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Issue 1: April 2012


Setting out our stall: What ONE16 is all about

ONE16 is the theological journal of Christian Witness to Israel. Christian Witness to Israel is an international, interdenominational evangelical Christian mission to Israel the people. Our basis of faith is the consensus of the historic Protestant Confessions. Christian Witness to Israel exists to share the Good News of Jesus with the Jewish people, to relieve the poor and sick, to make the Church aware of its spiritual and material debt to the Jews and to oppose anti-Semitism. CHRISTIAN WITNESS TO ISRAEL 166 Main Road, Sundridge, Kent TN14 6EL Tel: 01959 56595 Fax: 01959 565966 Email:info@cwi.org.uk www.cwi.org.uk www.shalom.org.uk A COMPANY LIMITED BY GUARANTEE REGISTERED IN ENGLAND NO. 1254746, CHARITY REG. NO 271323 & SC041720 IN SCOTLAND

When I began working with Christian Witness to Israel in 1984, I had little idea of how contentious the issue of Israel and the Jewish people was within the Christian world. Waiting for me on my first day at the office was a letter from a lady who said she had been an evangelical for over 80 years. She had supported the mission for most of her life but was withdrawing her support because, in her opinion, CWI should be encouraging Jewish people to keep the Law rather than persuading them to become Christians. The early eighties was a time of flux in terms of Christian attitudes to Israel. Following Israel’s abortive incursion into Lebanon, in world opinion Israel was metamorphosing from David into Goliath, and evangelical opinion was polarising. Christians at one end of the spectrum were starting to meet with Jews in order to ‘pay their debt’ to the Jewish people by publicly repenting of centuries of ecclesiastical anti-Semitism and many began to flock to Jerusalem each year to celebrate the festival of Tabernacles in the belief that by doing so they were fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 14:16: ‘And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.’ This was the beginning of what has come to be known as ‘Christian Zionism.’ At the other end of the spectrum, an embryonic Christian Palestinianism was taking shape due in no small part to the influence of two books, both published in 1983. The combined effect of Elias Chacour’s Blood Brothers and Colin Chapman’s Whose Promised Land? – one a gripping personal narrative, the other a persuasive theological demolition of Jewish claims to the land – was not dissimilar to hurling two cats into a flight of pigeons. In the following months I found myself on a steep learning curve. I discovered wildly varying attitudes to Israel and the Jewish people within evangelicalism. In the last quarter century I have encountered Covenant Theology, Two-Covenant Theology, Dispensationalism, Replacement Theology, Fulfilment Theology, Enlargement Theology, Christian Zionism, Christian Palestinianism and more besides. Evangelical opinion is polarised with a ‘God-has-finishedwith-Israel’ theology at one extreme and ‘Jews-don’t-need-Jesusbecause-they-are-God’s-chosen-people’ theology at the other. How can one issue divide Christian opinion so radically, and why does Israel generate so much heat and so little light? Welcome to ONE16.

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First things How can discussion about Israel generate so much heat and so little light? Welcome to ONE16... The concept of an online journal that addresses the single issue of Israel, hopefully in a biblical and sane way has been in my mind for at least ten years but when the same issue was raised by one of my colleagues last year, I felt it was an idea whose time had come. An editorial team was quickly put together and the first issue was conceived in a short space of time. The title took longer but it indicates our starting point: Romans 1:16. Beliefs have consequences. Last year I attended a conference at which the main addresses were a series of expositions of Romans 9-11 and on the final evening I enthused about them to the pastor of a church situated close to a large Jewish community. He didn’t share my excitement. His opinions about Israel were influenced to a great extent by a popular evangelical commentator who teaches that Paul’s grief, expressed in Romans 9, was caused by the realisation that his nation had been cast off by God and that only a small remnant of Jews would ultimately be saved. He then made the astute observation that people who share this view don’t go into Jewish

mission which, he reflected, was a point in my favour. The Jewish people and Israel are not mere theological abstracts. What we think, say and teach about them will have consequences. ONE16 has been created to address the most basic and also the most important of the controversies: mission. In this issue we jump in at the deep end and deal with two of the most controversial questions relating to the Jewish people. Can I get a Witness? makes a case from the New Testament that the Jewish people should not only be evangelised but also that they should be the church’s primary focus for gospel witness. In future issues, God willing, we will examine why the gospel is to the Jew first and how the Church can apply that principle in its strategy for worldwide mission. The Mystery of Israel deals with Paul’s question in Romans 11:1: ‘Has God cast away his people?’ It is adapted from a series of four studies preached by David Norman

Jones at the English Conference of the Evangelical Movement of Wales at Aberystwyth in August 2011. There are evangelicals today who will not support Jewish mission because of Israel’s alleged crimes against the Palestinians. In From Bias to Bias, Richard Gibson reviews a book that in 1984 began to change the landscape of evangelical thinking about the state of Israel and has therefore played a significant role in the change of attitude to Jewish mission. If you like this modest contribution to the evangelical debate about Israel, we would like to know. If you disagree with anything in it, we want to know. Tell us also how we can improve ONE16 and let us know if there are subjects you would like to see covered in future issues. Above all pray for us and, if you do like ONE16, please forward it to others and help us to retake ground that has been lost. Yours for the salvation of Israel,

Mike Moore CWI General Secretary

Visit CWI on Visit us at www.youtube.com/CWI1842 to view videos explaining the work we do and why we do it. We will shortly be posting Part One of a new series of short studies which deal with many of the issues we aim to address in ONE16.

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can I get a

?

In the first part of a series looking at the importance and priority given to Jewish mission in the Bible, Christian Witness to Israel General Secretary Mike Moore explains the significance of the key verse in Romans which set the precedent for the Great Commission in the early church, and which demands reconsideration by today’s church in light of current trends in world mission. Last year (2011), a global survey of Evangelical Protestant Leaders asked leaders to list the groups they considered to be priorities in mission in their countries. Over half of those who responded (59%) saw Muslims as the priority for evangelisation. Thirtynine percent of respondents saw Buddhists or Hindus as a top priority while a substantial minority considered Jews a high priority for evangelisation.1 According to the report, priorities for evangelisation appeared ‘to be influenced, in part, by the relative size and geographic concentration of the potential target groups.’ In other words, priorities were determined on pragmatic grounds, rather than from biblical or theological considerations. Had a similar survey been conducted among the bishops of

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the churches up to the end of the apostolic age, the results would have revealed that Jewish mission was a very high priority. Among the apostles, Jewish mission would have been the main concern and it is my contention in this article that the Jewish people should be at the top of the church’s missionary agenda today. The key verse with regard to the priority of Jewish mission is Romans 1:16: ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.’ There are, of course, biblical scholars, commentators and pastors who firmly maintain that ‘first’ in Romans 1:16 has nothing to do with priority in mission. An online commentator dismisses ‘to the Jew first’ with the trite comment: ‘“To the Jew first, and

also to the Greek” does not imply that the Jew has top priority to the Gospel today. Our verse is speaking of a chronological “first,” not a first in importance.’2 The way one understands the phrase ‘for the Jew first’, however, depends on the meaning of the Greek word prôton, translated ‘first’ in Romans 1:16. In the Greek New Testament, prôton has a number of possible meanings, including, obviously, ‘first’ in a chronological sequence. However, prôton is used in a number of other ways by the New Testament writers. Take, for example, Matthew 6:33: ‘But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.’ To ‘seek first the kingdom’ means making the kingdom the priority in one’s life, making it the hub around which one’s life revolves, the principle that governs all one’s affairs.


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Consider also the way in which prôton is used in the following verses. Many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Mt 19:30) One of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘Which is the first commandment of all?’ Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment.’ (Mk 12:28) For this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. (1 Tim 1:16) It should be self-evident that in these verses prôton does not mean ‘first’ in a chronological sequence. In 1 Corinthians 15:3 Paul says he delivered to the Corinthians ‘first of all … that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…’ The NIV demonstrates the particular nuance of prôton in this verse: ‘For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…’ It makes a lot of sense to translate prôton in Romans 1:16 to mean the gospel is for the Jew as a matter of first importance.

