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Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible Through Palestinian Eyes

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A Palestinian Christian theologian shows how the reality of empire shapes the context of the biblical story, and the ongoing experience of Middle East conflict.


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A Palestinian Christian theologian shows how the reality of empire shapes the context of the biblical story, and the ongoing experience of Middle East conflict.

30 review for Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible Through Palestinian Eyes

  1. 4 out of 5

    David

    Growing up in conservative Christian culture, it was taken for granted that we (individuals, Christians, America) need to support Israel. The creation of Israel was a miracle, a herald of the end-times. Israel remains God's chosen people. Any who attack Israel are attacking God and will be punished. Over the years I've come to question this narrative for a variety of reasons. One reason is the simple realization that many of the Palestinians (the supposed "bad guys" in the above narrative) are my Growing up in conservative Christian culture, it was taken for granted that we (individuals, Christians, America) need to support Israel. The creation of Israel was a miracle, a herald of the end-times. Israel remains God's chosen people. Any who attack Israel are attacking God and will be punished. Over the years I've come to question this narrative for a variety of reasons. One reason is the simple realization that many of the Palestinians (the supposed "bad guys" in the above narrative) are my brothers and sisters in Christ. At any rate, I wish I had had this book years ago. Mitri Raheb is a Palestinian Christian who argues that modern-day Israel has more in common with the biblical empires that attacked God's people (Assyria, Babylon) than with ancient Israel. There is more value in this book as a story of life from a Palestinian Christian than there is in specific Bible study. Yet that alone makes the book worthwhile. The Bible study side is good, but kind of sloppy at times. One question I had at the outset was how he would answer the question that "Palestine" as a land was not created till after the time of the New Testament. He does talk about this (not explicitly) by noting that the people of Palestine have changed their identity over the millennia just as the land has changed in name from Canaan to Philistia to Israel. I think his interpretation would be that if Israel today is a modern-day empire, then Palestine is akin to the people of the land the empires oppress which at times in the Bible was the Canaanites and the Hebrews and Jews and so on. Rather than looking for a one-to-one correspondence, he is drawing broad brush comparisons. Overall I think this is successful. Modern-day Israel is not the same as ancient Israel. For Christians, our primary family is those who confess Christ from all nations, peoples and tribes. As a comfortable, middle-class Christian living in America, this is the sort of book I need to read. It challenges my assumptions, reminds me that Jesus was extremely political (though not in the way I may think), and cares for more than just spiritual salvation. Further, Raheb manages to not just be critical of pro-Israel conservative Christians, but also of more left-leaning Christians. He calls not just for nonviolent resistance, but for a creative resistance. Nonviolent resistance, he argues, puts the onus on the Palestinians while ignoring the state terror of Israel. Creative resistance calls for stories from the oppressed towards the creation of something better. Overall, this is a great book. Perhaps Raheb could be faulted for being one-sided, after all there is plenty of violence on the Palestinian side. I suspect he'd say state sponsored terror from Israel is on a whole other plane than the violence from oppressed Palestinians running out of hope. And he'd also call Palestinians to lay aside violence. Also, I think many in the conservative Christian world have only heard the pro-Israel side anyway and to ask Raheb to not be too one-sided is sort of unfair. Like I said, I didn't even know there were Christians in Palestine till I was an adult. So Raheb is a voice that Christians in America need to hear as we shape our opinions and actions, both as Christians and Americans.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Drick

    This book, written by a Palestinian Lutheran pastor and activist, puts forth a liberation theology from a Palestinian perspective in which he equates the people of of God in Scripture with the Palestinians today, and then Israeli government as just another in a long string of empires going back to ancient times that have dominated and oppressed the people of this era. In so doing he directly challenges those Christian and Jewish groups who regard the state of Israel as a biblical harbinger to th This book, written by a Palestinian Lutheran pastor and activist, puts forth a liberation theology from a Palestinian perspective in which he equates the people of of God in Scripture with the Palestinians today, and then Israeli government as just another in a long string of empires going back to ancient times that have dominated and oppressed the people of this era. In so doing he directly challenges those Christian and Jewish groups who regard the state of Israel as a biblical harbinger to the coming of the Messiah. He set straight the confusion that is put forth that somehow the state of Israel is equated with the chosen people of the Hebrew and Christian testaments. I found the book refreshing and challenging. My only regret is that he does not call for a specific way for the church to respond in this time. Perhaps he thought the book could prompt thinking on this matter. For any person of faith concerned about the state of affairs in the Middle East this is an important book to read January 23, 2019 - I re read this book for a discussion group and found it even more compelling in light of recent oppressions by the State of Israel and the United States. The notion that Israel is not the "true Israel" of the Bible as Christian fundamentalists claim, but yet another expression of Empire that goes back to the time of Assyria in the 500 BCE era. Also, that current Palestinians are the true people of the land who have been repressed and beaten down for centuries. These are key insights that shed new light on current efforts to call the government of Israel to account for its repressive policies and hubris.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    An invaluable perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a Palestinian point of view. The book's best contribution is the description of daily life for Palestinian refugees living in Israeli-occupied territory, including the bibliography of human rights violations experienced therein. But the author's hermeneutic is often confusing and frequently allegorical.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dan Salerno

