I have discovered today, on the website of EMEU a very important article written by well known Biblical scholar and Middle East specialist Kenneth E Bailey on Arabic speaking Christians, a neglected topic in Western Christianity. I will present here, in a series of posts some important parts of this text, especially for those who are not able to delve through the 12 pages of this text.
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Four Historical Reasons for the Western Ignorance of Arabic Speaking Christians
1. The first is the Council of Calcedon in 451, where a division occurred between the Greek and Latin traditions on the one hand and the Semitic-speaking Eastern Christians on the other hand.
2. The Muslim conquests of the 7th Century formed a second curtain. After Islam conquered the Middle East very little Christian contact between East and West was possible, regardless of good intentions.
3. A third curtain was created by more than a millennium of wars between Muslim and Christian centers of power. These began with the Muslim invasions and continued on through the Crusades, the Turkish invasions of Europe, the rise of European imperialism, the Middle Eastern theater of the First World War, the creation of the state of Israel and now two Gulf wars. In each of these conflicts Christians in the East and Christians in the West found themselves, by historical accidents, on opposing sides.
4. Finally, comes the linguistic curtain. Western Christian scholarship has always granted the importance of Latin and Greek. But who in Western Christian scholarship, in any major theological discipline, goes on to acquire Arabic, Syriac and Coptic? Yet the treasures of 1900 years of Church history, theology and
Biblical studies await the daring and the diligent who are willing to pay the price to cross those daunting linguistic barriers.
These four curtains are formidable. Yet today, living in the Middle East there are 265
million Muslims, 2 million Arabic-speaking Jews, and the above-mentioned 15
million Arabic-speaking Christians.