural text. To approach the Bible with an intercultural perspective not only helps us to confront those particular ways of thinking that limit our understanding of Scripture; it can also help open us to knowing the great salvation story of God in new ways through the acknowledgement that we are not independent but interconnected in Christ.” Janice E. Bros, lead pastor, Abbey Way Covenant Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota

d.edwards“We receive everything that we hear or read – even the Bible – through filters. Our filters are formed by our language, gender, culture, station in life, and other factors. In order to understand the Bible better, we need to interpret it within a broad community that encompasses people from a wide range of backgrounds – which is, after all, what the Body of Christ is.” Dennis Edwards, senior pastor, Sanctuary Covenant Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota (blog)

gary-walter2“If disciples make disciples to the ends of the earth, it only makes sense that from the ends of the earth there are reciprocal discipleship lessons. From everywhere to everywhere and from everyone to everyone is the global interchange implicit in the Great Commission.” Gary Walter, president, Evangelical Covenant Church

Yumi“Intercultural reading reveals the multiple layers of the text. In my own experience it has been tremendously beneficial to read the Bible from various cultural/socio-economic standpoints. When I worked among the trafficked children at the brothel town of PoiPet in Cambodia, John 3:16 promised the love of God for the young prostitutes being raped every night. The same passage declared the truth when I was speaking to the friends and families in Japan about God. Intercultural readings also highlight the indisputable universality of our God. Full appreciation for the transcultural nature of Scripture begins with the intercultural readings.” Yumiko Nakagawa, pastor, Highrock Covenant Church of Brookline, Brookline, Massachusetts

J.Rasheed1“When Scripture is read interculturally, the church understands God’s equality, justice, and abundant love for all humankind. We, the church, are empowered to appreciate the uniqueness of each cultural expression and eliminate racism and divisions from within the Body of Christ. God has designed all humanity to worship him, and Scripture manifests the splendor and glory he receives through the magnificence of diversity.

“The familiar parable of the good Samaritan highlights a point underlying this question: ‘How do you read it?‘ (Luke 10:26) Jesus answers the question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ with the illustration of the needs of a ‘certain man’ (10:29-30). This is all very particular. Jesus’ call to ‘Go and do likewise…’ (Luke 10:37) is a call to not only read the text but to live it. And the church needs to live it.” Josef Rasheed, senior pastor, CrossRoads Covenant Church, DeSoto, Texas

LCarnes“Every person reads the Bible from their cultural perspective. Our churches are becoming increasingly diverse with people moving from one part of the country to another and people moving to America from every part of the world. For this reason we need to consider how other people read and understand the Bible.” Linnea Carnes,  retired, former pastor of Immanuel Covenant Church, Chicago, Illinois

What do you think? Add your response in comments, using the link below the post title.


  1. “Why does one need to read the Bible inter-culturally?” is a worthy question to ask. And a second question that one might ask is “which inter-cultural point of view should one use when reading the Bible?” While Max Lee believes, contrary to Fernando Segovia, it is possible to engage in an inter-cultural reading of the scripture outside of a particular cultural context, basic assumptions of biblical interpretation would lead me to suggest this is doubtful. Even using the time tested historical-critical method leaves modern interpreters with gaps in understanding the meaning of certain biblical texts. While I’m in favor of broadening the conversation around the meaning of texts so that we understand a character like Moses through liberation and legalist lens, our interpretation of any particular text is going to be shaped by the reality of our own history, context, and particular perspective (all of which we have little control over). James Barr threw a wrench in the very popular interpretative method of interpretation based on the cognate meaning of words championed by Kittel in the seventies and eighties when he suggested just because we know the history and cognate meaning of words doesn’t mean we know the meaning of the word for a particular biblical writer. Speaking as a late twentieth century, educated, Caucasian, Pietist, interpreter of the biblical text, let the fun begin.

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