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Jesus The Middle Eastern Storyteller [Paperback]

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Item Number 413156  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   108
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.5" Width: 5.25" Height: 9.25"
Weight:   0.5 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 1, 2009
Publisher   Zondervan Publishing
Age  18
ISBN  0310280451  
EAN  9780310280453  
UPC  025986280451  

Availability  3 units.
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Item Description...
Jesus, the Middle-Eastern Storyteller offers all Christians a rare glimpse into the world of Jesus and provides insights into his parables that make them come alive like never before. Using biblical scholarship, cultural anthropology, and Middle Eastern tradition, Gary M. Burge invites us to reread the parables as if we were in the first century.

Publishers Description
Storytellers made history, and Jesus was the greatest of them all. But how can modern readers know what he actually meant in such iconic parables as the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan? Jesus, the Middle Eastern Storyteller combines the readability of a popular novel and the authority of scholarship to uncover the hidden meaning of references too often misinterpreted or left shrouded in mystery. The first volume in the Ancient Context, Ancient Faith series drives to the heart of readers' desire to know the culture behind the Scriptures. Colorful maps, photos, and illustrations enhance the context of the times that shaped Jesus' vivid communication of core truths. This expert guide is an invaluable resource for study groups, teachers, leaders, and inquiring Christians who want to dig deeper and enrich their spiritual life.

Buy Jesus The Middle Eastern Storyteller by Gary M. Burge from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9780310280453 & 0310280451 upc: 025986280451

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More About Gary M. Burge

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Gary M. Burge (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of New Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. His published works include The New Testament in Antiquity: A Textbook for Students; The Bible and the Land; Jesus, the Middle Eastern Storyteller; the NIV Application Commentary on the Letters of John; and the NIV Application Commentary on the Gospel of John. He has also been active as a speaker and writer evaluating Christian Zionism within the evangelical world.

Gary M. Burge currently resides in the state of Illinois. Gary M. Burge was born in 1952.

Gary M. Burge has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Ancient Context, Ancient Faith
  2. Bringing the Bible to Life
  3. Comentarios Biblicos Con Aplicacion NVI
  4. Guides to New Testament Exegesis
  5. NIV Application Commentary

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Simply Brilliant--Biblical Backgrounds for the average joe  Oct 28, 2009
Today I will be reviewing "Jesus, The Middle Eastern Storyteller" by Gary Burge, the second volume in Zondervan's new 'Ancient Context, Ancient Faith' series. (I have already reviewed the first volume in this series, "The Bible and the Land," which was also written by Burge) As can be clearly deduced by the title of this second volume, "Jesus, The Middle Eastern Storyteller" has everything to do with the parables of Jesus.

Before delving into the particulars of the book, let me draw your attention to a few overarching practical implications of this book for modern day preaching. It is one thing for a church to land a good communicator as a pastor, it is another for a church to land a good teacher, but I have come to realize that it is just as easy to find a four-leaf clover as it is to find a preacher who excels at combining the skills of both oration and teaching. While good orators generally lack any sort of substantial depth, good teachers generally lack any sort of substantial accessibility; while good orators generally only offer nutritionless styrofoam for spiritual food, good teachers generally shoot fatty foods over the heads of those in the pew. How rare is it to find a man of God who can stimulate a crowd full of both children and scholars with the same message, simultaneously stretching, both intellectually and spiritually, those at the extreme ends of the spectrum!

In the Gospels Jesus sets a precedent for preaching for all who would follow after (and all God's kids are preachers to at least one degree or another, regardless of calling or vocation--see Romans 10:14-15). Jesus was a master communicator. His communication lacked in neither depth nor accessibility. And the most striking feature of the teachings of Jesus was that they were plastered full of stories. In fact, Burge states that one-third of His teachings were 'in the form of parables.' (pg. 19) He explains that a parable is simply "an illustrative story that creates a vibrant contrast or image for the listener." (pg 19)

Unfortunately, story-based teaching, even among the most biblically literate, has wrongly become associated with shallow simplicity in today's present day Christian economy. The reason for such a stigma, I believe, is because of the reality stated above: good orators are generally not good teachers, and thus most Christians feel that they are forced to choose between the followable, yet shallow, orators and the undecodable theological complexity of the teachers. But in Jesus Christ we see the arts of oratory and teaching coming together. He confounded the Pharisees and all of the religious leaders on a regular basis, and yet He did so in a way that would make a twelve year old say, 'OHHH... Who's your daddy now?!'

I suppose the reason why good oratory and good teaching are not considered kissing cousins is because it would demand the communicator to be a dual expert; he must master both the content of the Scriptures and the clear and riveting communication of that content. Anyone who has undertaken the task of preaching on a weekly basis for any extended period of time knows how demanding such a dual-natured assignment can be. Both of these tasks/disciplines/arts would take more time to master than one life could manage to give. And yet this is the example that Christ has laid down for us. He has not simply called us to present biblical content; He has called us to present biblical content in a way that will incite both the minds and hearts of the hearers, no matter their depth.

