Thursday, December 19, 2013

Around the Galilee with NETS

During the month of November, Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary and Galilee Bible College organized three day trips in and around the Galilee Region. These were led by the Rev Dr Kamal Farah, an Anglican minister who is an expert in the biblical history and the geography of the Holy Land.

The trips were organized to include students, pastors and leaders, and 40 of them took part in the trips. Pastor Kamal gave some very interesting insights from his vast knowledge of the history of the Holy Land, and also led devotional Bible Studies relevant to each site.

The first trip was a visit to the Biblical sites around Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee, including Tabgha, Capernaum and the Mount of Beatitudes. This trip covered the teaching and ministry of Jesus described in Mathew 5-12. Visiting the places where Jesus spent days in prayer, fed the crowds, healed the sick, taught and preached was very much inspiring.

The second trip was a local visit to Nazareth churches, recalling the story of the Annunciation and parts of Jesus’ ministry in Nazareth. From there we drove to Mount Precipice, a place that overlooks several Biblical sites from both Old and New Testaments. This was followed by a visit to the Wedding Church at Cana. We then went to the archaeological site of Sepphoris, the city that Herod Antipas was building during the childhood of Jesus, and which according to tradition is the hometown of the Virgin Mary.

The third trip was a visit to the dramatic cliffs of Mount Arbel, to the recently excavated site of Magdala, both by the Sea of Galilee, and finally to Banias – the site of Caesarea Philippi. We managed to combine this trip with a visit to the local Druze market to buy their fruit and produce.

Many of those who attended really enjoyed this combination of teaching, prayer, visiting the sites, some of which were situated in National Parks, and of learning new things about these special places.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christianity and Freedom: Palestinian Christians in Israel-Palestine

D. Alexander Miller, lecturer in Church History of NETS, and Phil Sumpter, who was a visiting researcher at our seminary. This video is from Panel 4 on the topic of Palestinian Christians in Israel-Palestine, and was presented in Rome on December 12th of 2013.

This was for the Christianity and Freedom Project.

Phil Sumpter's section begins at 27:00 and Miller's section begins at 40:31.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Between the Hammer and the Anvil: Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land"

Alex Miller and Phil Sumpter were asked to compose an original article incorporating new field research on Christians in Israel-Palestine for the Christianity & Freedom project. They are now both in Rome for the conference and would like to share with you their article, "Between the Hammer and the Anvil: Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land".

The PDF can be downloaded from HERE or HERE.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Azar Ajaj on the history of Arab evangelicals in Israel-Palestine

At the annual general meeting (Winter of 2013) of Evangelical Alliance of Israel, Azar Ajaj, president of Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary, presented this talk on the roots of evangelicalism among Arabs in Israel-Palestine.

To listen to the lecture click HERE.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Review of our Sabbatical program

Rob Sylvester recently took part in our sabbatical program. Here is what he wrote about his experience:
My sabbatical month in the Holy Land has been a wonderful and memorable experience, with many highlights along the way.  It has lived up to the title of ‘Come and See’ and provided stimulation for body, mind and spirit.  There have been excellent presentations/seminars by leading Arab and Messianic Christians, visits to many of the famous sites throughout the country, opportunities to worship at a variety ofchurches, and visits to local projects and Christian communities/missions.  I have hiked in the countryside, swam in Lake Galilee and the Dead Sea and jogged through the streets of Nazareth.  Throughout, there has been time for personal prayer, reflection and meeting with the Lord.  A particular joy has been to meet with local believers and hear their testimonies of the goodness and faithfulness of God at all times, so that I comeaway with a deeper appreciation of the challenges and issues they face, combined with a renewed trust and hope in the plans and purposes of God for his people here.

Learn more about our program by e-mailing us at info [at] nazarethseminary [dot] org.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Review: Kathryn Kraft's 'Searching for Heaven in the Real World'

Searching for Heaven in the Real World: A Sociological Discussion of Conversion in the Arab WorldSearching for Heaven in the Real World: A Sociological Discussion of Conversion in the Arab World by Kathryn Ann Kraft
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kathryn Kraft’s book is a study of groups of converts from Islam to Christianity in Egypt and Lebanon. Working in the field of sociology of religion, she attempts to analyse and understand the consequences of the decision to leave Islam and embrace a Christian faith. (Why the indefinite article? This is never explained but I’m certain this is not the way that converts speak of their faith.)

