To be honest, I made a big mistake with this book: I read it. Now don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a bad book, it’s actually a very good book. But it isn’t a book for reading, it’s a book to pick up and study when you want to look at a particular passage or theme.
Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes – Cultural Studies in the Gospels does what it says on the tin. It helps you to look at the Gospel narrative through new eyes and to see things that are not otherwise obvious to someone separated from the story by 2,000 years and several thousand miles. The insights are useful, though not quite as radical as I’d hoped. I didn’t actually find much that was new in here. However, it is very useful to have all of this material in one place and I’m sure I’ll turn to it in future when writing about the Gospels or preparing talks.
However, the downside of having all of this cultural material in one place is that it makes the book tedious to read. It seems that every page or two says something along the lines of ‘you might think the Gospels say this, but actually they say…’. This is fascinating for the first chapter or so, but (to me at least) it became increasingly irritating as the pages turned. It’s a good book, buy it, put it on your shelves and turn to it when you need some good background stuff on the Gospels. But whatever you do, don’t read it.