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Kenneth E. Bailey papers

Call Number: RG 274

Scope and Contents

The documentation of Kenneth E. Bailey’s life and work available in this collection is extensive and complex. The papers have been sorted according to general format and subject matter, but the archivists have made no attempt to rearrange papers within the folders, choosing instead to leave the material essentially how Bailey had it in his own files. Dates and content types within folders and volumes are overlapping and not always relevant to their labels.

Series I, Bound Volumes of Personal Papers, contains twenty-nine volumes of papers that Bailey gathered and had bound together while he was living in the Middle East. Each volume contains a variety of types of documents and though the volumes are in general chronological order, there is no strict order within them. Bailey worked on organizing the volumes while in retirement, adding indexes and page numbers. The scope and content notes for these volumes in the finding aid were provided by Bailey’s colleague David Dawson. These notes are not intended to be comprehensive but rather to give a sense of the topics and activities documented.

The Correspondence of Series II consists of documents received in folders and it dates primarily from after 1995 when Bailey retired in the U.S. There is also correspondence in the bound volumes of Series I. Notable correspondents include Lesslie Newbigin, N. T. Wright, Raymond Brown, Gary Burge, Markus Barth, George Carey, Sam and Eileen Moffett, Paul Pierson, Ralph Winter, Atef Gendy, Michael Nazir-Ali, Eugene Nida, Roland Bainton, James Dunn, Mary Mikael, Karl Barth, Richard Hays, Bruce Metzger, Jim Walther, David Hugh Kelsey, John Stott, Andrew Walls, Lamin Sanneh, Howard Marshall, and others. The series is divided into four subseries: a) Academic and with Publishers; b) Regarding Theological Education in the Middle East; c) General and Miscellaneous Correspondence, and d) Family Correspondence and Papers. The first three categories are overlapping and have been established only to give a general sense of the content of the correspondence. The contents of the folders in the General and Miscellaneous Correspondence subseries are overlapping in dates and topics; they have been maintained in the order received. According to David Dawson, Bailey had a type of dyslexia that affected his spelling and sense of organizational order. Much additional work could be done to index these files. Researchers who seek to decipher the files may find it helpful to read David Dawson’s notes on the collection that are contained in box 56. These notes give a sense of the range and complexity of Bailey's files. The Family Correspondence and Papers subseries contains correspondence in general chronological order as well as biographical material, personal items, and memorabilia.

Series III, Biblical Scholarship Resources, is arranged by biblical book. The folders are ordered according to the labels that were on them; they contain a wide variety of types and dates of material. Series IV, Writings is divided into three subseries: a) Articles, sermons, and lectures; b) Miscellaneous writings and papers; c) Books. The folders in this series are as labeled when they were received; much work could be done to rationalize their order. Contained in the last box of the Articles, sermons, and lecture subseries (box 49) are printouts of articles by Bailey that were compiled by New Testament scholar Dale Bowne; these copies provide a comprehensive overview of Bailey’s article length writings. Additional books by Bailey are available in the Library’s cataloged collection.

Series IV, Audio-Visual/Digital Material, contains both computer files on floppy disks and DVDs. As time permits, the computer files will be preserved in another format. Transcriptions of audio and video files that were done by Dale Berne are available in box 62.


  • circa 1950 - 2016


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Bailey family, 2017.


Series I: Bound Volumes of Personal Papers

Series II: Correspondence

Series III: Biblical Studies Resources

Series IV: Writings

Series V: Audio-Visual / Digital Material


30 Linear Feet (64 boxes)

Language of Materials


Persistent URL


This collection documents the life and work of Kenneth E. Bailey, a renowned Presbyterian missionary in the Middle East, innovator in New Testament contextual studies, seminary professor, author, and international lecturer.

Biographical / Historical

Kenneth Ewing Bailey was born November 24, 1930 in Bloomington, Illinois. The son of missionaries who served in Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, Bailey learned Arabic and absorbed Arab culture at an early age. He studied philosophy at Monmouth College, graduating in 1952, and received an M.Div degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1955. He and his wife Ethel began missionary work in Egypt in 1955, appointed by the United Presbyterian Church of North America to serve with the Egyptian Evangelical (Presbyterian) Church, first in village evangelism, literacy work, and Bible teaching, then at the Pre-theological Program of Cairo’s Evangelical Seminary based in the southern city of Assiut.

When forced to leave Egypt for political reasons in 1965, Bailey moved to the Near East School of Theology (NEST) in Beirut, Lebanon and taught there until 1985. The Baileys went to the U.S. in 1970 where Kenneth enrolled in a doctoral program in New Testament at Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri and also studied ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac. Returning to the Near East School of Theology after receiving his D.Th degree in 1972, Bailey was appointed professor of New Testament in 1974 and was the founder and director of the Institute for Middle Eastern New Testament Studies, 1974-1984.

According to Gary M. Burge of Wheaton College, Bailey was an innovative New Testament scholar and “an ambassador of Arab culture to the West, explaining through his many books on the New Testament how the context of the Middle East shapes the world of the New Testament. He wed cultural anthropology to biblical exegesis and shaped the way scholars view the Gospels today.” For more analysis of Bailey’s contributions as a New Testament scholar, see Burge’s article “Kenneth E. Bailey: An Ambassador Serving the Middle East and the West” in International Bulletin of Mission Research (2017, Volume 41, pp. 152-159.)

In 1985 Bailey joined the staff of the Tantur Ecumenical Institute near Jerusalem where he continued teaching and research until his retirement in 1995. He also served as Canon theologian of the Episcopal Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf from 1990, and of the Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church from 1997. Bailey was visiting professor and lecturer at various institutions over the course of his career, including at Fuller Theological Seminary (1975-1976), Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (1985), McCormick Theological Seminary (1984-1990); the Theological College of the Greek Catholic Church, Beit-Sahour, West Bank, Israel (1988-1991), Dubuque Theological Seminary (1992), and at Columbia University and Princeton University. He was founder and director of Focus on Middle Eastern New Testament Studies (FoMENTS) from 2005 until his death.

Much in demand as a lecturer, Bailey wrote extensively, recorded many videos, and authored a musical play and a feature film in Arabic with English subscripts. Though a lifelong Presbyterian he was as well known among Anglicans and other Protestants as well as Roman Catholics. In addition to his work in New Testament studies, Bailey wrote extensively about his missionary vocation. His Presbyterian colleague and friend David Dawson has noted that Bailey wrote to “moderators of the Presbyterian General Assembly and staff leadership of the mission agencies about the ‘integration’ of missionary structures and the emerging churches during the second half of the twentieth century” and “particularly lamented the loss of long-term patterns of mission service that left missionaries without essential language capacity.” (From Dawson’s “The Significance of the Life and Ministry of Kenneth Ewing Bailey 1930-2016,” a paper presented at the Yale-Edinburgh Group conference, 2017.)

Bailey died May 23, 2016 in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.

Guide to the Kenneth E. Bailey Papers
Canaan Suitt and Martha Lund Smalley
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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