Biblical Interpretation and Middle East Policy: The Promised Land, America, and Israel, 1917-2002; Understanding Jihad

In This Review

Biblical Interpretation and Middle East Policy: The Promised Land, America, and Israel, 1917-2002

By Irvine H. Anderson
University Press of Florida, 2005
192 pp. $39.95
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Understanding Jihad

By David Cook
University of California Press, 2005
269 pp. $50.00
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Reviewing together these two very different books serves to underscore that in the Middle East, religion and international politics are inseparable. Each book does a splendid job of tracing the origins and development of a religious doctrine and its impact on the mundane world. Anderson's subject is the belief by an important number of Christians that the state of Israel is ordained by God -- part of his plan leading to the end times. The roots of this "Christian Zionism" go back to the nineteenth-century split between the "historical/critical" and the "literal/prophetic" approaches in Christian theology. Cook traces fourteen centuries of Muslim jihadist theology, including the modern liberal interpretation that depicts the principle of jihad as equivalent to the Christian just-war doctrine. Anderson leans more toward the social history of Christian Zionism, while Cook, hewing closer to doctrinal changes, provides a fine study in intellectual history. Each author brings a dispassionate appreciation to a subject so often fraught with misrepresentation, and each book is, quite simply, the most readable and best on its subject.