I am currently reading Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians by Kenneth E. Bailey. Bailey is an author and lecturer in Middle Eastern New Testament studies and spent forty years living and teaching in Egypt, Lebanon, Jerusalem and Cyprus.
As yet I have not read beyond the introduction, primarily because I am finding his book to be a goldmine of information that has already illuminated my understanding of the Bible. Bailey’s knowledge of the Arabic translation of the Bible is unequalled and this coupled with his understanding of ancient middle eastern culture sheds fresh light on our understanding of not just 1 Corinthians but of the entire Bible.
His explanation of how Biblical texts are constructed is fascinating and I find that I need lots of time to process what I am reading.He explains that the structure is more like music than linear sentences we understand today. He uses words like inverted parallelism and step parallelism to help us undertand the complex way the texts are put together and goes on to explain how much we miss of the message because we have no comprehension of these tools which were so easily understood by the Jewish scholars, including Paul, of the day.
Two quotes from the introduction have particularly challenged me:
Middle Easterners create meaning through the use of simile, metaphor, parable and dramatic action. They do not simply illustrate concepts. Jesus used metaphor, parables and dramatic actions in this way. Paul’s parables and metaphors can also be seen as primary theological statements. (p30)
The New Testament can be likened to a vast ocean. There are two well-known ways to sail upon it. One is to set the sails to the prevailing winds and currents and to use great caution in any deviation from them. The other is to move through uncharted waters, explore neglected islands and inlets and then return and attempt a faithful report on the journey. I have chosen the second. (p31)
It is hard to believe that there are still uncharted waters for us to explore in the Bible but so it is. No matter how much we think we understand, there is still always something fresh and new. I am really looking forward to moving forward into this book. As you know I do not do many book reviews on my blog but this is one book I wanted to make sure that you are well aware of. I would heartily recommend it to anyone who is looking for the challenge of new Biblical understanding that both enriches and challenges their faith.