When Is the Ancient Mediterranean Not the Ancient Mediterranean? When It's the Contemporary Middle East! (Re-)constructing “the Middle East” in New Testament Studies

Developing the recent work on the construction of "violent geographies" associated with Derek Gregory, Allan Pred and others, this paper will look at how Orientalist rhetoric in Anglo-American culture has influenced scholarly (re-)constructions of the social world of Christian origins. In particular the focus will be on the (re-)constructions in recent New Testament scholarship of "the Middle East" and "the Arab world" (with accompanying comments on "the Arab mind") as the backdrop for the study of Christian origins. Much of the scholarship used by New Testament scholars in such (re-)constructions of the social world of Christian origins is grounded in post-war government and military endorsed/sponsored social-scientific studies of the "national psyche" and certain outdated Orientalist scholarship (e.g. Raphael Patai) believed to be used in the strategic thinking behind the Iraq war. It is perhaps no surprise, then, to find that recent scholarly (re-)constructions of the social world of Christian origins make numerous ideological generalisations about "the Middle East" that cohere remarkably closely with recent intellectual defences of Anglo-American actions in the contemporary Middle East and in the "war on terror" (e.g. "the Arab world" supposedly incapable of democracy, the supposed importance of "humiliation" in understanding "the Arab world", a supposed lack of interest in human rights etc.).