But we must be careful not to fall into the fallacious thinking of our modern day culture; thinking which suggests that "storytelling cultures are less sophisticated than prose cultures like our own." (pg 22). If Jesus readily availed Himself to the central role of storytelling in the task of teaching, we ought not think of it as an inferior medium for communication. And yes... I am sure that if Jesus was a teacher in modern day America, he would be using movie clips, song lyrics, and youtube videos to help get his timeless message across in a way that could level with His modern day audience. Jesus knew His message to be too important for Him to not avail Himself to any and every means (within reason) of communicating that message with effect and memorability.

Before my own soap box becomes the centerpiece of this book review, I must force myself back to the contents of the book. Burge's primary purpose in this volume is to help his readers get a better grasp of the parables of Christ. On page 25 he clearly assesses the most crucial element in interpreting the parables of Christ.

"Perhaps the most important issue is for us to understand the cultural elements in each parable. These are stories told from another culture and time, and we read them as foreigners. What does it mean when a young son asks for his inheritance? Or when a coin is lost? The parables are like music being played out with rhythms from another world. And if we cannot recognize this music--or worse yet, if we fail even to admit our own foreignness to its sounds--we will miss their deeper meanings and misrepresent what Jesus intended to teach." (pg. 25-26)

He explains further;

"A parable is like a political cartoon in modern culture. Its images may be exaggerated (e.g., Bill Clinton's nose, George Bush's ears), its elements distorted, and its punch line unmistakable to those who understand its context. In every society effective communication exploits predictable attitudes and responses. Irony, humor, and pain are conveyed when these values are broken. But if you cannot read the values, you cannot see the punch line." (pg. 26)

And thus you see why Burge's book on the parables of Jesus has found its way into a series titled "Ancient Context, Ancient Faith." Burge's point: if you do not understand the culture of the ancient world, you will have a difficult time seeing (or feeling) the 'punch line' of Jesus' parables. Our world is radically different from the world of the first century, and since the true sense of the main point of a parable is often bound up in the norms, values, and ideals of its specific cultural context, it ought to be a paramount pursuit of the interpreter to read the parables of Christ with an eye to the norms, values, and ideals of the culture in which He lived.

Throughout the rest of the book Burge demonstrates how a knowledge of the cultural context of the first century uncovers the 'punch' that the parables would have had in Jesus' day. He provides example after example of how the parables of Christ would have been received by an everyday, average person on the streets of Palestine in the first century. I want to draw your attention to just a few culturally-informed comments that Burge made in Chapter 8, Finding the Lost. This chapter focuses on Luke 15 with three similar stories (The Parable of the Lost Sheep, The Parable of the Lost Coin, and The Parable of the Lost Son) that Jesus told to the Pharisees in light of their critique of his waywardness in mingling with 'sinners' in Luke 15:1-2. Burge says,

"When the Pharisees argue that 'this man welcomes sinners and eats with them,' they are claiming that Jesus is at fault because he fully accepts people who have failed by every religious and social standard; this compromise of values implies that he has a deeply compromised faith. In other words, the accusation actually means, 'Jesus is not righteous because he does not keep boundaries with the unrighteous.'" (pg. 85)

He then suggests that each of the three stories told by Christ in Luke 15 have the same goal in mind: Jesus wanted to crystallize in the minds of the Pharisees (those who are bombarding him with criticism for hanging out with the marginalized of society) that "God delights in finding those living on the margin--those who are lost--and so likewise should those within the religious community." (pg 86) These three parables of Christ would have been completely countercultural in His first-century context because the culture of that day thrived on the reality of cultural boundaries. (pg. 96) These parables, thus, exist to rip down those barriers, even suggesting that "there is joy in the presence of God's angels" (see Luke 15:7, 10, and 32) when such outcasts are brought into God's redemptive fold.

Jesus came to seek and save those whom the self-righteous deemed 'unclean.' You can just imagine the anger in the eyes of the Pharisees when Jesus proclaimed the joy that God and His angels experience when such 'unclean sinners' are found by Him. In saying this, Jesus was in essence saying; "God rejoices in those whom you condemn as unclean."

This string of parables finds its climax with the 'self-righteous' brother who is last seen in the biblical narrative expressing anger at his father (see Luke 15:28-30) for throwing a feast for his younger repentant brother who had just returned home after ruining the family name by selling his inheritance for pig slop. Burge's point is that the self-righteous brother actually ruined his father's honor more than the younger son by 1. rejecting his invitation to the feast that he was throwing for his repentant son and 2. by insinuating that his father lacked righteousness himself by 'not keeping boundaries with the unrighteous' (pg. 96). Thus, argues Burge, one of Jesus' primary purposes in telling this parable is to put the Pharisees on the spot; to illustrate for them how offensive their condemnation of those deemed as 'sinners' is to God.


I must say that the one example that I provided on Burge's handling of the three parables found in Luke 15 does not do the book justice. I found myself having to unlearn many of the things that I have simply assumed about the parables of Christ while reading this book. Burge truly demonstrates how the parables of Christ had a 'punch line' to those living in first-century Palestine. I highly recommend "Jesus, The Middle Eastern Storyteller." I am waiting with baited breath for the publication of the next book in the "Ancient Context, Ancient Faith" series.

