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Pro-Israel is the Christian Stance?

October 24, 2012

(You know it’s going to be an interesting post when it’s preceded by a lot of disclaimers)

I’m definitely not sided with one political party or another this election; I’m actually feeling somewhat hopelessly gridlocked about it and can’t decide whether to vote. All that to say, this post is not intended to sway you towards or away from a particular political party. I just sense that the Church at large is not saying some things about Israel that desperately need to be discussed when it comes up in politics.

Also, I am not a political thinker. At all. I don’t understand the intricate workings of foreign policy and all its effects. I am a theological thinker; rather than thinking about how anything affects America, I think about whether things affect the Kingdom of God and to what extent. I try to bring these issues to Scripture and make sense of them through that filter. So if you want to argue politics, you’d be better off doing it elsewhere. I come to the fight weaponless. It’s the old Christian question of my 90′s bracelet here: WWJD?

I also am not claiming to have this very complicated situation all figured out. Writing it out helps me, so in a way, here I am, processing in front of you. In other words, converse with me, don’t crucify me.

I was never confronted with any of this until college, where I read a book called Whose Land, Whose Promise? by Gary M. Burge (highly recommend!), and where I was also introduced to end-times theology other than dispensationalism (you’ve been introduced to it if you’ve read the Left Behind series or have tries to figure out the chronology of end-times events after a pre-tribulational rapture of all the Christians). (I waffle between amillenialism and historic premillenialism, for the five of you wondering.) So if you’ve never heard of any of this, I hope it can be a help to stimulate deeper thinking on this issue.

Disclaimers over. Can you tell I’m a little terrified to publish this?

One candidate wants to strengthen ties with Israel; one does not. Thus ends my knowledge of the political agendas concerning Israel. (I told you: not a political thinker)

My concern is the reaction of the Church, and particularly in the popular thought that support of Israel is 100% biblical, no room for debate. God supports Israel, and America is doomed if she opposes Israel. So vote Romney.

Some food for thought, offered in humility:

1) Israel is an apartheid nation. This means that their national policies discriminate against another race solely because they are not of Jewish descent. Israel came in, kicked Palestinians off their rightfully-owned land, and landed millions of Arabs in refugee camps, land deeds still in hand. Israel routinely denies Palestinians water rights, makes false arrests, harrasses Palestinians. Christians should be against any kind of systematic oppression. This kind of racial hatred is what caused the Holocaust, and it’s ironic that we would support Jews in this apartheid to back up our theological systems (namely, dispensationalism).

2) Israel lost the Land. God continually warned Israel that if she sinned and broke the Mosaic Covenant, she would lose the Promised Land. Judges is a sickening book that chronicles the downward cycle of Israel’s disobedience and God’s longsuffering. God forgives them again and again, and their sin gets to the point that the last few chapters of Judges are pretty grostesque to read. Finally, God used other nations to judge Israel. The Assyrians carried Judah off to exile, taking them out of the Land. Finally, the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem and took over. Between the Old and New Testament, the Roman Empire swept through and claimed the Land. God promises redemption, but it isn’t what they expect: it’s the Suffering Servant rather than the political Messiah they expected.

3) Israel was meant to be a light to the nations, not the end-all Chosen People. Abraham’s lineage was blessed so that they would be a blessing to all nations – ultimately fulfilled in Christ. Much of the Law given to Israel was concerned with justice, treatment of foreigners, widows, and orphans – all of which were the weakest in that society. Ruth was a Moabitess who benefited from these laws: she was a foreigner and a widow, and Boaz allowed her to go behind his harvesters and gather barley they left behind, and then submitted to levirite marriage laws (marrying your relative’s widow) as her kinsman redeemer. As the Old Testament closes, the prophets rail against Israel’s injustice towards the weak, the poor, the oppressed. It matters how God’s people act because they reflect the One they worship. How can God bless Israel when they systematically oppress Palestinians over land? Will He not judge them for the very same things He judged their ancestors for in the Old Testament?

I’m not a dispensationalist, but I absolutely don’t mean to say that if you hold to this theology, you aren’t thinking well or you’re a heartless person. The professor who first introduced the plight of the Palestinians to me is a dispensationalist, and I deeply respect him as a scholar and a Christian man. But if you do hold to it, you need to think very carefully about these issues. Can God’s will for Israel still be accomplished if we were to cry out for justice for Palestinians? Isn’t this the kind of people God calls us to be?

4) Jesus intentionally sidestepped questions about Israel regaining power or the land. Before His ascension, the disciples asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restorethe kingdom to Israel?” In other words, “Can we have our land back from the Roman oppressors?” What does Jesus answer them? “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Mind if I paraphrase? “Nunna yo’ beeswax. Be witnesses to all the earth.” It would seem Jesus is less interested about getting a particular racial group back into power in a land, and more interested in all nations knowing Him. Can we get on board with that?

5) Palestinians are people that Christ loves and cares for. There is a small but strong Palestinian Church, did you know? They are our brothers and sisters and we have an obligation to care for them. They are persecuted. They are weary. They believe their American brothers and sisters have forgotten them. The majority Muslim population of Palestinian Arabs desperately needs to hear the Gospel, and our support of Israel is a huge stumbling block for them. How can we say Jesus loves them but wants this injustice for them? Right. We can’t. The Jews need Christ. Paul never said, “Hey, they’re Jews, they’re okay!” No! He wept for his people. He prayed desperately for them to know Christ. Are we more concerned about getting on Israel’s side politically, rather than having them worship Jesus the Messiah?

6) Are you concerned about terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah? Do you know that they provide for the people food, protection, water, housing – basic things that Israel is denying to the Palestinians. If you want to cripple terrorism, you have to cripple the support for terrorism. And it’s hard to not support the only people who seem to care that your child gets something to eat today.

I’m not pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. Both have committed horrible atrocities in this never-ending war. My concern is that I have yet to hear anyone from the Church speak about why perhaps God isn’t on Israel’s side.

I want to hear the Church preach…

…that our God of justice is against horrific injustice.

…that our God created all people and hates racism of any kind because it’s spitting in His face as Creator.

…that our God desperately seeks the hearts of all Muslims to come to Isa al-Masih (Jesus the Messiah), to be known as their Father, to make them clean in ways their wudu (purifications) can never do.

…that our God is a God of peace and reconciliation and wants to break down the hatred and barriers between Palestinians and Israelis for good.

…that we don’t contend for a land that actually belongs to God, not men. That Jesus promises us far better things than a patch of real estate, for more people than just the Jews. We look forward to the New Jerusalem, to the New Heaven and New Earth, where people representing all tribes, tongues and nations will worship our Jesus.

Perhaps you will still vote Romney because he has a better economic policy, or because he is anti-abortion, or because you like his ideas for healthcare better. Maybe you’re just sick of Obama. I’m no economist and I get confused just reading a health insurance policy. But please, don’t just vote Romney because you believe God wants you to support Israel 100%. Because I’m not sure that’s really true.

Thoughts?

(Rude comments will be deleted; free speech doesn’t apply here. If you want to talk freedom, you have been freed from sin, so let’s not give it a place to grab hold of your heart when the Holy Spirit has given you power to speak in love and respect.)

72 Comments leave one →
  1. October 24, 2012 9:57 am

    My rather simplistic view on the Israeli/Palestinian issue is really pretty basic. God very pointedly said “Don’t oppress the alien that lives among you” and “Do not have separate laws” (Ex 22:21; 23:9 and Ex 12:49; Lev 24:22; Num 15:12&29). The Israel I support are the people of God who follow after Him. It has absolutely nothing to do with the largely secular government that has been established in Palestine. Yes, Israel can reclaim the land and establish their nation, however, they may not oppress the foreigner who lives among them.
    I remember right after “911″ there was a nearly universal show of support for the US even among the Arab nations. I remember specifically the photograph of a rally in Israel. Just to the left of center was a Palestinian woman with a candle and American flag with tears streaming down her face. Though we side with her oppressors, she can recognize that wrong is wrong. Should we do any less.
    I am pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, pro-Arab, pro-Slavic, pro-Meso-American, pro-African, pro-Anglo – in short pro-human, because my Father so loves this world.

  2. October 24, 2012 10:07 am

    And with this…you are a mighty brave woman. I stand and applaud you for taking the risk. May God reveal Himself to you through this conversation on your blog! I will be reading all the comments with much anticipation!
    Love and peace to you sister!
    ~Allison

  3. October 24, 2012 10:08 am

    Wow, Aubry, why not stir the pot a little? :-) This is a good post because you address something that matters–something that people on all sides would benefit by taking a step back and thinking fresh thoughts.When you wrote all this disclaimers you acknowledged that people will both agree and disagree with your viewpoints. I am someone who both agrees and disagrees. Here goes!

    #1. If by “apartheid” you mean, “systematic oppression,” you are correct. All Christians who love Israel, peace, and humanity should call Israel to live up to the values they proclaim. The word, “apartheid” is filled with all manner of associations–be careful how you use it, especially if your goal is to call Israel up to a higher standard. Although I love the next points you make (2,3,4,& 5) your first point is a bit dodgy: “Israel came in, kicked Palestinians off their rightfully-owned land . . .” just isn’t true, and doesn’t begin to tell the very complicated story. It is a short-hand, and a dangerous half-truth. The entire Arab community, hundreds of millions strong, bear a huge portion of responsibility for the dis-possessed Palestinian people.

    #2, 3, 4. This is the heart of your post, and it’s great. I love that you take the full sweep of the Old Testament, and remind us not to give in to simplified proof-texting. You are correct to remind Christians (most of all) that the lessons of the Old Testament are that God promised the land and the blessings to those who honored his heart for all creation, and who wanted to become the salvation of all peoples. From Genesis 12 forward, YHWH’s intention is to bless the whole world–through a *faithful* Israel.

    #5. Perhaps today Jesus would’ve told the parable of the “Good Palestinian?”

