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4.8 out of 5 stars19
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 17 October 2011
Having enjoyed "Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes", I jumped at the chance to pre-order this book. I dug into it as soon as I received the shipment. I find it harder to read than the first, and far more literary/rhetorical, but full of insights and answers, so continue to work my way through.
In many ways, the church owes a lot to the Corinthians, because Paul had to tackle a lot of very practical problems in writing the book, so this volume comes as a wonderful perspective on the many issues raised by his writing. Especially helpful is the extensive structural and literary critique throughout, breaking the work into the units that the writing structure suggests, rather than by chapter and verse. This brings what seem like stray thoughts into a larger context.
In spite the similarity of title, the two works are very different: the Jesus book dealt with a person, his life, his context, his way of relating to people, and his sayings; the Paul book engages with one sample of his writing, and is as much a book about the writing itself as the ideas. I have recommended the Jesus book across a broad spectrum of people and nearly everyone, even just dipping into it, gets something out of it. The Paul book makes more demands of the reader in terms of concentration and educational background. I still recommend it highly, just not so widely.
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on 26 July 2013
This is a genuine eye-opener! Ken Bailey, who lived and taught in the Middle East for 40+ years has used his outstanding knowledge of semitic and other languages and culture combined with an awesome understanding of the text to show that Paul, who had been schooled in the Rabbinical Tradition, wrote the first letter to the Corinthians using a carefully crafted format throughout. The sheer skill and effort required to achieve this make one realise how much Paul had been influenced by and benefitted from his training under Gamaliel and the other Jerusalem academics. Ken Bailey shows the beauty of the chiastic structure in this unbelievably well planned letter and shows how this was cross-referenced to the Hebrew Scriptures over and over again. His demonstrates recurrent references to contemporary life in the port city of Corinth at the same time as addressing the pastoral concerns in the local church whilst sending a general pastoral letter to other churches.

I have more admiration for Paul as an academically skilled apostolic writer than ever before and am grateful to Ken Bailey for this wonderful exposition. It is a must for anyone who wants understand the Pauline letters and Paul himself. He encourages the reader to re-examine the place of women in the church and head-covering and other subjects which often polarise opinion in the light of textual nuances and authorial intention in a refreshing way. At the same time he acknowledges and freely refers to the work of many other skilled commentators on the epistle, both from history (including sources unavailable to the average Western reader) and from the present.

This book is essential reading for anyone (academic or otherwise) who wants to read and understand the First Letter to the Corinthians with more than a basic and possibly prejudiced outlook. It should stimulate debate and encourage lively discussion in churches and colleges. It joins Ken Bailey's book "Jesus through MIddle Eastern Eyes" as a contemporary classic which brings new and essential light to understanding the New Testament.
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Kenneth Bailey established his reputation reviewing the most difficult parables of Jesus through Middle Eastern cultural eyes. He now turns to looking at 1 Corinthians with the same method. The results are less revolutionary, and offer incremental insights rather than a complete change of thinking. Nonetheless, he has a lot to say which is compelling on points of controversy which have troubled the church over the last fifty years, and his solutions will satisfy both confessional and progressive readers.

Considering for a moment the question of women leading worship — widely viewed either as Pauline misogyny or a requirement to return to a 19th century understanding of gender roles — Bailey points out that the common translations, on which most of the controversy is based, translate 'dia' in quite different ways in the same statement. Both 'for' and 'because of' are grammatically acceptable translations, but the meaning of the passage changes substantially if a consistent translation is used. Bailey's solution to the problem is compelling, and it is hard to see why one did not spot it earlier.

Most students of the New Testament are probably more familiar with the Greek world than the Middle Eastern world, and so Bailey's insights are less radical than his work on Jesus's parables. I was initially disappointed not to find the same penetrating studies. However, this is merely a reflection of fewer cultural presuppositions getting in the way. Where 19th-21st century English-speaking culture gets in the way of understanding the text, Bailey exposes it with great precision.

Much of this book is about poetic form, and I found this perhaps less significant — and, at times, less persuasive — than his conclusions on difficult passages. Nonetheless, this is a rewarding book, and deserves a wider readership.
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on 20 September 2012
I also found this book more difficult to read than the excellent 'Jesus through mediterranean eyes' but it was worth reading and was full of the usual wonderful cultural insights which add so much to the understanding of Biblical truth. It was fascinating and challenging to begin to understand there was an overall pattern to the book in a way that I had not even thought possible. He has added another dimension to my understanding!
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on 19 November 2012
Bailey's book about Jesus was recommended to me so as my interest and specialism is Paul's letter to the Corinthians, I ordered this book without a second thought. I looked forward to the middle eastern insights. i searched in vain for some realistic middle eastern insights They may well have been there, but for me were totally obscured by the complete unreality of Bailey's proposed structure of the letter. After the umnpteenth lecture or sermon and the millionth cameo (a word I came to hate), I'm afraid I lost the will to live, even more so because every alleged cameo was, apparently, chiastic in form (usually after a little squeezing and stretching by Bailey). Eventually, I'm afraid I abandoned it and wished I'd borrowed a copy first.
Far from placing Paul and Corinth in their mediterranean context, I found Bailey's proposed structure of the letter highly unlikely for someone in Paul's circumstances, while his insights about life in the Corinthian church somewhat trite and old-hat when they were not also unlikely.
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on 15 November 2011
This is an extremely good book, full of insight and learning and has been a great eye-opener for me. I would recommend it for anyone who wants a deeper insight into St Paul and his world.
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on 6 May 2014
Ever since discovering the works of Kenneth Bailey I have wallowed in his amazing scholarship through his books. This one is like all the others I have read, truly and amazing read. His insights into Middle Eastern culture have opened up the New Testament. He is a scholar to be listened to and to be read. This insight has been collected over 40 years of living in the Middle East and reading many commentators of Middle Eastern origin has produced this amazing book. I highly recomend this book to anyone who wants to seriously study the depths of thought from the Apostle Paul and his contribution to helping us understand practical Christian living in the 21st centuary
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on 10 June 2013
A thoroughly readable, poetic and insightful window through which to view the culturally diverse world that gave us 1 Corinthians I.
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on 17 September 2014
Well-written - a good and thought-provoking resource from an author who, from the experience of his life and context of his ministry in the middle-east, adds a valuable insight into understanding the writing style and literary devices of the time, and therefore adding depths of context that may be otherwise missed by the Biblical scholar
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on 22 July 2014
very well written and showing many things from a new angle. author profits from having livde in the mediterranian and understanding way of life and customs, which we westeners don't know about.
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