    Mitri Raheb is a Palestinian Christian. Raised in a Christian home. Thoroughly credentialed as a pastor and thought leader. (I refer you to his website where you'll find a complete listing of all the awards he's won.) What makes Dr. Raheb unique is his hermeneutical lens, which is his own history as a Palestinian. He uses this lens to examine the historical and cultural foundation upon which the current existence of Palestine rests. He notes that Palestine has, for the most part, always existed as Mitri Raheb is a Palestinian Christian. Raised in a Christian home. Thoroughly credentialed as a pastor and thought leader. (I refer you to his website where you'll find a complete listing of all the awards he's won.) What makes Dr. Raheb unique is his hermeneutical lens, which is his own history as a Palestinian. He uses this lens to examine the historical and cultural foundation upon which the current existence of Palestine rests. He notes that Palestine has, for the most part, always existed as an occupied territory of one empire or another. "Oppressed people are likely to stop imagining and stop developing bold ideas; they are caught up in the everyday struggle of providing the daily bread of survival. Reversing this dynamic is true resistance. True resistance is not killing a soldier or civilian or blowing up buildings. These are reactionary measures. Resistance is action, not reaction." And where was Jesus in all this? For openers, it's helpful to remember that Jesus was a Palestinian Jew. "In order to understand Jesus' way in terms of liberation we first have to ask what paths he did not choose." Raheb goes on to observe that Jesus: never had a desire to go to Rome (the center of the then-occupying empire; had no desire to create a political party (he was extremely popular, but didn't align himself with a political party, he could have been king, but refused). The final thing Raheb notes is that "Jesus had no desire whatsoever to be a religious leader... He had the opportunity to become a leader of great renown, but he refused. He simply had a different political agenda to liberate the people of Palestine." "Jesus believed that liberation started with empowering those who were marginalized," writes Raheb. One of the key ingredients for liberation, writes Raheb, is spiritual. "In the Middle East there is too much religion and too little spirituality... What type of spirituality therefore, is needed in the face of the empire?" For Raheb, peace in the Middle East will not come via military aggression. "It is a sad and terribly strange commentary to live in an age where waging war becomes logical and where questioning war is seen as demented. What is truly insane is to spend billions of dollars on arms and military equipment. Spending on military equipment comes at the cost of educating, empowering and employing people. Regions are not safer with all these weapons..." As for efforts for the US and Israel to force peace terms, Raheb acknowledges that "peace dictated by the empire is not desirable, doable or durable." He goes on to say that "All life in general, and life in the Holy Land in particular, is a matter of living in the tension between the 'the world as it is' with all its ugly and painful realities and the 'world as it could be.'" And, towards the end of his book, Raheb points to the power of faith in moving forward. But first, he puts forth quite a disclaimer: "Faith that makes people passive, depressive or delusional is not faith but opium." Given this more inclusive idea of faith, Raheb remains amazingly hopeful. "Without faith, there is no imagination; without imagination, there is no innovation; and without innovation, there is no future. Faith embodies the view that we can imagine something that was not, until the present, part of our history."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Peter Gilmore

    I found this to be an exceptionally good read. Quite well written and substantive. It's brief but electric with insight and observations drawn from study, prayer, pastoral work, and daily life. Raheb tells us at the outset, “In this book I look at the history of Palestine, ancient and modern, as a continuous history, with diverse and unique contexts, yet with recurring themes.” This theme is crucial and especially sets this book apart. Raheb is unrelenting in his refusal to allow Palestinians an I found this to be an exceptionally good read. Quite well written and substantive. It's brief but electric with insight and observations drawn from study, prayer, pastoral work, and daily life. Raheb tells us at the outset, “In this book I look at the history of Palestine, ancient and modern, as a continuous history, with diverse and unique contexts, yet with recurring themes.” This theme is crucial and especially sets this book apart. Raheb is unrelenting in his refusal to allow Palestinians and their nation to be assigned arbitrary classification, set into neat little boxes created by colonial masters of any era. He declares, "In this sense Palestinians today stand in historic continuity with biblical Israel. The native people of the land are the Palestinians. The Palestinian people (Muslims, Christians, and Palestinian Jews) are a critical and dynamic continuum from Canaan to biblical times, from Greek, Roman, Arab, and Turkish eras up to the present day. They are the native peoples, who survived those empires and occupations, and they are also the remnant of those invading armies and settlers who decided to remain in the land to integrate rather than to return to their original homelands." This may be a challenging thesis for some readers, but Raheb makes the case with passion and erudition. Likewise, his hermaneutics may be challenging for some. But for this reader, who (for better or worse) does not have a formal theological education, the discussion of the Pharisees (as discussed in the New Testament) and Pentecost, among other issues, was incisive and conclusive.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steve Watson

