The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Seeing through others' eyes

Ever wondered during a Bible study what someone in a different culture or set of circumstances might see in a text that you don't? A three-year research study chronicled the experience of 120 groups in 22 countries, from Quakers in Bolivia to Presbyterians in South Korea, as they read the story from John 4 of Jesus' encounter with a Samaritan woman.

Each group studied the text and exchanged their report with another team from a different background. Finally they had conversations within their group and with their partner team. One group from the Netherlands said, "You discover new, unsuspected sides of the story, and you discover the essence together."

"Our experience has opened new ways of interpreting the text and learning to see the text differently," said Sam Peedikayil Mathew of Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute in Chennai, India, where people were paired with a Netherlands' group. "It has challenged some aspects of our thinking and way of life and called for more openness to the text and to others.... The readings of both groups have shown that the culture of the interpreter determines the main lines of interpretation of the biblical text."

The study resulted in Through the Eyes of Another, published by the Institute of Mennonite Studies, Elkhart, Ind., and The Free University, Amsterdam (ISBN 0-936273-36-4 at www.ambs.edu/IMS or 574-296-6239). The book reflects not only the excitement of lessons learned but also the "shocks, surprises, disappointments, misunderstandings and disagreements" that emerged.


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