What are the cultural insights Westerners often miss when the Eastern context of the Bible is ignored? What were the ways Jesus taught that were thoroughly Eastern—rooted in story, honor, and community—yet appeal to Western thinking—based in reasoning and linear process—today? How does understanding Eastern idioms and customs make mysterious or seemingly confusing Bible passages understandable?
In this Q&A, Ravi Zacharias (@RaviZacharias) and Abdu Murray (@AbduMurray) talk about their book Seeing Jesus from the East: A Fresh Look at History’s Most Influential Figure (Zondervan, 2020).
Why is it important for Westerners to care about how Easterners see Jesus and hear his gospel?
Abdu Murray: The narrative current flowing through Western culture today is that Christianity is an imperialistic religion devised by white males to dominate and control dark-skinned people. Put another way more applicable to the theme of this book, Christianity is characterized as a Western religious tool used to oppress and suppress Easterners. Similarly, there is a strong current that views Christianity as a tool of male domination.
In a time when social justice captures society’s focus and the issues of racism, sexism, and oppression make headlines in both the West and the East, it seems impossible to swim against that narrative current. It can be done, but only when we have a fresh perspective of Christianity—or rather a refreshed perspective. We need to recapture the “Eastern-ness” of Christianity. We need to get a fresh look at Jesus from the East.
[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Reading the Bible with Eastern Eyes: An Interview with the Editor of the NIV First-Century Study Bible]
The fact that Jesus was Middle Eastern and taught and acted within the communal honor-shame framework shows that Christianity is not a Western religion. Yet Jesus opposed the commonplace ethnic, racial, and gender discrimination of his day, the very issues that Westerners still struggle to solve. Ironically, the Christian gospel has much to offer in addressing the very problems it’s often blamed for. This alone is reason enough for Westerners to behold the Eastern Jesus afresh.