What happens when 120 faith groups in 22 countries study the same biblical text, share their comments and look again at the text with a partner group's perspectives? From Through the Eyes of Another: Intercultural Reading of the Bible, published by the Institute of Mennonite Studies and The Free University, Amsterdam (ISBN 0-936273-36-4), hear comments from some of the participants in a three-year research study using John 4 and Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.
From India: "The Chennai group agreed with the partner group in the Netherlands on the main insights of the story. However, the group was surprised at the way the partner group interpreted some statements of Jesus and the way they looked at Jesus, the Samaritan woman, and the text.... More open relationships between men and women in Western culture may be the reason the Dutch partners have a positive attitude toward the Samaritan woman."
From Nigeria: "There is no gainsaying that interaction with the partner group in Peru was enriching for us ... [and] left me and the group feeling optimistic, because the division that separated Christians for so long is in the process of being overcome. If we continue to engage in intercultural reading of the Bible, which has been needed for such a long time, then our combined strength can be used to foster ecumenical growth among Christians. The project is certainly a great one, intellectually stimulating, and culturally rewarding."
And from a group in Abetifi, Ghana, partnered with one in Feitoria, Brazil: "The group realized that the eyes of the other group helped them discover their own viewpoints, and raised questions that would not have been asked unless others did so. It is through their eyes that we see that we need more reflection. And to know sisters and brothers elsewhere, who share the same life and suffering, makes us feel less alone.... One of the questions that will accompany the discussions is how we can allow ourselves to tell our own stories in order also to listen to the stories the Bible tells. It seems there is a relation between listening to the Bible and listening to our own life. Then we may also find the living water in our own wells."
The book's epilogue looks at ways for individuals, local congregations, seminaries and agencies of the church to use intercultural Bible reading. There's something here for everyone.
Reprinted, by permission of the publisher, from Through the Eyes of Another: Intercultural Reading of the Bible, ed. Hans de Wit, Louis Jonker, Marleen Kool, Daniel Schipani.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers