Pictorial Library: 1-2 Corinthians

BiblePlaces.com has just released their latest Photo Companion to the Bible, 1-2 Corinthians, and it is a winner!

What is a Photo Companion to the Bible?

Simply put, it is one of the most valuable teaching resources that Bible teachers (or students) can acquire because it helps the user better understand the cultural and geographical references of a particular book of the Bible. Bible teachers are wise to provide visual support for their teaching; and the Pictorial Companion is perfect for this purpose.

“This photo collection is remarkable! It provides a wonderful tour of the city and also includes pictures and interpretations of objects related to both the background and the subject of the text. Viewing the slides, I felt as if I I had found a pearl of great price that both informs and enriches one’s understanding of this letter.”

David E. Garland, Professor of Christian Scriptures, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University; author of 1 Corinthians in the BECNT series

Here is BiblePlaces.com’s description of this collection:

The Photo Companion to the Bible is a unique collection of digital photographs that illustrate the biblical text verse by verse.

  • PowerPoint-based resource
  • Library of images provides broad selection
  • Created by a team of professors and scholars
  • Organized by chapter and verse
  • Each chapter is illustrated by 45–200 photographs

What’s included in the 1-2 Corinthians Photo Companion?

This resource includes 2,500 photos. However, these aren’t 2,500 random photos that are somewhat related to First or Second Corinthians. These photos are organized by chapter and verse with helpful explanatory notes provided in PowerPoint format. While they are ready for use upon arrival, you may want to move the photos into your own presentation format.

While the photos are what catch the eye, the notes are a critical element of this resource. These notes are not a collection of random quotes gathered from the Internet for Uncle Joe’s Blog. They are produced by genuine scholars who have expertise related to the topics.

“When I discovered the resources offered through BiblePlaces.com I was thrilled. The photos have been a tremendous help to me! They are high quality, wisely organized, and reasonably priced. As one who loves geography, history, culture, and archaeology, these images have been a tremendous blessing and have greatly enriched my ministry.”

Pastor Joel DeSelm, South Bend, Indiana

What makes this collection better than what I can get in a study Bible or a biblical backgrounds textbook?

Admittedly, there are some good illustrated study Bibles and biblical background commentaries/textbooks available. However, the very nature of those publications limits their true effectiveness in visually illustrating the biblical text. The most obvious advantage of the Photo Companion to the Bible is the sheer volume of photos it provides for each chapter of the Bible. For example, at most, a printed text, whether a study Bible or a textbook, is limited to a few illustrations for a whole book of the Bible. Let’s be generous and say there is one illustration per page of that text. However many illustrations that would be for a particular published text, it pales in comparison to the 50, 70, 100, or more photos per Bible chapter that are provided in this library!

What are some highlights from this collection?

  • The city of Corinth and its archaeological remains
  • Images illustrating the worldly wisdom of Greco-Roman society
  • Photos of athletic competitions, racetracks, and prizes
  • Photos of Greco-Roman temples and meat markets
  • Coins illustrating orators and the Emperor Nero
  • Biblical scrolls showing Paul’s use of the Hebrew Bible
  • Papyrus letters, scribal tools, and artwork of scrolls
  • Ancient manuscripts related to stewardship, lawsuits, and divorce
  • Busts and portraits illustrating ancient head coverings
  • Traditional tents and portrayals of tent-making
  • Statues of famous individuals known to the Corinthians
  • Weaponry, armor, and strongholds from the biblical world
  • Imagery of planting, building, temptation, judgment, household gatherings, communal meals, grief, joy, decay, conflict, sowing, and reaping
  • Frescoes illustrating marriage, worship, sacrifice, prayer, freedom, conscience, judgment, field work, sailing, worship, and pagan wisdom

Can you give me an example of how this works?

The following elements are provided in a slide related to 1 Corinthians 13:2.
1. The biblical text or phrase.
2. The photo or illustration.
3. Identification or explanation of the photo or illustration.
4. Commentary relating the photo to the text.

