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Blog // Thoughts
June 19, 2007

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes

Thanks to Michael at Kruse Kronicle for drawing attention to a new, upcoming book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels by Kenneth E. Bailey. Whilst a five month wait is a little painful, a November release date makes this the perfect “gift to self” for my birthday. Bailey’s work first came […]

Thanks to Michael at Kruse Kronicle for drawing attention to a new, upcoming book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels by Kenneth E. Bailey. Whilst a five month wait is a little painful, a November release date makes this the perfect “gift to self” for my birthday.

Bailey’s work first came onto my radar at theological college (I owe a debt to Michael Frost for introducing me to his work). I must have borrowed Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes at least a half dozen times before buying my own copy. The book didn’t just revolutionise my understanding of the parables, but also, my preaching and teaching of them.

It also sowed the seeds of a deeper theological shift. Up until that point, my theology (biblical and doctrinal), had been focussed on language, history and ideology. I had been starting to explore archeology, but Bailey opened up the need to think about the social and anthropological aspects of exegesis. His gift is to show the culture Jesus lived and taught within was a living, finely detailed social world. It became clear that the fundamental issue in exegeting the Gospels was not the move from a dead ancient language to a living modern one, but from a rural middle eastern culture to an urban western one.

Soon after I felt the shift in my theology. I became far less obsessed with starting my theology in problems related to philosophy of language and abstract ideas about revelation. Instead, cultural systems, the way language is embedded within them and the patterns of social life that arise from them became the obvious place to start. It was a very short move from Bailey’s cultural exegesis to a critically postmodern theology.

[tags] Kenneth Bailey, Exegesis, Theological Method [/tags]

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