Texts in context

A few years ago, I was at a meeting at which the director of a mission to Arabs was the speaker. He related a story of a lady who told him she was no longer going to support the ministry he represented because his mission only evangelised Arabs and the gospel was ‘to the Jew first’. His response was that Romans 1:16 ‘doesn’t mean that’! ‘It doesn’t mean what?’ I wanted to ask. Context determines the meaning of words. While some read Romans 1:16 as a statement that the gospel was preached to the nation of Israel first and later to the Gentiles, two considerations rule out such an interpretation. The first consideration is Paul’s use of the Greek present tense, which carries with it the idea of continuity. Messianic Jew David Stern makes the point that ‘the present tense of a Greek verb implies ongoing activity, not a once-and-for-all event.’3

Jewish Christian Arnold Fruchtenbaum makes the point, ‘The gospel is the power of God, and the proper procedure is for it to go to the Jew first. The governing verb, is, is in the present tense, which emphasises continuous action and controls both clauses: the gospel is the power of God and the gospel is to the Jew first … Consistent exegesis would demand that if the gospel is always the power of God to save, then it is always to the Jew first.’ 4 Mitch Glaser challenges us to ‘Follow the logic of the text; if the gospel is still the power of God “to” salvation and is still for “everyone who believes,” then the gospel is still “for the Jew first”.’5 The second consideration is Paul’s missionary practice. The Lord Jesus delivered his Great Commission to his disciples in AD33: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...’ (Mt 28:19).

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

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Luke’s version of the commission is: ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem’ (Lk 24:46,47).

‘... after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter.’ Paul made a second visit to Jerusalem in about AD52, for the purpose of explaining his evangelistic ministry: ‘After fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem … and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles ’.7

The last words of Jesus before his ascension, as recorded in Acts 1:8, are: ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’.

At that second visit, James, Peter and John gave him ‘the right hand of fellowship,’ agreeing that he and Barnabas should evangelise the Gentiles while they continued to reach out to their fellow Jews.’8 The implication of Paul’s statement is clear: some two decades after the Great Commission was issued, only one apostle was preaching repentance and remission of sins to the nations!

What happened after that? The gospel was preached ‘in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria’ but apart from Peter’s visit to the centurion Cornelius in Acts 10, ‘repentance and remission of sins’ did not begin to be preached to the nations until Paul began his missionary journeys in Acts 13. Saul of Tarsus became a follower of Jesus somewhere between AD34-376, some eighteen months to four years after the apostles had been entrusted with the commission to take the gospel to all nations. According to Paul’s account in Galatians 1:18, he first visited Jerusalem three years after his Damascus Road experience:

Obeying the heavenly vision

Paul’s ministry was unique among the apostles. He was Messiah’s ‘chosen vessel … to bear [his] name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel’8 and in Romans 11 he describes himself as ‘the apostle to the Gentiles.’9 In Acts 26, Paul presents an account of his life to Herod Agrippa. From verse 12 he recounts his meeting with the risen Christ on the Damascus road and the commission he received from him to open the eyes of the

Gentiles ‘in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God’. Paul assured Agrippa that he ‘did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision’10 telling him that he ‘declared first [prôton] to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.’11 On the face of it, Paul was disobedient to the heavenly vision. He was sent to the Gentiles but he declared the gospel to nonJews only after preaching in ‘Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea’. Indeed, in Acts 9, when Paul is sent to the Gentiles, Luke records that ‘he immediately preached the Messiah in the synagogues,’12 apparently reversing the divinelycommissioned order. Paul’s first Gentile missionary journey took place some ten years after his conversion, somewhere between AD46 and AD4813, as recorded in Acts 13:1f: ‘Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and

Indeed, until the apostle Paul began his missionary journeys, evangelism was virtually to the Jews only. Eleven apostles (twelve, if we count Matthias) took the gospel to the Jews almost exclusively and did not feel they were in any way being disobedient to the great commission. 6 • One16


fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them”.’ In the account of his first mission, there again appears to be a contradiction between Paul’s calling to take the gospel to the Gentiles and his method of fulfilling that call: ‘They sailed to Cyprus. And when they arrived in Salamis they preached the word of God in the synagogues’.14 The first mission to the nations began in the synagogues of Cyprus, and Paul’s mission to the Gentiles consistently followed that pattern, as recognised by F. F. Bruce: ‘Paul’s settled policy was to visit the synagogues first … that the good news might be preached ‘to the Jew first.’15 The theologically liberal commentator C. H. Dodd also acknowledged that ‘According to the Acts of the Apostles, it was [Paul’s] own normal practice, on opening work at a fresh place, to approach the Jews first of all.’16 Arriving in Pisidian Antioch, Paul and Barnabbas again preached the gospel ‘to the Jew first’: ‘…on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue’17 and there declared: ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first [prôton]; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.’18 The pronouncement that Paul and Barnabbas would ‘turn to the Gentiles’ should not be read as an absolute statement. Their turning to the Gentiles applied only when and where the gospel was rejected by the Jews, as is demonstrated in Acts 14 when they arrived in Iconium: ‘… they went together to the synagogue of the Jews.’

At Philippi, there appears to have been no synagogue, so Paul and his companions went ‘on the Sabbath day … out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there’19. To this day, a minimum of ten Jewish men is required to constitute a regular synagogue and in the first century, in places with no official synagogue, Jews in the Diaspora met in ritually pure places near water, where they could ritually wash their hands.20 In Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue, ‘Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.”’21 After fleeing Thessalonica, in Berea Paul again ‘went into the synagogue of the Jews.’22 According to Acts 17:16, ‘While Paul waited for [Silas and Timothy] at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.’ The word Luke uses to describe Paul’s reaction to Athenian idolatry is paroxunô, from which we derive our English term for an outburst of rage. As F. F. Bruce observes, ‘The beauty of the sculpture of Pheideas, apparently made no appeal to one brought up in the spirit of the Second Commandment, and could not move him from his fundamental attitude to idolatry.’23 In the capital of Gentile culture, Paul was enraged to see the cultured Athenians worshipping a pantheon of gods. Athens was a city desperately in need of the gospel of the living and true God

but although Paul engaged the ordinary citizens of Athens in the market place and the philosophers at the Areopagus, he commenced his evangelism at the one place in the city where there were no false gods or graven images. If we were reading the book of Acts for the first time, we might be excused for assuming 17:17 would go on the say that Paul reasoned with the Athenians along the lines of his speech to the philosophers at the Areopagus, outlined in verses 2231. However, what Luke actually says is, ‘Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue...’ Some versions of the Bible, such as the NIV, omit ‘therefore’ but the Greek is emphatic: ‘He reasoned indeed therefore in the synagogue with the Jews…’ Paul was no pragmatist; proclaiming the gospel to the Jew first was the necessary and inevitable response to Gentile idolatry. Corinth was a byword in Greece for immorality and corruption but in spite of the evident need of the gospel among the debauched Gentiles, Paul, ‘as his custom was’ (c.f. 17:1), first ‘reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and … testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah.’24 In Ephesus, before ever he preached to the Greeks, Paul ‘entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.’25 Even when he arrived in Rome, although there was a church there to which he had written that he longed to visit,26 Paul’s priority remained unchanged: ‘After three days … Paul called the leaders of the Jews together.’27

The Great Omission

From this brief study, it should be evident that mission in the apostolic era was conducted ‘to the Jew first’. Indeed, until the

