From the time of Jesus, Palestine has been an integral part of the Christian experience. Not only have Christians always lived in Palestine, but more important, since the fourth century Christians gradually came to see Palestine as a Holy Land and Jerusalem as the Christian city. In this authoritative and accessible book, Robert L. Wilken discusses how Palestine became a Holy Land to Christians and how Christian ideas and feelings toward the land of the Bible evolved as they lived there and made it their own. Drawing on both primary texts and archaeological evidence, Wilken traces the Christian conception of a Holy Land from its origins in the Hebrew Bible to the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in the seventh century. He also discusses Jewish ideas of the land and the Jewish response to the Christianization of the Land of Israel.
The heart of the book considers how Jerusalem and the biblical land came to be viewed not simply as a place of pilgrimage, but as a place to live, a country with a unique history and privileged status in the Christian world. Wilken concludes with an account of Christian hopes for restoration of Jerusalem after the Muslim conquest, the continuation of Christian life under Muslim rule, and the adoption of Arabic as the language of Christian worship and thought.