Her intent is clearly explained on page 16: After telling us, at some length, about her methodology and research experience, she will utilize two Islamic doctrines, tawhiid and umma, to “explore the lives, cultures and values of converts from an Arab, Muslim background.” She does this by treating a number of idealized topics (hence the word “heaven” in the title): the perfect researcher, perfect unity (tawhiid), perfect community (Umma), perfect dream, perfect believer and a perfect identity. A recurring theme is that these converts (and it is good that she uses the correct word here—convert) have a vision and hope for something in converting to Christianity that they do not ultimately achieve. In making the dangerous and difficult move of converting they are hoping for heaven on earth, but in fact meet with disappointment on multiple levels. They are disappointed by churches that don’t welcome them, by missionaries who are overbearing or pastors who are disconnected, they are alienated from their (Muslim) families and nations, they are disappointed by the intolerance of Islamic law, and so on (anomie is the technical term which Kraft uses to summarize this state).

That Kraft is frank about the difficulties faced by Christians from a Muslim background is refreshing. Much of the material that exists about these converts tends to lionize them and portray them as having faith to move mountains and standing up under persecution like Polycarp or Perpetua. This does indeed happen sometimes, but Kraft’s exploration of the other side of the coin is welcome, even if at times the “anomie” of these “deviant persons” tends to overpower the equally genuine truth that these converts often have a powerful and refreshing sense of hope and love which they had not experienced in Islam.

Kraft is able to explore some new territory in relation to these converts. How do converts manage the question of self-identity in a country like Egypt where they cannot legally change their religion from Muslim to Christian? How do they relate to their families? What are the effects of leaving a structured diin like Islam, with set fasts, pray times, a manner of chanting the Qur’an, for evangelicalish Christianity (mostly), which tends to eschew such structure and (blandly, perhaps) encourages people to simple pray to God whatever is “on their heart”? Also welcome is Kraft’s willingness to acknowledge the complexity of the convert identity, and her treatment in Chapter 7 of various strategies used by converts to figure out how to live as Christians from a Muslim background is nuanced and does not oversimplify the topic. In engaging with the question of identity she is following in the footsteps of Seppo Syrjanen who composed the first sociological case study of converts from Islam to Christianity.

There are problems with the book, however. At times it was not clear to me whose voice was speaking: the convert’s, or hers? Some sections had a wealth of quotations from her sources which were helpful and welcome, but at other times one could go for pages reading the author’s analysis on some facet of conversion life without reading a single quotation from the sources themselves. This does not mean that her conclusions are false, my own research among converts (Arabs and Iranians, mostly) actually tends to back up most of her points. But there are sections where allowing the voices of the researched subjects to be present before going on to analyse them would improve the reading experience.

As to the methodology and her own reflection on herself as a researcher (the end of Chapter 1 and Chapter 2), I am ambivalent. Students doing scholarship among MBB’s in the Muslim world, and especially the Arab world, will find this lengthy section helpful and indeed may well want to use it as a template for their own methodology section. Comaprisons to nuns leaving the convent may warm the heart of anthropologists, but add nothing to the book. Readers who simply want to know about the converts from Islam may well want to skip her chapter on “the perfect researcher”.

Perhaps the most difficult decision to make in relation to field research is related to how to analyse the data. After weeks, months or years of interviews, e-mails, conversations, visiting churches and hearing sermons and songs—one must figure out how to go about identifying what stays in and what stays out, what is worth exploring more and what is not, what gets a whole chapter in the thesis, and what gets a paragraph or an appendix or is simply saved for future articles. It is at this point that

Kraft makes her most puzzling move by choosing two Islamic concepts: tawhiid and Umma. Kraft has claimed that she wants to let the converts speak on their own terms, using their own ideas, and not impose ad extra her own presuppositions. So why would she choose these two concepts? The question is never answered in her book.

The author overestimates, I think, the significance of tawhiid, which refers to the monadic monotheism of God’s essence in Islamic theology. Kraft believes that this tawhiid is refracted onto the life of the Muslim by creating a unified and integral way of life. For instance, tawhiid would resist the idea that secular order and religious order should be separated from each other. And so, she appears to believe, in leaving Islam converts are hungering for this same sort of integrated life and identity they had experienced (maybe?) in Islam, but become disappointed when this dream of heaven on earth is not fulfilled in Christianity.