Using the 4 point guide above, all the elements below are included in a PowerPoint slide:

  1. “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge…”
  2. [note the photos in the Companion do not have the © statement]

3. Library of Celsus at Ephesus

4. Paul was in Ephesus when he wrote 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 16:8). The Library of Celsus, built in AD 110, once housed some 12,000 scrolls. It is noteworthy that during Paul’s stay at Ephesus (from which he wrote this letter to Corinth), a number of new followers of Jesus who had previously practiced magic brought together their books and burned them publicly (Acts 19:19).


Download the free PowerPoint of 1 Corinthians 13 here.
Download the free PowerPoint sample of 2 Corinthians 4 here.

How much does it cost?

The regular list price for the Photo Companion to the Bible: 1-2 Corinthians is $109, which is a bargain. However, this resource is currently on sale for $69, and you can order here!


I have some photos in this collection. However, I am recommending it here because I believe in the product. I personally use the Bible Companion: Acts in my Life of Paul course at Baptist Bible College, and have received many comments from students about how helpful the images are in illustrating the text.

You asked: How did Jesus identify Joseph?

I received the following inquiry.

We had a discussion in Sunday School about what Jesus called Joseph. We know that he called Mary Mother, but we don’t think he called Joseph Father. We think he just used Father when he was talking to/about God. What do you think?

My response:

Here are my thoughts regarding your question. Pass it around if you like, but remember my word isn’t the last word. I simply submit to you my thoughts.

If the class doesn’t think Jesus called Joseph father, how did He address him? Were there any suggestions? I can only guess that this question stems from one of two things: Jesus’ statement in Matthew 23:9, or a belief that Joseph was somehow less than a “real” father to Jesus since there wasn’t a genuine biological connection. (I reject both.)

Though we have no record of Jesus ever addressing Joseph at all, I believe it is safe to “assume” that Jesus addressed him in the manner that was appropriate and respectful. For Jesus would certainly follow the 6th Mosaic command to honor father and mother (Ex. 20:12).

We must also remember that while Joseph was not the physical father of Jesus, he certainly was Jesus’ legal father and he functioned as both legal and physical father in all normal aspects of fatherhood apart from conception.

We have no grounds to assume that there was any type of sibling rivalry which is often the case today in “step-parent/step-child” relationships. Neither do I have reason to believe that Jesus ever said, “I don’t have to do that, you’re not my father!” or that Joseph ever said something like, “If you were my child, I’d . . . ” I say this because I believe Jesus treated Joseph exactly like a biological father should be treated according to Mosaic law – with honor. Granted, I’m arguing from silence here, but from the other aspects of Jesus’ life and personal relationships, I think it is safe to draw such conclusions.

So, how did other children respectfully address the man to whom their mother was married? The only thing we see in the New Testament for this relationship is the word father. In the New Testament the only Greek word used for this person is “PATER”. There are NO exceptions regardless of who is speaking, Jesus or “regular” people.

I think there are two important issues to pursue so that we can understand this question: the particular context of the “prohibition” and Jesus’ acceptance or rejection of the use of the word “father” elsewhere in the Scripture.

First, let’s deal with the latter. Immediately, Matthew 8:21 comes to mind. In this passage Jesus is dealing with a certain scribe about the COST of true discipleship, a small part of the cost being “leaving everything behind.” Then another of the disciples interrupted by saying, “First, let me go bury my father.” Jesus’ response was not, “Don’t address anyone on earth as father!” Why? Because the context and issue at hand was different than that in Matthew 23.

Also in Matthew 15:4-6 we see Jesus himself quoting the commands which had been penned by God and brought down from Sinai by Moses: “Honor your father and your mother; and He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.” In this case Jesus is rebuking those who had abused their responsibility toward their parents, thus breaking the command. If, as some assume from His statements in Matthew 23, we should never refer to our male parent as father, why did Jesus not CORRECT rather than PROTECT what Moses delivered? He couldn’t because there isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with addressing the man married to your mother (whether you are his physical descendant or not) as “father.” Family relationships are not at stake in Matthew 23.

