Mapping the Christians of the Middle East
Tired of Boston's roundabouts? Sick of weaving through L.A. traffic? Try navigating the streets of Jerusalem. Finding your way through the labyrinth of shops, museums, houses, churches, synagogues, and mosques that make up the Old City of Jerusalem is more than challenging. The alleys taking you from one "quarter" of the city to another are narrow, and—to the eye of the visitor—they wind aimlessly. Buildings tower over you, blocking out the sunlight. A riot of sounds and smells overwhelms your senses. Blood from the butcher's shop runs in the street, forcing you to watch your step. A shopkeeper corners you and insists that you're there to buy his merchandise. Priests process down the street, prompting you to abort your chosen path. Israeli soldiers stop you at checkpoints or route you a different way.
Navigating the diverse family trees that make up Christianity in the Middle East can be an equally frustrating experience. Many of these Christians claim roots that go back many generations—centuries, actually—and if you don't keep the master map in your mind's eye, expect that you'll lose your way. Separating out the Eastern Orthodox from the Catholics from the Protestants (the most recent arrivals) is one thing. But what distinguishes the Armenian Orthodox from the Armenian Catholic Church of Cilicia? Are the Copts Orthodox, Catholic, or something altogether different? Who are the Greek Melkites, and how does the Assyrian Church of the East come into the story?
Any one of these questions is fodder for serious scholarship. But Who Are the Christians in the Middle East? takes on all these and more. The task is enormous in scope—kudos goes to Betty Jane and ...