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. In this section, he interspersed deft analysis with personal anecdotes of his experiences working among Mediterranean people. His perspectives on the commands for silence, and what that command did in fact mean were both intelligent, and easy to pass on to others as I teach this passage.
First Corinthians is a popular book for many scholars to study and write about. There is a lot of work out there on this important book in the New Testament. Yet, none of what is out there in commentaries and other analysis is comparable to Bailey's unique perspective. I would recommend every pastor, teacher, and serious student of the word grab this book, purchase it, and add it to their bookshelf. It is well worth the money!
*IVP provided this book for me in exchange for an honest review