Review – Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the GospelsJesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels by Kenneth E. Bailey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is amazing! Bailey lived for 60 years in the Middle East, and has literally lived through the Bible story. The book begins with a stunning study, which presents a convincing case that Jesus was actually born in a house (since many poor, Middle Eastern homes actually have mangers in the house!). I won’t give away the rest of his argument, but I did want to share another tid-bit that lept out at me.

Speaking of the Magi, and who they might have been, he writes: “In the 1920s a British scholar, E.F.F. Bishop, visited a Bedouin tribe in Jordan. This Muslim tribe bore the Arabic name al-Kokabani. The word kokab means “planet” and al-Kaokabani means “Those who study/follow the planets.” Bishop asked the elders of the tribe why they called themselves by such a name. They replied that it was because their ancestors followed the planets and traveled west to Palestine to show honor to the great prophet Jesus when he was born. This supports Justin’s [Justin Martyr – ca. 165 A.D.:] second-century claim that the wise men were Arabs from Arabia,” (Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, 53).

****
So, I’ve finally finished this! It took about three years to read, mostly because I had to fit it into the cracks of my teaching and graduate school schedule. But, it was well worth it. Bailey’s insights probably need to be digested over a long period of time anyway, since they are so paradigm-changing.  Nearly every chapter had moments of truly deep insight, combined with pastoral applications throughout. I can’t recommend this highly enough! Every pastor needs to read it, to avoid recycling some common misnomers about the Bible.

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