In Walking on the Pages of the Word of God Aron Engberg explores the religious language and identities of evangelical volunteer workers in contemporary Jerusalem. The volunteers are connected to Christian organizations which consider their work a natural consequence of the biblical promises to Israel and their responsibility to “bless the Jewish people”.
Relying on ethnographic data of the discursive practices of the volunteers, the book explores a central puzzle of Zionist Christianity: the narrative production of Israel’s religious significance and its relationship to broader Christian language traditions. By focusing on the volunteers’ stories about themselves, the land and the Bible, Aron Engberg offers a convincing account about how the State of Israel is finding its way into evangelical identities.
Aron Engberg, Ph.D. (2016), Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University, Sweden. He has previously published several articles and book chapters on evangelical Christianity, pilgrimage and life stories. Walking on the Pages of the Word of God is his first monograph.
"Readers will discover a wealth of insight in Engberg’s new book, from the formation and functioning of global evangelical networks to religious language and the role Christian Zionists have played in shaping the lived landscape of contemporary Jerusalem. This is an indispensable ethnography, one that promises to make a lasting impact on the interdisciplinary study of Christianity and the social life of scriptures more broadly." — James S. Bielo, Miami University "Based on intensive fieldwork, Aron Engberg provides a vivid portrait of Evangelical volunteers in Israel. For them, living in the Bible Land is not about venerating the past, but its restoration through the State of Israel. The contradictions between prophecy and current life in Israel are resolved through a postponement of understanding, which authenticates action as being a result of God’s agency. Engberg describes this process, fluctuating between the persuasiveness of narrative truth and the limits of human agency, with precision and coherence. In doing so, he provides an empathetic but not romanticized account of Christian Zionism that relates it to broader issues in contemporary Protestantism." — Jackie Feldman, Ben Gurion University of the Negev "Aron Engberg provides a closely observed account of Israel as both contemporary place and complex object of aspiration for Protestant evangelical volunteers. Working through individual encounters and biographies, he brings into conversation two areas of research that have had strangely little to say to each other so far: Christian Zionism, and analysis of the forms and functions of Protestant language ideologies. The result is a hugely engaging text that tells us much about how Jerusalem is lived, imagined, and narrated by powerful advocates for the State of Israel as political and spiritual entity." — Simon Coleman, Chancellor Jackman Professor, University of Toronto
Acknowledgments List of Interviews
1 Introduction Walking on the Pages of the Word of God
Toward an Ethnography of Christian Zionism
“Christian Zionism”: Belief and Practice
Biblical Literalism Christian Zionism as Narrative and Process Meaning, Language, and Narrative
Meaning & Symbol Language Ideology Religious Language & Narrative Performance The Scene in Jerusalem
The Volunteers Interviews Self, Land, and Text
2 Evangelical Zionism in Jerusalem History of the Organizations
Restorationism and Dispensationalism Jerusalem in the 1970s Connecting Israel with the Evangelical World Practical Support and Founding Organizations Navigating the Socio-Political Space Covenantal Theology Going Mainstream The Ministries Today At the Embassy 2012
3 Self: Calling, Agency and Transformation Narratives, Performance, and Transformation
“It Wasn’t Our Idea”—Calling and Agency Suspension of Agency Narrative Non-Sense Making Agency in Abeyance Self-Transformation
Realizing Israel’s Spiritual Significance Becoming Ruth Continuous Conversion—Faith Walk Conclusions
4 Land: Israel, Place and Presence Space, Place and the “Holy Land”
The “Land of the Bible” and the Evangelical Gaze Where Miracles Happen “God’s Fire is in Zion, but His Furnace is in Jerusalem” The Cosmic Center A Locative Thrust Tensions
Another Problem of Presence Can Israel Fall Apart? “To Live between the Tensions” Conclusions
5 Text: Literalism, Prophecy and Authenticity An Ideology of Literalism
Ambiguities of Prophecy Belief
Prophecy: Past & Present Prophecy: Future Bible Prophecy as an Interpretative Tradition Hebraic Roots of Christian Faith
History and Authenticity Hebraic and Greek Worldviews Purification A Vanguard of Reform Conclusions
6 Walking on the Pages of the Word of God Continuities and Discontinuities of Evangelical Zionism
Globalizing Christian Zionism Contesting Language Ideologies Alternative Readings of Israel Walking on the Pages
All interested in the relationship between evangelical Christianity and Israel, and scholars interested in the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, theology & anthropology, and in religion in the Middle East from theological, historical or social scientific perspectives.