Arab Christians Rewrite the New Testament on 60 Minutes

From the 60 Minutes report “Christians of the Holy Land”  last Sunday night [April 22, 2012) moderated by CBS reporter Bob Simon, the viewer was fed the idea that Palestinians started Christianity and gave faith in Christ to the world.

Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian Christian and a Lutheran minister from Bethlehem accurately claimed, “Christianity started here.”  Then Raheb adds, “The only thing that Palestine was able to export so successfully was Christianity.”  Yet no where in the New Testament is name “Palestine” is ever used. The closest we come is in Matthew 15:22 where a Canaanite woman came to Jesus seeking healing for her daughter, “A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

According to Wikipedia, “The first clear use of the term Palestine to refer to the entire area between Phoenicia and Egypt was in 5th century BC Ancient Greece.  Herodotus wrote of a ‘district of Syria, called Palaistinê” in The Histories, the first historical work clearly defining the region, which included the Judean mountains and the Jordan Rift Valley.”

In the Bible Palestine is never mentioned as another name for Israel or the original name of Israel prior to the Jewish exiles from Egypt entering the land under Joshua around 1400 B.C.  We read, “The Hebrew name Peleshet (פלשת Pəlésheth)- usually translated as Philistia in English, is used in the Bible more than 250 times. The Greek word Palaistinē  is generally accepted to be a translation of the Semitic name for Philistia; however another term – Land of Philistieim  was used in the Septuagint, the second century BCE Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, to refer to Philistia.  In the Torah / Pentateuch the term Philistia is used 10 times and its boundaries are undefined. The later Historical books include most of the biblical references, almost 200 of which are in the Book of Judges and the Books of Samuel, where the term is used to denote the southern coastal region to the west of the ancient Kingdom of Judah.”

Getting back to Mitri Raheb, he has the nerve to say, “Christianity has actually on the back a stamp saying, “Made in Palestine.”  Raheb could not be more mistaken.

Given the tenor of the entire article, it appears that Arab Christians are the original followers of Jesus in the Holy Land. I find it odd that Bob Simon did not interview the other Christians living in the Holy Land – Jewish people who have embraced Jesus as the Messiah aka messianic Jews.

According to the the Baptist Press and other sources, there are 20,000 messianic Jews living in Israel with over 150 messianic houses of worship where they congregate.

Sadly, many statements by Arab Christians in the 60 Minutes piece remained unchallenged especially when it came to the Jewish roots of Christianity in the Holy Land. Rather, viewers were left with the false view the roots of Christianity lie with Palestinian Christians.

When one reads the entire New Testament it become obvious the roots of Christianity lie with Jews living in the Holy Land in the first century.  This is just another example of the Arab attempt to disassociate the Jewish people from the land of Israel. Have Arab Christians forgotten Romans 1:16, where Paul writes, ” For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

It is common knowledge backed by the New Testament that the early followers of Jesus were all Jewish; the crowds who listened to Jesus’ sermons and responded in faith to Him were also sons and daughters of Israel; and the individuals brought to Jesus for healing or some form of supernatural ministry were Jews. The Book of Acts makes it clear that Jewish believers in Yeshua like Peter and Paul spread Christianity throughout the earth.

The only time Arabs are mentioned in the New Testament is in Acts 2 when the Jewish followers of Jesus were supernaturally speaking in other languages spoken by the people who were in attendance on Pentecost.  Read the text in Acts 2:7-11:

Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome  (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

Yes, Arabs were in attendance on the Day of Pentecost to witness the pouring out of the Spirit of God on the followers of Jesus. But Arab Christians did not start Christianity.

As one continues to study the history of the early church after the Pentecost event, the church was ruled by Jewish leaders, expanded by Jews and the major New Testament letters written to first century churches were written by Jewish followers of Jesus.

Where do Arab Christians find evidence that Christianity was birthed among the Palestinians? In Acts 8:27 the Jewish follower of Yeshua Phillip shared the gospel message with an Ethiopian who took the gospel back to Ethiopia.  However, other than two isolated incidents the birth of Christianity took place in Israel, not Palestine and was brought into being by Jewish men and women empwoered by the Spirit of God.

Let’s put a halt to this falsehood that Christianity was exported from Palestine and that our messianic faith has a stamp on the back saying, “Made in Palestine.”  The stamp actually says, “Made in Israel and exported to the rest of the world by Jews.”


4 Responses to “Arab Christians Rewrite the New Testament on 60 Minutes”

  1. Colin says:

    “And thus, when the city had been emptied of the Jewish nation and had suffered the total destruction of its ancient inhabitants, it was colonized by a different race, and the Roman city which subsequently arose changed its name and was called Aelia, in honor of the emperor Aelius Adrian. And as the church there was now composed of gentiles, the first one to assume the government of it after the bishops of the circumcision was Marcus”. The Church History Of Eusebius, 4, 6, 4.

  2. Colin says:

    Mitri Raheb should read his church history!

