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Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels

4.48  ·  Rating details ·  1,606 ratings  ·  199 reviews
Beginning with Jesus' birth, Ken Bailey leads you on a kaleidoscopic study of Jesus throughout the four Gospels. Bailey examines the life and ministry of Jesus with attention to the Lord's Prayer, the Beatitudes, Jesus' relationship to women, and especially Jesus' parables. Through it all, Bailey employs his trademark expertise as a master of Middle Eastern culture to lead ...more
Paperback, 443 pages
Published January 1st 2008 by IVP Academic (first published January 11th 2007)
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David McConnell-Booher This book is pretty thick, yet approachable. I think most Bible Study groups would find its scholastic approach and sheer volume a bit intimidating,…moreThis book is pretty thick, yet approachable. I think most Bible Study groups would find its scholastic approach and sheer volume a bit intimidating, however if your group fancies themselves advanced readers, this may be just the thing. I've found it most helpful in sermon and lesson preparation, drawing historical context, cultural comparisons, and powerful imagery and narrative to complement a lesson that draws from the same New Testament scriptures that the author is analyzing.(less)

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Nov 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Imagine a book about the American Founding Fathers that starts: "Jefferson wrote the Declaration as a Virginian. I have lived in Richmond since 1970 and so, as someone familiar with Virginians, let me explain what he meant by all men being created equal..." It would strike the reader as absurd.

I wanted to like this book and I had very high expectations based upon the reviews here, but I was generally disappointed. One suspects (hopes?) that much more scholarship lies behind the assertions of Mi
Sep 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology, nt-studies
This book is amazing! Bailey lived for 60 years in the Middle East, and has literally lived through the Bible story. The book begins with a stunning study, which presents a convincing case that Jesus was actually born in a house (since many poor, Middle Eastern homes actually have mangers in the house!). I won't give away the rest of his argument, but I did want to share another tid-bit that lept out at me.

Speaking of the Magi, and who they might have been, he writes: "In the 1920s a
Aug 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A very illuminating and enjoyable read. Bailey approaches his subject with much knowledge and much humility. Sometimes he repeats himself, for example in his explanations of Biblical rhetoric or his fulsome praises of some of his favorite commentators. However that may have to do with the fact that some of the material was transplanted from his earlier writings.

He uses his knowledge of Middle Eastern culture, languages and Bible commentaries to clarify the meaning of specific selections of the
Jul 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual
This is a spectacular book. Well worth the investment of time and energy. It has revolutionized my view of Jesus and the gospel story
Aug 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
I was quite excited to start reading Bailey's book on 1st century culture and the Bible. This subject was a significant part of my studies in seminary (biblical studies and cultural anthropology), and my years living overseas have only heightened my interest and expertise. I thought the first chapter was quite insightful.

So, why the 1 star rating? A book like this is based on our trust of the author. Bailey makes a lot of assertions, and he is not using many footnotes, so the reader
Tristan Sherwin
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bailey’s insights on Middle Eastern Culture are a gift to the church, and should be lapped up by all those who are hungry to grapple with the historical Jesus.

There’s not a dull sentence within the precious tome.

—Tristan Sherwin, author of *Love: Expressed*
Tim Casteel
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my favorite kind of book- books that pay compounding interest because they help you better read the scriptures.

Bailey takes 32 different passages and seeks to uncover the Middle Eastern cultural realities that really open up the meaning of the gospel accounts. The author spent 60 years of his life in the Middle East and devoted his academic career to trying "understand the stories of the Gospels in the light of Middle Eastern culture."

Bailey leans heavily on Middle Eastern s
Dan Curnutt
Jun 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Again another fabulous book by Ken Bailey. Don't let the length of the book cause you problems. It is 400 pages, but each chapter is pretty much stand alone.

Again, the insights that Dr. Kenneth Bailey gives to the culture during the time of Jesus is amazing. You will understand parables in a better way. You will understand why some sayings of Jesus offended the local Rabbi's in a way that you didn't catch with a casual reading.