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apostle Paul began his missionary journeys, evangelism was virtually to the Jews only. Eleven apostles (twelve, if we count Matthias) took the gospel to the Jews almost exclusively and did not feel they were in any way being disobedient to the great commission. The one apostle who was specifically commissioned to take the gospel to the Gentiles invariably preached the Good News ‘to the Jew first’ and felt no compunction about apparently reversing the order of his divine commission. Today, the church takes the gospel to the Gentiles first and secondly, if at all, to the Jews. In fact, some even question whether the Jewish people should be evangelised at all! Even among Christians who recognise the apostolic priority in mission there is an unspoken assumption that the principle of ‘to the Jew first’ is no longer valid. If that is so, at what point in the church’s history did the gospel stop being to the Jew first? Grant R Osborne makes the point in his commentary on Romans: ‘The reasoning behind Paul’s statement here [in Rom 1:16] still applies in our day, so this priority should still stand … Jewish mission should have visibility and emphasis in the mission of the church worldwide, in terms both of prayer and of action.’28 In his acclaimed commentary on Romans, Douglas Moo observes that in Romans 1:16 there is an ‘emphasis on the special applicability of the promise of God to the people whom he chose.’ Therefore, ‘However much the Church seems to be dominated by Gentiles, Paul insists that the promises of God realised in the Gentiles are “first of all for the Jew”.’29

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In his classic work on Romans, John Murray makes the point, ‘Since Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles and since the church at Rome was preponderantly Gentile … it is the more significant that he should have intimated so expressly the priority of the Jew … the power of God unto salvation through faith has primary relevance to the Jew … the gospel is pre-eminently the gospel for the Jew.’30 That being so, the church appears to have forgotten the most basic principle of evangelism and mission: that the gospel remains ‘to the Jew first.’ All the promises of Messiah were made to the Jewish people. All the promises of redemption in the Hebrew Scriptures were addressed to them. The New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31ff was promised to ‘the house of Israel and the house of Judah’. The church therefore must recover this vital principle of mission if it is not to be guilty of disobedience to the heavenly vision.

References.

1. Global Survey of Evangelical Protestant Leaders. http://pewforum. org /Chr ist ia n/Eva ngel ica lProtestant-Churches/Global-Surveypriorities.aspx (accessed 03.01.12) 2. Paull R Oost, Commentary on Romans (Evangelical Bible College of Western Australia, http:// ebcwa.110mb.com/), p. 64. 3. David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD, Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc, 1992), p. 329. 4. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology (Tustin, CA, Ariel Ministries Press, 1989), p. 852. 5. Mitch Glaser, ‘Introduction’ in To

the Jew First, eds. Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser (Grand Rapids, MI, Kregel, 2008), p. 16. 6. See: G. Ogg, ‘Chronology of the New Testament’ in The New Bible Dictionary, Organising Editor J. D. Douglas (London, Inter-Varsity Press, 1970), p. 225; Bo Reike, ‘Chronology’ in The Oxford Companion to the Bible, edited by Bruce M. Metzger & Michael D. Coogan (New York, Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 120f. 7. Gal 2:1f. 8. Ibid vv.9f. 9. Acts 9:15. 10. Rom 11:13. 11. Acts 26:17-19. 12. Ibid v.20. 13. See: Ogg op. cit. p.226; Reike op. cit. p.121. 14. Acts 13:5. 15. F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles: The Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI, Eerdmans, 1986), p. 255. 16. C. H. Dodd, The Epistle to the Romans (London, Collins, 1959), p. 37. 17. Acts 13:14. 18. Ibid vv.45f. 19. Ibid. 16:13. 20. See Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary (Downers Grove, Il, InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 368. 21. Acts 17:1ff. 22. Ibid. 17:10. 23. Bruce, op. cit. p.331. 24. Acts 18:4f. 25. Ibid. v.19. 26. See Rom 1:8ff; 15:22ff. 27. Acts 28:17. 28. Grant R. Osborne, Romans (Downers Grove, Il, InterVarsity Press, 2004), p. 41. 29. Douglas Moo, Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI, Eerdmans, 1996), p. 68f. 30. John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI, Eerdmans, 1977), p. 28.


Review Reflections on Blood Brothers, A Palestinian’s struggle for reconciliation in the Middle East

From Bias

to Bias

When Elias Chacour’s Blood Brothers was first published in 1984 it generated a seismic shift in Evangelical attitudes to the situation in the Middle East. Prior to the appearance of Blood Brothers, there existed amongst Evangelicals almost universal sympathy and support for the state of Israel with little apparent recognition of the existence of Palestinian Arab Christians or what they had suffered when Israel was founded in 1948. Before Blood Brothers, for most Evangelicals, Israel could seemingly do no wrong. Today, almost thirty years later, it appears that for many of the same people Israel can do nothing right. Richard Gibson takes a look at Elias Chacour’s hugely influential book, which has played a significant role in shifting the bias of sympathy. In the wake of the book, an Evangelical anti-Zionism has developed which justifies itself by, amongst other things, claiming that Christian support for Israel is an obstacle to the evangelisation of Palestinian Muslims. Brother Andrew, for example, stated at the Christ at the Checkpoint conference 2010, ‘The justification of the State of Israel by Christians in the West is a hindrance for the preaching of the gospel in the Middle East. No hindrance whatsoever is acceptable to us as Evangelicals, or to the church at large taking the great commission seriously. Whatever hinders it is not of God; we must reject it. Whatever hinders it delays the return of our Lord Jesus Christ...’1 That increasingly popular view is not substantiated by the facts, however. Ant Greenham, who has a PhD in Missions with a focus on Islamic Studies, recently conducted a series of case studies among Palestinian Muslims who have come to faith in Christ and in none of his case studies did Christian Zionism or Christian anti-Zionism play any role in conversion.2

Balancing out the Holocaust – the arithmetic of pain!

Blood Brothers is a very well told story of personal tragedy which engages the reader emotionally. It is, however, heavily biased politically. Though Elias Chacour claims his book is intended to be a vehicle for reconciliation and peace, in reality his story is part and parcel of the standard Arab-Palestinian, anti-Zionist narrative which charges Israel with, among other things,

perpetrating a ‘holocaust’ against the Palestinians, and condemns the Jewish state for allegedly visiting on the Palestinians what they suffered at the hands of the Nazis in Europe. Chacour presents the now stereotypical picture of innocent Palestinians falling victim of systematic ethnic cleansing by the Zionists. On page 49 he states: ‘By autumn of 1948, the Zionist forces were ‘cleansing’ the towns around the Sea of Galilee.’ On pages 47-8, Chacour invokes the alleged massacre of the inhabitants of the Arab village of Deir Yassin as though what was supposed to have happened there was typical Zionist behaviour. While not wishing to minimise the very real tragedy

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that befell the Chacour family and their village of Biram in 1948, not every Palestinian’s story is the same and none of Chacour’s numerous claims made regarding events outside his own village have been verified by historical records. Blood Brothers is based on memories of events and Chacour’s personal interpretations of those events that took place over sixty years ago when he was a young boy. The 2003 expanded edition of Blood Brothers carries a Foreword by former USA Secretary of State James A. Baker, who acknowledges that the book’s wider historical claims remain unverified by historians and are simply Chacour’s childhood memories.

had been the Zionist farmers who had transformed the land from being an unproductive, swampy, malaria-ridden wilderness into fertile farmland.

Some of the book’s other claims are only partially true as when he states, for example, on page 46, ‘The Zionists were to possess the majority of Palestine—fifty-four percent—even though they owned only seven percent of the land!’ Chacour omits to tell his readers the reason the Zionists owned so little land was because in 1940 the British had restricted the amount of land Jews could buy in Palestine. Although the first edition of Blood Brothers is packed with historical claims, it contains only eleven endnotes referring to external sources.

An earthy paradise?

