George Bishai is a Langham Scholar from Egypt, who is hoping to finish his PhD at Moore College, Sydney, later this year. He has a wife, Mervat, and two daughters, Karin (15) and Emma (6). Currently, George is spending time at world-renowned Tyndale House in Cambridge, where he has benefitted greatly from the community of Scholars and its extensive library. He has also appreciated focussed study time, away from his responsibilities as a father and church member. George’s PhD is on righteousness in Matthew, against the backdrop of the Psalter.
What are your hopes for when you return to Egypt?
“I have been teaching in seminary contexts since 2009, and I’ve also been involved in Church ministry. My hope is to return back and start to do this again but probably with a new depth and awareness. I want to try to train church leaders in a church context. I will also keep writing for an academic level. I am a member of one of the journals for the Gospels and book of Acts in Australia, I’ll keep doing my work for this. I have been writing critical reviews, and I’m hoping to be more productive upon finishing my PhD.
“Also, I will be writing accessible materials for the Middle East, and for the average reader. This is something that I like the most, particularly with the Gospels. So the thing that triggered me to start studying the Gospels in depth and in an academic way was that I was quite unsatisfied with the way in which the Gospels in general are taught and preached in a church context. People tend to use them as just a repertoire of nice stories about Jesus, and how to put your trust in him, but nothing much about the theology of the Gospels themselves. This is something that I’m very passionate about and I hope to be productive and produce articles and hopefully books on how to read the gospels theologically. “
Is this an issue peculiar to Egypt/the Middle East?
“I think it’s a universal phenomenon. But it’s quite clear to me in my context in Egypt and the middle East. I don’t think people learn how to read narrative in my own culture. Sometimes they confuse things, they get a story from the beginning and a story from the end without paying attention to the flow of the narrative.
“The distinction of each evangelist, so whether it’s Matthew/Luke, it doesn’t make a difference! So these things are quite teasing to any Scholar. Maybe it’s the impact of the Jesus Film that we saw as children: ‘it’s just Jesus, it doesn’t matter, He was a great healer, teacher, God incarnate’. Probably when we preach or speak about our faith we don’t pay enough attention to what each Gospel is unique about.
“It’s not true I believe that when we try to get theology we go straight to the Pauline epistles. This is not true at all. The Gospels themselves have their own unique way to speak about atonement, the Gospel, soteriology [the doctrine of salvation] in a narrative context, which is I think very rich and deep and enables you to grasp different aspects and different themes that are continuously on the move, in the Gospels itself from the beginning to the end.”
What do you hope will be the future impact of your research?
“I think it’s quite clear that the Gospels themselves will enable us to see Jesus Himself and His teaching more clearly and understand more the first Christian movement. Of course, the direct impact will be on understanding discipleship, and understanding our own mission particularly in a hostile context like ours in the Middle East.”
George is at Tyndale House until the end of June. Please pray that he will continue to have a productive time, and will have a good reunion with his family back in Egypt. Also pray that he will be able to complete his PhD in the Autumn.
Read more from George in this article he wrote back in 2017.