Cultural Filters

I was on Twitter the other day and a quick post from someone I don’t even know hit home. It dealt with how often my interpretation and understanding of the bible – and everything else for that matter – is learned from my environment, culture, and involuntary biases.

The comment dealt with this passage in John 4:

A Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.” … So the Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you—a Jew—ask me, a Samaritan woman, for water to drink?” …

Jesus answered her, “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who said to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said to him, “you have no bucket and the well is deep; where then do you get this living water? …

Jesus replied, “Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” He said to her, “Go call your husband and come back here.” The woman replied, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “Right you are when you said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the man you are living with now is not your husband. This you said truthfully!”

We all know that passage, but the comment that made me stop and think was this — we have been so conditioned by our culture to read this a certain way that there is no way we would EVER consider that the five husbands left her.

We read this and presume automatically that she is a women with loose morals. This despite the fact that in this time and culture, only a man could divorce his wife; and one of the most frequent reasons was due to infertility.

So, even when the cultural evidence relevant to the text would suggest that she is very likely the victim and at the lowest levels of society, our interpretation of the text has consistently blamed her for her loss.

Interesting and thought-provoking. Where else might I be bringing my own assumptions to a situation and not seeing things for what they really are?

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