and irresistible result of the conversion process than as either a prerequisite for conversion or a separate object of mission.6 In comparison, Roman Catholic missionaries give the impression of being less optimistic about progress in general and the possible benefits of European influence. However, their views on the education of women (for the benefit of the Christian family) and of the clergy (for the benefit of the congregations) were not very different from those of the more conservative Protestants.

The conversion of the Jews, the third religious community in the Middle East, was of less importance to Protestant missionary ideology than might have been expected. Significant numbers of the early missionaries shared a millennial world-view in which the conversion of the 'heathen' was a necessary stage in the beginning of the millennium and the return of Christ. In the first half of the nineteenth century, however, only a minority of those with more or less precise millennial expectations had definite views on the position of the Jewish people in such a scheme. This minority expected that the Jews would return to Palestine, acquire some kind of independent state, and convert to Christ. It was only the LJS that acted on such hopes, although even in this society not all members shared these explicit expectations. The LJS, alongside missions among Jews in Europe, also sponsored missions among the Jews of the Middle East, though without much success. Although missionaries of other organisations shared a certain interest in the position of the Jews in the Middle East and some were interested in identifying the 'lost tribes', it seems that most missions, once they had focused on the Eastern Christians, had little interest in pursuing missions among Jews.7

Although the majority of missionaries to the Middle East did not share the premillennial expectations that gained popularity in the late 1820s, there are strong indications that many of those involved in Middle Eastern missions (including the administrators at home who influenced the global distribution of funds) shared a common vision of the importance of the Middle East to the Christian faith. In i860, the ABCFM spent about 45 per cent of its income on its missions in Turkey and Iran.8 Although most publications did not elaborate on this special importance and during the course of the century less and less referred to millennial expectations, their authors often used terms like the 'Holy Land' when referring to Palestine, or 'Bible Lands' when referring to the whole region. Of the few authors who reflected theologically on this

6 See chapter 27 above.

7 Compare Kochav, '"Beginning at Jerusalem"', Perry, 'The American Board of Commissioners', pp. 251-94, and Bebbington, Evangelicalism in modern Britain, pp. 82-3.

8 Perry, 'The American Board of Commissioners', p. 275.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment