Saturday, November 26, 2011

Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes by Kenneth E. Bailey

book cover

Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes:
Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians
by Kenneth E. Bailey

ISBN-13: 9780830839346
Paperback: 590 pages
Publisher: InterVarsity Press
Released: 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher (and requested through a freelance publicist).

Book Description from Goodreads:
In this study of Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, Kenneth Bailey examines this canonical letter through Paul's Jewish socio-cultural and rhetorical background and through the Mediterranean context of its Corinthian recipients.

My Review:
Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes is a very thick commentary on 1 Corinthians. From the title, I expected a book focused on the cultural background of 1 Corinthians that would help us better understand Paul's points. However, the main focus was on the rhetorical style used in 1 Corinthians.

The author carefully constructed charts showing how the 1 Corinthians format matched that of the Old Testament prophets. He claimed that understanding this format would help us better understand the meaning of Paul's words. To be honest, I sometimes couldn't easily see why the sentences were arranged in that format (except that's where they should be to fit the format) and ended up feeling stupid and confused (rather than enlightened) by seeing the rhetorical format laid out. Perhaps those who already have some background in rhetorical styles in the Bible would find it more enlightening.

The author also gave a commentary on the verses. While interesting, his comments didn't stand out to me as memorable nor did I feel like I'd gained new insight into the verses. When the author did mention how Middle Easterners might have understood the verses (so as to increase our understanding), I found it interesting and thought-provoking but rarely enlightening. Also, some of the things he said might explain the verses, but I've read Bible background books that give different explanations that seem to fit the text better.

So, overall, the book contained some interesting information, but I didn't feel like reading it cleared up any potential confusions I had about 1 Corinthians. It was more than it pointed out possible nuances that I might not have otherwise noticed.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

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