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 careful editing of the Gospel authors” nor authoring a “full-fledged technical commentary” are purposes of this book (20); rather, “My intent is to contribute new perspectives from the Eastern tradition that have rarely, if ever, been considered outside the Arabic-speaking Christian world” (21).
The book is presented in six parts, each worth the reader’s time and energy:
- The Birth of Jesus
- The Beatitudes
- The Lord’s Prayer
- Dramatic Actions of Jesus
- Jesus and Women
- Parables of Jesus
Most people I know read the Bible solely from a Western tradition and perspective heavily influenced by the Enlightenment period, completely unaware of over a millennium’s worth of culture and writings predating those views that have been virtually ignored, often intentionally. Many thanks to Bailey for making some of this more accessible and bringing these things to light.