"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Christians of the Middle East

On New Year's Eve, I found myself in a Coptic church on Staten Island shortly after learning of the news of the horrific bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria. I was slightly amazed, later that weekend and last week, to see that some "mainstream" Western media actually covered this latest atrocity, and not all were full of the usual tendentious nonsense. Most of the time few people in the West are aware of, let alone concerned about, Christians in the Middle East. To counter that ignorance, one could do worse than to read

Betty Jane Bailey and J. Martin Bailey, Who Are the Christians in the Middle East? 2nd. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010), xv+227pp.

I read the first edition of this book and it was adequate--not outstanding, but a decent general overview, though far too sanguine in what it described of current realities, especially for Copts in Egypt and Assyrians in Iraq.  It was not a specialist work (neither author is a full-time scholar: both work for United Church of Christ organizations), and it was very thin on the history.

Nevertheless, I shall see how this second edition fares. It will need to be read alongside other recent works on Christianity in the Middle East, but for those coming to the area new this would be a decent place to start.

This book will be reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies later this year.

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