This books helps me to dig deeper into the re
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The late Kenneth E. Bailey taught New Testament studies in the Middle East for decades. Thus, he brings to "Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes" an understanding of both the original language used in the Gospels and the culture in which Jesus lived.
I learned so much from this book. I learned that the way the Christmas story is presented in every Sunday school pageant is almost certainly wrong (it stems from a misunderstanding of the word translated as "inn"). I learned that the phrase in the "Lor
Jun 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book, and it's on my list of books to buy for my library. It's highly readable by the layperson and filled with tremendous insight on Jesus and his teachings from a Middle Eastern perspective. It is a commentary, but without being academic and unreadable like many commentaries: each chapter covers the text, some comments and meditations on the text, and then a summary of take away points. I found it very practical to use in my bible study and devotional time. Great for di ...more
Anna Mussmann
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Dr. Bailey laments that “Middle Eastern Christians evaporated from Western consciousness after the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451.” Because Westerners interpret Scripture through the lens of our own culture, we miss out on the riches of a full cultural understanding of the context of Jesus’ words. In his book Bailey takes his personal experience in the Middle East and combines it with his scholarly studies of Biblical languages and historic Middle Eastern Christian sources. He applies this kno ...more
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is not exactly what I was expecting. It was less a study of the way Middle-Eastern perceptions of Jesus differ from Western ones, and more a Biblical commentary on a random collection of stories and parables found in the four Gospels from a Middle Eastern perspective. But it still does the job of giving a different perspective on those stories.

There were a lot of things in this book that I had legitimately never heard before, so it was certainly worth the read. His perspect
Dick Davies
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
I have really enjoyed this book. It is fresh and insightful in giving a new perspective for me on the Gospels in their context.

Bailey not only draws on his extensive contemporary understanding of the Middle East, but also moving beyond the Greek language of the writer to consider the Aramaic which was the language of Jesus.
As a result many passages take on new meaning.

I especially appreciate the treatment of some of the hard to understand passages that sometimes have "inspired" strange interp
Seán Mchugh
Jan 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: theology
To be honest I found this book to be a real slog... but I’m glad I persevered. You will trawl through pages of tedium, but just as you’ve nodded of for the umpteenth time, you’ll stumble upon a revelation that makes it all worth while. One such example for me is how clearly he shows radical aspects of the teaching of Jesus that escaped my western worldview. Here’s an example:

The inauguration of Jesus' ministry
[Jesus' and remixing the Bible]
Luke 4:16–31
Robert Durough, Jr.
Aug 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: must-reads
Kenneth E. Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels is a treasure trove of cultural insights on the life and teachings of Jesus the Christ. Bailey pulls together writings, traditions, and perspectives both ancient and contemporary to help us better understand Scripture. Though it is written more for the academic, I would recommend this to anyone wanting a deeper understanding of Scripture. He writes that neither separating “the exact words of Jesus from the careful ed ...more
Instructive and enlightening. I greatly enjoyed learning the cultural context of the gospels. A Western worldview (including the lenses of individualism and capitalism), combined with ignorance of first century Middle Eastern culture, distorts certain aspects of the Bible, all the worse for the distortion being invisible to the viewer. The New Testament makes so much more sense now, knowing how Jesus's audience perceived His actions and words and how He styled His message and deeds so they could ...more
Sep 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religious
This is the book I've been searching for my whole life. It is basically a commentary on the gospels through the lens of Middle Eastern culture, and it is by far the best commentary I have read.