    #6. Hezbollah in particular fits the profile you present. Hamas, not so much. And remember, the Mafia gives lots of money to charities, too.

    I love–LOVE–your concluding points. Here’s hoping people hear big (and in my view) proper picture you present. No easy answers, and the Evangelical church only contributes to the problem by reducing the answers to a dispensationalist answer.

    Everyone! Please be nice to one another. :-) Peace!

  4. October 24, 2012 11:02 am

    Great post, Aubry. I don’t have a ton to say, other than I agree with your waffling between amilleniallism and historic pre-milleniallism, even tho i can’t remember all the details of which is which. I do know that I have pretty firmly decided against all that about re-building the temple, and the anti-Christ being a person, and rapture theology in general. I don’t say that to attack – there are a LOT of people that I dearly love that believe all of that. But I don’t. I don’t think the book of Revelation is literal at all, to be honest, and the 70 weeks of Daniel being 69/70ths complete with the last week on unknown hold?

    So. My point is. Assuming that I vote for Romney, which I probably will, it will primarily be an anti-Obama statement because I don’t support “tax and spread” mentality or Obamacare and because I am concerned about abortion law. Their position on Israel means absolutely nothing to me, although I know a lot of people who are convinced that Jesus will burn the world immediately if we “turn against” Israel.

    It’s all very complicated, but I definitely don’t vote based on someone’s perception of Israel, even tho my voting often winds up being for candidates which make that a part of their platform, so it might statistically appear that I care about that issue.

  5. Rachael permalink
    October 24, 2012 11:07 am

    Thank you!!! Your post always seem to “bring me back to center (God).” They make me look at it from Jesus’ perspective. Like you said, “WWJD.” I need to be reminded of that daily. Awesome post.

    • Jeff permalink
      October 24, 2012 5:54 pm

      I believe that I am this Rachael’s pastor. She sent me a link to this very interesting article. I appreciate and applaud you for your thoughts. I am a theologian (actually educated as one.) Thank you for reminding me that there are those who are often right for the wrong reasons… those voting for Romney because of dispensationalism. I feel that Romney is a better choice, not being a dispensationalist (“d”), I hadn’t really thought that I may be preaching to those who will make this very important choice for that sole reason. Yes, I do believe that a strong “d” most likely will choose for that reason without a clearer choice if they do not do the error of not voting. I have to keep my nationalism away from my theology. I am flag waver and a Bible thumper, but not very often at the same time. God’s plan will not be thwarted by this or any other election (That is a tasty theological nugget and play on words if I do say so myself!)

      I have my own reasons for why I vote the way I do. It is a lesser of two evils approach for me. Theologically, both candidates are pagans. Yes I wrote that… both pagans. Therefore, which of the two pagans is worse. The one who makes up his own personal Jesus that is OK with anything he wants or the one who religiously follows the teachings of a successive line of false prophets and thinks he will be god on his own planet in the hereafter.

      I like to live in peace, so a strong military in US and no nuclear weapons for terrorists are necessary. And I do not want the teachings of Scripture to become hate speech in a country where religious rights are protected by the Constitution. That is what happens when the Democrats fulfill their mission of granting full civil rights protection for acts of choice. (See Canada, Netherlands, etc.;)

      As for the Palestinian/Israel question, which is really the peace in the Middle East question. It is arrogant to think that the POTUS is the one in charge or responsible for that. They are going to have to grow tired of living in hatred and anger. They are going to have to grow tired of killing each other over sand. The only thing that can bring peace anywhere in the world is the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the only reason that the US still exists is because God still has design for her. Maybe it is that we are a training and sending platform for pastors, missionaries, and theologians? I believe that when we can no longer do that for whatever reason, be it economic or be it the loss of that freedom politically, we are done. But that is up to God.

      But as we vote, let us be careful to weigh it out theologically. Because if we do not… we become like Israel saying, “We must have a king over us. Then we’ll be like all the other nations: our king will judge us, go out before us, and fight our battles.” (1 Samuel 8:19-20) That has not worked out so well for them.

      Thanks for your insights Aubry.

  6. October 24, 2012 11:41 am

    Thank you. My hubs and I were talking about this last night. Your words were a great example of speaking the truth in love and I admire your courage. Thanks for adding more content to our conversations at home.

  7. Holland Powell Doran permalink
    October 24, 2012 11:55 am

    Thank you Aubry for standing for the truth. Truly inspiring and refreshing.

  8. October 24, 2012 12:39 pm

    Excellent thoughts, thanks so much for posting and I’m glad I found this! I wish I could apply some thoughts to the conversation, but I’m horribly under-informed when it comes to this topic.

  9. October 24, 2012 12:47 pm

    Really long response, but I think helpful to the discussion.

    First off, great job Aubry. Thank you for always treating Scripture with scholarship and moderation. The main thing you pointed out, which I believe could have been the whole argument, is that our national support of Israel comes from dispensationalism. And, for the most part, dispensationalism is a very American view of how things will/should pan out in the future.

    I’m taking an exegetical study of Revelation in seminary right now (and I plan to share this post with them), and we talked about this very thing last night. When reading Revelation, it’s so easy to get bogged down in the details. The details are all that matter to some people. What exactly are the locusts in Rev. 9, or who will be the two witnesses?

    When reading Paul especially (and this applies to many other biblical authors), you read the details to get the larger picture. John reverses that in Revelation. We have to understand the big picture before we can attempt the details. And what is the big picture?

    God wins.

    That’s it. God wins. And subsequently, we win, because we are on God’s side. Israel, though their ethnicity may be Jewish, is not the Israel spoken of in Scripture, especially by Jesus and later John in Rev. The true Israel has nothing to do with ethnicity.

    You have to look at it as a straight line. This line represents God’s children. It begins with Abraham (or Adam, perhaps), and continues into the present (and will continue into the future). Now, along this line, we have a massive disturbance.

    Jesus.

    When Christ shows up, teaching and preaching and healing and dying and resurrecting, the qualifications for being included in God’s line change. Accept Christ as savior. Accept and act through the Holy Spirit. Two pretty simple commands, but we mess them up quite a bit.

    Now, many who were considered to be following this line branch off. I’m talking about ethnic (or practicing) Jews who don’t accept Christ. They go off and do their own thing (persecuting Palestine and controlling Hollywood). But, where it gets hairy, is when the Gentiles enter the mix.

    From a completely separate line, they join the lineage of God’s true people. The line is still straight, beginning with Abraham and ending with the return of Christ, but now Gentiles share that lineage. That’s why the O.T. matters to me. I’m adopted, but I’m pretty sure I’m of German decent. Not German Jewish decent. But now, I’m a child of God, sharing in the history and genealogy and prophecy and judgment and promise of his people from the beginning. You share in that too.

    Does the independent nation of Israel share it? Well, there may be citizens and politicians and military officials who have accepted Christ, but sadly, on the whole, the answer is no. The true Israel, the nation and children and priesthood God has chosen, wears a mark on hearts. That mark is the Holy Spirit, given to us when we accept Christ as our Savior.

    That’s a long response, but let me end it with a political question. Is Barack Obama a child of the true Israel? I think, maybe. He has professed himself as an Evangelical Christian (whatever that means anymore). Where his heart’s allegiance lies, that’s between him and the Almighty.

    Does Mitt Romney fall on the line of God’s professed and chosen people? No. Mormonism is not another Christian denomination like Baptist or Lutheran or Catholic or Methodist or ……. Mormonism is a cult, founded by one dude who claims Jesus came to America, believes that God is not the only god, and that if he’s really a super duper Mormon, will receive his own planet to be the god of when he dies. Romney believes that too. Why does he support Israel? Because Mormonism is heavily influenced by dispensationalism, and because that’s what most evangelical Christians want to hear.

    Be anti-Obama if you want, but consider carefully and prayerfully who you decide to put in the White House. Billy Graham just removed Mormonism from his list of cults because Romney supports Israel (read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/slices/billy-grahams-website-removes-mormonism-list-cults).

    I believe that’s the sort of compromise John warns about in his letters to the seven churches in Revelation. Don’t compromise. I’ll leave you with John’s own words: Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

    ~ J. Eric Mahfouz

    • October 29, 2012 6:38 pm

      Thanks for this, Eric.
      I’m really saddened by Billy Graham’s actions you mentioned. Seriously? Mormonism has a totally heretical view of Christ and God and just about everything, but they support a small part of his eschatological beliefs, so they aren’t a cult anymore? C’mon, Billy. You know better.

  10. October 24, 2012 12:50 pm

    Also check out this post from Joey Dodson. It may clear some things up (or muddy the waters, but both are great things for true thinkers).

    http://facultyblog.eternitybiblecollege.com/2012/09/06/is-the-american-church-breaking-bad/

  11. Becca Owens permalink
    October 24, 2012 12:57 pm

    Thanks Aubs. This is a great post. Chuck and I have discussed this quite a bit. I too read Whose Land? Whose Promise? junior year, then followed with a trip to the middle east that summer – which happened to be in the middle of the last election campaign. We were able to see a lot first-hand how from the US media we see a very “white washed” depiction of the injustice and conflicts in that area. It was quite sobering to first hear our Israeli tour guide share how beneficial and helpful the nice and clean white walls (literal) were for defining boundaries between conflicting people groups, then enter Palestinian territory and see the other side of the walls littered with graffiti-cries for justice and help. Thanks for sharing.

  12. jay newman permalink
    October 24, 2012 1:31 pm

    Without reading anybody else’s comments, lemme just say “great post”. One thing I think you neglected – the replacement of Israel with the church, such as in Romans where Paul talks about true Israel not being ethnic Israel or in Revelation where it talks about Jews who are not real Jews that persecute the churches. The New Testament authors certainly got the ball rolling with the concept that ethnic Jews were not the inheritors of the promise – so the current nation-state of Israel ought not be considered the inheritors of the promise.

    • October 29, 2012 6:36 pm

      Yes! Thanks, Jay. I was hoping someone would pick up that thread…I started to write about it, but felt like I couldn’t do it justice without making this post a novella.

  13. October 24, 2012 2:57 pm

    Powerful post, Aubry. Your writing is well worth waiting for. You summed it all up in this phrase: “Jesus promises us far better things”. Yes he does.

    Tim

    • Jennifer permalink
      October 24, 2012 11:50 pm

      Interesting post. Thanks for sharing. You should read the book “Son of Hamas”. I think you would find it interesting. The author is the son of the leader of the terrorist group Hamas. He was apart of the organization. He has an insightful view of Palestine and Israel…he is a Christian now which makes it more interesting and insightful.

      • October 29, 2012 6:34 pm

        I have this book and you’re right – so interesting!

  14. October 24, 2012 11:16 pm

    Dr. Burge was my New Testament teacher in college. Most of his views were radical like this one. Personally, I believe that we don’t have like what Israel is doing but is this anything new given what we have learned in the OT about them?

    We must, however, love them.

  15. alicat permalink
    October 25, 2012 2:32 pm

    Palestine is a totalitarian thugocracy where what little they do produce goes mainly into buying old rockets they can launch at Israeli civilians. Israel could spend billions building roads and sewers in Palestine, and they’d still be poor because you can’t create wealth by killing gays, oppressing women, and launching rockets at schoolchildren

    • October 25, 2012 2:38 pm

      So then, is being pro-Israel or being pro-Palestine the proper Christian stance?

      • October 25, 2012 2:39 pm

        P.S. I like the word “thugocracy”. I’m going to try to use it in a sentence later today. ;-)

      • alicat permalink
        October 25, 2012 2:56 pm

        i don’t think there is a “christian” way to look at these things. they are prudential decisions that christians can disagree about.

    • October 29, 2012 6:33 pm

      I’m not proposing either a Palestinian or an Israeli state. I’m pointing out that what the Israelis are currently doing to the Palestinians is incredibly sinful and unjust, and thus we shouldn’t assume God is on Israel’s side and vote based on that.

  16. Derrick Stewart permalink
    October 26, 2012 12:33 am

    Hey nice post!

    I would agree with everything. I would add though that just like Jesus loves and cares for the Palestinians He also loves and cares for the Israeli people too. And make no mistake about it, without support from nations like the US, Israel would be taken over tomorrow by Muslims from within and surrounding nations and it wouldn’t be peaceful. I don’t think it would be Holocaust 2.0 but a lot of innocent people would die. It’s not just extremist Muslims, but all Muslims would want that land. I know when I lived in the region for a couple years all of my Muslim friends hoped that during the Arab spring there would be a chance for new Muslims leaders who want to take Israel back.

    With all of that being said I’m not convinced that the primary reason the US and presidential candidates show their alliegance to Israel is for the safety of the people. It’s more likely there is some sort of underlying strategical reasonings (money, intel, and/or connections) that no one will know the whole truth about. But I would agree that as a Christ follower I’m not sure if this is the issue that should determine who gets my vote.

    Thanks for sharing!

  17. Eddie Sic permalink
    October 26, 2012 12:35 am

    Thank you. My friend posted this on Facebook. I am very glad I read it. Your obvious compassion made my eyes leak a little, it’s a condition from birth that occurs when my emotions are stirred

  18. October 26, 2012 11:19 pm

    This is beautiful. Thank you so much for writing this. As a Christian who studies the conflict and the region, this is so refreshing. It is good to know I am not alone.

  19. Alison permalink
    October 29, 2012 5:51 pm

    Aubry…you’ve done it again…gone out on a limb to express, lucidly and succinctly, an unpopular and often overlooked perspective. Thanks for being courageous enough to put it out there. It is SO comforting to know that there are others who share my concern in this area.

  20. October 30, 2012 8:41 am

    Thank you, Aubry, for writing this post.

    I’m so saddened by Christians who have been hoodwinked by candidates (almost always Conservatives, except for Jimmy Carter) who spout some Dispensational sound bites and can then count on the “Christian” lock-step vote.

    The issues in the Middle East are soo complicated, and much of that complication can be attributed to the actions of the British from the late 1800′s through WWII. American foreign policy since WWII has been more Cold War influenced than not. And, to make it worse, Arab states around Israel have used the Palestinians as pawns in their game against Israel.

    There is a comfortable third rail of interpretation other than amillenialism and Dispensationalism–often referred to as “Historic Background”. Ray Summers and Hendriksen are two good examples.

    Tom

  21. November 2, 2012 9:06 am

    Aubrey, thanks for the post. It’s wonderful to have thoughtful and provocative posts address challenging topics. There are Christians in Israel and the occupied territories and we must remember these people are *all* our brothers or neighbors (Mt. 22:37-39). Israel’s treatment of the Arabs in the Hamas/PLO controlled west bank and Gaza is hard to stomach. Equally atrocious is Arab terrorism against Israel (Hezbollah/Hamas).

    As for politics, I don’t think there is much difference between Romney and Obama on the nation of Israel. Democrats seems more inclined to openly push for the inevitable “two state solution,” but both parties declare Israel to be a strong ally, a bastion of democracy, and favor massive economic and military support to Israel. Both party’s presidents have tried for decades to broker peace deals that would end the cycle of violence and oppression.

    In short, the minute differences on Israel don’t mean much in light of the larger justice and economic issues involved in this Presidential race.

    And while we are at it, why does the church not speak about about violence and oppression everywhere we see it? Probably because we’d have far less time to speak about the gospel everywhere it is not proclaimed. We need to do both, but it’s striking the biblical balance on our messaging is challenging.

    Maybe your voice will be a balancing call to address oppression of Arabs?

  22. November 2, 2012 12:11 pm

    Totally amazing post, Aubry. Thank you! The comments are amazing too! You have an incredible following. I must note how some of your people who commented were talking about this topic “the night before” you posted it. I love getting to see the Holy Spirit move across multiple lives in similar ways simultaneously. Keep writing!

    the linvilles

  23. November 20, 2012 6:37 pm

    Aside from the political nuances of your argument – which are well said, Christians still have a moral obligation to stand with and alongside goodness and truth and oppose opression and evil. Perhaps we like them becuase of their race, but that would could be deduced as racist and not sufficient in and of itself. But if Israel is a force of good in an otherwise dark and oppressive local in the world that in and of itself is reason enough for us (US) to stand with them.

    Please consider the following:
    Brigitte Gabriel’s speech she made at duke university:

    “I’m proud and honored to stand here today as a Lebanese speaking for Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. As someone who was raised in an Arabic country, I want to give you
    a glimpse into the heart of the Arabic world.

    I was raised in Lebanon where I was taught that the Jews are evil, Israel is the devil, and the only time we will have peace in the Middle East is when we kill all the Jews and drive them into the sea.

    When the Muslims and Palestinians declared jihad on the Christians in 1975, they started massacring the Christians city after city. I ended up living in a bomb shelter underground from age 10 to 17, without electricity, eating grass to live, and crawling under sniper bullets to a spring to get water.

    It was Israel who came to help the Christians in Lebanon. My mother was wounded by a Muslim shell and was taken into an Israeli hospital for treatment. When we entered the emergency room, I was shocked at what I saw. There were hundreds of people wounded, Muslims, Palestinians, Lebanese Christians, and Israeli soldiers lying on the floor. The doctors treated everyone according to their injury. They treated my mother before they treated the Israeli soldier lying next to her. They didn’t see religion, they didn’t see political affiliation; they saw people in need and they helped.

    For the first time in my life, I experienced a human quality that I know my culture would not have shown to their enemy. I experienced the values of the Israelis, who were able to love their enemy in their most trying moments. I spent 22 days at that hospital; those days changed my life and the way I believe information, the way I listen to the radio or to television. I realized that I was sold a fabricated lie by my government about the Jews and Israel, which was so far from reality. I knew for a fact that if I were a Jew standing in an Arab hospital, I would be lynched and thrown to the ground as shouts of joy of “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) echoed through the hospital and the surrounding streets.

    I became friends with the families of the wounded Israeli soldiers, one in particular, Rina, whose only child was wounded in his eyes. One day, I was visiting with her and the Israeli army band came to play national songs to lift the spirits of the wounded soldiers. As they surrounded his bed playing a song about Jerusalem, Rina and I started crying. I felt out of place and started walking out of the room, and this mother held my hand and pulled me back in without even looking at me. She held me, crying, and said, “It is not your fault.” We just stood there, crying, holding each other’s hands.
    What a contrast between her—a mother looking at her deformed, 19-year-old only child and still able to love me, the enemy—and a Muslim mother who sends her son to blow himself up to smithereens just to kill a few Jews or Christians.

    The difference between the Arabic world and Israel is a difference in values and character. It’s barbarism versus civilization. It’s democracy versus dictatorship. It’s goodness versus evil.

    Once upon a time, there was a special place in the lowest depths of hell for anyone who would intentionally murder a child. Now, the intentional murder of Israeli children is legitimized as Palestinian “armed struggle.” However, once such behavior is legitimized against Israel, it is legitimized everywhere in the world, constrained by nothing more than the subjective belief of people who would wrap themselves in dynamite and nails for the purpose of killing children in the name of god.

    Because the Palestinians have been encouraged to believe that murdering innocent Israeli civilians is a legitimate tactic for advancing their cause, the whole world now suffers from a plague of terrorism, from Nairobi to New York, from Moscow to Madrid, from Bali to Beslan.

    They blame suicide bombings on the “desperation of occupation.” Let me tell you the truth. The first major terror bombing committed by Arabs against the Jewish state occurred 10 weeks before Israel even became independent. On Sunday morning, February 22, 1948, in anticipation of Israel ‘s independence, a triple truck bomb was detonated by Arab terrorists on Ben Yehuda Street in what was then the Jewish section of Jerusalem. Fifty-four people were killed and hundreds were wounded.

    Thus, it is obvious that Arab terrorism is caused not by “desperation” or “occupation”, but by the VERY THOUGHT of a Jewish state.

