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In Washington, DC, there is a six story building that houses the Museum of the Bible. One of the many Bibles housed in the facility is commonly called The Slave Bible. It was actually titled: Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves in the British West-India Islands. Author Becky Little writes, “The so-called Slave Bible told of Joseph’s enslavement but left out the parts where Moses led the Israelites to freedom.” She noted that this Bible leaves out Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (1) It is obvious that the slave owners in the early 1800’s had an agenda. They were influenced more by their culture rather than the inspired teachings of the entire Bible.
While you and I today would decry this deliberate removal of passages from the Bible, we may not realize that we have a tendency to favor some passages over others. In Chapter 8 of his book Center Church, Tim Keller reflects on how people from diverse ethnic backgrounds can help us to have a better understanding of the Bible. Keller states that “many of us have a set of blinders on that affect our interpretation of the Bible.” Blinders are used to limit ones eyesight. When my kids were young I remember they were given a plastic device to wear right below their eyes. It prevented them from seeing a basketball while dribbling. While this device prevented them from watching the ball, it would never be used in the game. This blinder would prevent the player from seeing anything below them. It would limit their vision when they needed to see the whole court.
Keller further affirms this conversation by stating, “Our interaction with a different culture leads us to ask the text questions we may never have asked it before and to see many things we didn’t see clearly before.” As we develop relationships with people from other places we begin to see what they value. Through this process we can also see what scriptural passages they use to support their values. This discussion will help us to evaluate our own understanding. In Keller’s estimation it will help us to look at the text from a different perspective. In some cases it will help us to take off our own cultural blinders and see a more Biblical approach.
Recently this interactive discussion between other cultures and ethnicities helped the Methodist church affirm the Biblical view of marriage. In late February, the United Methodist Church was influenced by delegates from the continent of Africa to vote down a plan of accepting same-sex marriage. Through conversations with fellow believers from around the world, the representatives were able to agree with what the Bible says regarding marriage instead of what a culture promotes.
Each of us need to build relationships with believers from other ethnicities, and be open to evaluating scripture and its teachings from a different cultural perspective. If we bathe this interaction in prayer, I believe it will be mutually beneficial to us personally, to our churches, to our association and infinitely to the Kingdom of God.
(1) Little, Becky, “Why Bibles Given to Slaves Omitted Most of the Old Testament”. 2018.