If family relationships are not at stake in Matthew 23, then what is going on? Jesus is giving a scathing assessment of the religious leaders of the day. He summarizes their offenses in verse 5, “All their works they do to be seen by men.” In other words, they are hypocrites seeking vain glory and honor from those over whom they have charge. They are seeking titles of power and prominence in this world.

Notice the three titles he forbids: rabbi/teacher, father, leader. All of these could be considered “power positions” in this context which are NOT forbidden elsewhere in Scripture. In fact, the writers of Scripture use them in a positive sense. For example, Paul writes to the Ephesians that “teachers” were given to the body for her edification. As mentioned above, Jesus positively quotes the 6th command which identifies the male parent as “father”.

Jesus is trying to underscore for the multitudes and disciples the distinction between true religious faith and religious “power brokering.” Jesus says: “You are all brethren (vs. 8).” “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant (vs. 11).” “He who humbles himself shall be exalted (vs. 12).” He is highlighting the abusive power system that was in place and exhorting the people to breakout of such by recognizing their teacher, leader and father who comes from heaven. Those whom they were currently following were certainly not from heaven.

If we understand this prohibition in this manner, then we can easily reconcile both Jesus’ and other NT writers’ positive use of these terms with Jesus’ command not to use them in Matthew 23.

The application for us today is very real. Many men and women fill positions of church leadership as religious power brokers. In many cases there is no difference between our day and Jesus’. Therefore we should receive Jesus’ warning not to follow in the footsteps of those who abuse their position for the purpose of being seen by men. Neither should we submit to such phonies.

ISIS and the Gospel

WARNING: Links in this post may lead to GRAPHIC CONTENT!

Abu Maryam al-Faransi left France to join ISIS.

Abu Maryam al-Faransi left France to join ISIS.

The news coming from the Islamic State is, at best, unsettling. As a result of effective recruiting, foreign fighters from both Muslim countries and the West are swelling the ranks of the ISIS army (see here, here, and here). In addition to the West’s apparent failure in turning certain of their citizens away from jihadi ideology, or western nations’ apparent failure to prevent these same people from making their way to Syria to join the battle, several elements of the ISIS jihad story lead observers to conclude that the situation in Syria/Iraq is hopeless. Two of those elements are martyrdom and brutality.

Martyrdom: A Desire to Die

“We love dying for God as much as you love life.” ISIS fighter, Rabie Shehada

That they are likely to be killed in the battle to expand the boundaries of the Islamic State doesn’t seem to dissuade the recruits. In fact, the prospect of dying as a martyr for Allah seems to be a draw (see here, here, and here). Targeting this element of jihadi ideology – the desire to die for the cause – recruiters are using social media to publish photos of many of their soldiers who died with smiles on their faces (see here, here, and here), which suggests they died happy martyrs.

With every new conflict comes imaginative new methods to recruit fighters and soldiers on all sides. While the US Military uses high budget television adverts or internet campaigns designed to show off the superiority of their forces, the propaganda wing of the Islamic State has taken to posting and sharing pictures and videos of dying and dead “martyrs”, all smiling. najemoi.com

 Brutality: Glorifying and Defending a Way of Life

The brutality of ISIS – which includes, among other things, hanging captives from their feet, repeated mock executions, extra-judicial mass executions, rape, sexual and physical enslavement, beheading, and the public parading of heads and decapitated bodies – has been widely reported by released hostages (see here, here, and here) and/or confirmed by video, photos, and commentary released through ISIS channels (see here, here, and here).

ISIS has successfully utilized the brutality of their movement to recruit the discontent or wandering souls (both males and females) who seek purpose and meaning in life (see here, here, and video here).

“For many people who are lacking a strong sense of identity and purpose, their violent radical global narrative provides easy answers and solutions: it can be very powerful message for people who are looking for answers,” … “Their online material shows capturing territory, establishing states, beheading enemies: they show that they are the sexiest jihadi group on the block.” Matthew Levitt, Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Not only has brutality been an effective recruiting tool for ISIS, it is also intended to bring into submission those whom ISIS deems to be enemies. In the Islamic State, submission takes different forms: forced conversion to Islam, evacuation to safer locations (see here and here), or paying a security/protection tax.

