Book Plunge: The Syrian Christ

What do I think of Abraham Rihbany’s book published by Bridges Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today, we have the context group of scholars. These are scholars looking into the culture of Christ and seeing how someone from a more honor-shame society would see Jesus? This is an area I have had a strong interest in and one that greatly impacts how you read the Biblical text.

Before our modern look, there was Ribhany. Ribhany wrote to tell us about how he looked at the life of Christ growing up in Syria. The book is over 100 years old now and yet many of the insights are still right there. Ribhany writes with the utmost passion and love of Christ and seeks to explain Him to our culture today.

Along the way, it’s not just Jesus that is explained, but many other aspects of Syrian culture. Of course, the culture has changed since the time of Ribhany no doubt in many ways, but many ideas would still apply and we can be thankful for the scholars doing the work today. Our great danger in the world of Biblical studies today is that we will be tempted to read our own culture into the Bible and fill in the “gaps” that we see with our own cultural ideas.

When we read Psalms that call for death and destruction on the enemy, we can be aghast. For the Syrian, this makes sense. Ribhany says that the people over there will say a lot and do a little. After some time of trash talking and such, the combatants have often released their emotions so much that there is no need to take them out on each other physically. Over here, we tend to think it’s best to control one’s emotions and not share them out in public. This certainly is not an idea we get from Jesus, who could clean out the temple, curse a fig tree, and weep openly when his friend Lazarus died.

The relationship of women is something else as well. In that culture, women are put in arranged marriages and women do tend to stay at home and take care of the house, but there is for Ribhany no idea that Syrian women envy American women. They can be just as happy in their marriages as we are here. The idea of women being silent in churches is also not something hurtful to them. It has an idea that the woman does not have to look ignorant out in public and can honor her spouse that way. What many of us read with disgust could be just throwing our own culture onto the text and assuming that our culture is superior. It’s odd that in accusing others of bigotry, we cold be the real bigots.

The book is an old book, but like I said, much of it can seem new today. It would be worth going and picking up a copy of this classic just to see how matters are different for the Syrian mind and even if some matters have changed, there can be no doubt that Jesus lived in a vastly different culture than we do. Perhaps we should start trying to understand that culture and how Jesus fits into it before finding out how to fit the life of Jesus into our culture.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

  • Lionel Starr

    Awesome post.I really should read this book however I get really really sleepy after reading a few pages of a book.It’s a curse.