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A Palestinian Theology of Liberation, by Naim Stifan Ateek

21 December 2018

Peter Price considers liberation theology by a Palestinian Anglican

NAIM ATEEK’s A Palestinian Theology of Liberation: The Bible, justice, and the Palestine-Israel conflict is timely, clear, and simply profound, and offers challenging wisdom. In pithy chapters, Ateek reveals an evident and profound love for Jew, Muslim, and Christian. He places the questions “Who is my neighbour?” and “Who is our God?” at the centre of the search and desire for justice and peace for all.

With the general reader in mind, Ateek offers snapshot analyses of the relationship of liberation theology to traditional theology. He defines Palestinian Christians, recounting their story from biblical times to the present, through their relationship historically to Islam, the Crusades, the coming of the Protestants, and subsequently the Zionists and the State of Israel. Ateek traces the seeds of Palestinian liberation theology to the “Nakba” — the catastrophe, when in 1948 some 750,000 Palestinians faced being uprooted, or fled in fear. Further influential factors include the Holocaust — the Shoah; the 1967 War, and the First Intifada of 1987.

The core of Ateek’s book lies in his biblical understanding placed alongside “faith encountering context”. He reveals how Palestinian Christians have studied the Gospels and the life of Jesus afresh, and committed themselves in the light of that to working for justice and peace. “Christ is the Key,” he argues, and indicates that biblical interpretation must be made by answering clearly: “Is this biblical text in harmony with the love of God for all people?”

Tracing the development of religious thought in the Old Testament, Ateek concludes with a thought-provoking commentary on the theology of Jonah. This, for him, unlocks the door to Jesus’s re-interpretation of the Tradition, bringing Jesus’s focus on God as love, and source of justice and peace.

Addressing what is required for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he offers a sevenfold analysis of justice, out of which a Peace Circle could emerge. Concluding with a reflection on the work of the Sabeel Ecumenical Centre, founded in Jerusalem in 1987, he reminds us all that the resolution of this conflict is the responsibility of all who claim allegiance to Christ, the Prince of Peace.

The Rt Revd Peter Price is a former Bishop of Bath & Wells.


A Palestinian Theology of Liberation: The Bible, justice and the Palestine-Israel conflict
Naim Stifan Ateek
Orbis £16.99
Church Times Bookshop £15.30

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