The implication is that there is something special about Islam, because of tawhiid, that makes the Muslim (and ex-Muslim) hunger for a well-integrated life and identity that is not present in other societies. This is a problematic claim. Is it not more likely that modernity tends towards compartmentalized, fragmented identities, and that the normal way to be human, including for non-modern Christians, is to desire and perhaps attain such an integrated life? This position has been argued extensively by Peter Berger in his book, Facing Up To Modernity: Excursions In Society, Politics, And Religion. According to him, Modernity has created five key problems. One, abstraction: this is related to the mass state and media, and the rise of the Machine, and the destruction of what have been historically integrated communities (71, 72). Two, futurity—as children of Modernity are always focusing on the future and not the present or the past. Three, individuation: entailing the separation of the individual from the collective, which has led to greater anomie. Four, liberation: people have liberty to choose who or what they will be, but that liberty may convert itself into being forced to choose, and thus become oppressive, this experiencing of being forced to choose is called the heretical imperative. Five, there is secularization: “Modernization has brought with it a massive threat to the plausibility of religious belief and experience” (78).

One could ask similar questions about the concept of the Umma. Are we to believe that the desire to belong to a close-knit and united community is particular to Islam? Is it not in fact particular to many forms of Christianity throughout history (if not evangelicalism today)? In other words, it is not Islam that is different here, it is modernity that is bizarre and novel in its willingness to fracture and compartmentalize facets of the human life, and while not all Christianity is the fruit of modernity, evangelicalism certainly is.

Kraft’s choice of two concepts from Islam, a religion which her converts claim to have left, to explain how Christians live is the most problematic and puzzling aspect of this book. In spite of this over-reliance on the explanatory power of tawhiid and Umma, her analisys actually succeeds quite well. I just wish she would have used different words to treat the topic. After all, the chapter on tawhiid is very much about relationships, and the chapter on Umma about community. Simply acknowledging that relationships and community are integral aspects of what it means to be human—whether one is Christian or Muslim—and that the convert’s life cannot be examined without treating the two topics would have sufficed.

The book’s conclusion (the final chapter) is its strongest note, with Kraft briefly explaining the next frontier of exploration in relation to Christians from a Muslim background: the second generation. How converts raise their children in societies like Egypt where the extended family is Muslim and the child is, according to the dictates of the shari’a, by necessity Muslim and must be taught Islam in school—these topics are completely unresearched to my knowledge.

Kraft has provided us with a valuable book, one of the only ones in existence about converts from Islam to Christianity. Her sober treatment of the difficulties they face and the complexity of their strategies in negotiating identity and relationships outweighs any deficiencies on might identify, and mean that, without a doubt, this book will be indispensable reading for any scholar researching similar converts.

Reviewed by Duane Alexander Miller, NETS Book Reviews, October 2013

View all my reviews

You may also download the PDF of the review here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Baptist Beginnings in Lebanon: 1893-1956, by Julia Graham

Our seminary is happy to make this rare text available in PDF format.

Baptist Beginnings in Lebanon: 1893-1956 is a series of texts written by and compiled by Julia Graham, and is dated 1986. The text, it appears, was type-written and lists no place of publication or publisher.

Because of the large size of the scanned material, the book (202 pages long) is available in four PDF files:

Part 1 (Cover through page 51)
Part 2 (pp 52-103)
Part 3 (pp 104-150)
Part 4 (pp 151-202)

If anyone knows additional information about the author or the text please leave that in the comment section. If for any reason those links are not working the files are also available on Scribd:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

This is a good place to remind readers that we previously made available a scanned version of a rare 1925 text from the Palestine National Christian Council which provides insights on Anglicans/Episcopalians here after World War 1. For more information on that text click here.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

MWOP 2:3, "Caesarea and the Mission of God"

NETS is please to share with your third Occasional Paper for 2013: Caesarea and the Mission of God.

Download the file by clicking here.

Here is the Abstract:
The article explores the theological significance of a location, what is today the impressive archeological site of Caesarea Maritima. In the Book of Acts, Caesarea, as the primary setting for the story of Peter and Cornelius, becomes a critical pivot in Luke’s unfolding story both of the movement of the Gospel from Jerusalem to Rome and of the transformation of the latter-days community of Messiah from a Jewish-only movement into a multi-ethnic family, a Jew-Gentile New Creation. The article emphasizes the literary patterns and devices Luke uses to present and reinforce the message of the universal Kingdom, especially in the Cornelius story. As the apostles proclaim the crucified-and-risen Jewish Messiah across boundaries of election, religion, ethnicity, and history, the Kingdom of God comes and the healing of a primordially fractured world begins.