I've always been a bit unsettled by Americanized biblical analysis and have longed for something that focused less on fitting the bible into my frame of reference and more on fitting me into Jesus' frame of reference. Well this is it! Kenneth Bailey has done a masterful job of setting the scene
Bruce Wade
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Kenneth E. Bailey's "Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels" opened my own eyes to a new perspective throughout the book. It was worth the read just to read his take on the setting of the Nativity. Bailey's style is not for the casual reader. This is an academic work and the author analyzes each passage first through its rhetorical style. To hear all of these stories/parables/accounts from a perspective so much closer to their original context is extremely helpful. I ...more
John Hanscom
Mar 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
But, the reader has to be REALLY interested in the topic. The author does a great job of doing what he sets out to do - showing, since Jesus was from the Middle East, how the Middle Easterners interpret the Bible texts. That, of course, does not mean Jesus actually believed that way (probability is not the same and cause and effect), it is fascinating to get this perspective.
Oct 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those seeking deeper understanding of bible
Shelves: non-fiction
I heartily wish far more Christians from western cultures could read this book. When we read the Holy Bible without considering the original language or culture it was written in/to, we miss so very, very much! And worse still, we remain dangerously misinformed about what we think we do know. I know I'll re-read this book many times over.
Sheridan Voysey
Dec 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is very useful book. As it's a collection of articles and talks it does sometimes feels a little disjointed and incomplete, but it contains some wonderful corrective insights on our reading of Scripture through the middle eastern worldview - the original worldview of the biblical writers.
Ed Wojniak
Jun 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
Great book! The most excellent commentary I've read on the parables and sayings of Jesus. Particularly good at framing how Jesus fulfilled the Law, i.e., added or perhaps supplanted it with grace. Highly, highly recommended!
Amazing start and then it gets a bit boring with all the ring stanzas, tho still has some interesting insight but feels more like reading study notes that a book.
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian
Kenneth Bailey is an excellent scholar in the Middle Eastern culture, and he gives very important background information about the parables in the New Testament.
Jim Carroll
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great read about stories of Jesus' life and parables
Bridget Hyde
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best studies of the gospels of Jesus that I have ever read. Bailey includes a great deal of
cultural information and a straightforward outlook that is astonishing.
Nathan Albright
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge-2019
Although I feel it necessary to say at the outset that I do not agree with all of the author's comments and I have a different perspective than he does, I was greatly pleased overall with the author's discussion of the insights that we can gain about the Bible through a better understanding of its cultural context.  I was also pleased to note that many of the author's insights about issues such as justice and fairness and the structure of biblical writing in chiasms were matters that I already h ...more
Jeremy Manuel
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels is a book that seeks to look at the Middle Eastern Jewish context of Jesus' life and ministry. As 21st Century Americans it can be easy to lose the sense of what life was like two thousand years ago in the Middle East. Kenneth Bailey's goal is to try to give some of that context to help us understand Jesus' life, sermons, and parables a bit better.

Overall, I think he largely succeeds, but the sections are a bit uneven. The f
Sooho Lee
This is an invaluable and accessible resource -- two adjectives rarely found together!

Christianity is nearly 2000 years old (if one counts Jesus' resurrection, 33 AD, as the beginning). It is a rich tradition that has stretched over a vast array of countries and cultures. Despite what critics or adherents would say, Christianity is not a domineering Western religion -- it is a global phenomenon. Christianity is not a stagnant monolith of ideas; rather it is dynamic and adaptive to its environme
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For me, this book brought the Bible to life! Bailey fleshes out the understandings and motivations of the culture Jesus lived in. Especially in the chapter on Jesus and women, it brings out this Jesus who is a total maverick!

(This is where I tried to search for a gif of Jesus wearing sunglasses. I couldn't find a good one. Just use your imagination.)

Super refreshing and inspiring. I got it from the library twice through interlibrary loan, but it's so full of goodness that
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After undergraduate and seminary studies, Dr. Bailey completed degrees in Arabic Language and Literature, Systematic Theology and a doctorate in New Testament. Ordained by the Presbyterian Church (USA), Dr. Bailey spent 40 years (1955-1995) living and teaching in seminaries and institutes in Egypt, Lebanon, Jerusalem and Cyprus.

For 20 of those years Dr. Bailey was Professor of New Test
“The prayer for "our bread" includes the neighbors. It is "our Father" and "our bread.” 3 likes
“more than ten million Arabic-speaking Christians of the Middle East can trace their origins to the day of Pentecost, where some of those present were from Arabia and heard the preaching of Peter in Arabic.” 2 likes
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