Book Review: Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes

25 Feb

Kenneth Bailey’s “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes” is an outstanding resource for anyone interested in understanding the story of Jesus. Bailey is not only a Bible scholar but he also lived in the Middle East for some sixty years. His experience of life in Middle Eastern culture provides many valuable insights in the book. In addition, Bailey draws on the work of Arab Christians from the early centuries of the church through the middle ages. In particular, Bailey cites the work of Ibn al-Tayyib, a New Testament scholar of the middle ages who died in 1043.

The book is broken down into six topical sections: the birth of Jesus, the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer, the dramatic actions of Jesus, Jesus and women, and the parables of Jesus. In each section Bailey brings out cultural background insights gained from a lifetime living in the middle east and a career spent studying New Testament scholarship from the region. Each section of the book also deals extensively with the rhetorical features of the text. Bailey’s rhetorical study shines most clearly in the last part of the book on parables but his insight about the structure of passages sheds light on many of the texts he studies.

The book has thirty-two chapters and runs at just over 425 pages. Bailey writes clearly and the book contains numerous tables which illustrate rhetorical features in the texts, so it does not have the feel of a really long book. One of the most helpful features to me are the chapter summaries. Bailey gives a numbered list at the end of each chapter of the key truths we should take away from the study presented in that given chapter. This was a good way for me to check my understanding of what I had just read.

I found the sections on the birth of Jesus and the parables to be the most helpful sections. I can see this book as one I will go back to often for insights in preparing to teach. This book would be an excellent resource for pastors or other Bible teachers. It would also be a real help to serious students who really want to understand the background of Gospel stories and how that background shapes our interpretation and applications of the Gospels.

Here is the Amazon link if you are interested in this book . . .

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