According to ancient prophecy, though contrary to the expectations of many, the cosmic promises to Abraham, the enacting of a new covenant, and the emergence of a New Creation are actively realized when not only Jews, but also Gentiles, are incorporated as one chosen people of God in Christ. In the New Testament, this culturally, even spiritually, jarring transformation is central to the story of salvation, even to the eternal design of God. Peter’s experience in Caesarea is a microcosm of that reality; Caesarea becomes the site of a key breakthrough, if only in kernel form, in the expansion of the Good News and the eschatological reign of Jesus into the nations, to the ends of the earth. 
And Keywords:
Caesarea / Cornelius / early church / Gentile inclusion / Luke-Acts / narrative design / Peter / Salvation-History / typology

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Book Review of "A Muslim who became a Christian: The Story of John Avetaranian"

Alex Miller has recently published a book review of the following book:

A Muslim who became a Christian: The Story of John Avetaranian (born Muhammad Shukri Effendi)second edition, by John Avetaranian, translated by John Bechard (Sandy, UK: AuthorsOnline 2003)

Here is a section of the review:
Born Muhammad Shukri Efendi, as the complete title indicates, this writer and subject of the book lived from 1861 through 1919. Born into the prestigious Ottoman effendi class, Shukri was a descendent of the Prophet himself. He spent much of his early years traveling around with his odd and peripatetic father—a mystic who could not settle down. 
The review of this book has recently been published in the International Journal of Frontier Missiology, Vol 30:1, Spring 2013. The review can be downloaded from their website. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A history of our seminary's first six years

This article, by our seminary president, Azar Ajaj, is his recollection of the founding of our seminary by Bryson Arthur (and others) and our first six years of life (2007-2013). Anyone interested in Christian higher education or evangelical Christianity in Israel will find this of interest.

Mary's Well Occasional Papers, Vol 2:2: "Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary: The First Six Years" by Azar Ajaj (September 2013).

Previous occasional papers are accessible through the blog menu on the right hand side of the browser.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Not all narratives are created equal..."

I really liked this quote by Dr. Derek Cooper:
As I teacher, I am part of a noble history of questioning the status quo and calling things what they actually are rather than what they appear to be. And it is my vocation as a teacher to help my students recognize that their participation in the human story of cosmic restoration—which encompasses not only the entire world but each individual—takes precedence over rival stories which compete with the Christian narrative.
Read the whole post at Faith, Vocation & Culture, and check out the other answers as well. Some very nice material.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Faculty Publication: article on the Episcopal church in Nazareth

This was published last year but it had not been posted to this blog yet. This brief article includes a historical sketch for the Christ Church (Episcopal/Anglican) in Nazareth, and a description of the liturgy as it presently exists.

Miller, Duane Alexander. 2012. "The First Church of the Diocese of Jerusalem: a work in progress--or maybe not?" in Anglican and Episcopal History Vol 81:2, June.

Other articles by the author on the Episcopal/Anglican community in the region are:

Church of the Redemer, in Amman in Anglican and Episcopal History
Cathedral of St George the Martyr, in Jerusalem in Anglican and Episcopal History
"Identity, Liturgy and Mission: the Episcopal Church in Jordan" in Journal of Anglican Studies

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Transitions: a new president for our seminary

Our founding president, Bryson Arthur, has accepted the position of academic dean at Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary, in Amman. Our seminary is happy to announce that Azar Ajaj, formerly vice president for administrative affairs, is our new seminary president.

Best wishes to Bryson and Azar in their new positions.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bibliography of Arabophone Christianity in Israel and Palestine

NETS is pleased to share with you our first Mary's Well Occasional Paper of 2013. Here you will find a detailed bibliography of Arabophone Christianity here in Israel-Palestine, though the focus is on the period after 1948. 

If any sources have been missed please let us know by leaving a comment on the blog and, if there is interest, a revision of the bibliography may be composed.

