*** DEBUG END ***

Jesus of Arabia: Christ through Middle Eastern eyes by Andrew Thompson

03 August 2018

Stephen Griffith asks whether Christ is still a stumbling-blok

ANDREW THOMPSON clearly loves the world of the Gulf and has a sympathy and affection for the Muslim world that he has encountered over a long ministry there. Originally written for readers in the Gulf to offer them a sympathetic (to Muslims) view of Jesus, he offers this book to a wider readership as one more tile in the mosaic of interfaith friendship, as a book to start a conversation.

Two men in particular inform the narrative. Kenneth Bailey travelled widely and saw how traditional Middle Easterners responded to the teaching of Jesus: his writings are deeply insightful. Sir Mark Allen is best known for being implicated in the arrest and torture of Abdelhakim Belhaj, and author of a light book on the Arabs.

There are many insights into the Gospels and their picture of Jesus, but I found the assumption that 20th-century Gulf Arab culture is close to that of first-century Galilee a problem. The Greater Syria in which Jesus lived was two millennia ago and not at all like the Gulf, even of the last century. The Levant still has a significant number of Arab Christians, and it is wrong to assume that Arab means Muslim. Has there really been a consistency of thought across the whole Arab world over two thousand years? I doubt it, but there is a constant refrain “It was just the same in the days of Jesus.” There are simply too many generalisations.

By introducing the Jesus of the Gospels, Thompson gives him a familiarity for Gulf Arabs, but the seditious challenge of Jesus to the status quo of his day is a challenge to the Islam of the region today, and here is consistently underplayed.

I found this affectionate book deeply frustrating.

The Revd Stephen Griffith is a retired Anglican priest. He specialises in Syria and the Syriac community in Turabdin.

Jesus of Arabia: Christ through Middle Eastern eyes
Andrew Thompson
Rowman & Littlefield £22.95

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

27-28 September 2022
humbler church Bigger God conference
The HeartEdge Conference in Manchester includes the Theology Slam Live Final.

More events

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)