    So, so good. To start with, Raheb gives us a bracing view of empire, from a Palestinian perspective. 50 years old at the time of writing, he has already witnessed nine wars. His father, born in Bethlehem in 1905, lived as a subject of 4 different kingdoms - Ottoman, British, Jordanian, and Israeli. Palestine, at the crossroads of so many historical empires, has been occupied by them all. From this vantage point, Raheb has a lot to say. Some of it: Chapter 1: History and the Biblical Story History So, so good. To start with, Raheb gives us a bracing view of empire, from a Palestinian perspective. 50 years old at the time of writing, he has already witnessed nine wars. His father, born in Bethlehem in 1905, lived as a subject of 4 different kingdoms - Ottoman, British, Jordanian, and Israeli. Palestine, at the crossroads of so many historical empires, has been occupied by them all. From this vantage point, Raheb has a lot to say. Some of it: Chapter 1: History and the Biblical Story History is complicated. The Bible was written a long time ago, and the whole long scope of history must be considered when looking at a particular land and people and culture. Myth is easier and more present but sloppier than history. Chapter 5: Empire Features of any empire, including American/Western-sponsored Israeli control of Palestine: control of movement, control of resources, settlement, state terror, exile, and imperial theology - a myth that places God on the side of the powerful. Chapter 6: The People of Palestine Gives voice to four questions asked by subjugated people, particularly poignantly in this case. 1) Where are you, God? 2) Who is my neighbor? 3) What is the road to liberation? (fighting back, law observance, accommodation, collaboration, and retrieval all not adequate) 4) When will we have a state? Chapter 9: The Spirit Raheb advocates for a spirit of "not by might", diversity, "more than victims", freedom, women's equality, creative resistance, and culture of life -- all of this bolstered by the spirit of Jesus.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    I recently had an opportunity to visit with Christian leaders in Bethlehem and this book was recommended by several of them. After completing it I can see why. Raheb is a Palestinian Christian and his thesis is essentially, "What if we read the Bible, specifically the New Testament, from the perspective of occupied people." Most Christians are aware that the region where Jesus lived and taught was under Roman occupation while He walked the Earth. From the Palestinian perspective, their region has I recently had an opportunity to visit with Christian leaders in Bethlehem and this book was recommended by several of them. After completing it I can see why. Raheb is a Palestinian Christian and his thesis is essentially, "What if we read the Bible, specifically the New Testament, from the perspective of occupied people." Most Christians are aware that the region where Jesus lived and taught was under Roman occupation while He walked the Earth. From the Palestinian perspective, their region has been occupied for most of history, including by Israel today. Raheb shows the reader Jesus' words from this perspective. While some statements Raheb makes about Jesus' thought process are obviously supposition I truly appreciated his perspective. I am a Christian who has lived my entire life in America and it's only been recently that I have thought about the Palestinian perspective, which is why I found this book informative and thought provoking. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in understanding the current conflicts in the Middle East.

  8. 4 out of 5

    marcus miller

    Raheb, a Palestinian Lutheran pastor provides an overview of the Bible through the lens of the Palestinian Christian experience. The book reminded me of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed as Raheb provides a strong critique of “Empire’s” and the religions, specifically western Christendom, which support and sustain empires. Raheb explains much of the daily reality of Palestinian life and the way these experiences can be used to aid our understandings of God and the role of God’s people in Raheb, a Palestinian Lutheran pastor provides an overview of the Bible through the lens of the Palestinian Christian experience. The book reminded me of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed as Raheb provides a strong critique of “Empire’s” and the religions, specifically western Christendom, which support and sustain empires. Raheb explains much of the daily reality of Palestinian life and the way these experiences can be used to aid our understandings of God and the role of God’s people in the world. Reading this I thought of the World History text I sort of use in class and its focus on empires. It covers Greece, Rome, includes the Chinese dynasties, the Mughals, Ottomans, Spanish, British, African kingdoms, the Aztec, Incas, Mayans and a host of others. How would the world be different if history were told a different way.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lee Ann