Excellent Read: Highly Recommended  Oct 15, 2009
It is unfortunate that Debbie (the reviewer) of this book didn't read it with a bit more discernment and care. I think that the author may know that Esau traded his birthright for some stew but here he is using irony: imagine Jacob doing the same thing. An argument isn't made for Jacob doing this; it is simply one sentence implying that the shock of the prodigal son's request to take his inheritance is similar to having Jacob do such a thing. Imagine that.

The same follows her remark about Cain. The book refers to the idea in Matthew 5:21 that we should forgive 7 times 70 (or 77 times, see the text). And then the book says this: "This is an echo of a most remarkable commitment to revenge, noted in several places in the Old Testament: Claim can claim a sevenfold revenge." In Genesis 4 God makes this pronouncement for Cain's protection but happily no doubt Cain can claim this for the rest of his life. It is quite a claim since it's backed up by a divine promise.

This author likes subtlety. Debbie may not. It is so often unfortunate that a random review from one person can impugn an author's intent. Discerning readers know better.
Interesting look at several parables  Sep 6, 2009
"Jesus, the Middle Eastern Storyteller" is a useful Bible reference book. It gave some basic information on Middle Eastern storytelling techniques of Jesus' time period, then discussed cultural background information and the meaning of several parables: a friend that comes at midnight, a father's gifts, the great banquet, the good Samaritan, the servant forgiven of a huge debt, the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son, and the foolish rich farmer.

The information was interesting and filled out what was happening in the parables, but most of it was not new to me and only once did it change my understanding of the meaning of the parable. I was a bit confused by how the author often stated that Westerners assume or teach certain things about a certain parable, yet I've never assumed that or heard such taught about it.

The author also gave mini-sermons on how to apply the lessons of the parables to our own lives. The book contained lovely color photographs that illustrated what the text was referring to.

Several times, the author briefly referred to details of an Old Testament story but gave the wrong information. (For example, he states Jacob sold his heritage for a pot of stew, yet it's Esau who sells his birthright. And he has Cain claiming to take a sevenfold revenge when it's God who makes that promise.) Fair or not, this made me wonder how carefully the author checked the accuracy of the other things he stated.

Overall, the book was a quick read and easy to understand, and it's a good book on the parables of Jesus for those who can't get enough of this type of information or who wouldn't bother with a longer book.

Review by Debbie from ChristFocus Book Club
Good But Brief Study  Sep 2, 2009
Author Gary Burge takes until on a brief journey into Jesus' ancient context in Jesus, the Middle Eastern Storyteller.

He answers questions like, "How should a father react when his son asks for his inheritance?", "What happens when a friend arrives at midnight seeking food?", and "Was Jesus a skilled storyteller among the rabbis?"

You'll learn how shame and honor were the top items of concern during Jesus's time.

You'll discover some of the background to enhance your understanding of the parables that Jesus used.

And you'll get to enjoy full colored pictures on every page of this tall and narrow book.

For a short work, this book has some great information to further your biblical studies.
great reintroduction to familiar stories  Aug 21, 2009
Gary Burge has done something quite interesting, and quite difficult. He has helped make what are often well-known, well-studied, and over-analyzed parables into something new for readers. He isn't doing this by complicated word study or text analysis or any kind of alienating exegesis. Instead, he writes in the way the parables were given to the original audience. He invites the reader to join him in the stories.

We read the parables of Jesus and we bring to them our own experiences or culture or Sunday School training. Our apparent over-familiarity leads us to move quickly over these very important teaching tools, or ignore them all together because we think we've gotten the point. And maybe we have, for the most part. But, we don't hear them like the original listeners did, and Jesus taught how he did because of the particular culture and issues of his time and place.

Burge illuminates a selection of parables by helping us see each aspect as the people of Jesus' day would have seen them. This isn't by complicated academic language, rather Burge is an extremely understandable and approachable writer. He draws on an immense amount of knowledge concerning the Biblical texts and the Middle Eastern cultures of the past and present. He has long been a favorite teacher of the Bible at Wheaton College, and his teaching skills which have made him popular there are in great evidence here. He helps us to see better, hear better, listen better.

The book has seven chapters. The first is an overall introduction to the culture of Jesus. The next six each focus on a particular parable.

While this book is certainly written with a popular audience in mind, I think it would very interesting to people of all background and training. I'm a seminary graduate now seeking more advanced study and I found it wonderfully interesting. The text is widely spaced and there are a lot of color pictures throughout that help illustrate the particular topics being discussed.

This is a great book to read as a devotional, a great book for small groups to read together and discuss, or a great book for anyone hoping for a sharper understanding of what Jesus was getting at, and what he meant in his stories.

At the beginning we are told this is the first of a new series on Ancient Context, Ancient Faith. It would be absolutely amazing if the following books were as good as this one.

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