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Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels Paperback – February 22, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


"A brilliant addition to Bailey's other works in which he sheds light on the biblical text from Middle Eastern culture." (Roy B. Zuck, Bibliotheca Sacra, October-December 2010)

"The work will yield a rich harvest of information, pastoral support, and insight for all who read it." (Susan K. Hedahl, Currents in Theology & Mission, February 2010)

"Jesus Through Middle Easter Eyes is Bailey's most recent 400 page call to western Christians who need to time travel to the Middle East. And in page after page, he identifies themes and reflexes assumed in the gospels that slip right past us." (Gary M. Burge, Evangelical Quarterly, July 2009)

"With a life-time of living, observing and teaching in the Middle East, Kenneth Bailey's insights as a commentator are invaluable, showing time after time, how an understanding of the cultural features of the background of the Gospels can bring alive the meaning of the text, and more importantly, the power and significance of Jesus and his message." (David Parker, Evangelical Review of Theology, July 2009)

"Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes is quite readable, with a minimum of technical language. Wherever Bailey references a rhetorical term, he gives it careful definition, bringing along the novice in the field. He draws upon the works of others, ancient and modern, allowing students of scripture to gain an additional layer of insight from the texts he examines. While one could enjoy reading the book straight through, it has the wealth of information that may also be accessed through use as a resource for examining any of the treated Gospel texts." (John David Bowman, Brethren Life & Thought, Winter & Spring 2009)

"This book could serve as material for an adult or student Sunday School class. Laid out in simple format for easy absorption by readers, the author's explanations of his findings require no formal training to follow and understand them. Particularly helpful are the summaries provided at the conclusion of each chapter.This book may very well establish Bailey's legacy beyond dispute." (Gene R. Smillie, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society,June 2009)

"Bailey has a gift of clear, lively expression; he takes advantage of his personal experiences, interest in Hebrew poetic structure, and knowledge of Arabic to bring insights into NT interpretation." (Ruth B. Edwards,Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 31.5, 2009)

"A rich and fascinating anthology of exegetical essays reflecting on gospel texts through the lens of Middle Eastern culture and rhetoric. Bailey's exegetical discussions offer a treasure trove of cultural insights into the Jesus traditions of the Gospels. His essays highlght such issues as nationalism, violence, political oppression, inter-ethnic conflict, and joblessness. Bailey's christological insights are power and poignant." (Dorothy Jean Weaver, Interpretation, July 2009)

"Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes is Bailey's most recent call to Western Christians who need to time-travel to the Middle East. On page after page, he identifies themes and reflexes assumed in the gospels that slip right past us. Stories like the Parable of the Woman and the Judge are given interpretations that should contribute to every commentary writer. And fourteen more parables are made alive again, each in its original context." (Gary M. Burge, Books & Culture, March/April 2009)

"The great strength of this work is the author's familiarity with Middle Eastern culture. He succeeds in shedding new light on well known Gospel stories from a cultural perspective. Another valuable contribution of this book is the introduction to, and interaction with, great Eastern commentaries long forgotten or largely unknown to Western Biblical Scholarship. A very readable book and will be profitable to various levels of readers. Anyone interested in understanding the New Testament from its own distinctive Middle Eastern cultural perspective ought to read this book." (Mark Jason, Themelios, 33, no. 3)

"Like getting a Master's degree in the New Testament without paying for it. Like wowing your blog readers with little known facts but not taking the credit for it. Like being the smartest kid in class--well, you get the point. Kenneth Bailey's book is all of that, and even more incredibly impressive." (Worship Leader, December 2008)

"Bailey's important contribution is refreshing and guile-less; authoritative without being authoritarian; theologically sound without having to sound like a theologian. An engaging and compelling read." (Bob Gerow, Pulpit Helps, December 2008)

"On every page Bailey utilizes his expertise as an authority of ancient Middle Eastern culture to guide the reader into a deeper understanding of the person and significance of Jesus within his own cultural context. With astonishingly keen insight and learned expertise Bailey peels back the obscuring layers our modern Western interpretation of scripture [has] added to the Bible to reveal Jesus in the light of his actual historical and ethnic setting." (Jim Miller Book Review, August 27, 2008)