    Positives: History is written by the victors, so this is a look at the Middle East/Holy Land/Palestine by a Christian and educator born in Bethlehem and living in Jerusalem. It's only 130 pages, but I've been thinking about many of its points. Negatives: Mitri Raheb says he started out wanting to write a scholarly paper only being read in divinity school, but decided this was such an important topic it needed to be more accessible to lay people. For me, it was still fairly high level. The writing Positives: History is written by the victors, so this is a look at the Middle East/Holy Land/Palestine by a Christian and educator born in Bethlehem and living in Jerusalem. It's only 130 pages, but I've been thinking about many of its points. Negatives: Mitri Raheb says he started out wanting to write a scholarly paper only being read in divinity school, but decided this was such an important topic it needed to be more accessible to lay people. For me, it was still fairly high level. The writing was circular. I also wanted more examples, since the subtitle is The Bible Through Palestinian Eyes, of Bible passages we've traditionally translated/viewed from Western or empiric viewpoints.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Philip Hunt

    Which side are you on? Israel? Palestine? Jews? Arabs? Warriors? Peacemakers? Bombers? Boycotters? Here's a Christian Palestinian point of view. No matter which side you're on (and 'sides' may be the central problem) here is an essential and unique perspective. Anyone who has any opinion about Middle East conflict needs to read this compact and easy-to-read book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    First time I have ever encountered anything from a Palestinian Christian, an excellent book! Eye opening and worthy of deep thought and discussion. After reading this book and learning more I find I have great sympathies for the Palestinian people. The author's hope for his people is living proof of the hope of Jesus's resurrection in our world today.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mark Edlund

    Non Fiction - Raheb is a Palestinian Christian. He makes a compelling argument based on history, the Bible and current events that the oft-conquered Palestinians are the true owners of Israel. He offers no solution but makes an interesting case. I thought often reading this book that "History is written by the winners." No Canadian or pharmacy references.

  13. 5 out of 5

    ashley seng

    Excellent insight into the conflict in Israel and Palestine. It was great preparation for my visit, and something I will reread to get a deeper understanding (although, I will likely never fully understand the depths and complexities of what is occurring in the land).

  14. 5 out of 5

    JJ Simpson-Keelan

    A Faithful Perspective In a Time of Great Conflict A very personal and comprehensive perspective of the Palestinian conflict. It offers grounding thoughts and a vision of hope for change.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Naja Skov

    This book is eye-opening, and an absolute must read. So educational and very helpful.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brian Ferry

    Was hoping for a more historically objective case for Palestinian entitlement but the author still gives much to ponder.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Patty

    “Without faith, there is no imagination; without imagination, there is no innovation; and without innovation, there is no future.” “Hope is the power to keep focusing on the larger vision while taking the small, often undramatic, steps toward that future.” “Hope is living the reality and yet investing in a different one.” Ten years ago, I spent a month in Israel. Actually, I started tracking my reading when I returned from that trip, first on Shelfari and then eventually here on Good Reads. The “Without faith, there is no imagination; without imagination, there is no innovation; and without innovation, there is no future.” “Hope is the power to keep focusing on the larger vision while taking the small, often undramatic, steps toward that future.” “Hope is living the reality and yet investing in a different one.” Ten years ago, I spent a month in Israel. Actually, I started tracking my reading when I returned from that trip, first on Shelfari and then eventually here on Good Reads. The trip I was on was with a professor of Hebrew Scriptures who teaches at a Lutheran seminary. The tour was designed to give us exposure to many aspects of life in Israel. We met with Raheb on that trip. Our visit to Bethlehem was uneventful. This year I returned to Israel with a class studying Jewish and Christian identity in ancient and modern Israel. I went for two reasons. I thought I would have more exposure to modern Jewish Israelis than my last trip and I wanted to spend time with my friend who made Aliyah and lives in Tel Aviv. Once again, we were supposed to meet with Raheb. So I picked up his latest book so I might know more about him. It was the right thing to do, since we did not have much time with Palestinians. We had an abbreviated visit to Bethlehem and was unable to visit with Raheb. Raheb gave me a lot to think about in this work. He compares Israel to all the other powers that have invaded and conquered Palestine. He also clearly shows the impact of this occupation on this land and people. Raheb is of the land, he was born and lives in Palestine. His life as an Arab Christian is often discounted by American fundamentalist Christians which is a real shame. I am grateful to Raheb for helping me clarify my issues with the Israeli state. I will never completely understand how the Israeli government can be so harsh to another minority – the Palestinian Arabs. So much has happened to the Jewish people, why would they want to inflict pain on other? Raheb gives me hope that this too will change.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book was great. Unlike a lot of other books I've read on the topic, this one did a really good job of putting Palestine today into historical context in the large scale (not just the past hundred years or so).