Some of Chacour’s other claims are patently biased as, for example, when he states on page 61 that the true reason the European Zionists did not force all Palestinian Arabs out of the new Jewish state was because they did not know how to farm and were in need of cheap, experienced farm labour. This claim is unsubstantiated and reveals Chacour’s prejudiced viewpoint. The fact is that from the end of the nineteenth century, it

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Chacour inadvertently cast a doubt over his own reliability when he claimed on film that his forefathers would have heard Jesus preach3 even though, on his own admission, his father’s roots in Biram go back only as far as the sixteenth century4. In the village of Biram is the ruin of an ancient synagogue, which proves the existence of an ancient Jewish settlement on the site. The Jews who attended that synagogue were the ones most likely to have heard Jesus preach. The first edition of Blood Brothers carried the blurb: ‘Once Christian and Jew had shared the simple things of life together. But 1948 changed all that. The Zionists came, and almost a million Palestinians were made homeless.’ This picture of life in Palestine before 1948 is at best naïve. The

In painting an idyllic picture of harmonious pre-1948 interfaith relationships in Palestine, Chacour ignores the Islamic factor.

situation in Palestine before the founding of the Jewish state was far from ideal. Before the UN resolution that brought Israel into existence, Jews had been returning to Palestine for hundreds of years. According to H. H. Ben Sasson, at the start of the twentieth century ‘the Jewish population had grown from 8,000-10,000 (in 1555) to be between 20,000 and 30,000 souls.’5 In painting an idyllic picture of harmonious pre-1948 interfaith relationships in Palestine, Chacour ignores the Islamic factor. The Jewish population grew only as far and for as long as the Muslim leaders tolerated the Jewish return to Zion. The first half of the twentieth century was a violent and uncertain time for Jews living in what was a backwater of the Turkish Ottoman Empire administered under the British Mandate. Murder and plunder were an expected reality of life for the Jews. In 1929 alone, sixty seven members of the Hebron Jewish community were massacred in a pogrom by their Arab neighbours6. Pogroms against the Jews of Safed took place in 1660, 1834 and 1929. Except for one survivor, the entire Jewish community of Safed was massacred in the 1660 pogrom.7 In the Safed pogrom of 1929, at least 18 Jewish people were murdered. The 1920 Nabi Musa riots in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem left five Jews dead and 216 wounded, eighteen critically. These facts do not quite fit the picture that Chacour seeks to paint of an Edenic paradise spoilt by hordes of invading ‘Zionists’! On 15th May 1948, the day the modern state of Israel was founded, six Arab armies invaded


the nascent Jewish state with the aim of driving all the Jews into the sea.8 According to historian Efraim Karsh, some 583,000-609,000 Palestinians were displaced as a result of the declaration of war issued by Israel’s Arab neighbours9. Terrible though the tragedy of the Palestinians undoubtedly was, far more Jews than Arabs were made refugees by the conflict. In May 1948, some 850,000 Jews in Arab lands had their property and possessions confiscated and were then expelled10. Of that number, 586,070 arrived penniless in Israel and settled there. Blood Brothers appears to sugar coat the pre-1948 situation in order to firmly fix the blame for the conflicts since then solely on ‘the Zionists’. The type of reconciliation advocated by Elias Chacour appears to be a one-way street that leads to a cul-de-sac, condemning the Palestinians to be perpetual victims, unable either to acknowledge the wrong they have done or to come to terms with the wrongs done to them.11 I find myself wondering if ‘reconciliation ministries’ ever encourage Palestinian Arab Christians to apologise to Israeli Messianic Jews for the massacres perpetrated against their Zionist forefathers, or must Israeli Messianic Jews be forever apologising to Palestinian Arab Christians?

Vital statistics

Despite the impression presented in Blood Brothers, Jewish people have lived in the land in significant numbers since the time of Joshua, and historian Moshe Gil states that at the time of the Muslim conquest

of the land in AD634, a large Jewish population still lived in Palestine. We do not know whether they formed the majority but we may assume with some certainty that they did so when grouped together with the Samaritans.12 In 1563, the Jewish population of Palestine was still large enough to warrant the establishment of the first Hebrew printing press on the Asian continent in Safed. In 1099 the Jews of Jerusalem had stood side-by-side with the Muslims to defend Jerusalem against the Crusaders and by 1880 they once again formed the majority population in Jerusalem.13 The Jewish population of Palestine grew ‘from about 50,000 in 1918 to over 550,000 in 1943, representing over a third of the total population of about 1,600,000 of whom 900,000 are Moslem Arabs and 125, 000 are Christians.’14 In the nineteen years between 1922 and 1941, the Jewish population of Palestine rose significantly. According to a 1922 census there were 16,577 Jews in Hebron, a figure which rose to an estimated 20,000 in 1941. In Nablus, during the same period, the number of Jewish residents rose from 15,947 to 21,600. In Bethlehem, the figure rose from 6,658 to 7,800; in Ramleh it rose from 7,312 to 13,300; in Haifa it was 24,634 rising to 113,000; in Gaza it was 17,480 rising to 21,500; and in Jerusalem the Jewish community more than doubled, soaring from 62,578 to 138,000.15

Who is a Palestinian?

Before 1948, everyone who lived in Palestine – both Arab and Jew – was a Palestinian. Few who are now called ‘Palestinians’16 can trace their

family line in the land back more than a few generations. In articles 6 and 7 of the PLO’s Palestinian National Charter a ‘Palestinian’ is defined arbitrarily in the following ways: Article 6: The Palestinians are those Arab citizens who were living normally in Palestine up to 1947, whether they remained or were expelled. Every child who was born to a Palestinian Arab father after this date, whether in Palestine or outside, is a Palestinian. Article 7: Jews of Palestinian origin are considered Palestinians if they are willing to live peacefully and loyally in Palestine.

Questions of History

There are questions of history that few readers of Blood Brothers will bother to ask as they are captivated by a tragic personal story, therefore accepting all the suggested facts of history. For example, Chacour’s claim that the Zionists deported a million Palestinian Arabs from their homes is simply false. The Arab Liberation Army (ALA) ordered the depopulation of Arab villages so they could turn them into military positions from which to launch their attacks against the fledgling Jewish state17. The destruction of Biram, Chacour’s home village in what was known as ‘the Hiram Operation’, therefore, may well have been an attempt to stop insurgency and a military offensive by the ALA. What is apparent is that Blood Brothers is a political book with a veneer of being above politics, which claims to be a story told as a vehicle for reconciliation and peace. In fact, it is a heavily

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‘I don’t know why Jews frighten everyone among whom they live, it’s their problem I think’ Elias Chacour politically biased book that tells a story of Palestinian pain in order to off-balance the impact of the Holocaust.

few months separated our call to them to leave and our appeal to the United Nations to resolve on their return.’18

Although innocent civilians had to watch the destruction of their village and separation from loved ones, most of those villagers live today as citizens of Israel having received some form of compensation for property loss. Heartbreaking though this may have been for those concerned, this cannot be described as ethnic cleansing18. However, as in all wars, there were injustices for which there has not yet been any compensation.

George Kazoura, an Israeli Arab, recalls that his family left their home not because ‘the Zionists’ had ordered them out but through fear of the rumours they heard. They returned to their home over a month later to find someone else living there, who refused to believe the returning family actually owned the house and did not leave.19

There is no comparable correlation with what the Nazis did in the industrialised murder of six million Jewish men, women and children and what happened to Palestinian Arabs in 1948 and following.

For Evangelicals, the assumed definition of a Christian in Blood Brothers should be problematical. Chacour is a Roman Catholic Melkite priest and vice president of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center20. He expresses no evangelical convictions nor does he relate a conversion experience. It seems that many European Protestant Evangelicals, who would not consider the Roman Catholic Church or the various Orthodox denominations to be

The Syrian Prime Minister in 1948–49 wrote: ‘Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees to their homes. But we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave. Only a

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Peace and Reconciliation or Ecumenical Crusade for the Holy Land

authentic expressions of biblical Christianity apply a different standard when it comes to the Middle East. Such evangelicals seem to adopt an elastic definition of a Biblical Christian which includes Catholics and Orthodox in the Middle East. In many ways this could be seen as stealth ecumenicalism as such flexible definitions slowly but surely filter through and back to the home countries of such Evangelicals. Is Chacour a real peacemaker? In a talk at Calvin College in America, the author of Blood Brothers made a revealing less-than-peacemaking remark about the Jews, implying their persecution was their own fault: ‘I don’t know why Jews frighten everyone among whom they live, it’s their problem I think.’21 Elias Chacour, the Vaticanapproved Catholic Archbishop of Israel, says ‘We do not believe anymore that the Jews are the Chosen People.’22 Chacour’s theology appears to be just as politicised as that of the Christian Zionists he criticises. References 1. http://www.christatthecheckpoint.com/ lectures/Br_Andrew.pdf. 2. Ant Greenham, A Study of Palestinian Muslim Conversions to Christ, http://www. stfrancismagazine.info/ja/pdf/2010/116175SFMFEB2010.pdf accessed 12/11/11. 3. http://vimeo.com/9496852 at 10 mins, accessed 12/11/11. 4. Ibid, at 24:59 mins, accessed 12/11/11. 5. H.H. Ben-Sasson, Toledot Hayehudim Bi-Mei Habeinayim (Tel Aviv, 1969), pp 239-240. Quoted in Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine, (JKAP Publications, 1984), p.178). 6. Walter Laqueur, A History of Zionism, (Schoken, 1989), p.256).


7. Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial, The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine, (JKAP Publications, 1984), p. 178. Norman Finkelstein’s assault on Peters’s scholarly integrity has been refuted by Erich and Rael Jean Isaac in ‘Whose Palestine?’ (Commentary, July 1986), quoted in Edward Alexander & Paul Bogdanor, The Jewish Divide Over Israel (Transaction Publishers, 2006), p.155-6. 8. Martin Gilbert, The Routledge Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, (Routledge, 2002), p.45. 9. Efraim Karsh, Palestine Betrayed, (Yale University Press, 2010), p.267. 10.http://www.hsje.org/forcedmigration. htm, accessed 15/12/11. 11. Ha’aretz article on the destruction of Biram,http://www.haaretz.com/printedition/opinion/justice-for-ikrit-andbiram-1.71628. 12. Moshe Gil, A History of Palestine 6241099 (Cambridge University Press, 1992), p.3. 13. Martin Gilbert, The Routledge Atlas of Jewish History, Sixth Edition, (Routledge, 2003), p.29 14. Walter Clay Lowdermilk, Palestine Land of Promise, (London, Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1945), p.14. 15. Ibid, p.115 16.http://www.un.int/wcm/content/site/ palestine/pid/12363, accessed 16/12/11. 17. Efraim Karsh, Palestine Betrayed, Yale University Press, (2010), p183-185. 18. Khaled al Azm, The Memoirs of Khaled al Azm, 3 vols. (Beirut, 1973), Part 1, pp. 386–7, quoted in Mark Tessler, A History of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (Indiana University Press, 1994), p.304. 19. Julia Fisher, A Future for Israel: Christian Arabs share their Stories (Authentic, 2006), p48. 20.http://www.elijah-interfaith.org/ participants/additional-prominentreligious-leaders/christian-leaders.html, accessed 11/11/11. 21. http://vimeo.com/9496852 at 11:24 mins, accessed 11/11/11. 2 2 . h t t p : / / w w w. y n e t n e w s . c o m / ar t icles/0,7340,L-4137444,00.ht m l, accessed 09/11/11.

Voices from th e Past

Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. (Jer. 6:16). The Voices From the Past series, which features sermons on Israel and the Jewish people preached by Charles Spurgeon, Horatius Bonar and Robert Murray M’Cheyne (whose own Mission of Inquiry into the State of the Jewish People played a significant part in the establishing of the societies which would later become Christian Witness to Israel) are now available to read online. Visit www.cwi.org.uk/onlinepublications.html to read or download them, or get in touch with Head Office to request printed copies.

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Israel

Romans 9-11 deal with one of the greatest turnabouts in the history of the world. The Gentiles – whose lives had been going in a wrong direction, away from God – are suddenly at the centre of Messiah’s Kingdom, and the Jews – whose whole orientation had been towards God and towards righteousness – in a weird reversal of fortunes suddenly find themselves on the outside. This article is the substance of the third of three addresses on Romans 9-11 by David Norman Jones at the Evangelical Movement of Wales English Conference in Aberystwyth in August 2011. David is the minister of Mount Stewart Presbyterian Church in Hobart, Tasmania, and is the Moderator General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia. Paul is concerned about this turn of events, and in these chapters he tries to work out why this reversal of fortunes has happened. This is not an academic exercise for Paul; it is personal. As he says in Romans 11:1, ‘I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham.’ In 10:1, he tells the Roman Christians that this reversal of fortunes breaks his heart. It drives him to his knees, it dictates his evangelistic strategy and forces him to go time and again to the Jew first, even though they keep slamming the door in his face. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul says that although he was a Jew he ‘became as a Jew’. What does he mean? In 2 Corinthians 11, he says, ‘From the Jews five times

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I received forty stripes minus one.’ In the Roman Empire Jews were allowed to administer this juridical punishment for a number of offences, and Paul says that five times he was flogged within an inch of his life. Paul was also a Roman citizen, so why didn’t he just call on his Roman citizenship to avoid the punishment? Because he didn’t want anything to interfere with his efforts to win Jews for Jesus. For Paul, the reversal of fortunes was also pastoral. In Romans 11:13 he says, ‘I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles.’ It is very likely that the church in Rome had been planted by Jewish people who were in the crowd on the day of Pentecost when three thousand were converted. They might even

have been in Jerusalem a little later, when five thousand were added to the church. In AD48, Claudius kicked the Jews out of Rome and the Roman church probably became a Gentile church. In chapter 11 he warns Gentile Christians against arrogance, about superiority and, worse than that, anti-Semitism. In chapter 15:79, he says, ‘Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy…’ Paul’s concern about the turnabout is also theological. In Romans


Israelology 11:28,29, Paul says, ‘Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.’ God entered into an eternal covenant with Abraham. Has he welched on that deal? Does Israel have a future in the plans and purposes of God? That is what this chapter is about; not just the history of Israel but the mystery of Israel: ‘For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved…’ ‘Mystery’ is a technical term. A ‘mystery’ is something we would have never guessed but which is revealed by God. And Paul says there is a mystery in the Bible which most people do not even know is there. Look at Romans 16:25,26: ‘Now to him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God…’ ‘Mystery’ is another word for the gospel. The gospel is an open secret and it concerns the Jews. Has God finished with the Jewish people? Paul’s emphatic answer to that is found in 11:1: By no means! God forbid! Not at all! Israel has a past, Israel has a present and Israel has a future. Israel’s past rejection of her Messiah does not mean that God has written her

off. That idea has been the cause of so much anti-Semitism in the Christian church. The fact that the Jews rejected their Messiah doesn’t mean that God has turned his back on them. Israel’s present unbelief is not total; it is not pointless; and it is not final.

Israel’s fall was not total

Paul is proof of that. He says, ‘I myself am a true blue Israelite; I am a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God didn’t reject his people; God didn’t reject me. If ever a Jew deserved to be tossed out for rejecting the Messiah, it’s me!’ He says in 1 Timothy 1:13-15, ‘... I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief … Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.’ Paul is not being modest or superpious. He means it; he was the worst! But, he says, for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example of those who wouldn’t believe in him and receive eternal life. In verse 17, he bursts into praise: ‘Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.’ Spurgeon says: ‘If a bridge is strong enough to bare an elephant, it will most certainly carry a mouse.’ If the greatest sinner who ever lived has entered heaven through the bridge of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, then no one who has ever lived can say that their sin is beyond forgiveness. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Paul was living proof of that.

‘Mystery’ is another word for the gospel. The gospel is an open secret and it concerns the Jews. But Paul isn’t just thinking of the occasional conversion amongst the Jewish people; it is bigger than that. Look at what he says in verses two to four of Romans 11 about the remnant of Israel in Elijah’s day: ‘Elijah … pleads with God against Israel, saying, “LORD, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.”’ ‘Plead’ is a technical term; it means a ‘law suit’. Things were so far gone under Ahab and Jezebel that Elijah brought a law suit to God against Israel. Abraham pleaded with God for the pagan city of Sodom, yet things were so bad in Elijah’s day that he pleaded with God against Israel. Israel, Elijah thought, had fallen beyond hope of recovery. But what does God say in verse three? ‘I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal’. In his commentary on I Kings, Dale Ralph Davis says that this is the Old Testament

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equivalent of Jesus saying, ‘I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.’ Even when it looks like wholesale apostasy, God never leaves himself without a witness. There is always ‘a remnant according to the election of grace’. And it’s much bigger than you think. When Paul arrived at Jerusalem in Acts 21:17 he was told how many thousands of Jews had believed and that all of them were zealous for the law. Someone has estimated that when Paul wrote Romans there may well have been upward of three hundred thousand Jewish believers in the Christian church!

