Walking on the Pages of the Word of God

Self, Land, and Text Among Evangelical Volunteers in Jerusalem

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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.
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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
  The Calling
   “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

References
Index
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.