  3. Concerned says:

    This article is sadly very uniformed about Christian history and Middle Eastern history. “Arabs” do not constitute a race; “Arab” is a cultural identity and basically includes anybody who speaks Arabic and who calls him or herself an Arab. Many Christians in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon, though they speak Arabic, do not identify as “Arabs.” The Christians of the Middle East are descended from communities that existed there–in Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, etc., before the Arab/Islamic conquest. Many church/ecclesiastical terms in Arabic actually come from Arabic. At a certain point in time, Christians throughout the Middle East began speaking Arabic. This did not mean that they magically also switched their roots to the Arabian peninsula. Aramaic was the language of liturgy of almost all Christian communities in the Middle East up until the 17th century. The Christians of Palestine, those who belong to indigenous churches, represent people who are descended from the Christians who lived their during the Roman empire; this includes Jews who converted to Christianity millenia ago. The peoples of the Middle East who were there when the Islamic conquests occurred did not disappear; there was a long and slow process of Arabization and Islamization that took place. The Muslims of Palestine are descended from the Christians and Jews who lived there before the conquests and who gradually converted over the course of the centuries which followed it. The number of Arabs who came and settled in the conquered territories after the conquests was comparatively quite minuscule. But even if every single non-Jewish person in Palestine who called him or herself Palestinian and Arab were in fact descended from someone from pre-Islamic Arabia, and if in fact, “palestine” never existed, this would not change the fundamental fact that the people who were living in mandatory palestine and who were living in the area of Palestine during the Ottoman period were in fact…human beings…and as such, they are no less deserving of rights and respect than anyone else, Jew or non-. This article represents a perverse view of humanity, which privileges one people over another strictly on the basis of their origin and which justifies such preference with flimsy historical argumentation (wikipedia? really?) that is infected with nationalism. God, the Bible says, is no respecter of persons. In Christ, it also says, there is neither Jew nor Greek. Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel–it was for the Jew first and also for the Greek. The sort of chauvinistic nationalism you are espousing on this site is incompatible with the Christian Gospel.

    • Scripture Solutions says:

      Jack: If anyone needs a history lesson, I think you are the likely candidate. Your thinking is convoluted and confusing. Based on your definition of Arab, I am a German since I know the German language and have the option of calling myself a German. I don’t think you’ll find a historian or anthropologist to agree with you on your definition. Arab is much more than a cultural identity. I never offered a definition of Christian Arabs nor attempted to define them. If they identify themselves as Arab Christians, I accept their self identification. Arabs, from the Hebrew ‘arab speaks of the arid, dry land in which they lived in ancient times. According to 2 Chronicles 17:11-12 they were characterized as wanderers in the desert.

      Arab people in their origins identified with certain tribes in the Ancient Near East: they descended from Ishmael, the son of Abraham through Hagar. Genesis 25:13-16). Essentially, Arabs descended from Ishmael are sons of Abraham and semites. Being a son of Abraham is more than speaking and language and self designation. Arabs are descended as a nation from Abraham, a fact they proudly declare. The Old Testament identifies many tribes as Arab: Amalakites, Hagarites, Kedarites, Kenites and Meunim. Arabs are referred to throughout the Bible in their dealings with Israel and it’s not always positive (Judges 6-8; 2 Chronicles 21:16-17; 22:1; Isaiah 21:13-17; Nehemiah 2:19).

      Your statement that “The Muslims of Palestine are descended from the Christians and Jews who lived there before the conquests and who gradually converted over the course of the centuries which followed it,” is very confusing and lacks historical evidence. Are you saying the Muslims today in Palestinian territories were once Jews? What world are you living in? Since you see being an Arab as a cultural identity you can say what you say, but once you connect Arab identification with tribes which became a nation, your argument falls apart.

      Your statement about Arabs being “human beings” is irrelevant to my blog. The blog only proved that Palestinians did not launch Christianity. Yes, they were among the Jewish people and proselytes who heard the gospel in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Shavuot) (Acts 2:11). They may have come from the Nabataean kingdom I’m Transjordan according to some Old Testament scholars. However, no one other than Palestinians claim they started Christianity.

      My quote from Wikipedia may not hold weight with you, but your response holds a lot less weight than the Wikipedia quote. Where are your sources for your definition of Arabs? A source would be helpful. Besides, the definition from Wikipedia is a standard description often used when speaking of the origins of the term “Palestine.” I could find the same definition from other sources. My blog did not promote a perverse view of humanity, but a biblical perspective that regards God’s covenant made with Israel. Go also made a very generous covenant with Ishmael and his descendants. My position in now way denies the spiritual unity between Jews and Gentiles in the Messiah; however, there still remains a distinction between Jews and Gentiles in the church just as a distinction between males and females persists throughout the nT. God is no respecter of person, you say. Yet does God have the right to elect a nation to be the recipient of His blessings? He did so with Israel and the Arab peoples. Yet you deny that freedom to God. You are very confused about the Word of God; I will assume your liberal inclusivity has erased your ability to follow any lines of theological thought regarding God’s relationship with Israel and other nations as described in the scriptures. Thanks for the dialogue!


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