Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Jesus Through Bailey's Paradigm

Part 1- The Birth of Jesus

Bailey's first page of this book(25) is indicative of his paradigm- when he claims that, "the traditional understanding of the account of Luke 2:1-18 has critical flaws". Even if he were right, I hardly think such an understanding is critical. Certainly not as serious as other flaws which shall be presented in the following review.

On page 26 Bailey claims that the average Christian is unconsciously influenced by a book called The Protevangelium of James. Perhaps I'm not that average after all. Or perhaps I'm not as in touch with my unconscious as I ought to be :)

On page 31 Bailey shows his bias for Arabic over the Greek, when he insists that all Middle Eastern villagers had a manger in their house- because a ninth century Arabic translation says so. Not a terribly serious error of reductionism- but I present this as a guide to his paradigm.

A more serious error begins to appear on page 43, where Bailey describes Joseph as "just" rather than the word "righteous" for the Greek dikaios (Matt. 1:19). Suffice it to say here, that the concept of justice is always inherent in the word dikaios. Yet, the word dikaios always carries a broader semantic range than mere "just". This broader description would be more accurate. This is why many translations use the word "righteous" instead. The context would suggest as much as well. Loving mercy (Micah 6:8) would be a better descriptive than doing justice here (for such love is more "righteous" in this situation). Particularly if Mary had been raped, rather than presumed unfaithful.
The distraught Joseph also may have recognized- that unfaithfulness may not have been the case here. Ancient Near Eastern historian Instone-Brewer, has suggested that rape of the betrothed by the Romans was not uncommon.
Even if it were uncommon, Rome would have been reluctant to administer this justice(?) to Mary- just as they were reluctant to administer justice(?) to the much more revolutionary Jesus. This, Bailey inconsistently concedes in citing John 18:31 much later on(233).

In the next chapter Bailey attempts an exegesis on the Vision of Isaiah. This is where we begin to see his myopic Federal Vision (more to follow in subsequent posts). Which is to say, that Bailey sees the salvational promises of scripture in a communal rather than individual sense. We see under the heading Who Did Jesus Come To Save- exclusive references to... the community. Bailey follows a weak exegesis of Isaiah 47 with a comment that, "it takes a brave man or woman to tell a community that it needs salvation from its sins". I would suggest that it takes an even braver man to directly tell an individual that he needs salvation.
Bailey follows this up with a weak exegesis of Luke 13:5. Then repeats himself with, "it takes enormous courage to tell the oppressed community that all are sinners and that all must repent, for everyone is in need of grace for salvation". Seems to me that Jesus was referring to 18 individuals in the preceding verse- not an oppressed community.
It would be much more accurate if Bailey would say that each one is in need of grace for salvation. Even more accurate if he were to say that, " grace is sufficient for each one". But appealing to a community certainly is politically correct.
To put this Federal Vision in other words, I would have a hard time singing, "Jesus love us, this we know" on this side of heaven. I may know about me, but I certainly don't know about you. My vision just isn't that good.

One final comment on this part, is the repeated suggestion (54) that the gospel was edited- because the Gospels were written by men. Even if we grant the latter (which I don't), we may not grant the former. Such is my biblical faith in God's total sovereignty. His total control over the individuals that presented the God-breathed Gospels then, as well as His total control over those that receive the gospel now.
May God be merciful, and use this individual to present a more accurate interpretation of His sovereignty and His gospel in his next edition.

Jesus Loves Me,

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