    So many times in history in the last 100 years, citizens have stood by and done nothing, allowing evil to prevail. As America stood up against and defeated communism, now it is time to stand up against the terror of religious bigotry and intolerance. It’s time for everyone to stand up and support and defend the State of Israel, which is the front line of the war against terrorism.

  24. Steve Mizrachi permalink
    December 23, 2012 2:03 pm

    Do you always delete the opinions that are contrary to yours? How intellectually shallow. Ultimately, we Jews will triumph (we already are) over the lies, libelous slander, and sanctimonious spirit shown towards us on this site. It is you, sweetheart, who will share the infamy of standing together on the wrong side of history with those who would liquidate us. What’s funny, is that you think Jews should trip over each other to embrace a religion, among whose tenants is the identity theft of the Jewish heritage.

    • December 23, 2012 2:08 pm

      Steve, I saw your original posts, and now these two. My take on things is that if you had started with a civil comment that truly wanted to engage in discourse, you would have found a welcome home here even though your views are (as you see it) contrary to those in the original article. Instead, you came out with both guns blazing. That’s unfortunate, because I bet you would have a lot to offer to an irenic discussion.

  25. Steve Mizrachi permalink
    December 23, 2012 2:05 pm

    P.S…I wrote the above knowing it will never see the light of day on your blog, which places a low premium on truth, substance, and real discourse.

    • December 23, 2012 2:08 pm

      P.S. Real discourse, of course, means being willing to engage, not just blast away.

      • Steve Mizrachi permalink
        December 23, 2012 3:21 pm

        Aubry, while I admit that my original posts were impassioned, I don’t agree that they were mean spirited. If they were impassioned, it was because I am not a dispassionate bystander, but an Israeli citizen and former IDF soldier who was indignant because of the inaccuracies of certain charges laid against us (apartheid), the patronizing tone (see Shaun’s “Personally, I believe that we don’t have like what Israel is doing but is this anything new given what we have learned in the OT about them), and, of course, what I believe to be a gross distortion of the Hebrew Bible. All of the above have dogged us Jews throughout history, and laid the ground for our annihilation in Christian Europe. As a licensed tour guide here in Israel, who has worked with thousands of Evangelical Christians over the years, I was hoping that the erroneous accusations and tone voiced on this board was a thing of the past, relegated to the dustbin of history. Instead, I see it is alive and well. While I can’t change your theology, I can request that you read the pertinent articles in the Hamas and Hezbollah charters that call for our genocide, not just the destruction of the Jewish polity called “Israel.” Anyway, thanks for your acknowledgement and response, this time.

      • Steve Mizrachi permalink
        December 23, 2012 3:23 pm

        Tim, forgive me, I thought you were Aubry herself. So, the above comment is addressed to you. Thanks for your timely response.

  26. January 14, 2013 8:43 am

    Hi Aubry, reading your disclaimers at the beginning of this post, I’m glad to see you admitting that you don’t understand the complexity of the situation in my country. (I’m an Israeli. And a believer in Jesus, like you.) I think that is a really important step towards understanding it better – because it really is a lot more complex than the way it is usually presented.

    A book you might find helpful is A Land of Many Names, by Steve Maltz. I think he explains things very very well – from a Christian perspective.

    My own view, in a nutshell, is this: God promised us the Land and also promised that we would be exiled from it and that he would bring us back. We are seeing God’s promises fulfilled. Does this mean everything Israel does is good and right and perfect? Of course not. We’re human, and we’re faced with a pretty impossible situation. I can’t imagine any other nation dealing with it in a better way. I don’t expect anyone to say we’re perfect and that everything we do is right, but nor are we the bad guys that some would paint us as. And no, we are not an apartheid nation – we have Arabs even in the Knesset, including those who believe our state shouldn’t exist! Don’t believe everything you hear about us. There has been a huge amount of slander spread about us. We aren’t perfect, but considering our circumstances I think we’re doing pretty well.

    And yes, of course I believe God wants people to live in peace, but I also believe that this will only happen when Jesus returns.

    And of course, of course I believe God wants everyone to come to know Jesus, including Muslims. (by the way – for those from a Muslim background who become Christians, living under the Palestinian Authority or under Hamas rule is extremely dangerous. Some have escaped into Israel – the only democracy in the area, with freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We’re not perfect, but we’re a lot better than our neighbours in this respect. I personally met an Arab born-again Christian in Jerusalem last year who was adamant that he would not want to see Palestinian rule there: under Israeli rule, he said, he has freedom of religion. I wish you could have a chat with him.)

    May God continue to bless you as you think and blog and seek to live for him.

    • Steve Mizrachi permalink
      January 14, 2013 9:13 am

      The reason so many Christians have “missed it” regarding Israel is because of their method of exegesis of our Hebrew Bible. They allegorize (means “other meaning”: a Greek word for the method Greek philosophers used to make sense of Homer’s poems) away the literal meaning of the texts wherever it suits their theology of Church supercessionism. They only believe the term “Israel” means ethnic Israel when the context is negative, but substitute “church” in place of “Israel” wherever the context is future promises of restoration. This seems to me a capricious and yes, intellectually dishonest way to read any book, let alone the Hebrew Bible. Such a method of interpretation utterly fails when applied to Ezekiel 36, where it’s clearly talking about ethnic Israel through the whole chapter.

      • January 14, 2013 9:17 am

        They only believe the term “Israel” means ethnic Israel when the context is negative

        No we don’t, Steve.

        Blessings,
        Tim

      • Steve Mizrachi permalink
        January 14, 2013 9:28 am

        Tim, please elucidate further. It seems to be the main justification of “replacement theology”…the allegorizing away of all the texts that refer to the future of ethnic Israel in the Hebrew Bible.

      • January 14, 2013 10:35 am

        Steve, isn’t is up to you to prove your statement first? I’m betting there’s no way to prove dispositively that all Christians “only believe the term ‘Israel’ means ethnic Israel when the context is negative.” But if you have the data to back it up, I’d be interested in reading it.

        As for replacement theology, that’s merely one way to look at the relationship between Israel and the Church. You should also consider dispensationalism, which (speaking in general terms) holds that all of the promises to Israel will be fulfilled to ethnic Israel. Then there’s the way the Copts look at it, as well as Eastern Orthodox doctrine. Lots of ways to look at this besides replacement theology.

        Blessings,
        TIm

      • Steve Mizrachi permalink
        January 14, 2013 12:05 pm

        Tim,
        As I am not formally schooled in church history/patristics, except as it relates to my own field of studies (religious studies/comparative literature of the 2nd Temple period), I’m afraid I won’t measure up in giving the type of response you would encounter from a seminary student. What I can offer is only my observation after working with thousands of Christians over the years as a tour guide in Israel and hearing their “take” on this issue.
        Several years ago, I guided a Presbyterian church from Florida that held to an amillenial worldview and hence, “replacement theology” as it relates to all the Hebrew Bible scriptures that speak of the future of ethnic Israel. I noticed a pattern wherein all prophetic literature that they considered speaking of the Jews until 70AD spoke literally of the ethnic Jews, most of which was concerned with the judgement of Israel. All prophetic literature/verses dealing with future mercies and redemption was transferred to the church…obviously never called “church,” but Israel. Later on, as I sat in some courses about early Christianity, I noticed the same tendency from the early Church Fathers. This seems to be the “establishment view” of most of Christianity, and that the “dispensationalist” view you referred to is really just a modern day phenomenon, a footnote of Church history, heightened by the rebirth of Israel in 1948.
        The method of capriciously “lifting” the text out of it’s original context is manifested in some of the posts I have read on this blog. Aubry herself does this on one of her posts, when she admits that a verse in Jeremiah: “I know the plans that I have for you….” originally had nothing to do with individual believers (as it is applied today to individual Christians), but to exiled Israel. But then, rather than leave the text in the admitted original context, she reapplied it to the collective church (not individual Christians). Jeremiah, Isaiah (especially), and all the prophets would be aghast at how their context has been re/mis-construed.
        What bothers me about Church supercession, other then the obvious offense as a Jew in feeling the victim of identity theft, is the total replacement of the original meaning/context of Isaiah 7, Isaiah 53, and other passages famously cited for their “Christology”, rather than allowing the original context to stand side by side with the Christian “midrash” of such verses.
        In conclusion, I wish to tell of an experience with a pastor I was guiding who was teaching the Pauline doctine that everything in the Hebrew Bible is a “shadow” of things fulfilled in the New Testament, and hence “replaced.” It was at an hour of the day that he was casting a shadow. I tried to eliminate his shadow with every means at my disposal. I jumped on his shadow, stoned it, and pointed a gun and mocked shot at it. Nothing I did eliminated or “replaced” his shadow. It seems that nature itself teaches that subjects and the shadow they cast are inseparable. So, why do Christians believingn spiritual sabbaths, spiritual Jews, the world (instead of the “Land of Israel”), heavenly kingdom (instead of a promised earthly one based in Jerusalem) feel the need to render the “shadow” (real Jews, Sabbaths, Israel, etc…) obsolete. Forgive me for all the spelling errors, as this school computer obviously doesn’t have a “spell check”.

      • January 14, 2013 12:55 pm

        I see where you are coming from, Steve. I think one thing noteworthy in your experience is that it is primarily with Christians who choose to take trips to Israel which suggests to me that you are dealing with a subset of Christians, one that might very well be skewed to a particular doctrinal understanding of Israel and the Church.

        Cheers,
        Tim

      • January 14, 2013 10:57 pm

        Steve M.,

        Not all disciples of Jesus subscribe to “replacement theology”. Nor are all Jesus people Premillennial Dispensationalist. Your brush strokes are much too broad. Also, your anger is much to notable and it won’t help your cause.