Click HERE to download the "Bibliography of Arabophone Christianity in Israel and Palestine" by Philip E. Sumpter. (Mary's Well Occasional Papers, Vol 2:1, August 2013)

The occasional papers from volume one can be found here.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tel Aviv classes

NETS offers classes in Tel Aviv in partnership with the Filipino Baptist Church. Here are some recent pictures. Alex Miller lectures in theology, in this picture, on Christology. Phil Sumpter lectures on Old Testament, in this picture on the Psalms. The last picture is of the two lecturers with a number of the students.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Syriac Reading of Mark 1:1-20

This audio file is being posted for those taking part in the Syriac study group. Thank you to the Rev. Dr. Kamal Farah for leading this group.

Syriac Reading of Mark 1:1-20

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Classes being offered for Fall of 2013


كلية الناصرة الإنجيلية للّاهوت ترحب بجميع الطلاب المسيحيون من كافة الطوائف المسيحية, وتعلن عن بدء التسجيل للدورات التالية وباللغة العربية:


لاهوت نظامي (1)

Systematic Theology I 


المشورة المسيحية

Christian Counseling


مقدمة الاديان المختلفة

Introduction to the World Faiths


ودورة خاصة لطلاب الماجيستير باللغة الانجليزية:


يسوع وملكوت الله

Jesus and the Kingdom of God


ستفتتح الكلية ابوابها يوم 23 من ايلول سنة 2013


للاتصال والاستفسار:


04-6464898 هاتف


04-6468131 فاكس




Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Transition: Phil Hill moving to Wales Evangelical Theological Seminary

We wish to express our thanks to Phil Hill who has taken a new position at Wales Evangelical Theological Seminary. Thank you for your years of teaching and service here in Nazareth.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

J. Bryson Arthur: a theological reflection on the mission of advocacy

Recently published in St Francis Magazine (Volume 9:3, June 2013), our seminary president has published 'The Mission of Advocacy: a theological reflection'.

Our seminary is glad to commend the article to our friends.

Download it through the SFM website or read it at Scribd.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Student Update: Rev. Thomas Wango

One of our graduates has e-mailed some pictures from his church in S Sudan. The Rev. Thomas Wango received a Degree in Christian Studies a few years ago, and returned to his newly-independent home land. NETS is privileged to have played a role in training him for his pastoral work in South Sudan.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Samaritan Passover, 2013

Staff outing to the Samaritan Passover (23rd April 2013)

By Philip Sumpter
Several members of the staff at NETS had the opportunity to experience the Samaritan Passover last Tuesday evening (23rd April) in a small village on top of Biblical Mount Gerizim in the West Bank. Here is a brief report of what we experienced:

We took the road from Nazareth down the Israeli coast before turning eastward just north of Tel Aviv to cut into the rolling hills of Samaria. The scenery was stunning, with its donkey riding shepherds and endless terraced olive groves reminding me of the photos of the “Holy Land” you get in some Bibles . The road leading to the holy mountain was entirely “Area B,” which means that Palestinians and Jews can use it but it is run by the Israeli military (which has a fairly visible presence, both in military bases, checkpoints, and the odd police vehicle park at the entrance to some Arab villages; here perhaps one see another Biblical analogy to the Roman presence at the time of Jesus, though the machinery, tactics, and justifications have changed since then). Because of this, you could see local Arabs and Jewish settlers standing almost side-by-side at the same bus stops, coolly distant from one another but not causing any visible trouble. There were even some signs still in Hebrew in the Arab villages we drove through, reminders of days when Jews and Arabs could mix fairly freely in this part of the world, before the second Intifada (2000) caused a change in Israeli policy.

At the foot of Mt Gerizim we were told we could not ascend in private vehicles due to the number of visitors (5,000, I’ve been told), so we left our car at the bottom and got a free ride in a Jewish run bus. It was fascinating to see how many Jews came to see this event: crammed into our bus were secular Jews, National religious settlers, and even black and white clad Haredim and Hassidim (I saw a Breslauer debating with a Samaritan priest up on top). I think my good friend and colleague Azar was the only Arab on the bus!

The village, simply called “settlement of the Samaritans” in Hebrew, is right on top of the mountain and consists almost entirely of Samaritans, who number around 700 in Israel (a few Muslims live there too). Interestingly, this area is classified as “Area C” by the Israeli government, a designation normally used only for Jewish settlements in the West Bank (“Area A” is Palestinian run and the Israeli government bans Israelis from visiting them for reasons of safety). The reason why is that Samaritans are the only people group to have dual citizenship: they are all both Palestinian and Israeli, though they do not have to serve in the army. Once inside the village it was interesting to note that not only were Jews freely mixing with the Samaritans, the Israeli army and police force were happily joking with Palestinian firemen, both groups being on duty at the same time.