"Bailey shares insights from Syrian and Arabic Christian thought about Jesus that are almost unknown to the rest of the world. He has the gift of communicating interesting ideas in a devotional way that church members who love God's Word will appreciate." (L. R. K., Church Libraries Journal, Summer 2008)

"[T]here is no comparable New Testament scholar who is a native speaker of English and yet who has grown up, lived and taught in the Middle East and been fluent in Arabic. Bailey provides a genuinely unique perspective." (James F. McGrath,, June 20, 2008)

"A wonderful resource in studying the life of Jesus within the life setting in which He lived. This is a powerful tool to give fresh insights as you preach and teach the life of Jesus." (ForeWord, February 20, 2008)

"I found myself fascinated as I read of the cultural and historical background behind familiar gospel stories and parables. Bailey's background information, rhetorical analysis, and commentary will provide valuable perspective on often-puzzling passages." (C. W. for Discipleship Journal, March/April 2008)

"Bailey attempts to bring his extensive background in history to the table to deepen his readers' understanding of the Gospels through understanding culture." (Pulpit Helps, February 2008)

"Learning to read Scripture through other people's cultural spectacles, as well as our own, always brings huge enrichment. Kenneth Bailey has done a fantastic job in enabling us to put on the spectacles of a Middle Eastern believer and to therefore gain new insights into what was always there in Scripture but not quite so clear when only viewed through our lenses." (Mary J. Evans, vice-principal emeritus, London School of Theology)

"Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes is intended, explains its author, 'to contribute new perspectives from the Eastern tradition which have rarely, if ever, been considered outside the Arabic-speaking Christian world.' Strictly speaking, of course, Kenneth Bailey does not offer new perspectives, but ideas frequently as old as the earliest church and as the ancient church fathers, that may well be new to many of his Western readership. Here is an imaginative, humorous reading of key Gospel passages, an engaged and engaging set of studies that emphasize the concrete world presupposed in the New Testament. Bailey is informed not only by faithful contemporary scholarship, but also by the great exegetes of the past, and shows his humility by offering alternative explanations of passages where these may be of help to the reader. His writing and argument are cogent to the ordinary reader, tackling problems for the contemporary church, without allowing twenty-first-century debates to dictate the scope of his discussion." (Edith M. Humphrey, William F. Orr Professor of New Testament, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary)

"Kenneth Bailey, a master storyteller and expert observer of Middle Eastern culture, applies his sixty years of experience living in this region to produce a groundbreaking work on Jesus' world. Bailey animates the Jewish cultural world of first-century Roman Palestine through clever, often humorous personal vignettes and observations of current Middle Eastern culture. The blurry outlines of enigmatic biblical characters such as King Herod or Zacchaeus take clearer shape, and unnamed women such as the Syro-Phoenician mother or the adulterous woman are painted with colorful, culturally sensitive strokes. Bailey offers a feast for the mind and heart in his brilliant discussion of the Lord's Prayer and Jesus' parables; each chapter has plenty to savor. Throughout, Bailey connects theological and christological significance to his cultural insights, producing an original, engaging study. Bailey's passion for the biblical story coupled with his conversational prose render Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes a captivating read for scholars, pastors and laypeople alike." (Lynn Cohick, associate professor of New Testament, Wheaton College)

"Kenneth Bailey's Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes is rich with interpretive and cultural insight. He sheds light on what is so often missed in most commentaries and books about Jesus written from a Western perspective. Indeed, Bailey's book provides the much-needed corrective to the dubious results of the Jesus Seminar, whose distorted Jesus is a product of Greco-Roman culture and literature, instead of the Judaic culture and literature of Palestine. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes is easy to read--students and pastors will benefit from it tremendously--but there is also much for scholars." (Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College, and author of Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels)

