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Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians
IVP Academic / 2011 / Paperback
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Paul was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, steeped in the learning of his people. But he was also a Roman citizen who widely traveled the Mediterranean basin, and was very knowledgeable of the dominant Greek and Roman culture of his day. These two mighty rivers of influence converge in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.
With razor-sharp exegetical attention to the text, Kenneth Bailey's Paul Through mediterranean Eyes examines the cultural milieu/setting and rhetorical strategies that shaped this pivotal and complex epistle. The first letter to the the Corinthians, as Bailey notes, is a corrective epistle for the Corinthian church and in so doing so argues that the epistle is deeply rooted in the Hebraic prophetic tradition and draws heavily from the Old Testament prophetic tradition. In doing so, Bailey shows just how extensively Paul linked his thinking with the great prophets of Israel's history.
Throughout, Bailey employs his expert knowledge of Near Eastern and Mediterranean culture to deliver to readers a new understanding of Paul and his world. Familiar passages take on a new hue as they are stripped of meaning established outside of historical context and rendered back into their ancient setting.
2012 Christianity Today Book Award winner! Paul was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, steeped in the learning of his people. But he was also a Roman citizen who widely traveled the Mediterranean basin, and was very knowledgeable of the dominant Greek and Roman culture of his day. These two mighty rivers of influence converge in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. With razor-sharp attention to the text, Kenneth Bailey examines the cultural milieu and rhetorical strategies that shaped this pivotal epistle. He discovers the deep layers of the Hebraic prophetic tradition informing Paul's writing, linking the Apostle with the great prophets of the Old Testament. Throughout, Bailey employs his expert knowledge of Near Eastern and Mediterranean culture to deliver to readers a new understanding of Paul and his world. Familiar passages take on a new hue as they are stripped of standard Western interpretations and rendered back into their ancient setting.
Kenneth E. Bailey is an author and lecturer in Middle Eastern New Testament studies. An ordained Presbyterian minister, he also serves as Canon Theologian of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. He holds graduate degrees in Arabic language and literature, and in systematic theology; his Th.D. is in New Testament. He spent forty years living and teaching New Testament in Egypt, Lebanon, Jerusalem and Cyprus, still holding the title of research professor (emeritus) of Middle Eastern New Testament studies at the Ecumenical Institute (Tantur), Jerusalem. Bailey has written many books in English and in Arabic, including and He has also published many articles in and .
Kenneth Bailey sets forth a courageous proposition that Paul's first letter to the Corinthians was in fact written as a circular letter for all the churches. As he works through the letter, Bailey--drawing on neglected Syriac commentaries and his Middle Eastern experiences--presents a gem-laden exposition of 1 Corinthians that engages topics of Christian unity, the cross, living in a pagan culture, men and women in worship, and the resurrection. This is a study on 1 Corinthians like none other I have seen. A truly unique approach to studying a Pauline letter.
-Michael F. Bird,
Lecturer in Theology, Crossway College, Queensland, Australia
Yet another commentary on 1 Corinthians? Hardly. With this book Bailey opens a new genre in the rhetorical analysis of this famous and difficult New Testament letter. He argues that 1 Corinthians consists of five essays and each has a common ancient rhetorical structure ("ring composition") missed by most exegetes. Paul was a trained rabbi, had memorized vast amounts of his scriptures and knew how to write a polished public letter using ancient Hebrew forms (particularly from Isaiah). But in addition, Bailey is using tools unavailable to the average scholar: twenty-two ancient translations of 1 Corinthians into Arabic, Syriac and Hebrew, as well as commentaries dating as far back as ninth-century Damascus. This book is a gold mine of astonishing new discoveries, crosscultural insight and sound pastoral wisdom. It will inevitably join the ranks of the great and important books on this epistle.
-Gary M. Burge,
professor of New Testament, Wheaton College
Kenneth Bailey has transformed the way in which the parables and sayings of Jesus have been received and understood. Now Kenneth delves into the Pauline letters, and it becomes clear that a whole new perspective emerges. The view of Middle Eastern Christians is placed before us in its stark truthfulness. With remarkable attention to the detail of rabbinic rhetoric, Kenneth provides a window into the world of 1 Corinthians that is majestic in the vista it offers; and, in his inimitable style, he mines deeply into Paul's use of parallelisms and Jewish structures of thought and writing, offering the reader a whole new way of receiving and interpreting this remarkable correspondence. With the skill of a biblical surgeon, Kenneth opens up the layers of meaning present. This commentary will bring many hours of reflection and insight for the edification of the reader and will be a blessing to God's church.