Those who are concerned that the gospel be effectively taken to all, have to wonder if it is possible to get the gospel to people within ISIS. And, even if one succeeded in getting it there, is it possible for a person that glories in beheading aid workers, a person that appears to glory in evil, to believe the gospel? My answer: There is hope. Even ISIS fighters and their brides can be reached with the gospel.

Below, I offer two lines of evidence that give me gospel hope for those who are engaged in this type of jihad with ISIS or any other group that seems too radical to be redeemed; one is biblical, the other is research based.

Biblical Evidence: ISIS Fighters Can Be Saved

The first source of hope is Paul’s inclusion of the “Scythian” in Colossians 3:11 (ESV): “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” In this verse Paul provides a list of four pairs of identities that are not to be given preference in Christ: Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian and Scythian, and slave and free. Although it isn’t Paul’s primary point, his use of each of these pairs suggests that people from each background or identity can be found within the faith community.

To be clear: I’m not making the argument that ISIS is a descendent movement or ideology of the Scythians. I am suggesting the extreme cruelty of both groups, which some think reflects an unredeemable spirit, is similar. For example, Yamauchi (Biblical Archaeologist 46:2, p. 98) provides a description of the Scythians, which compares to the actions of ISIS today:

“[The Scythians’] reputation for ferocity, their scalping of captives, and their other barbarous customs made their name synonymous with savagery down into the Christian era…”

According to Encyclopedia Britannica:

The Scythian army was made up of freemen who received no wage other than food and clothing but who could share in booty on presentation of the head of a slain enemy.

Again, I am not saying the Scythians are ISIS; I am recognizing their similarities and suggesting that if members of one group can be reached for Christ, we should have hope for members of a very similar group.

The next line of evidence illustrates that committed jihadis can be converted to Christ.

Research Evidence: Radical Muslims Can Be Saved

In my doctoral research (PhD, University of Pretoria), I interviewed twenty-four Palestinians who had left Islam for Christ. Respondent Four is evidence that a radical Muslim can meet Jesus Christ. Read his testimony summary here.

“He [Respondent Four] was satisfied with his life as a Muslim. In fact, after returning from a lengthy stint working in the Arabian Gulf, he was involved in a religiously motivated political group that he described as actively seeking the establishment of a truly Muslim nation beginning in all of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean [i.e., modern Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza] and spreading throughout the region.”

ISIS isn’t a new idea. In fact, there have been a number of groups in the region who have espoused a similar ideology; the distinction simply being one of nuance or opportunity, not kind.

Lessons Learned

Below are some lessons that can be learned from Respondent Four’s testimony:

1. This testimony is an example of how God uses crisis to draw people to himself, even radical Muslims. Therefore, Christians should seek to help Muslims who are in crisis.

2. This testimony is an example of how a medical need was the catalyst for a radical Muslim to meet Christians who loved him enough to tell him about Jesus. Therefore, Christians should seek opportunities to provide medical aid when possible. Here is an example of Christians providing medical aid.

3. This testimony is an example of how Christians maintained a Christian identity and took the risk to share the gospel with a radical Muslim. Therefore, it is important for Christians to risk sharing the gospel with Muslims.

4. This testimony is an example of how the Holy Spirit uses Scripture to draw radical Muslims. Therefore, Christians should:
a. be intentional in seeking opportunities to share God’s word with Muslims.
b. encourage Muslims to read the Bible for themselves.
c. be patient and forgiving when a Muslim becomes angry and argumentative while resisting God’s Word.

5. This testimony is an example of how it’s possible to engage a radical Muslim for the gospel outside the battle zone. Therefore, in the case of ISIS, Christians should seek opportunities to engage potential radical Muslims who may be considering going to the Islamic State. Although it’s not impossible for a member of ISIS to come to faith within the Islamic State, it is no doubt more challenging to access the gospel there.

Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ, Story #5

This excerpt from my dissertation is the conversion-story summary of Respondent Five, a female from Nablus. Feel free to interact in the comments or Download my dissertation as a free PDF!

The following is ©2014 University of Pretoria and Craig Dunning, and if used elsewhere, should be cited as:

Dunning, CA (2014) Palestinian Muslims converting to Christianity: effective evangelistic methods in the West Bank. Pretoria, South Africa: University of Pretoria, PhD thesis, pp. 317-319.

Respondent Five – female – Nablus

Respondent Five’s testimony is intimately connected to the conversion process of her husband, Respondent Four. Their daughter had an eye problem that required corrective surgery. A family friend directed their attention to some Christian men who had been in their area, suggesting that those men could help the respondents’ daughter get the needed surgery at a Jerusalem hospital. As it turned out, the men did not have any direct connections to the eye hospital, but promised to do what they could to secure some help.

Before leaving, the Christian men also gave the respondent’s husband an Arabic tract with the following headline: “John 14:6 – I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man can come to the Father but by me.” At the time, the tract was not important to the respondent or her husband; they simply wanted help getting their daughter’s eyes corrected. However, while they did not understand the tract to be important, it was one of the instruments God used to get her husband’s attention, which resulted in them inviting the Christian men to visit and talk about spiritual matters.

As a result of her husband’s interest in, or sometimes consternation with the things the Christian men were telling them, the men were asked to return on multiple occasions to explain more about their beliefs. The invitations were not always open, though. At times, the respondent’s husband would forbid them to come to the home anymore. Alternately, he would revise his decision and allow them to resume their visits.

Although she never told her husband, the respondent enjoyed hearing the men talk about Jesus and the Bible and was always sad when they left. In many ways, she was the opposite of her husband as they each moved toward conversion. He was always troubled by the men’s visit; she never was. He respected Islam and enjoyed being at the mosque; she had internal conflicts with Islam and did not enjoy going to the mosque. And, while her conversion was intimately associated with her husband’s, she had her own personal experience, which involved dreams, Christian broadcasting on satellite television, a miracle, and personal dissatisfaction with Islam.

Prior to considering Christianity, the respondent had issues with Islam that had to do with the life of the prophet and the lives of Muslims. Muhammad had been presented to her as a model of how to live. Yet, he had a child bride. When the respondent gave some thought to the issue of a child bride, she began to question a number of things. For example, allowing men to have up to four wives was impossible in her mind, particularly for her personally. She also felt like Islam demanded that its adherents not think outside Islam, which means blindly accepting anything Islamic tradition or leaders teach and disregarding anything positive that was said about other religions. She thought this was an attempt to hide “the bad side of Islam.”

As a result of things the Christian men had said during their visits, the respondent asked God to give her a sign, a dream that would confirm the things she was hearing from the visitors. On three occasions she had the same dream of three wooden crosses descending from the sky. The only thing she could conclude from these dreams was that they were confirming what she had heard from the Christian men about Jesus dying on the cross between two thieves. However, even though they appeared to be God’s response to her request for a sign, she was not yet convinced.

In addition to the respondent’s personal reading of the New Testament and visits with the Christian men over an almost two-year period, the most persuasive influence in her decision to convert came through watching Christian broadcasting via satellite. Though she watched English broadcasts, too, she primarily watched Arabic language broadcasts, which were fairly charismatic in style and theology.

The turning point in the respondent’s decision to convert came while watching an Arabic language Christian broadcast during which, the television pastor said he wanted to pray for those viewers who were sick. The respondent had, for some time, had a tumor in her stomach that had not been helped through Muslim prayers for healing. In response to the television pastor’s message, the respondent touched the television and prayed for healing. She was surprised when she heard the pastor call her name and age, but believed that, like the dreams, this was a sign from God. Two days later, the tumor was gone and she “completely believed in Jesus.”

Due to her husband’s ongoing struggles between Islam and Christianity, the respondent did not tell him of her healing or conversion for about a week. And that occurred in conjunction with him telling her that he had converted.