"I have long been an admirer of Kenneth Bailey's helpful insights. As in his earlier works, his breadth of knowledge of Middle Eastern culture sheds rich light on numerous points in the Gospels, providing fresh perspectives and often illumining details we have rarely considered. He provokes those of us who depend mostly on ancient written sources to consider new approaches, often cohering with but often supplementing such research." (Craig Keener, professor of New Testament, Palmer Theological Seminary, and author of The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament)

"Among the many New Testament scholars interpreting the Gospels today, few offer new and dramatic insights like Kenneth E. Bailey. From a childhood in Egypt to a career working within the Middle East, Bailey has established himself as the premier cultural interpreter of the life of Jesus. Using insights from cultural anthropology and skilled exegesis, suddenly the Gospels come alive as the Middle Eastern stories that they are. Long after other scholars' books are forgotten, Bailey's work on the Gospels will continue to be a timeless resource into the world of Jesus. This newest volume, written for the nonspecialist, is a splendid place to begin. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes is guaranteed to become a favorite on many Christians' bookshelves." (Gary M. Burge, professor of New Testament, Wheaton College & Graduate School)

"While no book on Jesus and the Gospels can be perfect or final, writing any really good book on them places staggering demands on an interpreter. To name just seven: literary aptitude, linguistic competence, critical shrewdness, cultural sagacity, theological acumen, spiritual sensitivity and hermeneutical sophistication. In this highly stimulating study Kenneth Bailey manages to reflect them all, and more besides, in part because he stands on the shoulders of Middle Eastern interpreters whom few in the West can even read. This book will sharpen historical understanding, improve much preaching and fuel new scholarship. It may shed as much new Licht vom Osten ('light from the ancient East') on Gospel passages as we have seen since Deissmann's book by that title a century ago. And in all of this, Bailey keeps the cross and the message of his sources at the center where they belong." (Robert W. Yarbrough, associate professor and New Testament department chair, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

About the Author

Kenneth E. Bailey (ThD, Concordia Theological Seminary) is an author and lecturer in Middle Eastern New Testament studies. An ordained Presbyterian minister, he also serves as Canon Theologian of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. The author of more than 150 articles in English and in Arabic, his writings include Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, Open Hearts in Bethlehem (A Christmas Musical), The Cross and the Prodigal and Finding the Lost: Cultural Keys to Luke 15. Bailey spent forty years living and teaching in seminaries and institutes in Egypt, Lebanon, Jerusalem and Cyprus. For twenty of those years he was professor of New Testament and head of the Biblical Department of the Near East School of Theology in Beirut where he also founded and directed the Institute for Middle Eastern New Testament Studies. Bailey was also on the faculty of The Ecumenical Institute for Theological Research in Jerusalem. Traveling around the globe to lecture and teach, Bailey has spoken in theological colleges and seminaries in England (Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol) Ireland, Canada, Egypt, Finland, Latvia, Denmark, New Zealand, Australia and Jerusalem. He is active as a Bible teacher for conferences and continuing education events in the Middle East, Europe and North America, and has taught at Columbia, Princeton and Fuller Seminary. Bailey and his wife Ethel now reside in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, where he continues to write and lecture on the New Testament.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 443 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (February 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830825681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830825684
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (206 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kenneth E. Bailey is an author and lecturer in Middle Eastern New Testament studies. An ordained Presbyterian minister, he also serves as Canon Theologian of the Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church, USA. He holds graduate degrees in Arabic language and literature, and in systematic theology; his Th.D. is in New Testament. He spent forty years living and teaching New Testament in Egypt, Lebanon, Jerusalem and Cyprus, still holding the title of research professor (emeritus) of Middle Eastern New Testament studies at the Ecumenical Institute (Tantur), Jerusalem. Bailey has written many books in English and in Arabic, including The Cross and the Prodigal, Poet & Peasant, Through Peasant Eyes, Jacob & the Prodigal and Finding the Lost: Cultural Keys to Luke 15. He has also published many articles in The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, The Presbyterian Outlook, Asia Journal of Theology, Christianity Today, Expository Studies, Irish Biblical Studies, Novem Momentum, Theology Review and Temelios.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 97 people found the following review helpful By David Jackson on June 21, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The information in Part 1: "The Birth of Jesus" is worth the price of this book. Previous commentators had remarked that Luke has the Greek word katalyma in Luke 2:7 and again in Luke 22: 11. In the first instance it is commonly translated "inn". In the second instance it is commonly translated as "guest room" or "upper room". Bailey states, "it is 'an upper room' which is clearly a guest room in a private house. This precise meaning makes perfect sense when applied to the birth story." p.33 This explanation then includes the clarifying diagram of a typical village home in Palestine showing the stable, steps leading from the family living room to the stable, the mangers and finally the Guest Room "kataluma". Bailey goes on to expand on the Christmas story. But he states, "Looking at the story in this light strips away layers of interpretive mythology that have built up around it." Bailey's lived knowledge of the Middle East, rhetorical patterns, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek and acquaintance with commentaries by Arabic speaking Christian theologians and exegetes makes this book truly unique. Examples could easily be multiplied. A summary glance of the Index section reveals the scope of this book: Early Jewish Sources, Middle Eastern Arabic and Syrian Christian Authors, Arabic, Armenian, Coptic and Syrian Versions of the Gospels, Greek and Latin Authors. One must read the book to see how masterfully these sources enrich the interpretation. Lastly the author does not hesitate to apply his exegesis to present day attitudes, issues and problems.
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77 of 83 people found the following review helpful By James F. McGrath on September 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
Review of Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008). ISBN 978-0-8308-2568-4. 443 pp. This review originally appeared on the Exploring Our Matrix blog.