        T

      • Steve Mizrachi permalink
        January 15, 2013 3:09 am

        Volkmar,
        I have tried to tone down my tone so as not to be deleted. But, I feel my original anger was justified. When Aubry called Israel an Apartheid state, without really thinking through all the implications of such a charge, it was tantamount to me calling her an “anti-semite,” even though I don’t know her heart and have never met her. She would likely recoil with indignation at such a charge, and rightfully so, as again, I would have no right to used such a loaded term to describe her without having vetted what she really feels/thinks about Jews. Terms like “apartheid,” “anti-semite,” and “racist” are defamatory terms that should never be loosely hurled at others before having carefully considered the evidence, otherwise they cheapen the term itself, in addition to unjustly defaming the recipient of the charge. When someone calls Israel–a state with Arab supreme court justices, Arab army officers, and affirmative action programs at the universities which require 20% of the student body be Arab–they do an incredible injustice to those who really suffered under South African apartheid, who didn’t enjoy any of the above. I do feel Aubry should retract that one part of her opening salvo.
        Lastly, as a Jew who knows my history, I do believe Christians should weigh with extra caution the words they use when criticizing Israel…a country who came into existence largely as an answer to two millennia of Christian persecution culminating in the Holocaust, which murdered 1/3 of all Jews in the world. Of course Hitler wasn’t a Christian, but his murder machine found no shortage of collaborators all over Europe who were brainwashed to hate Jews by Church teachings and writings about the Jews. All of this is well documented, and few thoughtful and informed people would challenge me on this. That this took place in Christian civilization…in fact, in the very heartland of the Reformation itself, should, in my opinion, cause every Western Christian to carefully weigh their charges laid at the Jewish State, and to even feel, regardless of their eschatology, a special responsibility and desire to see the place survive and prosper. Thanks.

  27. January 16, 2013 7:58 am

    Steve,

    I have a question that you may be uniquely able to answer.

    We, in the US, often read and hear in the media (not a reliable source of unbiased information, btw) of Israel building settlements in the W. Bank on land that has been “stolen” from Palestinian residents who have been ousted from their property. What is the reality as you understand it?

    Tom

    • Steve Mizrachi permalink
      January 16, 2013 10:53 am

      Tom,
      That’s a great question, and like many things connected with this place, not the simplest to answer. I will try…
      Before 1948, there were Jewish communities in what later became known as the “West Bank,” particularly in an area called “Gush Etzion” (just outside Bethlehem). In the War of Independence, the Arab Legion, which later became known as the Jordanian army, conquered this Jewish habitation and massacred many of its residents. Those particular Jews of that particular community were legitimately living on land purchased in 1927. Besides them, there were Jews living in the heart of Arab cities, most famously the ancient Jewish community of Hebron which was annihilated by their Arab neighbors in 1929. Following the “Six Day War,” the descendants of these pre-Israeli independence Jewish communities of the “West Bank” (called Judea and Samaria by Jews) insisted on returning to their communities. Thus, Gush Etzion, one of the largest settlement blocks of the region was rebuilt, and some zealous religious Jews likewise resettled Hebron, where they still are today.
      Following the Six Day War the successive governments of Israel, both the Leftist Labor party and right-wing Likud party decided to build a whole series of settlements, particularly on strategic hilltops that separate the West Bank from Israel proper, as a kind of buffer against a future Arab invasion, as well as Arab expansion from cities like Bethlehem past the so-called “Green Line” into pre-Six Day War Israeli territory. Most of these hilltop settlements, if not all of them, were uninhabited by any prior Arab community.
      In a third stage of settlement ultra-religious Jews have seized land, most often illegally, and sometimes on Arab owned land to build communities…several of which were never legally recognized by the state, and several which have gained such recognition through the political pressure they have brought to bear on the governments…both Labor and Likud.
      So, in conclusion: there have been three waves (1) Jews/descendants of those who lived in the West Bank before Israel’s independence, and were either massacred or kicked out of the region in the 1948 War of Independence (2) setters placed there by successive governments, both left-wing and right-wing, to inhabit strategic hilltops as a buffer against a future Arab invasion force and Arab expansion into Israel proper; these settlements were built on previously uninhabited outposts (3) Zealous religious Jews who have seized land on their own initiative, sometimes later aided/recognized by the government, sometimes not and thus considered outlaws.
      I hope this very brief answer helps to shed some light on a somewhat complex and nuanced issue.

  28. Steve Mizrachi permalink
    January 17, 2013 2:13 am

    Ok. My turn to ask a few questions (I think Tim and Tom are the only ones who are still following this board, so I guess this question is to them)….Most protestants who subscribe to “replacement theology” identify with “Reformed theology,” i.e. some manifestation of Calvinism. Part and parcel of Reformed theology is an uncompromising position of the sovereignty of God…both as it relates to the affairs of individual human beings as well as the affairs of humanity at large. This being the case, how does a Reform theologist/Calvinist reconcile the “sovereignty of God” with the rebirth of Israel? Was He “absentee” during this event, which everyone would agree was (and still remains) one of the defining events on the world stage of the past century? Has He remained absentee as the fallout from this event still unwinds to this very day?
    Another question: Jesus, at the end of Matthew 23, when addressing Jewish Jerusalem’s rejection of him, says that “you will not see me again until you say “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” If “you” refers to the Jewish Jerusalem of his day in his lamentation, does not “you” in the prophetic future also imply/necessitate a Jewish Jerusalem be in place when this is fulfilled? After all, in Acts 1:6-7 Jesus confirms that there is coming a day when the crux of all Messianic prophesies, this being the reconstitution of the Jewish kingdom under a Davidic king, will be fulfilled…only the timing is an open question. Any candidate for Messiah must fulfill, literally, this requisite for being Messiah, or they are simply not the Messiah.
    Last question: Over the years, I have heard hundred’s of pastor’s “take” on the Hebrew Bible. As mentioned in my earlier posts, I have often found these “takes” to take scripture of their original and obvious contexts. Now I want to take a crack at this, applying my “take” on Matthew 25:31-46 (the separation of the goat nations from the sheep nations of the day of judgement). Personally, I think this entire parable is about Jesus judging the nations (literally, Gentiles) for how they treated his “brothers” (Jews). In the same way most Christians believe Zachariah 12:10 is referring to a Jewish nation that finally comes face-to-face with our rejection of Christ as the Messiah (notice, here too the setting is Jewish Jerusalem, not New York), I think Matthew 25:31-46 is referring to the “shock” of those Gentiles, among them “Christians,” who find out that not only Jesus is a Jew, but that he still considers the Jewish nation to be his nation, and will judge the Gentiles according to their treatment and attitudes towards that nation. How to you receive my foray into exegesis of the New Testament?

  29. January 17, 2013 8:10 am

    Steve,

    I’ll give it a go one section at a time. You ask;

    Most protestants who subscribe to “replacement theology” identify with “Reformed theology,” i.e. some manifestation of Calvinism. Part and parcel of Reformed theology is an uncompromising position of the sovereignty of God…both as it relates to the affairs of individual human beings as well as the affairs of humanity at large. This being the case, how does a Reform theologist/Calvinist reconcile the “sovereignty of God” with the rebirth of Israel? Was He “absentee” during this event, which everyone would agree was (and still remains) one of the defining events on the world stage of the past century? Has He remained absentee as the fallout from this event still unwinds to this very day?

    First off, “Reformed theology” is most often associated with Calvinism, but in truth RT is also associated with Luther, Zwingli, Bucer, and others. It’s a diverse community, but I grant that commonly RT is used as a referent to Calvinism.

    I don’t claim to be a Calvinist, rather, the systematic theology I most identify with is called “New Covenant Theology” (New Test. writers only refer to two covenants—the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai, and the new covenant established by/in Jesus’ blood at Golgotha).

    I don’t identify with “replacement theology” because of it’s inherent anti-Semitism and because it’s a misrepresentation and truncation of what Jesus, Paul, et al were actually saying. The ekklesia (“church”) doesn’t stand as a replacement to the promises of God to Israel, but rather the ekklesia is a sacrament of the reality of God bringing all people (the Nations) into the promises. “In Christ” all “are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:23-29)

    I certainly do not think God was “absent” during and in the formation of the State of Israel. In view of me not being God nor having clear revelation from Him concerning what all of that means, I simply trust that God is certainly active and working things out in His left-handed fashion to ultimately sum up/bring under one head/recapitulate it all “in Christ”. Throughout history God has used the good, the evil, and the indifferent. I don’t have any reason to think otherwise in this present time.

    You may think I’m being evasive. However, unlike others I don’t think the Bible gives us a detailed blueprint of how God will act in history. When it comes to eschatology I’m a Pan-millennialist—in the end it’ll all pan out.

    • January 17, 2013 9:30 am

      Nice summary, really well put and clearly set out.

      Tim

      • Steve Mizrachi permalink
        January 17, 2013 10:13 am

        I concur…very well spoken, Tom. Although, I still think you have some hurdles to clear: (1) Several of the Mosaic commandments were given as “everlasting” commandments to the Jewish nation, which seems to preclude their ever being cancelled by a New Covenant (2) When Paul says “to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants (pl.), the giving of the law, etc…,” notice that the “covenants” and the “law” are listed as two separate items, and both are in the present, not past tense [Romans 9:4] (3) “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable [Romans 11:29].
        I think the problem is the confusion between the “this worldliness” of the Hebrew Bible, and the “other worldliness” of the New Testament. The Hebrew Bible is primarily concerned with the things of this world. Both the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants are limited to the duration of this world. So, the Abrahamic covenant is concerned with a particular nation and land…and the Mosaic covenant is concerned with a legal code particular in place (Israel) and space (the duration of this physical world). The Jewish nation was told that if we keep this legal code, we will be blessed in the here and now…primarily in agriculture and war. If we don’t keep this legal code, we will be cursed here and now (again, primarily in the realms of agriculture and war). There is no extension of these things into an “afterlife.” The Israelites did not ask their fellow Israelites, as Christians often ask non-Christians when evangelizing, “if you die today, what are the chances you will go to heaven?” Instead, they asked then, as religious Jews ask now “what do I need to do to keep God’s blessings on both myself and the nation of Israel right now?”
        All of this changes in the New Testament, which is primarily concerned with eternal salvation…something which was not a preoccupation, neither in the minds of ancient Israelites, nor among today’s “rabbinical” Jews.
        I think when Christians read the New Testament, or are challenged by a person like myself, they are thinking in the “box” of eternal salvation, and we are thinking in the “box” of this world: Jews according to the flesh, Israel according to the “land” called Israel. We don’t presume any “other worldly” or eternal ramifications to these issues.
        This is why there is no “duel covenant” being forwarded here. We Jews don’t claim that if we follow Moses properly, we will go to heaven. We do insist that all the promises in the Hebrew Bible concerning our everlasting (as long as this earth endures) covenant between God, us, and the Land of Israel are still valid, as any literary reading of the pertinent verses imply, and are not to be spiritualized or allegorized away. I don’t think Paul meant for his readers to do this, but to see two parallel universes…the “this worldly,” which he refers to as “shadows,” and the ethereal, which he sees as New Testament salvation. The two can coexist, because they are talking of things on two different plains..the one worldly, the other heavenly.

