“Oriental Exegesis” is defined by Bailey as “a method of studying a culturally conditioned text. The method is to use the standard critical tools of Western scholarship in combination with cultural insights gained from ancient literature, contemporary peasants, and Oriental versions” (30). Bailey applies his method of exegesis to the parables of Jesus, which are particularly shaped by the culture in which they were created. He lists three tools for exegesis. The first tool is ancient literature. The weakness of this first tool is that the reader must already know what he or she is looking for in the document. The first tool requires the use of the other two (30). Second, the oral traditions of contemporary Middle Eastern peasants present an essential resource because they have generally maintained the culture in which the parables were originally spoken (30-31). Bailey’s third tool are Oriental translations of the parables, particularly those created closest to the time the parables were created. The translation methods these interpreters used to reveal their own understandings of the original story within their cultural context (36-37). The Oriental exegesis method is essential for discerning the symbols of the parable. Understanding these symbols allows the reader to understand how Jesus was leading the audience to respond to the parable (37-38). These symbols were also the means for Jesus to present a “theological cluster” which prompted the response of the listener (38). The theological cluster informs a single response in the listener (41). For the reader to understand the point Jesus was making in each of his parables, it is essential for him or her to understand the culture he was utilizing in his parables. Oriental exegesis is the method which allows the reader to understand that culture.
Bailey, Kenneth E. Poet & Peasant ; and, Through Peasant Eyes: a Literary-Cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke. W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1999.