Themes that emerged in this interview: Personal Bible reading, formal Bible studies, doubts about Islam/Qur’an, the kindness of Christians, prayer, dreams, crisis, family/group conversion, Christian broadcasting, gospel tracts, and pastoral/evangelistic visits.

NEXT: Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ: Story #6

Download my dissertation as a free PDF!


Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ, Story #4

This excerpt from my dissertation is the conversion-story summary of Respondent Four, a male from Nablus. Feel free to interact in the comments or download my dissertation as a free PDF!

The following is ©2014 University of Pretoria and Craig Dunning, and if used elsewhere, should be cited as:

Dunning, CA (2014) Palestinian Muslims converting to Christianity: effective evangelistic methods in the West Bank. Pretoria, South Africa: University of Pretoria, PhD thesis, pp. 309-316.

Respondent Four – male – Nablus

Respondent Four was raised in an observant Muslim home. As an adult he avoided pork and alcohol, faithfully prayed five times per day and observed Ramadan. He was satisfied with his life as a Muslim. In fact, after returning from a lengthy stint working in the Arabian Gulf, he was involved in a religiously motivated political group that he described as actively seeking the establishment of a truly Muslim nation beginning in all of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean [i.e., modern Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza] and spreading throughout the region.

Since there was no work available when he returned from the Gulf, the respondent depended on aid from organizations like the UN to survive for more than two years. This lack of work gave him a lot of free time, so in addition to his political activities and daily prayer ritual, he had plenty of time to participate in a Qur’an study group, which, in his estimation, made him “a better Muslim, a stronger Muslim, and a Muslim more determined to see the end of Israel and the establishment of a truly Muslim nation.”

The respondent’s introduction to the gospel was the result of what appeared to be a chance encounter. He was perfectly satisfied with his life as a Muslim. His wife and kids were happily involved in the Muslim community. He was satisfied with his political activities, and though he was still having difficulties providing for his family, the lack of work afforded him the opportunity to continue in the Qur’an study. Life was good, except for one thing: His young daughter had a serious eye problem that medicine could not fix; she needed surgery.

About five years after returning from the Gulf, a Muslim friend told the respondent that he had recently met some Christian men from Jerusalem who work for an eye hospital, and suggested that they could probably get the respondent’s daughter the surgery she needed. Though he desperately wanted his daughter’s eye problem to be repaired, he was adamant that he did not want and would not allow the Christian men to help. So, he refused to see them.

A week later, the respondent, once again, saw the man who had suggested getting help from the Christian men who were visiting their area and distributing care packages to the needy. The respondent was still adamant: “No help from Christians!” he shouted.

The next night, the respondent began to experience a series of dreams or voices in the night. The respondent was not certain how to label the events, except to say that he never saw anything; he only heard a voice. This happened on three consecutive nights, and then once more a few days later.

The first night, he clearly heard in Arabic the words, “Your life is wrong.” The voice woke him and he was quite unsettled, wondering what was wrong with his life. He woke his wife and after telling her about the voice, asked how his life might be wrong. She assured the respondent that everything was okay because they were “100% observant Muslims.”

The next day, he spent the morning thinking about the meaning of the message. The only thing he could think of was that it was a sign from Allah that it was time to start the uprising against Israel that his political group had been planning. Without revealing anything about the voice, he contacted his immediate supervisor, who lived abroad, to see if it was time to implement their plans. Thinking he had solved the riddle, the respondent was quite surprised when his supervisor did not hesitate to say that it was not time. The supervisor’s answer caused the respondent’s day to be very long; he could not think about anything but the words he had heard the previous night and what they meant.

Before going to bed that night, still confused about the words he had heard, the respondent went to the mosque and prayed that he could become a soldier for Allah. In the night, he was awakened once again by the voice for the second time with a similar, but more emphatic message: “Your life is wrong, very wrong. I need you as a leader; many will follow you.” Again, he woke his wife and asked her what was wrong in his life and how he could improve, but she had no answer. The question plagued him throughout the following day, but he did not know the answer.