      • January 17, 2013 10:35 am

        Thanks for those insights, Steve. They are truly helpful.

        Tim

  30. Steve Mizrachi permalink
    January 18, 2013 1:53 am

    With regard to Tom’s assertion that the Bible does not provide a blueprint for how God will act in history, please read Ezekiel 36…really study it, and you will see the closest thing to a blueprint that is possible. In short:
    1) God scattered the Jews because of our unfaithfulness.
    2) He brings us back to Israel in a state of unbelief, unconditionally.
    3) Afterward, He will spiritually revive the nation.

    We are currently at stage 2. This is very clearly presented in Ezekiel 36.

    • January 19, 2013 9:11 am

      My operative word was “detailed”, as in each and every detail.

      Could not stage 2 have begun with the return in the time of Cyrus (Ezra 1)?

      Tom

      • Steve Mizrachi permalink
        January 19, 2013 10:44 am

        Tom, sorry for answering. No, it is obvious in Ezekiel 36 that the ingathering and resettlement spoken of is final, with no other exile to follow.

  31. January 19, 2013 12:40 am

    Steve,
    I haven’t addressed the later question of your earlier post. We may be getting side-tracked chasing various rabbit trails (mixed metaphors are I), but I do want to comment on your latest response.

    I concur…very well spoken, Tom. Although, I still think you have some hurdles to clear: (1) Several of the Mosaic commandments were given as “everlasting” commandments to the Jewish nation, which seems to preclude their ever being cancelled by a New Covenant (2) When Paul says “to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants (pl.), the giving of the law, etc…,” notice that the “covenants” and the “law” are listed as two separate items, and both are in the present, not past tense [Romans 9:4] (3) “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable [Romans 11:29].

    Thank you for the complement.

    I don’t have any issue with what you say about the covenants and the Law, except that I don’t think I need to clear those particular hurdles. The specific covenants and law were given and made to Israel and no one else. Paul’s point in Galatians and Romans is that the Gentiles are brought into the promises of the covenants by adoption through trust in God—not by becoming Jewish or by becoming sons of the Torah.

    I think the problem is the confusion between the “this worldliness” of the Hebrew Bible, and the “other worldliness” of the New Testament. The Hebrew Bible is primarily concerned with the things of this world. Both the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants are limited to the duration of this world. So, the Abrahamic covenant is concerned with a particular nation and land…and the Mosaic covenant is concerned with a legal code particular in place (Israel) and space (the duration of this physical world). The Jewish nation was told that if we keep this legal code, we will be blessed in the here and now…primarily in agriculture and war. If we don’t keep this legal code, we will be cursed here and now (again, primarily in the realms of agriculture and war). There is no extension of these things into an “afterlife.” The Israelites did not ask their fellow Israelites, as Christians often ask non-Christians when evangelizing, “if you die today, what are the chances you will go to heaven?” Instead, they asked then, as religious Jews ask now “what do I need to do to keep God’s blessings on both myself and the nation of Israel right now?”

    Good observation. I think you’re generally right about the differences.

    However, I don’t subscribe to the Platonic perspective which invaded the ekklesia and has become the “norm” in Christianity since the Middle Ages. My understanding is that Jesus receives the Kingdom rule from the Father then returns to our environment to fully substantiate that kingdom and reign. (Daniel 7:13-14, the “one on the clouds”) The Incarnation (God with us in the flesh; Isaiah 9:6) is God’s affirmation that His material creation is good and has his blessing. “Sin” is the perversion and marring of what God intends for His creatures—taking that which is good and making it not good.

    When Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world…” he was saying that the authoritative basis and the origin of God’s Kingdom was not derived from the principalities or dynamics of the world systems. The Kingdom of God will certainly fill this world and put an end to all unrighteousness and will be an everlasting kingdom (Daniel 7 again).

    Humans will experience the Kingdom in its fullness HERE, on this Earth in this creation.

    All of this changes in the New Testament, which is primarily concerned with eternal salvation…something which was not a preoccupation, neither in the minds of ancient Israelites, nor among today’s “rabbinical” Jews.
    I think when Christians read the New Testament, or are challenged by a person like myself, they are thinking in the “box” of eternal salvation, and we are thinking in the “box” of this world: Jews according to the flesh, Israel according to the “land” called Israel. We don’t presume any “other worldly” or eternal ramifications to these issues.

    Again, I think that your general observation is correct.

    My understanding puts a different nuance on “eternal salvation”, which describes the source of the salvation (from “the heavens”) and the action taken, that is, to “heal” and “deliver” us from sin, death, and the fear of death. In the process I believe we’ll also be given bodies which are “changed” or “immortal”. Not “immaterial”, but rather material bodies no longer enslaved to decay.

    Perhaps both sides should stop thinking in their own boxes and instead think together in a “trough”, so to speak. This world and God’s invisible realm meet in the Christ. The land is no less important that our souls. The healing of the individual and the healing of the community/peoples are inseperable.

    Tom

  32. January 19, 2013 8:48 am

    Another question: Jesus, at the end of Matthew 23, when addressing Jewish Jerusalem’s rejection of him, says that “you will not see me again until you say “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” If “you” refers to the Jewish Jerusalem of his day in his lamentation, does not “you” in the prophetic future also imply/necessitate a Jewish Jerusalem be in place when this is fulfilled? After all, in Acts 1:6-7 Jesus confirms that there is coming a day when the crux of all Messianic prophesies, this being the reconstitution of the Jewish kingdom under a Davidic king, will be fulfilled…only the timing is an open question. Any candidate for Messiah must fulfill, literally, this requisite for being Messiah, or they are simply not the Messiah.

    Maybe, perhaps, but not necessarily.

    Here’s my thinking, which I begin by citing the Matt. paragraph you refer to;

    “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would have none of it! Look, your house is left to you desolate! For I tell you, you will not see me from now until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

    The “desolation” of their house (ie. “this place is a ghost town”) does seem to be a foretelling of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, but just as much so it speaks to the emptiness of the hearts and minds and lives of the people, especially the religious and political authorities, which had been shown by their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. Jesus just didn’t fit their Messiah mold.

    The emphasis of chapter 23 isn’t so much the physical city as it is the attitude of the inhabitants. The physical location didn’t kill the prophets—people killed the prophets. Jesus’ desire was to gather the people under his wings, not the geographical location.
    In Acts 1:6-7 Jesus totally side-steps their geo-political question about restoring the kingdom to Israel. The very way in which the question was framed indicated a basic misperception about the nature of the Kingdom. The desire of the disciples was for Jesus to be the Warrior Messiah who would boot out the Roman occupiers and make Jerusalem the capital of a top-dog imperium. The Jesus Kingdom mission, on the other hand, is the rule of God first in the hearts and minds of ALL peoples, a reign rooted in love, not coercive force.

    In the course of a few weeks that idea sunk in. Actually, the narrative in the first two chapters of Acts indicates that the transformation of their thinking occurred because of the action of God’s Spirit. When Peter, a Jewish Galilean fisherman who followed Jesus, spoke in Acts 2 he made an incredible assertion; “Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.”

    Unless Peter was totally whacked, and the 3000 who responded to Peter’s proclamation were totally whacked, the reality that Peter spoke of and put his life on the line for was that Jesus of Nazareth was approved by God by signs and wonders to be the promised Messiah and was actively exercising that Messiah-ship—and that about 40 years before the destruction of Jerusalem and about 1918 years before the establishment of the modern State of Israel.

    The Kingdom of God, the rule of the Son of David, the reign of the Messiah is present—though not in it’s fullness—and that kingdom encompasses both Jew and Gentile.

    Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh – who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed on the body by human hands – that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

    (Ephesians 2)

    Tom

    • January 19, 2013 9:06 am

      I think you’re doing a bit of either/or where it isn’t either/or, it’s both/and. The rule of Jesus in the hearts of men – both Jews and Gentiles – is not instead of his coming rule as king over Israel. You say he sidestepped the geopolitical part of their question – but do you notice what he didn’t say to them? Do you notice that there’s no: oh, you foolish men, that’s not what it’s all about really. (which he was perfectly capable of doing when people spoke foolishly in his presence!)

      • January 19, 2013 9:17 am

        Lyagushka,

        I agree, it really is both/and. I was emphasizing the other over Steve’s emphasis of the geo/political.

        Jesus’ response to their question is a side-step. It was the wrong question at the wrong time for the wrong reasons.

