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Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians Paperback – October 19, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"Bailey helps us by giving a different and unique lens, a different vantage point, from which to view the traditional texts and interpretations." (R. Gregory Jenks, Trinity Journal, Spring 2013)

"There is absolutely no doubt that Bailey is a very skilled writer, that there is a wealth of cultural knowledge that he makes available through this book focusing on 1 Corinthians, and that future scholars can and should benefit from knowledge of Middle Eastern translations. . . . This is a worthwhile volume for students, pastors, and scholars to have in reference to Paul's first letter to the Corinthians." (Nijay K. Gupta, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, 67 (1))

"Bailey has done an important service in identifying these structures and the way in which they can help us understand in a deeper way Paul’s intent in the letter. The book should be a rich resource for interpreters, and especially those who desire to see the rich theology underlying Paul’s practical concerns." (Michelle Lee-Barnewall, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 55(3))

"Kenneth Bailey's new volume, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes, is a refreshing reminder that for those willing to mine more deeply into the biblical text, precious gems can really be found. Bailey offers an impressive, and genuinely original, contribution to the study of 1 Corinthians that both New Testament scholars and pastors will appreciate. . . . [he] has produced a tremendous piece of scholarship that is intriguing, illuminating, and distinctive." (Michael J. Kruger, Southeastern Theological Review, Summer 2012)

"Bailey adds significantly to our understanding of Paul's style. Scholars are challenged to add a solid research footing to take up Bailey's interpretations in their own work. Pastors and teachers will find this an excellent supplement to be used next to several other good commentaries. It will enhance not only their exegesis but also their sermons as they learn both from Paul's theology and his rhetorical skill." (Jack Barentsen, Review of Biblical Literature, June 2012)

"Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes is a necessary addition to the libraries of all scholars and pastors working in or preaching from 1 Corinthians. Bailey's writing is easy to follow, warm, and lucid. Though making some complex arguments and performing some deep analysis, the author never loses sight of the reader or of his goal to make Paul more accessible rather than less. This book is highly recommended for any serious reader of 1 Corinthians." (Ron C. Fay, Criswell Theological Review)

"This scholarly yet accessible study is a helpful addition to any bookshelf--even those crowded with commentaries on First Corinthians." (Stephen M. Vantassel, BibleStudy Magazine, January & February 2012)

"New Testament scholars recognize Kenneth Bailey as that rare interpreter with intimate knowledge of Middle Eastern culture, ancient and modern. His latest volume now reveals rumination of the rhetoric that serves Paul's theology and ethics. Bailey's signal achievement is to rebut readings of 1 Corinthians as a haphazard document, obscurely reasoned. At once learned and deeply personal, this commentary will surely stimulate productive debate in the exegesis of one among Paul's weightiest letters." (C. Clifton Black, Otto A. Piper Professor of Biblical Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary)

"A veteran student and observer of the Middle East, Ken Bailey has distilled his knowledge and experience in this work of deep pastoral sensitivity, allowing the apostle Paul to come into his own in a way that a conventional reading of Paul does not allow or encourage. Bailey's work teems with learning and insight, and, buoyed by a clear, lively style, it instructs as well as it illuminates and elevates. The book is a model of biblical scholarship freed of the cobwebs of the study, and consecrated to the life-giving work of the church. It is a 'double-decker sandwich,' to use Bailey's own figure, in which the sandwich is no less nourishing than the meat between the sandwich. I began reading it and couldn't put it down. Go and do thou likewise." (Lamin Sanneh, D. Willis James Professor of World Christianity, Yale Divinity School)

"Ken Bailey is pure gold. No writer I can think of has been a greater help for teaching the Scriptures with freshness and clarity. What a gift to have his insights on Paul." (John Ortberg, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church)

"A rich and original study of 1 Corinthians, which draws on ancient Middle East sources to shed fresh light on this great epistle. We are in Ken Bailey's debt for this work of scholarship." (Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury)

"Professor Kenneth E. Bailey has authored a scholarly, creative and lucid commentary on Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. Bailey argues that Paul is not addressing, somewhat haphazardly, a series of disjointed issues. Rather, Bailey perceives Paul providing a well-crafted series of essays that display a rhetorical and structural style that allows him to address fundamental gospel concerns with persuasion, conviction and clarity. This volume will benefit not only scholars but also, and especially, undergraduates and graduates." (Thomas G. Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap., Executive Director for the Secretariat for Doctrine, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)

