I have read several books on the parables, but this is the most enlightening, most preachable and most interesting there is. When you have done a great deal of reading in an area, you begin to doubt how much even a good book is going to help you learn. This book is like someone provided you with a whole new insight in to meaning of the parables. Scholarly yet down to earth! The genuis of the book is that he combines over thirty years of Biblical scholarship and living among the culture of the Middle East. You learn what it meant to the people who Jesus was teaching 2,000 years ago. The only negative for me was the poetry portion of the book, which will probably excite poetry scholars, but was a mystery to me. If you are a Biblical scholar or learner or teacher, it is a must read.
This book has two great strengths. First, Bailey is thoroughly familiar with the culture of Jesus' day. In his parables Jesus drew on facets of everyday life-- shepherds, farmers, kings, peasants, etc. Bailey draws deeply on his knowledge of that culture to deepen our understanding of the words Jesus spoke and the dynamic they would have had for his listeners. Second, Bailey shows how Jesus was a master story teller, using a rhetorical device called parallelism. Jesus would set out a series of statements and then in reverse order work his way back through those statements and arrive at such powerful conclusions-- sometimes wonderful and sometimes devastating. The main drawback to the book is that Bailey sometimes becomes somewhat technical. Fortunately, the reader who is not conversant in those areas can simply bypass Bailey's treatment of those issues and stay with this most worthwhile book.
Bailey's unique contribution is that he sat down with a number of trusted Palestinian nomads and listened carefully to their take on the cultural issues behind various parables. He contends, with some justice, that this group of people have something in contact with the original culture that these parables arose in, and thus can help us understand the unstated assumptions and cultural implications of the texts. He invested many years in this and did it with care and precision. On top of that, he has explored the early translations of the New Testament into Syrac and related languages. The result is nothing short of stunning. His analysis of the puzzling parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-13) is worth the price of admission alone, and even on the well-trod parable of the Good Samaritan, he has much valuable insight to share.
Bailey has also written other works including "Finding the Lost: Cultural Keys to Luke 15" that focus on the lost sheep, lost coin, lost son,...
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