        Tom

    • Steve Mizrachi permalink
      January 19, 2013 10:09 am

      Tom,
      Thank you for your thoughtful answers. Of course, I do passionately disagree with you. I’m going to conclude my end of the argument with these parting thoughts. Of course, I will be happy to respond to any rebuttals. I have enjoyed the dialogue with you and Tim.
      (1) The Hebrew Bible is a book that can and should be understood on its own merit, without being reinterpreted through the later doctrines of Christianity. That isn’t to negate that “midrash,” or the method of lifting a biblical text out of its original context to apply to contemporary themes and concerns, is a legitimate use of scripture and not a dishonest use of scripture. It only becomes that (illegitimate/dishonest) when the metaphor is taken to be the original intent or replaces the original intent. Obviously, none of the writers of the Hebrew Bible heard of, understood, or intended to propagate the concepts of “Church,” “heavenly home,” “body of Christ,” or a Messiah that would anyway contradict the one they marketed to their people: a kingly offshoot of the house of David that would rule over a restored Kingdom of Israel (ethic Israel). This is the only way their audience would have understood them. Never would a persecuted, scourged and crucified Messiah have entered their thoughts or minds. No one was looking for this in the first century, because the scriptures so clearly and consistently present the opposite. Jesus’ disciples themselves, as you admit, were waiting for this other type of Messiah, not because they were obtuse or ignorant of their own scriptures, but because that’s what their own scriptures prophesy…not in code, but literally.
      (2) This second point I will make by use of parable, figuratively. I address this to Aubry and several of the comments that preceded our conversation. Let’s pretend, for case point, you have a sister named Amber. Amber joins the after school French club. In the course of Amber’s time spent in the French club, she reads and becomes a passionate devotee of the national book of France, whose central characters are all French, whose lives and story-lines (for the most part) all unfold in the Land of France, and much of this is aimed at promoting the God of France. Now let’s say that one day, I say to Amber, “you must really have a passion for France and all things French,” to which Amber replies, “What are you talking about?!?!..that awful (apartheid) place? Gosh, I’m not even sure I like the place at all!” You, of course, would react as incredulously, as I would, to such an answer. This is exactly the way I felt when I read Aubry’s original comment, and the others that followed. Jesus said your very salvation is “of the Jews” (John 4:22), Paul says that you have been grafted into, not replaced a Jewish tree (Romans 11), and lastly, the same Paul says “If the Gentiles have been partakers of their (Jews) spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things” (Romans 15:27). I guess what I expect is that Christians should have an affinity for the Jews, since you have our DNA (spiritually) in you. A Christianity that is either ignorant, ambivalent or hostile to this seems to me to have fallen far from its source.
      (3) On another blog of Aubry’s, she made a comment that she wishes she had been born/raised in the Muslim world (because of their sense of community). As someone who has lived in the Muslim world, I would caution against such a romantic view of that world…where there is virtually no respect for the value of human life or dignity, where women are denied their rights, where people are punished in the most barbaric of manners, gays are hanged (Iran), coverts to Christianity are jailed (Egypt) or hanged (Iran), and where, of course, the genocide of the Jews is inculcated into the minds of their youths from birth. It is tens of thousands of Muslims that desire visas to America to escape all of this, not the other way around. We Jews may be your enemies “as it relates to the Gospel,” but we will never knock town your skyscrapers and talk about, let alone train towards the annihilation of your civilization.
      (4) Last point (I promise!!): If the Hebrew Bible is to be taken literally, then yes, it really should concern you what the president’s position is with regard to Israel. God’s covenant with the Jews includes an article to the Gentiles: those who bless the nation of Israel will be blessed, those that curse us will be cursed. All of history is a graveyard to those civilizations that put us in their “crosshairs” or tried to fool with that covenant. When Titus destroyed our temple and country, I’m sure he thought “that was that.” He then celebrated his triumph in Rome, which included showing off our holy objects taken as booty. All of this is depicted on the famous “Arch of Triumph” in Rome. Today, that arch is part of what little is left of Titus’ legacy. As for us, we are back in our Land building one of the most dynamic countries on earth. The Arabs/Muslims want to join this long list of history’s losers by challenging us. In doing so, they put themselves in “God’s crosshairs,” which is why, in part, they are suffering today.
      Again, thanks for the thoughtful dialogue…and again, should you wish to challenge any of the above, I will be more than happy to consider the challenge. Thank you, Aubry, for not deleting our last several posts. May the Holy One of Israel bless you and continue to find a reason to bless America.

  33. January 19, 2013 11:38 pm

    Steve,

    I want to take some time to re-read and possibly respond to your last comment.

    In the mean time, consider reading this article;

    http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/pete-enns-hey-get-away-from-my-bible-christian-appropriation-of-a-jewish-bible

    Tom

    • Steve Mizrachi permalink
      January 22, 2013 2:37 pm

      Ok, Tom, just finished the article. It was well written, and he his right that the Christians aren’t the only ones who “appropriated” the Hebrew Bible and made it their own. Chronicles is a good example within the Biblical corpus itself. Likewise, the various “pesherim” in the library of the Qumran sect (Dead Sea Scrolls) testifies to a rival group of Jews (Essenes) doing this just before the Christians did. In fact, most interesting for you, the Christian, would be that the Essenes saw themselves as a Jeremiah 31:31 “new covenant” community. Most interesting for me, the Jew, is that despite this, they were zealous for the “Law.” Similarly, Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of both Jesus and Paul (though they had never heard of each other) “spiritualized”/allegorized the Hebrew Bible in order to interpret it through Platonism, to which he was a passionate disciple. Like Paul, he spoke of the “true Jerusalem” being that which inhabits the hearts of true believers. But, Philo too, even though he said the Law was primarily a shadow of deeper truths, believed that once the Jew was enlightened to those deeper truths, he should still keep the Law (shadow)…such enlightenment was not to be taken as a license to jettison the Torah. This is where some could argue that Paul went “beyond the pale,” which is to say he was the first to jettison the Law, period. This was the glue that bonded the often disparate and waring sects of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and yes…Jesus’ Jewish followers: the Law was binding on the Jews forever. They could disagree on everything but this. Negating this put someone beyond the “pale of Judaism.”
      Now, this is where we have a major problema. I know you as a Christian will likely disagree with me, even though this seems to be self-evident in the writings of the period: All of Jesus’ followers, all of whom were Jews, continued in the Law, which we see outright in Peter and Jesus’ bodily brother, James. With regard to Peter, we see this as a main source of tension with Paul in Galatians; and with regard to James, we see this is Josephus’ account of James’ murder at the hands of the priests and Sadducees (Antiquities 20.197-203). Josephus tells us that “Those of the inhabitants of the city who were considered the most fair-minded and who were strict in observance of law were offended at this (James’ murder).” The fact that those Jews who were strict in the “observance of the law” supported James’ innocence tells us that James, Jesus’ own brother, who would have known Jesus and his lifestyle better than anyone else, was still a devotee of Judaism, with the only caveat being that he believed his brother to be the Messiah. But, he definitely did not see himself as a “Christian.” The writer of the article you referred me to says:
      “The first Christians were also Jews and they were engaged in another attempt at Jewish appropriation—although of a VERY different sort—since now one’s true identity as the people of God is centered not on what had been Israel’s defining markers, such as Torah, land, temple, and king, but in Jesus of Nazareth who claimed to bring all of these things, and more, to their proper focal point.”
      I disagree with his last point. They still met at the temple (according to Acts), kept the Jewish diet (Peter in Galatians), believed in “land theology” (Acts 1:6-7), kept the Torah, and definitely believed Jesus would ultimately reign in Jerusalem as the promised Davidic king. I’m not denying that their faith in Jesus was cardinal, but I do disagree with the above assertion that it replaced everything else. I only can concede that it likely changed the order of their priorities.
      Now, as far as Paul was concerned, he did replace everything else. I don’t have a problem with Paul “freeing” the Gentles from becoming Jews, because none of the prophets envisioned the whole of the earth becoming Jews…just converting to knowledge of the God of Israel, but remaining Gentiles. In this, Paul is in sync with the prophetic message. My problem with Paul is that I think he wanted to “free” the Jews from being Jews, which I think is both wrong and unbiblical. Paul’s “One New Man” requires that the “wall of partition”–the law–be cast aside, which in essence means the cessation of “Jewishness,” and Jewish “distinction.” This, in my opinion, is when what originally was a first century Jewish sect became the newest Gentile religion in the Mediterranean world. The “break” with Judaism took, believe it or not, nearly 400 years to be consummated (we know that Gentile Christians in the 4th century still attended the Jewish synagogue in Antioch, Syria, for which they were berated by John Chrysostom), and today’s Christianity, sadly, bares almost no vestige of it’s Jewish birth.
      (May God help me to write shorter posts!).