Once in the village we sought out what I think is their version of the “temple,” a modern looking open-air complex with pits in one end for baking the slaughtered sheep, a sitting area in another corner for women, and an area for the priests to do the chanting. Given the sprawling nature of the complex it was quite difficult to get an overview of the entire proceedings, but luckily we discovered an entrepreneurial Muslim who charged 70 shekels (14 Euros/pounds) for us to climb on the roof of a shop, from where we could see everything (a Samaritan would not be allowed to do business on this day; that guy made a fortune). Given that you had to do some dodgy acrobatics to get up there and jump/clamber over a couple of fences, one of them being barb wired, only half our group decided to risk it. It was definitely worth the effort and money, especially as I had the good luck of standing behind an Israeli Jew with a book on the proceedings who kindly explained to me what was going on!

All the village men were dressed in white with some form of white head covering, a baseball cap often being sufficient. The ceremony began when the high priest, wearing a green robe, a red turban and covered in a Jewish style prayer shawl entered the grounds surrounded by other priests. They made their way to the main gathering area for the priests and sat down in a circle. After a brief welcome in three languages (Hebrew, English, Arabic—in that order), the proceedings began. With a passionate voice full of what I took to be pathos, he began chanting the traditional prayers and verses from the Samaritan version of the Torah. What surprised me was that everyone else seemed to know the long texts off by heart (I saw a couple of liturgical paperback in the throng for those who were not so well versed). As such the whole congregation and not just the high priest were involved in the chanting, holding their hands out as if in supplication and occasionally wiping their faces with their hands in a ritualized manner. I also noted what seemed to be a conscious effort to be sincere and passionate about what they were doing: everyone, from the high priest to the young boys, were giving it their best, pounding their fists and pointing their fingers as if to say, “This really is true you, know!” As for the melody, I’m not an expert but it seemed slightly less variable and melodic than the other version I’ve heard (Jewish Orthodox; Eastern Oriental Christian), but it really did communicate a great sense of urgency and significance.
At some point the slaughter began. Behind the chanting priests was a long, deep ditch, along some men from the village had been standing with their unwary sheep stationed between their legs. Apparently, in order to be “kosher” they have to be male, one year old and without blemish, as we know from the Pentateuch. When the time came, a man or men (couldn’t make that out) went from one to one with a big rectangular shaped knife and slit their throats with a single cut (as per regulation—only one cut is allowed; the poor sheep!). The blood flowed plenteously and about half the sheep kicked around for quite some time until their life finally drained out of them. This is not a quaint religion, but perhaps the gruesomeness of it all communicates something of what is at stake when wrestling with ultimate realities. The whole proceeding was accompanied by much rejoicing, everyone cheering, dancing a little, hugging and giving each other the three-fold kiss typical of Arabs in this part of the world.

Once the sheep had had their last kick, the men anointed themselves and their women on the forehead with the blood, and then the preparation of the meat began. The carcasses were hooked up onto a specially prepared framework and skinned and gutted (my colleague Stan, who once worked as a butcher, pointed out that at no point did they cut the muscle, always cutting along the “seams”). They were then impaled or rapped around huge wooden stakes and showered off with water in preparation for being lowered into the aforementioned pits, now fully ablaze. At this point we left, though I was told that the sheep would be baked in the pits like huge kebabs for four hours, during which there would be more chanting, until around midnight when they would be eaten by the Samaritans, and the Samaritans only.

It was getting dark and cold so we decided to head on home, content to know that we have witnessed an event that had been an everyday experience of the people of God throughout the entirety of its existence (starting with Abel), up until the destruction of the second temple about 2000 years ago (70 A.D.) (early Christians such as Paul continued to sacrifice in the temple).  The locals seemed pretty content too: now the sheep were dead and their life-blood marked upon their foreheads, this little community of the “true Israel” has had its sins atoned for for the next year, when they’ll have to do it all again.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

John Zeller on Wikipedia

Azar Ajaj and Alex Miller enjoy studying the history of Protestant and evangelical Christianity in the Galilee. One of the most influential figures in this story is the German missionary John (or Johannes) Zeller, of the Church Mission Society. He spent over four decades in Palestine and was instrumenal in the foundation of a number of churches, schools, and even Nazareth Hospital (aka, the English Hospital). And now you can learn a bit about John Zeller in the most important website of them all--Wikipedia.