In his latest book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, Kenneth Bailey provides further discussion of various parts of the New Testament Gospels, from the perspective that has been his own unique contribution over the past three decades or so. To my knowledge, there is no comparable New Testament scholar who is a native speaker of English and yet who has grown up, lived and taught in the Middle East and been fluent in Arabic, and as a result has been able to mediate the cultural perspective of that region on the New Testament to English-speaking readers. As such, Bailey provides a genuinely unique perspective, and I expect anyone interested in understanding the New Testament will want to read his latest book, as well as earlier ones.
The book is divided into six main sections, each containing several chapters each of which is focused on a particular passage from the Gospels. The introduction should not be skipped, since it emphasizes the importance of the unique perspective Bailey offers and the neglected sources he draws upon. Bailey draws heavily not only on his own experience of life in the Middle East, but also the neglected witness of Christian authors writing in Syriac and Arabic over the centuries. The insights that can be gleaned both from contemporary life in this part of the world, and from the Christians who lived there prior to the modern era (and in particular those who spoke Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, the language Jesus himself spoke) are extremely important.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A. Barlow on July 19, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jesus was not an American. Nor a capitalist. Nor a product of the Enlightenment or Romanticism. He wasn't a postmodernist or a CEO or a copilot.

Believe it or not, Jesus was a Middle Easterner. And a Jew. He could speak Hebrew and some Greek, but mostly he spoke Aramaic.

What does all this have to do with us? Well, if you're reading this, chances are that you are none of the above-mentioned things that Jesus was, and you are many of the things Jesus was not. Therefore, when you and I read the Bible, we tend to read it through lenses quite different from those worn by the first hearers of the message. We may reach accurate doctrinal conclusions about the essentials of the faith, but we may also miss much of the richness that comes from understanding the culture in which the Bible was written. When it comes to Jesus, we miss the sheer audacity of his words and his person, even as we bow before Him for our salvation.

That's where Kenneth E. Bailey comes in. Bailey grew up in the Middle East (mostly Egypt) and taught there for 40 years. His 60 years of life experience, linguistic ability, and curiosity come together in this amazing look at the Jesus of the gospels. It is impossible to read this book without growing in an appreciation of the cleverness, theological and philosophical depth, social brazenness, and deep compassion that go into describing the incarnate Christ. Bailey's insights are not "novel" in the sense of being unorthodox theologically. Rather, they are like a key that opens a door and allows a much fuller view than what one was heretofore gaining through a keyhole. The previous view was accurate, but limited. The new view is broader and richer and gives deeper meaning to what was seen before.
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