Israel’s fall was not pointless

Israel’s fall was part of the purpose and plan of God to save the world. Look at what Paul says in 11:11: ‘Through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.’ No wonder he calls Israel’s reversal of fortune a mystery! If you had to come up with a plan to save the world, you would not have come up with a plan like that. No wonder he bursts into praise at the end of the chapter: ‘Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out … For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.’ Paul uses a horticultural metaphor to try to explain to us what is happening. He talks about the olive tree, which is a biblical symbol of Israel (Jer. 11:16). God has not uprooted the olive tree; he has only broken off some branches. He has broken off some dead wood in

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order to bring in Gentiles, so we might be nurtured by the same root, so the Jewish Scriptures might also become our Scriptures, so that our faith might be fuelled by the hope of Messiah, so that we might call Yahweh, ‘Abba’! But don’t become proud, Paul says to the church in Rome. The only reason you are Christians at all is because of God’s kindness. Because of their transgression, salvation has come to you Gentiles to make Israel jealous. God wants more than a remnant: ‘Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fulness!’ (Rom. 11:12) I love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of verses 11 and 12: ‘When [the Jews] walked out, they left the door open and the outsiders walked in. But the next thing you know, the Jews were starting to wonder if perhaps they had walked out on a good thing. Now, if their leaving triggered this worldwide coming of non-Jewish outsiders to God’s kingdom, just imagine the effect of their coming back! What a homecoming!’

God is working out his plans and purposes. He hasn’t moved on to ‘Plan B’; he is sovereignly carrying out his purposes and he knows what he is doing.

Israel’s fall is not final.

The remnant are not ‘leftovers’. They are the ‘first fruits’ of something to come; they are the promise of a spiritual harvest among the Jews, Paul says in verse 15. Matthew Henry says, ‘If the putting out of their candle was the lighting of yours, by that power of God, who brings good out of evil; much more shall the continued light of your candle, when God’s time is come, be a means of lighting of theirs again.’ And, says Paul, the repercussions of that event will be immense. Israel’s ‘acceptance’ will be ‘life from the dead’! By that, Paul doesn’t mean the resurrection; if he was referring to the resurrection he would have used the word anastasis, as he does in Philippians when he talks about wanting to attain to ‘the resurrection of the dead’ (Phil. 3:10,11). I think he is talking about what Ezekiel saw in his

What is being promised in Romans 11 is such a widespread revival amongst the Jewish people that ‘all Israel will be saved’.


vision of the valley of dry bones in chapter 37 of his book. What is being promised in Romans 11 is such a widespread revival amongst the Jewish people that ‘all Israel will be saved’. What does ‘all Israel’ mean? Some say ‘all Israel’ is the Church made up of Jews and Gentiles but that would be very confusing because in these three chapters he talks about ‘Israel’ eleven times and each time he is talking about his fellow Jews. In verse 25 he says, ‘For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in.’ It would be very confusing if suddenly – in mid sentence and mid argument – Paul started to use the word Israel to mean a ‘new Israel’ or a ‘true Israel’. That would be totally confusing. Others say Paul is talking about the elect Jews but if Paul is simply saying that all the elect Jews will be saved, that is not a ‘mystery’. In 2 Corinthians 3:14-16, Paul says: ‘But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament … when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.’ What is being promised is that somewhere, sometime, God is going to lift the veil that prevents Israel from seeing the truth of the gospel, and there will be such a widespread turning to the Lord

It would be very confusing if suddenly – in mid sentence and mid argument – Paul started to use the word Israel to mean a ‘new Israel’ or a ‘true Israel’. that you will be able to say ‘all Israel’ is saved. That is not the same as saying every Jew will be saved. If you say, ‘In Aberystwyth they are all Welsh’, you don’t mean every single person in the town is Welsh; it just seems like that. In the same way, there will come a time when ‘all Israel’ will be worshiping the Lamb of God; not ‘every Israelite’ but ‘all Israel’.

Remember you are guests in Israel’s house. You were far off but God has brought you near.

Our response

It ought to excite us. The Westminster Larger Catechism says that when we pray the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer (‘Your kingdom come …’) ‘we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fulness of the Gentiles brought in … that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming…’ In the eighteenth century, this hope drove men around the world to start ‘concerts of prayer’ and launched the modern missions movement.

It ought to humble us, which is why Paul wrote to a predominantly Gentile church in Rome about the future of the Jews. It was to put the Gentile believers in their place. He says,

It ought also to cause us to worship, and that is what Paul does at the end of the chapter. Our God is not some tribal deity; he is the God of the world, the sovereign Lord of human history: ‘For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.’

Thomas Goodwin put it like this: ‘There will come a time when the generality of mankind both Jew and Gentile, will come to Jesus Christ. He hath had but little takings of the world yet, but he will have before he hath done.’ How does this ‘mystery’ apply to us and what impact should it have on us?

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A glorious hope for

stupid people

New CWI council member and Jewish believer, Rev Ben Midgley, looks at the relationship between Israel and the Church as presented by Paul in his epistle to the Romans and the relations between Jewish and Gentile believers in the church at Rome. Ben currently serves as Pastor of North Bradley Baptist Church in Wiltshire. People can become stupefied. We read about this in Paul’s letter to the Romans: ‘God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, to this very day’ (Rom. 11:8). However, it is important to realize that just because people can become stupid, it does not mean that God has given up on them. It is important to clarify that in this context by ‘them’, Paul is not referring to individuals but is instead referring to whole societies. Rather than individual failure, in this verse Paul makes the point that societies can make bad decisions through corporate error and, although leadership is a key factor, the culture itself can often go wrong, resulting in the broad group losing its way. Here we see collective wisdom failing and the moral compass of a nation becoming scrambled. According to Paul, that is what was happening in the day in which he lived, and to

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his own people ‘my brethren, my countrymen… who are Israelites’ (Rom. 9:3,4). Paul makes the point that although the majority of his people had apparently taken leave of their senses, not all of them had done so. He maintains that there were individuals, even a group of individuals within the nation, who had kept their heads. The madness, which took the form of the rejection of the Messiah – the national and personal hope of all the Jews – had not overtaken all of them. This group of individuals, loyal to the Messiah, was living proof that the people had not been utterly deserted by their God. In short, Paul is telling us that God has not deserted His people Israel. He makes this plain in his famous statement: ‘I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.’ (Rom 11:1). He shows himself as

but one example to prove his point that at the present time there is a ‘remnant chosen by grace’. There is still a people within the people who have been spared from the stupefaction that has gripped the nation. Of course, Israel also has covenantal obligations to be faithful. Built into those obligations are a series of extreme penalties for breach and, in light of these, rebellion is sheer stupidity. The bloodcurdling verses in Deuteronomy 28: 15-68, the royal code of Moses, enumerate these whilst Jeremiah’s lamentations demonstrate that they are not empty threats. That said, never, at any time or in any place, is it ever suggested that the covenant should be repealed, or that grace would ever be entirely removed no matter how faithless the people might become. In fact, once again from Moses we read ‘for the LORD your God, he is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.’ (Deut 31:6). To whom were these magnificent promises made? ‘To all Israel.’ That commitment remains good at all times, even those of national stupidity (which are not limited by any means to the time of Paul nor to Israel alone), but for Israel there was, is, and always will be a remnant. This remnant remains as a prophetic voice speaking to the whole, calling them back to sanity and away from the impending dangers of their course; urging them to appreciate the grace that is theirs before the covenantal curses fall. It acts as a reminder to their responsibilities and duties with increasing urgency as time goes by and as sword, exile and plague loom. While that call is made, there is hope that it will be heeded and that both mercy and salvation will prevail.