The next night, the third in a row, the same voice spoke again: “I need you somewhere else.” He did not understand what this meant, but did not bother to wake his wife again.

After three consecutive nights of hearing the voice and not understanding the message, he happened to see the man who had recommended that the respondent seek medical help for his daughter from the Christians. For some reason, he felt differently about it this time, and told the man to have them come visit.

A few days later, three men came to visit the respondent and his daughter. Unknown to the respondent at the time, one of the men was a MBB, the other two were evangelical Christians, one Palestinian, the other American. During the visit, the men told him that they were not connected to the eye hospital in Jerusalem, but that they would do their best to try to find help from someone who was connected.

Before leaving, they also gave the respondent a tract with the following headline: “John 14:6 – I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man can come to the Father but by me.” He did not read beyond the headline, thanked the men for coming and led them to the door. He was not interested in the tract, but he thought it was appropriate to give it some attention in the presence of the men who were going to help get his daughter’s eyes repaired.

In the night, he was awakened the fourth and final time by the same voice, which said, “This is the explanation of the voice.” The message was short, but caused a different reaction than the previous three because he understood it to reference the Christian tract he had received. Tears flowed down his face as he woke his wife to tell her what had happened. Certain that he would find something important inside the tract, he asked his wife to come read it with him.

He read the tract to her and said, “I know it’s supposed to be the explanation of the voice, but I still don’t understand the meaning.” Since the information in the tract came from the New Testament, his wife encouraged him to call the men and ask for a Bible, so that he could read more to try to better understand the tract’s meaning. He followed her suggestion, and within a day, the men had returned with a Bible.

The respondent began to read the Bible side by side with Qur’an, intending to disprove the Bible. Since the tract included a verse from John’s gospel, he initially thought he should read that first. However, he decided to read from the beginning. After reading one chapter, he concluded that “Genesis was just a storybook” and he pushed it aside. He happily returned to the Qur’an for a day. However, the next day, he felt compelled to try reading the Bible again and he began reading in Genesis chapter two this time.

The story of Adam and Eve caught his attention because God spoke to them. Since he still had no steady work, he had time to read the Bible and attend the mosque. No one, except his wife and children, knew he was reading the Bible. He certainly did not tell the men at the mosque. He was also captivated by the story of Abraham, particularly the land promise that Abraham received. As he finished Genesis and continued reading the Old Testament, he expanded his reading to include Matthew’s gospel. For some reason he could not bring himself to read John.

Certain that the New Testament had errors, he was determined to find them and make notes to show the men from Jerusalem why they were wrong to be Christians. When the men returned to visit, he presented his list, and was disappointed when they calmly explained why the perceived errors were not actually errors. He was also disappointed when the explanations were clear and persuasive. The disappointment turned to anger when one of the men began to speak of Jesus as the Son of God. That was totally unacceptable and the respondent evicted the men from his home, forbidding them to ever return.

In spite of his anger with the Christian men, he continued reading the New Testament. Still wanting to prove it wrong, he read Matthew’s gospel again. This time, though, he started to have a sense that something was wrong in the mosque. The words of Jesus in Matthew were quite different than the words he regularly heard in the mosque. For example, Jesus said, “love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you” [Mt 5:44]. The sheik continually encouraged his listeners to “destroy the enemy.” This contrast was hard to manage. On the one hand, the respondent had great admiration for the sheik. On the other, Islam believes Jesus is a prophet. “That means,” according to the respondent, that “Jesus has a higher status than the sheik, and should be listened to more than the sheik.” However, it was not so easy to dismiss the words of the sheik because of their personal relationship as well as the sheik’s status in the community.

Another indicator that something was wrong in the mosque was the message of James 1:27, which describes pure religion as caring for widows and orphans. That was in contrast to his own experience of watching his sister, a widow, being neglected by other Muslims.

These two things – Matthew’s gospel and James 1:27 – were drawing the respondent toward Christianity, but that was such a discouraging idea that he thought he should continue reading the New Testament in order to find the errors so that he could dismiss the whole thing.

