An Unusual Relationship

Evangelical Christians and Jews

316 pages

June, 2013

ISBN: 9780814770689



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Yaakov Ariel is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His book, Evangelizing the Chosen People, was awarded the Albert C. Outler prize by the American Society of Church History. 

All books by Yaakov Ariel

It is generally accepted that Jews and evangelical Christians have little in common. Yet special alliances developed between the two groups in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Evangelicals viewed Jews as both the rightful heirs of Israel and as a group who failed to recognize their true savior. Consequently, they set out to influence the course of Jewish life by attempting to evangelize Jews and to facilitate their return to Palestine. Their double-edged perception caused unprecedented political, cultural, and theological meeting points that have revolutionized Christian-Jewish relationships. An Unusual Relationship explores the beliefs and political agendas that evangelicals have created in order to affect the future of the Jews. Additionally, it analyses Jewish opinions and reactions to those efforts, as well as those of other religious groups, such as Arab Christians.
This volume offers a fascinating, comprehensive analysis of the roots, manifestations, and consequences of evangelical interest in the Jews, and the alternatives they provide to conventional historical Christian-Jewish interactions. It also provides a compelling understanding of Middle Eastern politics through a new lens.


  • "Clear and accessible; this is a book that will appeal to the intelligent, curious reader that we all seek to reach." 

    —Shalom Goldman, Duke University

  • "In this enormously well researched and gracefully argued book, Ariel develops a nuanced theme: the complexity, ambivalence, and even paradox that has characterized conservative Protestant beliefs regarding Jews and Israel, and the diverse responses among Jews. This is first-rate scholarship presented in a pleasingly accessible style."

    —Stephen Spector, author of Evangelicals and Israel: The Story of American Christian Zionism

  • "According to Ariel, Jews are central to Evangelical Christians' definition of their own faith and their own role within the larger historical Protestant community in the United States...As a result of the ongoing relationship, many Evangelicals and Jews have to come to consider each other a useful ally. And, many consider the other's faith, at least partially, a blessed source of support for its own cause."

    —Aaron Howard, Jewish Herald-Voice

  • "Ariel's important contribution to the larger discussion focuses on Evangelical engagement with Jewish communities and Evangelical interest in influencing the course of Jewish history. He considers the influences of Messianic faith, Evangelical readings of scripture, and theological positions that lead to Evangelical interest in the Jews. Thus, Ariel's work has a significant breadth that many other topical treatments lack. Importantly, Ariel does an excellent job of defining which Evangelicals are relevant to the discussion. He points out something that academic treatments of Evangelicalism sometimes miss: Evangelicals are not monolithic in their outlook. This accessible work of stellar scholarship will be valuable in both academic and adult education settings. Summing Up: Highly recommended."

    —M.M. Veeneman, Choice

  • "Using thorough research and accessible writing, he convincingly argues that the relationship between evangelicals and Jews is nuanced and complicated, with roots in theology, history, literature, geography, politics, and more. Ultimately, Ariel presents evangelicals as seeing Jews as unique among non-Christians—as people responsible for the rejection of their Messiah, yet ultimately with an indispensable role to play in hastening His return. These conflicting perceptions form the basis for an unusual yet undeniable relationship....Throughout his book Ariel makes a clear case that this fascination is not only warranted, but also deeply rooted in a plethora of traditions and fields. As such, An Unusual Relationship is a rigorous, welcome, and valuable contribution."

    —Daniel Bennett, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

  • "Yaakov Ariel's new book is an important work of scholarship regarding the attitude of evangelical Christians in America toward Jews and the State of Israel. The book offers a panoramic examination of its subject and draws wide-ranging conclusions. Ariel's study offers a discussion of the ideas, actions, and popular literature of conservative evangelicals regarding Jews. The book's major contribution to the field lies in its emphasis on the power of messianic faith in shaping evangelical attitudes. A good deal of research has been done in recent years on conservative Christians in America but most of it has been produced by social scientists or historians who are not much interested in the core religious texts and concepts that motivate evangelists. And yet, without understanding these texts and concepts, it is difficult to truly penetrate their world and understand its inner logic. Ariel is one of the few academically trained scholars who has been able to tackle this material, and he has done so with immense skill and with no bias for or against them."

    —Motti Inbari, H-Net

  • An Unusual Relationship makes a strikingly positive contribution to the relatively sparse scholarly literature in this field.”

    Sociology of Religion

  • “[…] An Unusual Relationship makes an important addition to the history of religious pluralism by showing how, contrary to what many observers would expect, conservative evangelicals have improved inter-religious relationships.”

    Nova Religio