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American Apostles

When Evangelicals Entered the World of Islam

Christine Leigh Heyrman

Hill and Wang

American Apostles Download image

ISBN10: 0809016524
ISBN13: 9780809016525

Trade Paperback

352 Pages



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The surprising tale of the first American Protestant missionaries to proselytize in the Muslim world

In American Apostles, the Bancroft Prize–winning historian Christine Leigh Heyrman chronicles the first fateful collision between American missionaries and the diverse religious cultures of the Levant. Pliny Fisk, Levi Parsons, Jonas King: though virtually unknown today, these three young New Englanders commanded attention across the United States two hundred years ago. Steeped in the biblical prophecies of evangelical Protestantism, these boys became the founding members of the Palestine mission and ventured to Ottoman Turkey, Egypt, and Syria, where they sought to expose the falsity of Muhammad’s creed and to restore these bastions of Islam to true Christianity.

The missionaries thrilled Americans with tales of crossing the Sinai on camel, sailing up the Nile, and exploring Jerusalem, but their journals tell a different story, revealing that their missions did not go according to plan. Instead of converting the Middle East, the members of the Palestine mission themselves experienced spiritual challenges; some of the missionaries developed a cosmopolitan curiosity about Islam while others devised images of Muslims that would fuel the first wave of Islamophobia in the United States. American Apostles brings to life evangelicals’ first encounters with the Middle East. The mission promised Americans a more accurate understanding of Islam, but it bolstered a more militant Christianity.


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They were the first Americans to explore the Middle East-"western Asia," they called it. They sailed up the Nile and island-hopped in Greece, but it was the Levant, an arc of land lining the eastern Mediterranean, where...

About the author

Christine Leigh Heyrman

Christine Leigh Heyrman is the Robert W. and Shirley P. Grimble Professor of American History at the University of Delaware. She is the author of Commerce and Culture: The Maritime Communities of Colonial Massachusetts, 1690–1750 and Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt, winner of the 1998 Bancroft Prize.

Rachel Speer

Christine Leigh Heyrman

Visit Christine Leigh Heyrman's faculty page