Click here.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Faculty Publication: The Riggs Report and Insider Movements

Duane Alexander Miller has recently published this article on the origins of Insider Movements in reference to an obscure document that has recently come to light.

'The 1938 Riggs Report on the "Near East Christian Council Inquiry on the Evangelization of Moslems": an aborted beginning to the Insider Movement strategy' in St Francis Magazine, Vol (2), April 2013.

Here is one section:
This is, in a nutshell, the Insider Movement strategy of mission to Muslims – not seeking to make Muslims into Christian, but Sunni [or Shi’a] Muslims into ‘followers-of-Jesus’ Muslims. Riggs explicitly points out that some other term than ‘Christian’ must be found and some other terminology must be developed’ (Part II, point 8). With updated spelling, some of the specific phrases used could be straight out of a contemporary journal article, as when he talks about, ‘believers who thus remain a part of their Moslem social-political group’ (Part II, point 11).

Read it all here, or at Scribd, or at

Monday, April 8, 2013

NETS Book Review: Rhodes reviews Benedict XVI

Book Review:
By Pope Benedict XVI
Trans. Philip J. Whitmore (New York: Image, 2012) 132 pgs. $20.00
Reviewed by D. Bryan Rhodes

Of all the tensions between Catholics and Protestants, the issue of biblical literacy among the laymen continues to enjoy attention and interest, especially in a post-Vatican II context. Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth series makes a remarkable contribution to that very concern. It represents the former pontiff’s attempt to make the Holy Scriptures more accessible to his flock throughout the world. This third and final installment of that series focuses on the earliest years of the life of Christ, as told in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. It is Benedict’s latest effort to bring the best of Roman Catholic scholarship from the Vatican mountaintop to the worldwide village below. The book is primarily an exegesis of the infancy narratives, written “…to help many people on their path toward and alongside Jesus.” [...]

Read the whole review and download the PDF HERE.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Brent Neely: 'The Bible, the Qur’an, and the space in between'

Brent Neely has recently published an article titled 'The Bible, the Qur’an, and the space in between: Telling the Story' which has appeared in the Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths (CSIOF) Bulletin 2012.

The bulletin contains a number of other interesting articles as well.

Get more information and order it at Amazon.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Recent Photo from Jerusalem

A few days ago Alex Miller, Azar Ajaj, and Philip Sumpter traveled to Jerusalem in order to pick up some new books for the NETS library. We also managed a visit to St George's Anglican Cathedral and the college library located there. This picture was taken at the close of the cathedral.
Left to right: Alex, Azar, and Phil.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Faculty Links at

A number of our faculty have profiles at, where you can see what people have been publishing and working on lately:

Alex Miller

Azar Ajaj

Bryson Arthur

Lisa Loden

Phil Hill

Philip Sumpter

Friday, February 1, 2013

Faculty Publication by Lisa Loden

NETS is proud to share the publication of a chapter by Lisa Loden in the recent book Chosen to Follow: Jewish Believers through History and Today (Jerusalem: Caspari Center, 2012).

Lisa Loden has contributed a chapter to this book titled 'Towards Reconciliation: Messianic Jewish Believers and Palestinian Christians'.

More information can be found at the Caspari Center website.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review of "I was a Minister in the Nation of Islam" by Alexis Johnson

I Was a Minister in the Nation of IslamI Was a Minister in the Nation of Islam by Alexis Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have read many books by ex-Muslims over the years, as religious conversion from Islam to Christianity is one of my main areas of academic research. But I had never happened across a book quite like this.

First, I did not realize how different and heterodox the Nation of Islam (NOI) is. The most interesting aspect of the book for me was learning about the NOI and what I found to be frankly bizarre stories about its founding figures. I would have liked some more quotations directly from NOI sources, but I always say this about conversion narratives. I want to read a well-documented, properly researched treatise, the convert wants to tell their story.

Second, the main purpose of the author in this book is clearly to warn American churches and Christians and black people against what he sees as the propaganda of the NOI and specifically Louis Farrakhan. He spends a good amount of the book explaining why, in his opinion, the NOI and Minister Farrakhan are not what they appear.