Viewpoint In this task however, Israel’s remnant does not cry out alone. Alongside their decrying of Israel’s waywardness, a voice comes from outside Israel; from other people with eyes that see, ears that hear and hearts that understand, though they too exist against the backdrop of a great stupefaction. Voices are heard from other nations. However, these are not remnants of those nations in the same way that Israel’s remnant is the token of grace among God’s people. Only Israel among all the peoples is God’s special possession. No nation but Israel has this enduring covenant. No other nation is David’s and Abraham’s, so that God should persevere with them as he does with Israel for their sake: ‘Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.’ (Rom 11:28). Nevertheless, these voices chime in with equal prophetic authority. A people equally holy, they give testimony in like measure to the grace of God as the remnant does in calling out to stupefied Israel that God is faithful, and that the Messiah has indeed come. These join Israel without ever becoming Israel. They maintain their distinctiveness, yet enter Israel’s destiny. They do not share Israel’s stupidity, which is ultimately the same darkness that grips their own people but, instead, they join with the true light and faith. Together (never apart), these and the remnant are the Church, drawing on the life and sacrificial death of Israel’s long awaited Messiah for their common strength and inspiration. It is important to make the distinction that the Church is

Paul is so very severe with these Roman Christians about all this and warns them that ‘if God did not spare the natural branches, he may not spare you either.’ (Rom. 11:21) not God’s nation; it is not an ethnic or socio-political entity. It is a collection of individuals from among Israel and all the other nations grafted together. The Church however does have a common predestined outcome in view – that ‘all Israel will be saved’. As it is written: ‘The deliverer will come out of Zion, and he will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.’ (Rom 11:26). ‘All Israel’ - that much agonised over phrase. This, in my judgement, means not all Israelites, neither all true Israelites, nor all those people generally that are predestined for salvation or even ‘the Israel of God’, as some say. The term simply refers to the Jewish national entity. The phrase is first used in this way by Moses in Exodus 18:25 - col-yisrael. In short, this is not about the Greek word sozo in its salvific sense, but rather in its preservationary one. Israel will be preserved, and not destroyed as a distinct entity in the World thanks to the mercy and grace of God in Christ and the

outworking of His purposes as set out by Paul. The Church does not labour in vain as it maintains its mission statement – three times we find ‘to the Jew first’, including its initial appearance in Romans 1:16: ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.’ As followers of the same Messiah we have a duty to share in this mission, always with a view to the ultimate end that Paul had in mind about his own work among Gentiles, ‘if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them’ (Rom 11:14) Why was Paul moved to write all these things to the Christians in Rome? Why, one might ask, am I writing about it today? Evidently it was and is because departure from these crucial things is a dangerous reality. Paul is so very severe with these Roman Christians about all this and warns them that ‘if God did not spare the natural branches, he may not spare you either.’ (Rom 11:21) This is why he writes ‘I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion’ (Rom 11:25) – they are in real danger of this; becoming stupefied again themselves. The congregation in Rome had been founded by Jews returning to their homes and work in the city probably as early as that first Pentecost. With them, as we have been saying, Gentiles had joined them in believing. We know that in AD49, after perhaps fifteen or sixteen years of their ministry in Rome, this part of the church suffered a trauma. Claudius, the then

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Emperor, expelled all Jews – Christian or otherwise – from the city. This left the Gentiles alone to continue to witness to Christ in Rome (the first example of this in history). Luke records in the Acts of the Apostles 18:2 how Paul ‘met a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome)’. Suetonius, the Roman historian, says that the expulsion was due to public disturbances among the Jews of Rome over one called ‘Chrestus’. Many believe this to be a skewed reference by this Roman official to wranglings among the Jews, Christian and otherwise, over Christ. This certainly would not be atypical as it happened in nearly every other place where the gospel was being preached. When Claudius died in October AD54, his successor Nero repealed this ban and all the Jews were allowed to return to Rome. During that intervening time however, the Christians in Rome had seemingly concluded that God’s purposes no longer rested with Israel. The returning Christian Jews did not receive a Christian welcome. Neither, it seems, did the congregation wish to continue their warm and loving evangelism to their former persecutors, those other Israelites, returning from their expulsion, who still vigorously resisted the gospel. It is for this reason that in the last chapter of Romans Paul ends by urging, in light of all his teachings, that they should welcome, greet, and receive a long list of people (including Priscilla and Aquila) – the overwhelming majority of whom were Jews – members of the remnant or their associates forced into segregated worship situations.

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The open question in our time is the degree to which the church once again will turn its face towards the peace of Jerusalem, whether it will begin to dismantle the obstacles ‘contrary to the doctrine which you learned’ (Rom. 16:17) where they exist in our day. Many of those listed were from noble houses, many with long and faithful records of service in the church. Many non-Jews, he recounts, have also been actively, devotedly and freely assisting the Jerusalem saints. He pleads for the re-integration of Jews into the Christian church in Rome, and a return to its collective mission of taking the gospel ‘to the Jew first’. How devastating this disruption must have been to the evangelistic efforts of those Jewish Christians. Having told their fellow unbelieving Jews that the Messiah had, in fulfilment of prophecy, turned even the non-Jews to worship Israel’s God, they were then to discover that these brothers in the church at Rome had now shut the doors to the Jewish believers’ mission. Paul writes to Rome from Corinth prior to his departure to Jerusalem, to bear the sizeable gift there from the integrated congregations of Asia and Greece for the poor of ‘the saints’ (1 Cor 16:1-3). He expresses his desire to visit Rome on his return as a stop-over on the way to his proposed destination of Spain. He seeks that on arrival at Rome he may ‘come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of

Christ’ (Rom 15:29). I take this to mean that he should be received as a Christian should, without partiality, without prejudice and with the proper respect that one’s God-given call demands; to receive the help, encouragement and fellowship of any and all. For this to be so Paul, among his closing words, warns the Romans to ‘watch out for those who cause divisions’ (Rom 16:17). It would be good for us to think about what kind of divisions in particular he had in mind ... stupid ones, I suspect, but essentially ones that drove a wedge between Jew and Gentile in the church, and obscured her mission objective. The evidence suggests that Paul’s letter was heeded by the Romans. The concluding chapter of Acts shows the warmth of welcome the integrated congregation in Rome gave him when he finally arrived some years later (Acts 28:15). All’s well that ends well. The open question in our time is the degree to which the church once again will turn its face towards the peace of Jerusalem, whether it will begin to dismantle the obstacles ‘contrary to the doctrine which you learned’ (Rom 16:17) where they exist in our day. May we indeed see ‘life from the dead’!


The Old Paths

Recycled and Restored

The main Christian Witness to Israel magazine, The Herald, has a long and fruitful history. Back issues of the magazine, which originally began life as The Jewish Missionary Herald, provide a helpful historical record of the labours of saints from a bygone era who took seriously the responsibility of taking the gospel to the Jew first. So that these treasures are not lost we will be republishing articles from the past in each edition of ONE16.

