The Unpromised Land
By Richard Gibson
Is the modern state of Israel God’s great mistake?
In recent years some Christian ministers have been seeking to convince Christians, Muslims and non-religious people around the world that the State of Israel is in no sense, part of God’s plan for the world let alone fulfilment of any Bible prophecy. It seems that many modern Augustinian Supercessionist theologians consider that the millions of Jews who live in Israel are there by theological accident and are flaunting the will of God and must be stopped! The growth of the Israeli Messianic Jewish community is virtually ignored by these good folk. It is more than a little distasteful that clergy would spend their time in theological daydreams about the end of the modern State of Israel, ignoring all that would mean for millions of Jews already living there, they would “solve” one refugee problem by creating another one. Some modern commentators resurrect elements of Crusader theology in order the wrestle the promises of the land away from the Jewish people and, this time in a strange twist, give it to “˜Saladin’ rather than take it for Christendom.
When is Israel not Israel?
Augustianism finds its roots in the teachings of Augustine of Hippo who, despite being progressive for his time, towards “˜the Jews’, taught that the Church had replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. Much of the approach to the Bible, especially the Old Testament, which Christian preachers traditionally take, is based on the presumption that when you read “Israel” it really means “the Church”, unless of course it involves judgement and that it means… Israel! Some add that because Christ is the true expression of Israel therefore Israel is now invalidated.
One evangelical vicar asserts that if something in the Old Testament is not repeated in the New Testament, then somehow it has no real force for the New Testament believer.
“So is it possible to read the Bible in an ultra-literalist way? Yes, especially when people try to apply Old Testament terms like “˜chosen’ and “˜inheritance’ today without first reading them within their original context or in the light of the way the New Testament gives them new meaning”… The fundamental error these ultra-literalists make is they fail to recognise how Jesus and the Apostles reinterpreted the Old Testament.” http://www.christianzionism.org/BibleSays/Sizer02.pdf
However, did Yeshua and his disciples really reinterpret the Old Testament in the way suggested? No. More seriously where is the doctrine of the inspiration of the whole Bible, after all if the Old Testament now only has value when it is passed through the lens of the New Testament how can 2 Timothy 3:16 be true as it was written about the Old Testament? “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,”
Blood and Soil
Such anti-Zionist vicars bask in the light of the more widely credible N.T Wright, who is the premier Augustinian theologian, and perhaps the leading theologian of our day from whom we can undoubtedly gain much benefit and insight. However, N.T Wright is plagued by Augustine’s Supercessionism and writes:
“From Paul’s Christian point of view, those Jews who do not embrace Jesus as their Messiah are thereby embracing instead an identity marked out by blood and soil, by ancestry and territory, in other words, by the “flesh”. They are therefore subject to the same critique as paganism.” http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Paul_Caesar_Empire.pdf
Why does it have to be either/or, why not blood and soil that God created and promised Israel, and then Messianic Jews who embrace Yeshua as Messiah and Lord seeing the Kingdom of God becoming a fleshly reality in this world rather than just the one to come! Paul’s critique of “˜the flesh’ is a more conceptual attack on selfish materialism rather than the national boundaries and land promises God Himself created for the Jewish people.
“God had to deal with the nation Israel and chasten it, but it was no use. When God’s Son came to the vineyard, they said “This is the heir” and they killed Him. They ceased to be the vineyard of the Lord. The past vine was the nation of Israel.”… Sizer here takes a classic Crusader view that the Jews are the Christ-killers and are consequently cast off from God. Sizer goes on to totally ignore Romans 9-11 when he writes: “This unrepentant defiant vineyard, like Israel that will be cut down and thrown into the fire when Jesus Christ returns. So, the past vine was Israel, the future vine will be the earth.” ‚ http://www.stephensizer.com/2008/11/john-151-17-%E2%80%9Ci-am-the-vine%E2%80%9D/
Therefore the existence of a thriving democratic Jewish State of Israel causes Augustinian theologians, who promote Supercessionism, like Wright and anti-Zionist parish vicars like Sizer, a bit of a theological conundrum, because according to them it should not exist, but it does and it not only survives but it thrives and has the largest number of Messianic Jews living there since the time of the Acts of the Apostles!
Heirs of the prophets
Speaking in the Temple in Jerusalem to Orthodox Jews who had not accepted Yeshua as their promised Messiah, Peter makes an amazing statement. “And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, “˜Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.” Acts 3:25 Peter identified the “unbelieving” Jews in the New Testament as heirs of the hope given to Israel’s prophets and the covenant God made with Abraham. Note it is the “fathers” which includes Isaac and Jacob. This verse is a New Testament reaffirmation of God’s covenant with the Jewish people. The covenant referred to is from Genesis 12. Genesis 14:16 talks about Abraham’s offspring being like the dust of the earth, which is true as all Semitic people revere Abraham as their ancestor, however the line of promise is narrowed through Isaac and Jacob. As heirs of the prophets they inherit the land promises also. If you need something additional to bolster your acceptance of the Old Testament revelation, this New Testament passage affirms those Old Testament promises to “fleshly” Israel.
Modern evangelicals who share Augustinian presuppositions may very well also support the idea of Jewish evangelism, but for them, it seems, more like a way to de-Zionise Jews! What do they want to convert Jews to? Usually it away from an “an identity marked out by blood and soil” which is odd coming from members of a State religion that is marked by blood and soil! They want to convert Jews away from their inheritance and connection to the land. Somehow the land that God promised Israel is no longer spiritual enough, it is now fleshly.
A faulty view of the inspiration of the Bible undergirds the basic position that suggests that the Old Testament only has value as inspired Scripture when it is reaffirmed by the New Testament, however it is all scripture that is inspired, and not some scripture.
Go back to Israel… ops now leave Israel!
Howard Jacobson recently said:
“Country after country kicks Jews out. “˜Out you go, out you go, go where the hell you like.’ The idea that such countries can say, “˜We kicked you out but we are absolutely appalled that you might now have decided to find a place where you might like to congregate and say that you would like to be mainly for you.’ You can’t kick people out and then determine what they do when they go somewhere else. Given the history of them, it makes perfect sense. They would be mad not to do so.”
While Augustine was progressive for his time (being far less polemical than the usually extremely anti-Semitic Adversus Iudaeous genre and also affirmed the Jewish background of Christianity), Sizer and Wright are regressive as they are taking us backwards to Augustine’s City of God declaring the House of Israel to be cut off, despite some of the wonderful theology on Israel since the Reformation, and the sensitive approach of many post-Holocaust theologians. (See Constantine’s Sword: the church and the Jews, James Carroll, p.215)
“I say then, Has God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” Romans 11:1