Another goal of his is to offer a salvation that is not based on race or ethnicity. The universality of the offer of salvation in Christianity is balanced by a very real awareness of injustices suffered by black and brown Americans, and the sometimes patronizing (if well-intentioned) behavior of white Christians. Thus he avoids the trope of self-victimization while also not ignoring the reality of racial injustice in the past and the present.

Strengths are the material on the founder of the NOI and the rather graphic and gritty description of his life in the drug trade before his conversion to the NOI. Weaknesses are his lack of sourcing his material (sometimes) and a rather disjointed final chapter.

People interested in the Nation of Islam, racial relations and religious conversion will find this engaging and well-crafted book of interest.

View all my reviews                 View all my articles

Monday, January 14, 2013

BTh Classes for Spring 2013

NETS is offering the following BTh classes, in Arabic, for Spring of 2013

Basic Christian Doctrines II (Ajaj and Miller)
Christian Couseling (Artoul)
Church Growth (Ajaj)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Complete Volume 1 of 'Mary's Well Occasional Papers'

2013 is here and 2012 is gone, and so we are now on to the our second volume of Mary's Well Occasional Papers (MWOP). We have also published a number of book reviews in our 'NETS Books Reviews'.

I thought it would be good to put all those together here in blog post with links to the PDF's on our servers, and, if they exist, also on the Academia website, as I have found that to be a very useful website.

Mary's Well Occasional Papers, Volume 1 (2012)

Paper 1) Arthur, J. Bryson: ‘Out on a Limb: a theological exploration of suffering, risk and persecution’ 
Nazareth Seminary 

Paper 2) Louy, Stephen: 'Barbarian Jews: ethnic identity in the language of Philo'
Nazareth Seminary 

Paper 3) Ajaj, Azar. 'Brother against Brother: Covenant and Dispensationalist Eschatologies in the Context of Israeli Evangelicalism' 
Nazareth Seminary 

Paper 4) Miller, Duane Alexander. ‘"It is okay to question Allah": the theology of freedom of Saiid Rabiipour, a Christian ex-Muslim’ 
Nazareth Seminary || Academia

Paper 5) Hill, Phil. ‘Do Jesus and Paul agree with the OT laws concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage?’ 
Nazareth Seminary 

NETS Book Reviews (2012)

1) In our first NETS Book ReviewBrent Neely reviews the new book by Gabriel Said ReynoldsThe Emergence of Islam: Classical Traditions in Contemporary Perspective (Fortress Press, 2012). (Download)

2) In our second NETS Book ReviewAlex Miller, lecturer in Church history and theology, reviews Christian Zionism Examined by Steven Paas (VTR Publications). (Download)

3) In our third NETS Book Review, Phil Hill reviews Steven Paas' book Johannes Rebmann: a servant of God in Africa before the rise of western colonialism (VTR Publications, 2012, 271 pages). (Download)

4) Our fourth NETS Book Review, this one by Alex MillerCatholic, Kurd, and ex-Muslim: a book review of Out of Islam: “free at last” by Daniel Ali (TatePublishing, 2007, 162 pages) (Download)

5) مراجعة كتاب
 الجليل يشهد: شهادات حيّة لجليلييّن قبلوا المسيح فسبقونا للمجد
إعداد وتحرير: عزيز سمعان دعيم
إصدار ونشر: كنيسة الإخوة المسيحيين – عبلين
تاريخ النشر: كانون الاول 2012-12-26

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Interview with Bob Blincoe on Christian witness in the Muslim world

In the January, 2013 issue of Global Missiology (English), you can find Alex Miller's interview with Bob Blincoe, the director of Frontiers (USA). Here is a section:
It is no exaggeration to say that for the first time in history large numbers of Muslims are coming to faith for the first time. We had the sensational experience in Indonesia in the 1960s when the government ordered every citizen to choose a religion, and that is how millions of Muslims came to Christianity. But today they are coming to Christ, and to be clear I mean to the Christ of the Bible. No one is doing this so well that a strategy that works in one place can work in others, but we should pay attention. One person that has paid attention is Jerry Trousdale, who wrote the book Miraculous Movements. He has done the research on more than 30 movements of Muslims to faith in Christ. We should watch and pray for a bright future for many millions of Muslims whom the angels will gather on the last day.
Click to download the PDF, Word Doc, or see the HTML.

Blincoe, Bob and Duane Alexander Miller. ‘The Day of Salvation for Muslims Everywhere: an interview with Bob Blincoe’ in Global Missiology 10:2, January 2013.