Interesting Experiment on How Culture Impacts What We Notice in Scripture

Here’s a blog post about an interesting experiment:  Notice the Famine? How Your Location Impacts Your Bible Interpretation

100 Americans and 50 Russians were asked to read the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31), and then recount what the parable said.

The experiment found that when the Americans recalled the parable, nearly all of them mentioned that the son had squandered his money (verse 13), but very few of them remembered that there was a severe famine afterwards (verse 14). The opposite was true of the Russians. Most of them remembered the famine, but many didn’t notice that the son squandered his money.

The Americans read the parable like this:

Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living. After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing.

The Russians read the parable like this:

Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living. After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing.

The blog post suggests that our culture can change what parts of scripture we emphasize, and blind us to other important parts.  Interesting to me, I did a post about the Prodigal Son a while back (in relation to Arminian theology) and I was guilty of the same thing (I noticed the squandering, but not the famine).

HT: NazNet

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3 Comments

Filed under culture

3 responses to “Interesting Experiment on How Culture Impacts What We Notice in Scripture

  1. scot

    AN Excellent Lesson!

  2. Kevin – I’m glad that you posted this. Being wildly enthusiastic about cultural anthropology, I often wonder about the cultural biases we bring to our unintentional eisegesis.

    I had an interesting experience about 18 months ago in our own Holiness Today magazine. It showed an African man standing in front of his hut and the article was talking about this man’s lack of income. I had a Rwandan friend who read the article and started laughing. I asked him what was so funny. He said, “the hut that he is standing in front of indicates that he is a very wealthy man!”

    By African standards that man was wealthy but according to the writer of the article (a white, American missionary), the man was almost indigent.

    I pray that the LORD helps me to see people and His Word the way He does, not thru my own cultural biases :-)

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