New Faith in Ancient Lands: Western Missions in the Middle East in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

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New Faith in Ancient Lands: Western Missions in the Middle East in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries. Edited by Heleen Murre-van den Berg. Leiden: Brill, 2006. Pp. xii, 340. euro99 / $134.

New Faith in Ancient Lands makes a powerful contribution to mission history. The product of a conference sponsored by the University of Leiden, it contains fourteen essays on Protestant and Catholic missions to Muslims, Jews, and Orthodox Christians in the Middle East.

In an incisive introductory chapter, Heleen Murre-van den Berg describes the nineteenth century as a period of special Christian interest in the Middle East, comparable to the Crusader era of the late eleventh through the late thirteenth centuries. Missionaries were infused with "geopiety" (p. 10) distinguished by renewed interest in the Holy Land as a focus for pilgrimage and biblical study. (Indeed, the essay by Heyberger and Verdeil describes nineteenth-century Jesuit missions to the Holy Land as both a "comeback" [p. 40] from the Crusades and a source of insight for exegetical study.) Likewise, missions to the Middle East played important roles in constructing "Christian Orientalism" (p. 17), as essays by Stockdale on the British Church Missionary Society (CMS) in Palestine, and Kaminsky on the German Kaiserwerth institutions in the Levant, attest. Murre-van den Berg also draws a distinction between "conversionist" and "civilizational" programs (p. 16), associating the latter with a tendency toward secularization that occurred in missionary schools (as Fleischmann argues in an essay about American girls' education in Syria). …