"Dr. Ken Bailey is already widely known for shedding light on the New Testament 'through Middle Eastern eyes.' He has taught in Beirut, Jerusalem and other parts of the Near East, as well as in America and Europe. This commentary is more than a conventional, largely repeated exegesis of 1 Corinthians. Dr. Bailey shows the relevance of prophetic and rabbinic forms of language, including especially chiasmus, and other literary and rhetorical forms. He uses Arabic, Coptic and Syriac sources. He rightly stresses the coherence of this epistle and its theology of the cross. He is alert to intertextual resonances and offers distinctive ideas. On top of all this, he produces numerous lively illustrations and practical applications. Especially for those who look for more than a conventional commentary, I warmly commend this work. History, culture, rhetoric, theology and practical application all find a place." (Anthony C. Thiselton, professor of Christian theology, University of Nottingham)

"Bailey's warm pastoral style, up-to-date scholarship and attention to theology make for an excellent exposition of Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians. His unparalleled knowledge of the New Testament in Arabic translation, coupled with his lifetime of experience in the Middle East, gives Bailey a unique perspective on the biblical text. Highlighting Paul's rhetorical argument and extensive use of Jewish Scriptures, Bailey's work is a rare commentary that serves both pastor and layperson. This book sets a high standard for clarity and practical wisdom in the field of biblical exposition." (Lynn H. Cohick, professor of New Testament, Wheaton College)

"Well-known for his numerous works on Jesus and the Gospels through Middle Eastern eyes, Kenneth Bailey now turns his attention to Paul's writing as he provides a powerful and passionate reading of 1 Corinthians within its Jewish and eastern Mediterranean contexts. Suggesting that 1 Corinthians is an 'apostolic homily' written within the framework of Old Testament 'prophetic homily,' this work itself can be considered as a modern 'homily' that skillfully allows Paul's message to touch the hearts of the contemporary audience. Particularly worth noting is Bailey's reading of this epistle through the lens provided by Arabic, Syriac and Hebrew translations from the fourth century up to the modern period. To students of the New Testament text, this provides an invaluable resource for the history of the reception of Paul's message to the Corinthian believers. To the general audience, this also serves as a helpful reminder of the significance of the long history behind our appropriation of the sacred texts." (David W. Pao, chair and associate professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

"Kenneth Bailey has transformed the way in which the parables and sayings of Jesus have been received and understood. Now Kenneth delves into the Pauline letters, and it becomes clear that a whole new perspective emerges. The view of Middle Eastern Christians is placed before us in its stark truthfulness. With remarkable attention to the detail of rabbinic rhetoric, Kenneth provides a window into the world of 1 Corinthians that is majestic in the vista it offers; and, in his inimitable style, he mines deeply into Paul's use of parallelisms and Jewish structures of thought and writing, offering the reader a whole new way of receiving and interpreting this remarkable correspondence. With the skill of a biblical surgeon, Kenneth opens up the layers of meaning present. This commentary will bring many hours of reflection and insight for the edification of the reader and will be a blessing to God's church." (The Most Rev. Roger Herft, Archbishop of Perth and Metropolitan of Western Australia)

"Yet another commentary on 1 Corinthians? Hardly. With this book Bailey opens a new genre in the rhetorical analysis of this famous and difficult New Testament letter. He argues that 1 Corinthians consists of five essays and each has a common ancient rhetorical structure ("ring composition") missed by most exegetes. Paul was a trained rabbi, had memorized vast amounts of his scriptures and knew how to write a polished public letter using ancient Hebrew forms (particularly from Isaiah). But in addition, Bailey is using tools unavailable to the average scholar: twenty-two ancient translations of 1 Corinthians into Arabic, Syriac and Hebrew, as well as commentaries dating as far back as ninth-century Damascus. This book is a gold mine of astonishing new discoveries, crosscultural insight and sound pastoral wisdom. It will inevitably join the ranks of the great and important books on this epistle." (Gary M. Burge, professor of New Testament, Wheaton College)

