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The Cross and the Prodigal: Luke 15 through the Eyes of Middle Eastern Peasants

, 2005
ISBN: 9780830868070


Digital list price: $19.99
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Where is the cross in the parable of the prodigal son? For centuries, Muslims have called attention to the father’s forgiveness in this parable in order to question the need for a Mediator between humanity and God. In The Cross and the Prodigal, Kenneth E. Bailey—New Testament scholar and long-time missionary to the Middle East—undertakes to answer this question.

Drawing on his extensive knowledge of both the New Testament and Middle Eastern culture, Bailey presents an interpretation of this parable from a Middle Eastern perspective and, in doing so, powerfully demonstrates its essentially Christian message. Here Bailey highlights the underlying tensions between law and love, servanthood and sonship, honor and forgiveness that grant this story such timeless spiritual and theological power.

With Logos Bible Software, The Cross and the Prodigal: Luke 15 through the Eyes of Middle Eastern Peasants is easily searchable. Scripture passages appear on mouse-over, and all cross-references are linked to the other resources in your digital library, making this collection more powerful and easier to access than ever before for scholarly work or personal Bible study. With the advanced search features of Logos Bible Software, you can perform powerful searches by topic or Scripture reference, such as finding every mention of “prodigal” or “Luke 15.”

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Key Features

  • Interprets the parable from a Middle Eastern perspective
  • Highlights underlying tensions
  • Questions the need for a mediator between humanity and God

Top Highlights

“To eat with another person in the Mideast is a sacramental act signifying acceptance on a very deep level.” (Page 29)

“Repentance is not a work which earns our rescue. Rather, the sinner accepts being found.” (Page 34)

“Indeed, it is the shepherd’s willingness to go after the one that gives the ninety-nine their real security. If the one is sacrificed in the name of the larger good of the group, then each individual in the group is insecure, knowing that he or she too is of little value. If lost, he or she will be left to die. When the shepherd pays a high price to find the one, he thereby offers the profoundest security to the many.” (Page 31)

“Sadly, the prodigal does not yet understand the nature of his sin. He thinks the issue is the lost money. It isn’t! It is the father’s broken heart. The problem is not the broken law but the broken relationship.” (Page 59)

“The suffering of the cross was not primarily the physical torture but rather the agony of rejected love.” (Page 69)

Praise for the Print Edition

The Cross and the Prodigal is a little book that changed the minds of Gospel scholars throughout the world. . . . Over 60 years of life in the Middle East (from Egypt to Iraq) bequeathed to [Bailey] a discerning knowledge of peasant life; fluency in Arabic; the ability to work in Syriac, Coptic and Aramaic; and an intimate acquaintance with Rabbinic literature. These skills he now applies to the three parables of Luke 15 in order to unlock cultural insights that have eluded scholars for centuries. This approach deserves a name—Middle Eastern New Testament Studies—and today Bailey’s legacy belongs with scholars such as Joachim Jeremias: leading parable interpreters whose work has been a watershed for the rest of us.

Gary M. Burge, professor of New Testament, Wheaton College and Graduate School

Dr. Kenneth Bailey's unique perspective as one who has spent the better part of his life living in the Middle East unlocks the parables and teachings of our Lord Jesus in remarkably fresh ways. In the unfolding of the prodigal son Bailey demonstrates there is no forgiveness without great cost on the part of the forgiver. This revised edition is a wonderful update and expansion of an already excellent book. I am delighted to commend it.

—John W. Howe, bishop, The Episcopal Church Diocese of Central Florida

In The Cross and the Prodigal, Kenneth Bailey uses his rare and intimate familiarity with the peasant culture of the Middle East to illuminate three beloved parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. Bailey rightly believes that Christian communities with close connections to the biblical world have many things to teach us about the cultural background of biblical narrative. This classic work, newly revised, provides fresh perspectives for understanding the love of God the Father, and for seeing how the compassion of the cross is present already in the teaching ministry of Jesus Christ.

Philip Graham Ryken, president, Wheaton College

This book is for those of us who long to know what Jesus was saying to his audience then, so that we can know what the Bible is saying to us now. Ken Bailey’s work is very nourishing, spiritually and theologically. And if you like to be surprised with new insights, you will love The Cross and the Prodigal!

—Marian McClure, director, Worldwide Ministries, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

It is an extremely rare event in New Testament studies when the historical expertise of the scholar is combined with the poetic imagination of the storyteller. Ken Bailey's The Cross and the Prodigal unites the professor and the playwright. In the first section of the book the author's unique familiarity with Christian literature of Near Eastern provenance and his intimate knowledge of Near Eastern village life produce a fascinating explanation of the parable of the prodigal son, which emerges not as the sentimental account of the pilgrimage of a sorry sinner, but as the portrayal of God as a Father who pays every price possible in the search of two lost sons, a portrait contrary to all expectations associated with a patriarch. The book’s second section is a play in four scenes in which this understanding of the parable is placed on the stage. Thus, exegetical theology is transformed back into its original medium, the telling of a story.

—Ulrich Mauser, Otto A. Piper Professor of Biblical Theology emeritus, Princeton Theological Seminary

Product Details

  • Title: The Cross and the Prodigal: Luke 15 through the Eyes of Middle Eastern Peasants
  • Author: Kenneth E. Bailey
  • Edition: 2nd
  • Publisher: IVP
  • Publication Date: 2005
  • Pages: 151

Kenneth E. Bailey is a Presbyterian author and lecturer in Middle Eastern New Testament Studies. He is also a canon theologian of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and an emeritus research professor of New Testament at the Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem. Bailey has degrees in Arabic Language and Literature, Systematic Theology, and New Testament. From 1955 to 1995 he taught in several seminaries and institutes in Jerusalem, Lebanon, Egypt, and Cyprus. He has authored several books, including Paul through Mediterranean Eyes, The Cross and the Prodigal, Jacob and the Prodigal, and Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes.


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    Digital list price: $19.99
    Save $10.00 (50%)