  19. 4 out of 5

    Fred Kohn

    Mitri Raheb is a member of one of the most disenfranchised communities on Earth: Palestinian Christians. Rejected by fellow Palestinians because they are of the "wrong" religion, and by their fellow Christians because they are of the "wrong" ethnicity, these "children of the slave woman" are in the best position to understand the ancient words, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." I truly wish I could Mitri Raheb is a member of one of the most disenfranchised communities on Earth: Palestinian Christians. Rejected by fellow Palestinians because they are of the "wrong" religion, and by their fellow Christians because they are of the "wrong" ethnicity, these "children of the slave woman" are in the best position to understand the ancient words, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." I truly wish I could give the book more stars, but unfortunately it was too short to treat the various themes that it undertook to present in any coherent fashion. By attempting in a mere 120 pages to address the history of Palestine, the current geopolitical situation of Palestine, and a theology of response to the illegitimate empire Palestinians now find themselves under; the book ultimately failed in all three goals. Nevertheless it succeeded in what perhaps was its primary goal: to convey to (primarily Western) fellow Christians a sense of the frustrations of a people who feel they have no one to stand up for them but God.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    I'm giving this book 4 stars not because it was particularly well-written (writing is average and it would have benefitted from stronger editing), but because the subject matter is so important. Raheb, a Palestinian Christian living and ministering in Bethlehem, discusses the geo-politics of the Middle East, the theological narratives that have formed the region, and specific ways colonialism and imperialism have impacted--and continue to impact--the lives of Palestinians. "At a time when hope an I'm giving this book 4 stars not because it was particularly well-written (writing is average and it would have benefitted from stronger editing), but because the subject matter is so important. Raheb, a Palestinian Christian living and ministering in Bethlehem, discusses the geo-politics of the Middle East, the theological narratives that have formed the region, and specific ways colonialism and imperialism have impacted--and continue to impact--the lives of Palestinians. "At a time when hope and vision in relation to the Middle East are in short supply, this book is a breath of fresh air. Mitri Raheb states that his hope is to create a Palestinian Christian narrative that is both politically relevant and theologically creative. He has done both with great power..." (From the back cover)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Chapter 1 - http://thatjeffcarterwashere.blogspot... Chapter 2 - http://thatjeffcarterwashere.blogspot... Chapter 3 - http://thatjeffcarterwashere.blogspot... Chapter 4 - http://thatjeffcarterwashere.blogspot... Chapter 5 - http://thatjeffcarterwashere.blogspot... Chapter 6 - http://thatjeffcarterwashere.blogspot... there are 3 more chapters in this great book. go read it. Chapter 1 - http://thatjeffcarterwashere.blogspot... Chapter 2 - http://thatjeffcarterwashere.blogspot... Chapter 3 - http://thatjeffcarterwashere.blogspot... Chapter 4 - http://thatjeffcarterwashere.blogspot... Chapter 5 - http://thatjeffcarterwashere.blogspot... Chapter 6 - http://thatjeffcarterwashere.blogspot... there are 3 more chapters in this great book. go read it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Regina Heater

    A must read for anyone engaged in church work today. Taking us beyond previous works of Palestinian Liberation Theology, exploring the complexities of living with the oppression of Empire, while holding the Hope that was born in the very land you're disputing. I especially appreciated the chapter on creative resistance (a new way of thinking about nonviolent resistance.) This is a book professional theologians & lay persons alike will appreciate. It would be great within the structure of a book A must read for anyone engaged in church work today. Taking us beyond previous works of Palestinian Liberation Theology, exploring the complexities of living with the oppression of Empire, while holding the Hope that was born in the very land you're disputing. I especially appreciated the chapter on creative resistance (a new way of thinking about nonviolent resistance.) This is a book professional theologians & lay persons alike will appreciate. It would be great within the structure of a book club or study group, too.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mollie Maclean

    What a read in the midst of the current fighting in Gaza and Israel. I wonder how Dr Raheb is doing now. We heard him speak with past winter.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lydia

    Amazing, contexual, honest, challenging, faithful, and inspiring.

  25. 4 out of 5

    John Otte

    A very compelling read and an important one too, especially since the voice of the Palestinian people often gets drowned out.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Isai

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Billington

  29. 5 out of 5

    S.A. Borders-Shoemaker

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jrpeace

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