Book Plunge: The Good Shepherd

What do I think of Ken Bailey’s latest. Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.


Ken Bailey has been one of my favorite NT scholars ever since I read Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes and this latest book from IVP is no exception. Bailey writes from the perspective of someone who has lived in the Middle East teaching and knows the way life is there and recognizes many of the similarities that take place with the Biblical text. He also interacts with ancient and medieval writers many of us would have overlooked to bring us the best insights on the text.

The Good Shepherd is no exception. In this one, Bailey starts off with looking at Psalm 23 and goes from there throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament to see how the account in Psalm 23 plays itself out later, including in the story of Jesus in the New Testament, who is the personification of the good shepherd that had been hoped for in the 23rd Psalm.

Bailey’s insights into life in the Middle East are invaluable as he has interacted with numerous shepherds and knows the lay of the land well and how shepherding works with the climate. He is not just writing about the behavior of sheep and shepherds in the abstract. He is speaking from the perspective of someone who knows shepherds well and someone who knows from them how sheep behave.

Bailey’s reading will open you up to new ways of reading the text that you had never considered. He is especially good at showing the ring composition that takes place in the writing of the account. The book is also written in a format that is easy to understand and yet also has the scholarly references throughout for those who are wanting to get that kind of approach as well.

When it comes to the New Testament view of the good shepherd, I found most fascinating to be the look in Mark 6. Most would not see this as a good shepherd passage, but Bailey brings out that it indeed is one. He paints a contrast between the banquet that King Herod throws early on that turns out to be a banquet of death where John the Baptist dies, and the banquet of life where Jesus provides a meal for over 5,000. It’s clear to Bailey that Herod would have had his spies in the area to see what Jesus would have to say as a popular leader about the death of his cousin.

I find once again that Bailey has given an excellent piece of work for all of us to consider. If you want to know about the life of Jesus as the good shepherd and especially how this relates to the grace of God found in Jesus Christ then it is absolutely essential that you read this book. Scholarship is blessed to have someone like Ken Bailey writing for us and I hope that the future works that he produces will be of excellent service to the church as well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters


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4 Responses to “Book Plunge: The Good Shepherd”

  1. vincent Says:

    Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

  2. Book Plunge: The Good Shepherd | A disciple's study Says:

    […] Continue reading: […]

  3. edwardtbabinski Says:

    According to the biblical metaphor, Jews and Christians are sheep.

    No doubt there is part of us that needs succoring and love, that needs to know we are special, and someone cares for us like a shepherd cares for a lamb or his sheep. But another part of us likes being compared to a more vigorous, curious, independent animal like a hawk, eagle, owl or wolf–totem animals of Native Americans.

    Second, no matter how “good” a shepherd treats members of their flock, rescuing them from ditches or keeping them safe from wolves, they do this for a share of their wool (hence the origin of the phrase, “to be fleeced”), or worse, since shepherds devour their sheep.

    Wouldn’t you prefer to be compared to a more vigorous and aggressive creature: a dolphin, perhaps, or a wild horse, or an eagle? You might decide to be a mountain sheep, a bighorn, but not a domestic sheep. Domestic sheep are so dumb they can’t find their way from the field back to the barn. Cows and horses can, but not sheep. You can hold a stick in front of sheep and they’ll jump over it instead of going around it; and after you’ve removed it, they’ll keep right on jumping. “There’s orthodoxy!” Melville exclaimed in “The Funeral” chapter of Moby Dick. Do you know what the long stick is, that bishops and Popes carry? It’s a shepherd’s staff, a crosier, for hooking around sheep.And do you know what “pastor” means? It’s Latin for shepherd. Do you really want to be owned by one?

    Dexter Martin, “The Childishness of Everybody’s Favorite Psalm”

    Every minister likes to consider himself as a brave shepherd leading the lambs through green pastures and defending them at night from Infidel wolves. All this he does for a certain share of the wool.

    Robert Ingersoll

    One can often recognize herd animals by their tendency to carry bibles.

    Allen Wheelis, “The Signal”

  4. edwardtbabinski Says:

    Is the Bible filled with shaudenfreude? Shadudenfreude is the feeling of joy or pleasure when one sees another fail or suffer misfortune. Even in the 23rd Psalm we read, “Thou prepares a table before me, in the presence of my enemies.” Is the psalmist merely speaking of the joy of being protected while he eats, or is there also the theme of having one’s enemies watch you while you get to enjoy a nice meal? Like Lazarus who gets comforted by Abraham while Dives watches and begs for a drop of water. Or Jesus’ parable about those who will see others entering the kingdom of heaven, but themselves cast out. If the 23rd Psalm instead said, “Thou preparest a table before me to share with all in need, including enemies I hope to befriend,” it would seem less self-serving, less like shaudenfreude.

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