-The Most Rev. Roger Herft,
Archbishop of Perth and Metropolitan of Western Australia
Well-known for his numerous works on Jesus and the Gospels through Middle Eastern eyes, Kenneth Bailey now turns his attention to Paul's writing as he provides a powerful and passionate reading of 1 Corinthians within its Jewish and eastern Mediterranean contexts. Suggesting that 1 Corinthians is an 'apostolic homily' written within the framework of Old Testament 'prophetic homily,' this work itself can be considered as a modern 'homily' that skillfully allows Paul's message to touch the hearts of the contemporary audience. Particularly worth noting is Bailey's reading of this epistle through the lens provided by Arabic, Syriac and Hebrew translations from the fourth century up to the modern period. To students of the New Testament text, this provides an invaluable resource for the history of the reception of Paul's message to the Corinthian believers. To the general audience, this also serves as a helpful reminder of the significance of the long history behind our appropriation of the sacred texts.
-David W. Pao,
chair and associate professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Bailey's warm pastoral style, up-to-date scholarship and attention to theology make for an excellent exposition of Pauls argument in 1 Corinthians. His unparalleled knowledge of the New Testament in Arabic translation, coupled with his lifetime of experience in the Middle East, gives Bailey a unique perspective on the biblical text. Highlighting Paul's rhetorical argument and extensive use of Jewish Scriptures, Bailey's work is a rare commentary that serves both pastor and layperson. This book sets a high standard for clarity and practical wisdom in the field of biblical exposition.
-Lynn H. Cohick,
Professor of New Testament, Wheaton College
Dr. Ken Bailey is already widely known for shedding light on the New Testament 'through Middle Eastern eyes.' He has taught in Beirut, Jerusalem and other parts of the Near East, as well as in America and Europe. This commentary is more than a conventional, largely repeated exegesis of 1 Corinthians. Dr. Bailey shows the relevance of prophetic and rabbinic forms of language, including especially chiasmus, and other literary and rhetorical forms. He uses Arabic, Coptic and Syriac sources. He rightly stresses the coherence of this epistle and its theology of the cross. He is alert to intertextual resonances and offers distinctive ideas. On top of all this, he produces numerous lively illustrations and practical applications. Especially for those who look for more than a conventional commentary, I warmly commend this work. History, culture, rhetoric, theology and practical application all find a place.
-Anthony C. Thiselton,
Professor of Christian Theology, University of Nottingham
Professor Kenneth E. Bailey has authored a scholarly, creative and lucid commentary on Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. Bailey argues that Paul is not addressing, somewhat haphazardly, a series of disjointed issues. Rather, Bailey perceives Paul providing a well-crafted series of essays that display a rhetorical and structural style that allows him to address fundamental gospel concerns with persuasion, conviction and clarity. This volume will benefit not only scholars but also, and especially, undergraduates and graduates.
-Thomas G. Weinandy,
O.F.M., Cap., Executive Director for the Secretariat for Doctrine, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
A rich and original study of 1 Corinthians, which draws on ancient Middle East sources to shed fresh light on this great epistle. We are in Ken Bailey's debt for this work of scholarship.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury
Ken Bailey is pure gold. No writer I can think of has been a greater help for teaching the Scriptures with freshness and clarity. What a gift to have his insights on Paul.
Menlo Park Presbyterian Church
A veteran student and observer of the Middle East, Ken Bailey has distilled his knowledge and experience in this work of deep pastoral sensitivity, allowing the apostle Paul to come into his own in a way that a conventional reading of Paul does not allow or encourage. Bailey's work teems with learning and insight, and, buoyed by a clear, lively style, it instructs as well as it illuminates and elevates. The book is a model of biblical scholarship freed of the cobwebs of the study, and consecrated to the life-giving work of the church. It is a 'double-decker sandwich,' to use Bailey's own figure, in which the sandwich is no less nourishing than the meat between the sandwich. I began reading it and couldn't put it down. Go and do thou likewise.
D. Willis James Professor of World Christianity, Yale Divinity School
"Kenneth Bailey sets forth a courageous proposition that Paul's first letter to the Corinthians was in fact written as a circular letter for all the churches. As he works through the letter, Bailey--drawing on neglected Syriac commentaries and his Middle Eastern experiences--presents a gem-laden exposition of 1 Corinthians that engages topics of Christian unity, the cross, living in a pagan culture, men and women in worship, and the resurrection. This is a study on 1 Corinthians like none other I have seen. A truly unique approach to studying a Pauline letter."
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