The respondent said the most difficult barrier to becoming a Christian was “the idea of Jesus being God’s Son.” However, that problem began to subside as the respondent read Genesis 22 and considered the story of Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son. This was the first time the respondent thought as a human and not just as a Muslim. Prior to this, everything had been considered through the filter of being a Muslim. Now, he could simply read the story as a person, a human. And suddenly, the story of God sending His only Son to die on the cross was a story of hope and not of blasphemy.

At this point, the respondent called the Christian men he had previously evicted and told them that he felt like he was “about 70% Christian” and that he wanted them to come to his home again. They were happy to resume their visits, and with each Bible study the respondent gained more joy and peace. However, he still remained somewhat conflicted about where he seemed to be heading, which contradicted everything he had been taught and believed in the past.

The men eventually began to pray with the family, which was quite disturbing for them. In fact, the respondent’s son warned that the family would “turn to monkeys” if they continued praying like Christians. This sentiment reflected the feelings of most of the family.

One mitigating factor, though, was the behavior of these Christian men who had been visiting their home. They were consistently kind, patient and forgiving toward others. Additionally, the Christians were helpful toward the needy; in this case, they were helpful in getting eye surgery for the youngest daughter of this family.

The respondent’s daughter’s successful eye surgery notwithstanding, the respondent still felt an obligation to Islam and the Qur’an, so he initiated a personal daily Qur’an study with the sheik. In hindsight, he thought his motivation for these studies was less to re-affirm his prior belief in Islam but more to confirm the rightness of Christianity.

In these studies, he began asking the sheik about Christianity. In the respondent’s estimation, the sheik was unable to satisfactorily answer any of his questions. For example, the sheik could not explain why the church was still present so long after the establishment of Islam. He could not explain why the gospel is wrong. Neither could the sheik explain why the ostensibly Islamic Palestinian government recognized Christian weddings or allowed Palestinians to use a Bible. While each unsatisfactory answer seemed to solidify the respondent’s thoughts about believing in Jesus, one of the sheik’s answers was very unsettling. “Can a Muslim who believes in the New Testament go to heaven?” the respondent asked. Emphatically and without hesitation, the sheik angrily shouted, “No! No Muslim who believes in the Christians’ book or the Jews’ book can go to heaven!”

That was a pivotal study for the respondent because it was the last private Qur’an study with the sheik and it clarified for the respondent that his departure from Islam was definitely underway. He began to skip praying with increasing frequency. The more he met with the Christian men, the less he desired to attend the mosque.

For another eight months the respondent consistently read the Bible in increasing amounts, “almost non-stop, day and night.” For the first two months, he read the Bible in conjunction with Qur’an studies, but he had no memory of reading the Qur’an in the final six months. During this period of intense Bible study the respondent saw that God actually related to humans, which contrasts with what he had been taught in Islam. That God would relate to humans was actually very comforting and appealing for the respondent once he had adjusted to the possibility. And, as he read the New Testament he got a sense that Jesus was actually speaking to him personally.

Also, during this eight-month period, the Christian men continued to visit and answered the questions that resulted from the respondent’s study of the New Testament. The respondent said, “It was at the end of this period that I really understood in my heart who God is and believed in Him.”

As soon as he realized that he had come to a personal faith in Jesus, he told his wife. Doing so was really frightening because of the fear of losing his family. However, he felt so compelled to tell her, that he was willing to take the risk. To his shock, his wife responded that she too had come to believe as had two of their children as well. That three other members of his family had come to faith confirmed in his heart the rightness of his decision because it reminded him of stories in the New Testament when whole families believed. The respondent called the Christian men who had been visiting to tell them the news. They immediately came to the house and the group prayed together to confirm each of their decisions.

Themes that emerged in this interview: Personal Bible reading, formal Bible study, Q and A, the Qur’an vs. the Bible, doubts about Islam/Qur’an, the kindness of Christians, prayer, dreams, crisis, family/group conversion, gospel tracts, pastoral/evangelistic visits, and common objections to the gospel

NEXT: Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ: Story #5

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