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Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  1,810 ratings  ·  234 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, h…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 British sch
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 must trust t
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This gave me so much new insight into a lot of passages that I hadn't fully understood before. I appreciated how Bailey really delved into the structure of the Biblical passages, the multiple ways it had been translated into different languages, and especially the cultural heritage of the texts and the underlying assumptions that would have been made at the time they were written. I mean, what a delight to have him declare that a parable needs to be liberated from our capitalist lense! Or to hig ...more
Bailey uses his extensive knowledge of Semitic sources and his experience of living in the Middle East for 40 years to provide critical context and understanding for the gospel texts. His examination of the multiple uses of “ring composition,” or chiastic structure in the NT yields enormous insight for otherwise familiar gospel passages.

In the West, we have come to expect that the point of a story is revealed, as a climax, at the end. But in “Ring Composition” format, the critical point is give
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*
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, biblical-studies
Rich insights! Bailey gets academic, yet it is highly readable.
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 scholars and
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 real lessons behind many s
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
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 perspectives on the
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
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book way back in 2008 while visiting Manchester, England. I had no idea who the author was but thought the book sounded interesting. I curse myself for waiting so long to read it. It is definitely one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. The author's insight into the Bible from living and teaching in the Middle East for 40 plus years is fascinating and rich to say the least. I wish he would have written more books. I will read whatever I can get my hands on from him. Hig ...more
Deanna Dreher
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A compelling look at some of the ways we misunderstand and misinterpret the Bible, without ever even knowing it, based on a western worldview. Long, but SO good. I feel like it completely changed my understanding of so many of the stories and parables in the gospels to understand how those stories would have been understood by people with a middle eastern worldview -- Jesus' audience!

"It is acutely embarrassing to hear and see one's deepest prejudices verbalized and demonstrated. As that happens
Matt Berry
Sep 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic reference book. Not many people understand when approaching scripture that Jesus did not live in our western culture. This book is written by someone who became acquainted with Middle Eastern culture from a first-hand experience. Fascinating insights. Strongly recommend having on your bookself.
Abby Orttel
Oct 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A great resource to supplement your Bible reading. It took Bible stories I had read many times and pushed me to think about them in a whole new way through cultural lenses I hadn’t thought about. Not a great book to read cover to cover since it can be a bit dry but if you read it in sections or use it when studying different biblical texts it breaks it up well.
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is a great resource and it’s something I’ve been looking for my whole life. It’s not perfect but it’s really helpful. For the record, I haven’t read the whole thing but I’ve read a lot and I intend to use it as an aid for studying certain passages of scripture.
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, all kinds of insights about Christ based on Middle Eastern understanding and context
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

Jesus unrolled the scroll to Isaiah 61 a
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
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 car ...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 for gospels
I wanted to like this more than I did. I found most of the author's observations on Middle Eastern culture to be self-evident. His linguistic analyses were much more valuable. Unfortunately the author has an unfortunate tendency to repeat himself, even within chapters. And the chapters read as though they were written to be self-contained, so there's a great deal of repetition across chapters as well.

This could be a valuable resource to accompany Bible study or for a homilist, i.e., for someone
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
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.
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.
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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 Testament and He

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