The following articles are taken from the August 1967 edition of The Jewish Missionary Herald ‘Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence and give Him no rest till He establish and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth’ (Is 62:6, 7). People who missed reading the news for a few days, will hardly have realized that we have had a war with all its implications and terrible effects. We here, have been dazzled by the speed of events and wonderful happenings. We feel it a tremendous privilege to be living in this land and at such a time as this. In my heart has come the exhilarating realization of something quite new, a deep patriotic sense. For years, as with many others of my race, there had been no sense of belonging anywhere. It did not really affect me seriously, for as a Christian I know that I am a citizen of the Heavenly Homeland but here

on earth I am placed in the land of God’s choice and gift, and how unmistakably and dramatically He has proved it to His people. In record time men were mobilized and the nation was instructed and prepared for what was ahead. The courage and bravery of this people, who for centuries have not been trained in military service, was really extraordinary. The only ones who were not very brave were the poor mothers; nothing mattered to them but their dear ones. But with the believers it was different! Sarah, who before she came to faith used to suffer from serious skin disease through nervous strain, was kept perfectly well when her son went to war. Esther was left with two tiny children, but whenever we visited her she was radiant. One day we found her perched on a ladder whitewashing

the house for her husband’s return. She hadn’t heard for weeks even after the ceasefire but before they had parted, the Lord gave them a precious promise: Psalm 91, ‘A thousand shall fall at thy side and ten thousand at thy right hand but it shall not come nigh thee’. And so despite alarming news and rumours from neighbours she remained in undisturbed peace. For believers in the Forces there were tremendous opportunities to witness and the testimony of their experience of the Lord’s miraculous keeping was most moving. We hadn’t yet finished the blackout arrangements in our

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house when victory was declared! Whereas after the Sinai battle in 1956 they attributed the victory to their own strength, this time they were almost unanimous in giving the glory to God. Some Communists gave up their membership and atheists were shaken. They could hold no doubt that God had acted on Israel’s behalf. Then one heard remarks such as, ‘But if God is really for us, why then have we been forsaken for 2,000 years; why the Nazi massacres...?’ And so the opportunity is given to bring in the Word of God and to speak of the Rejected One. Wherever one went, people excitedly said, ‘Messiah is coming! Messiah is coming!’ Already we hear rumours of a so-called Messiah. Of all the conquests, nothing seemed so precious and so dear as the “wailing wall’. It was there that praise and gratitude were offered to God for His help and victory over the enemies. It was there that the trumpet was blown. The trumpet was taken from Elijah’s cave in significance of the prophet’s appearance before the coming of Messiah. Once more in history we were threatened with annihilation and once more the Lord of Hosts intervened. Join us in praise; not only because of His mercy towards His ancient people, but also because He is faithful to His Word which is being wonderfully fulfilled. The days are short before His return and we are bursting with the glorious news. Pray for a softening of hearts and that His Word may have an entry in many lives. Israel is unflinching in her determination to keep Jerusalem a united city and one cannot doubt that the times of the Gentiles are now fulfilled. To all of us it should be an incentive for prayer, action, readiness and watchfulness.

From one of our Hebrew Christian workers in Israel 22 • One16

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem An article written by Dr Jacob Gartenhaus, taken from the August 1967 edition of The Herald shortly after the Six Day War. Israel – the land, and Israel – the People of the land, have recently been going through a series of events that may be considered the most precarious and the most miraculous in the history of this remarkable people. The miracles by which the first conquest of Canaan some 3,000 years ago was accomplished, the miraculous victories of the ancient Maccabees over Israel’s enemies, fade into insignificance in the light of Israel’s recent victory over her numerically superior enemies. In an article under the title ‘A NATION UNDER SIEGE’ in Time Magazine of June 9th, 1967, the writer states: ‘Tiny dagger-shaped Israel whose 2,700,000 people cling to 7,993 square miles on the shores of the eastern Mediterranean, face the implacable hostility and cocked guns of fourteen Arab nations and their 110,000,000 people. Its borders were ringed with Arab troops on all sides.’ In the recent war Israel stood practically alone not only against all the Arab nations, all Moslem nations and all heathen nations, but all communist nations as well. The so-called Western nations stood by silently allowing events to take their course. America, the only nation that guaranteed Israel’s integrity, declared its neutrality. It is the consensus of the commentators of the news media that Israel’s victory is one of the most stupendous, enormous happenings in the history of mankind. Israel had only ONE ally: GOD. Students of prophecy can see the hand and will of God in all of this. Some of our friends have been exceedingly perturbed by the position taken by the editor of a well-known Christian publication who has been defending Israel’s enemies. He propagates the idea that the Jewish people have no right whatsoever to Palestine, that they have unlawfully and wickedly occupied that country, and consequently the Arabs are justified in their struggle to evict them. He asserts that the land was never promised to the Jews; it was promised to the ‘Seed of Abraham’ and that the ‘Seed’ according to Galatians 3:16 refers to Christ, and only the followers of Christ have a right to that country. That editor goes on to try to prove his point by the fact that Abraham bought a burial place instead of claiming the whole land which God promised to him. Such an attitude is based on false ‘premises’ and ‘truisms’ and is contrary to the Word of God; and I therefore feel it incumbent upon me to refute and counteract such teachings. It is astonishing, to say the least, how any mature man could express such ridiculous nonsense. Why should Abraham have started a war with a powerful nation in order to gain a piece of land for a burial place when he could have purchased it for a few shekels? And incidentally, before the Arab nations sought to drive the Jews out of Palestine, the Jews bought every inch of the land at exorbitant prices, from the Arabs. It is only in consequence of the war of liberation that some Arabs were dispossessed of the land.


To those who aver that since the Jews rejected Christ, God rejected them and annulled all the promises, including those pertaining to the land, let me say very few Bible students hold to that idea. If the Apostle Paul had that in mind (and he did not as we shall see further on), then this singular statement stands out in gross and glaring contradiction to the hundreds of other passages in God’s Word which clearly and unequivocally state that the land first known as Canaan and later Palestine or the land of Israel, was promised by Almighty God to the ‘natural’ and not the ‘spiritual’ seed of Abraham. Let me call attention here to a few of those passages. ‘And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates’ (Genesis 15:13-18). We note that the word ‘seed’ is singular but the pronouns referring to it are in the plural. We also note that this ‘Seed’ will be slaves in Egypt but that in the fourth generation they would return to Canaan. In Chapter 17 God reaffirms His promise with the covenant of circumcision which the Jews have

Dr Jacob Gartenhaus with his wife receiving a conferred Doctor of Laws degree in recognition of his long years of Christian service.

zealously kept all through the ages since the days of Abraham. As Israel was approaching the last days in Egypt, Moses assembled all the elders of Israel and told them: ‘And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the Lord will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.’ Here Moses reaffirms God’s promise to give them the land (see Leviticus 25:38). God reassures the people whom He delivered out of Egypt that He will give them the land of Canaan. We thus see that God promised the land to the ‘children of Israel’, the natural ‘physical’ seed and not to His church (see Numbers 27:22, 34:2; Deuteronomy 1:8, 7:1, 6, 8, 9:56, 26:1-3). To Christ’s faithful followers – the spiritual ‘seed’ – God promised spiritual blessings. If the above editor had been a little more mindful of the context and read the 14th verse of the third chapter of Galatians he would have seen that to the spiritual ‘seed’ the promise was of spiritual blessings, namely, the Holy Spirit. Such individuals also argue that the present return of the Jews to their land has no spiritual significance since they are going back in unbelief. They declare that they

were to first acknowledge Christ before going back, and again they quote one or two isolated passages taken out of their context. But again hundreds of passages clearly teach that the Jews were to go back to their land in unbelief and only after they have returned will they look upon Him Whom they have pierced. And it is then that they will become a blessing to all the families of the earth. The 37th chapter of Ezekiel makes this very clear. During the nineteen years since Israel has been recognized as a state, they have tilled the desolate land until it has become a Garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities have been rebuilt and inhabited and Israel is already beginning to be a blessing to mankind. They have become masters in the various branches of modern science and already are serving as teachers and guides to other people in various pursuits of life. At present they are only a temporal, secular blessing but there are signs that they will, in the not far distant future, prove a great spiritual blessing. ‘Thus saith the Lord of hosts: It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that then men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you’ (Zechariah 8:20-23).

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{ on the general conversion of the Jewish nation } ‘That there shall be a general conversion of the tribes of Israel is a truth which in some measure has been known and believed in all ages of the Church of God, since the Apostle’s days’

Increase Math er

‘Nothing is more certainly foretold than this national conversion of the Jews in Romans 11.’

Jonath on Edwards

‘There awaits the Gentiles, in their distinctive identity as such, gospel blessing far surpassing anything experienced during the period of Israel’s apostasy, and this unprecedented enrichment will be occasioned by the conversion of Israel on a scale commensurate with that of their earlier disobedience.’

Joh n Murray

For further information on the work of Christian Witness to Israel please visit us at www.cwi.org.uk

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ONE16: Edition 1  

ONE16: The Theological Journal of Christian Witness to Israel

ONE16: Edition 1  

ONE16: The Theological Journal of Christian Witness to Israel