I’ve started my next reading project, Kenneth Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, in which the author leverages his decades of living, studying, and teaching in the Middle East to improve our understanding of Jesus’ life, looking at Gospel accounts through a lens of his time’s culture.
The first chapter dramatically improved my understanding of the Lord’s birth by demonstrating that he was born, not in a freestanding stable but in a private home shared by animals. His parents were not refused lodging in a commercial inn, but simply could not stay in the home’s guest room because it already was occupied. Bailey answers questions that have long annoyed us, about whether Joseph was inept as a husband, how Bethlehem’s residents could have turned away a descendent of Joseph, how Mary could have delivered the baby without any help but her husband, and how the shepherds could have left the little family in deplorable conditions without themselves offering hospitality.
Bailey writes: “Jesus was born in a warm and friendly home, not a cold and lonely stable. … Yes, we must rewrite our Christmas plays, but in rewriting them, the story is enriched, not cheapened.”
The first chapter alone would be worth the price of the book. I can’t wait to see what else I learn!