"Kenneth Bailey sets forth a courageous proposition that Paul's first letter to the Corinthians was in fact written as a circular letter for all the churches. As he works through the letter, Bailey--drawing on neglected Syriac commentaries and his Middle Eastern experiences--presents a gem-laden exposition of 1 Corinthians that engages topics of Christian unity, the cross, living in a pagan culture, men and women in worship, and the resurrection. This is a study on 1 Corinthians like none other I have seen. A truly unique approach to studying a Pauline letter." (Michael F. Bird, Lecturer in Theology, Crossway College, Queensland, Australia)

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: 560 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic; 9/19/11 edition (October 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830839348
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830839346
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,229 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

54 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Bouma on October 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
There is a pernicious Euro-American centricity that undergirds much of our understanding and perspective on the Scripture, which is why I am thankful that a number of scholars are taking a new look at the social, cultural, and rhetorical foundation that those Scriptures are rooted in order to help us re-capture a non-Western and pre-Western perspective on the Text.

Enter Kenneth Bailey's new book "Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians."

Bailey joins the likes of Ben Witherington--for which he is eminently known--in examining the socio-rhetorical-culture milieu that Paul's First Letter to the Church at Corinth is mired in. And Bailey seeks to pull the reader's head out of the sand of Euro-American centrism and into the new, fresh air of the Middle East by giving them Middle Eastern eyes. As Bailey states, "in the wider world, Middle Eastern Christians are often forgotten. The current discussions of the emergence of the Christian 'Global South' and its numerical dominance over Christians in Western Europe and North America, overlooks the Middle East entirely. Have already discussed a few topics in the Gospels in the light of important Middle Eastern Christian sources, this volume intends to focus similar attention on 1 Corinthians." (18)

Over the past forty years or so as Bailey has worked through this text, he says "at critical points in the text, I have asked, 'How did Middle Eastern Christians across the centuries understand this text?'" Bailey sets out to answer this question throughout his examination of 1 Corinthians.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Clint Walker VINE VOICE on October 16, 2011
Format: Paperback
A couple of weeks ago I received a promotional catalog promoting forthcoming books that were due to be released. I saw Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes and I had to have it.

Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes is written by Kenneth Bailey. For decades, Bailey has been known as an expert in Middle Eastern culture. He has lived and ministered as a missionary, pastor and professor in the areas the Bible people lived in. Along the way, he picked up new insights about the cultural context that God's Word was written in, and how the original hearers might have heard those texts.

His classic text was Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes. These texts helped readers see the parables in the gospel of Luke in a whole different light. Recently, Bailey compiled Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, which offered unique perspectives on prominent passages in the Gospels. Now, in Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes, Bailey focuses his considerable intellect on the epistle of I Corinthians.

The book does not disappoint. Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes is deft at using literary analysis and cultural insight to communicate the essence of what Paul is trying to say in a simple and easy to understand way. Instead of simply going verse by verse through the book of I Corinthians, Bailey also takes on the book issue by issue. Thus, while covering the whole book, he gets to address hot button topics such as sexual ethics, the place of men and women in the leadership of the church, freedom and responsibility in the Christian life, and the centrality of the cross and resurrection in true Christian experience.

I particularly enjoyed his egalitarian insights on men and women as partners in marriage and leadership of the church.
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35 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Debbie TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
"Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes" is a very thick commentary on 1 Corinthians. From the title, I expected a book focused on the cultural background of 1 Corinthians that would help us better understand Paul's points. However, the main focus was on the rhetorical style used in 1 Corinthians.

The author carefully constructed charts showing how the 1 Corinthians format matched that of the Old Testament prophets. He claimed that understanding this format would help us better understand the meaning of Paul's words. To be honest, I sometimes couldn't easily see why the sentences were arranged in that format (except that's where they should be to fit the format) and ended up feeling stupid and confused (rather than enlightened) by seeing the rhetorical format laid out. Perhaps those who already have some background in rhetorical styles in the Bible would find it more enlightening.

The author also gave a commentary on the verses. While interesting, his comments didn't stand out to me as memorable nor did I feel like I'd gained new insight into the verses. When the author did mention how Middle Easterners might have understood the verses (so as to increase our understanding), I found it interesting and thought-provoking but rarely enlightening. Also, some of the things he said might explain the verses, but I've read Bible background books that give different explanations that seem to fit the text better.

So, overall, the book contained some interesting information, but I didn't feel like reading it cleared up any potential confusions I had about 1 Corinthians. It was more than it pointed out possible nuances that I might not have otherwise noticed.

I received this book as a review copy from the publisher.
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