  34. Steve Mizrachi permalink
    January 20, 2013 2:31 pm

    Tom, thanks. I will read this. I regret that this conversation was only between the three of us, as my original intent was to address “head-on” the claims made at the beginning of the board by Aubry and those whose comments immediately followed hers. I feel I failed at this endeavor (actually, it was denied me, as every comment I made was deleted). Now that I have proven to have cooled off from my original “anger” that got me deleted, I want to answer the charges which opened this board. It is very easy to do, as I live and breath this issue every day…for me, it’s not an exercise in academia. So, these are my rebuttals to Aubry’s original charges. I’m not “crucifying” (per her request up top) her, and these deserve to remain posted. Unfortunately, I gather that no one is following this topic anymore, other than Tom, Tim, and Meirav (an Israeli who will likely agree with everything I am saying anyway); so, it’s of less import than if everyone got to see these when I first posted them. Nevertheless, the truth deserves to be told, and heard, even if no one else is listening but my own inner man.
    1) Israel is an Apartheid nation: As I have said before, it is not. We have Arab supreme court officials, Arab generals in the Army, as well as quotas in our universities to keep 20% of all slots available to them exclusively.
    2) Israel lost the land: Every prophet, without exception said we would regain the land forever, and unconditionally according to Ezekiel 36. The Bible is a story about God’s faithfulness, not Jewish unfaithfulness. God is faithful to his covenants, which are spelled out quite explicitly. No allegorical or metaphorical approach to these promises can erase their literal fulfillment, which is beginning to be manifested in our day. If I am greeted at a factory that manufactures chemicals with warnings that inhaling these chemicals will kill me, I best take the warning literally. Any attempt to brush off/dismiss this explicit warning by reading it allegorically, followed by my taking in the chemical with deep breaths, will kill me. Taking the scriptures literally sounds to be the safest insurance policy.
    3) Israel kicked the Palestinians off their rightful land: A) the Bible calls this land, “God’s Land,” and he gave it to the Jewish people forever. This means it is no one else’s land in His eyes, period. All other claimants are either guests, or usurpers and thieves. B) non-theologically speaking…much of the land was legally purchased by Jews from absentee landlords (read the book “From Time Immemorial” by Peters. This book was so damaging to Arab claims and narratives that the Saudis bought the publisher to get the book off the market! It has since been republished by someone else).
    4) Israel created “millions of Arab refugees”: 500,000 refugees. The exact same number of Jews were kicked out of Arab countries…Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, etc…These were absorbed by the Jewish State, while the Arab refugees (later know as Palestinians) were relegated to the most decrepit refugee camps on the soil of their brother Arabs’ countries, where they are kept in squalid conditions until this day. 14,000,000!!! refugees were created that same year when Pakistan was created out of India. How come no one hears of those refugees today? because they are all settled in their new countries. Why do the “Palestinian” refugees receive so much more attention and care than far worse refugee crises in the world?
    5) Israel was meant to be a light to the nations…Chosen People: I think the Christians have really fumbled this one. Why do they impute to us a nature less sinful than their own? Are we not made of the same sinful flesh as the rest of humanity? Why a double standard (i. e. everyone else needs Grace, Jews don’t). The truth is, the Jewish nation has, and will always be a light to the nations. No matter what state our hearts or faith is in, the way God relates to us on the national level, either in blessing or punishment, is THE witness to the world. Israel is just a paradigm for humanity as a whole. This is how we reflect God to the world…through his dealings with us on the national level, He reveals His nature vis-a-vis humanity at large. Yes, we are STILL the Chosen People…and as history unfolds, this will be validated to the shame of all who tried to strip us of the title. This may shock you (after all the passion I have exhibited in my arguments), but I regret the day my forefathers accepted to be God’s vehicle to revealing His path of salvation to the world. It has reaped us nothing but misery, hate and genocide…and war until this very day. Worse of all, the people who we were used to show the path of salvation to, for the most part, have either been ingrates, or our enemies. Again, I wish God had never set us aside for this mission, even if this meant the world would be lost for eternity. The price we paid as a people was not worth it.
    6) God loves the Palestinians: I understand the Christian notion that God loves all souls, and I’m not here to undo your understanding of “Christian charity.” Nevertheless, the Palestinian people have put themselves in the path of God’s plans and machinations. In a frontal collision between God and anyone else, it’s not going to end pretty for the non-God party in that collision. Should the Palestinians offer themselves to be “co-opted” into God’s plans, they surely will be blessed, and woe to us Jews if we don’t regard them “as the stranger living among us” in that day. Then, WE will be on a collision course with God. Until then, the Palestinians, Arabs, Iranians are not the “stranger,” but the “Amalakite” living among us.
    7) Hezbollah and Hamas: Both their charters have articles calling for the genocide of the Jewish people because we are Jews, period. This alone should put them beyond the pale of your sympathies.
    8) Lastly, with regard to Gary Burge and other authors/books of that genre: Gary Berge is a classic “replacement theologist,” which I dismiss as an anti-semitic theology (Thank you Tom for agreeing with this). Any honest reading of Paul’s “olive tree” allegory in Romans 11 vanquishes this theology. You have been grafted into our tree, don’t boast or get too comfortable/cocky regarding us…you too can be removed. We are the natural branches. Those like N.T. Wright (and I assume Burge also) who say the olive tree is Christ himself are on shaky ground at best. Basic truths of horticulture make clear that the “natural branches” must be of the same species as the tree itself. If the natural branches are Jews, so must the tree be Judaism/Israel. If the tree is Christ, the natural branches must also be Christ, and that, of course, is not what Paul is saying.
    Please DON’T mistake my passion for anger. Jews are a passionate people…our history has made us so. And please remember, as a Jew I shouldn’t be expected to respond dispassionately when my people are the subject of attack or misunderstanding. That is expecting too much.
    The whole time I was writing this, I only had smiles and was full of love…please don’t summarily delete me.

    • January 20, 2013 5:31 pm

      Steve, again thanks for these insights. I am finding them really informative and helpful.

      Tim

      P.S. on the deletion issue, I suspect that if you had started off this constructively and laid off the vitriol (sorry to say, but I think the word fits) the original comments might have remained on site. Just a guess. ;-)

    • January 21, 2013 9:58 pm

      Steve,

      Thank you for being willing to read the article I linked to. When you have time I’d like to know what you think about what the author says.

      I have a question about what you’ve said in response to Aubry’s charge of “Israel (being) an Apartheid nation.” When you say that there are Arab court justices and Arab generals in the military, by “Arab” to you mean Arabs who are Muslims?

      Part of the problem with our perception of Israel is that much of our information comes through relatively few traditional media outlets who more often than not present Israel as an aggressor state doing it’s best to marginalize Palestinians and doing it’s best to out-gun the states surrounding her. From our perceptions, perhaps/probably misinformed perceptions, Israel looks like a functional Apartheid state. (In some relative sense I feel as though my own government has imposed apartheid like restrictions on it’s own citizens since 9/11/01 [read; “Patriot Act”]. Air travel has become a nightmare because of the “security circus”. My wife is Canadian, and when we are in Canada I feel a sense of relief to be out of the police state feel of the U.S. [I have a conscious memory of president Eisenhower, so I’ve experienced a lot of change here in the good ‘ole USofA]. )

      Question; Is it true that many orthodox Jews who lived in Palestine before and at the time of the establishment of the state of Israel (1948) were actually in opposition to its political formation?

      Another issue relative to Aubry’s pt. #1 is that her criticism is as much directed toward Christian groups who because of their Dispensational eschatological mind set will give Israel a free pass on anything and everything and then make that a test of faith for all other Christians — as what her criticism is directly of Israel.

      I don’t unquestionably support U.S. foreign or domestic policy, militarily or otherwise, simply because I’m a U.S. citizen. I would assume your position on Israeli policy would be of a similar tenor as mine relative to the U.S.

      As to your other responses I essentially agree, with the exception of #2, with which I think there’s a lot of OT room for disagreement. However, I could be wrong. Or we could both be wrong—but I doubt you’d admit that ;o)

      Tom

  35. Steve Mizrachi permalink
    January 22, 2013 1:51 am

    Tom,
    So far, I only succeeded to read half-way through the article before class yesterday. Because today is election day in Israel, the school has shut down for the day to encourage the student body to go out and vote. So, hopefully I will be able to finish the article today. Certain things have already stood out that I wish to comment on. I will get back to you on those things in my next posting to this board. With regard to your above inquiries:
    1) The Arab supreme court justice is Salim Joubran, an Christian from Haifa. The Arab general is a Druze, and head of the “Home Front.” He primarily responsible for making sure the home front will be ready in the event of missile attacks. There are Muslims in the Israeli army, mostly volunteers from the bedouin communities of the Negev and Galilee. That more Muslims don’t join the army is the fruit of their own decision as a community not to identify with the state, not because they are forbidden by us to join. As for the Druze, their men are drafted into the army per their request. Only their women receive deferrals. When I served in the Israeli army, one of my own commanders was a Druze from Mount Carmel.
    2)Tom, you will be taken aback with my response to your next inquiry: I want Israel to be perceived as trying to outgun her enemies, and to be feared. There is no place for weakness in the Middle East. Those who live by “turn the other cheek” will cease to be in the land of the living before too long. This is the toughest neighborhood in the world, and a country like this better broadcast strength and confidence in both word and deed, or we will simply face the next Jewish holocaust. On this last note, it is impossible for me, who lives in a country only 9 miles wide at its most narrow point, surrounded by 300,000,000 (yes, that’s MILLION) people sworn to our destruction, to explain to someone who lives in a country that is over 2,500 miles wide from “sea to shiny sea,” with Canada (“lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!) and Mexico for neighbors what’s it’s like to live under constant threat of annihilation. On a personal note…between the years 2000 and 2004, I experienced terrorism of the most heinous kind on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis. One day, three suicide bombers blew themselves up in front of my apartment on Ben Yehuda Street in central Jerusalem. One of the three terrorists’ bodies blew right into the foyer/entrance of my building, and the body parts of the other two were strewn all over my rooftop. This wave of terror, which claimed over 1,000 lives (in a country as small as Israel, that would be equivalent to over 20-30 World Trade Center attacks), is what forced the country to build the “separation” barrier between us and the West Bank Palestinians that the Gay Burge’s of the world associate with “apartheid” and “mean spiritness.” Before that wall, Palestinian terrorists were able to walk from their villages a couple of miles away to blow up cafes and buses whenever they so desired. Since that wall has been built, you don’t hear anymore of bus/cafe bombings. Thousands of lives have been saved, but I guess Gary Burge longs for the “good ol’ days.” I don’t.
    3) The Orthodox Jews that you are thinking is s certain sect within the world of Hassidic Jews (the one’s you see wearing black hats and suits in Manhattan and Brooklyn). They are a minority. Their theology says there can be no Jewish state until the Messiah comes to make it. Obviously, I think they are wrong. Meanwhile, their brothers who live in Jerusalem in a nearby neighborhood (“Mea Shearim”) believe enough in the state to be willing to have that state bankroll their unproductive lives of non-work/Talmud study with welfare checks. This makes them hypocrites also.
    4) Regarding dispensationalist Christians’ uncompromising support of Israel: Of course, no country is perfect, but I do wish there were more of these Christians around. As I said in several comments above, Israel was created, in large part, as a response to our persecution in Christian lands culminating in the worst (in terms of numbers) act of genocide in recorded history. That this happened in the heartland of the Reformation should be a source of shame to the whole traditional Protestant world, and yes, they should feel a special burden and commitment to Israel’s security…while, of course, feeling free to criticize aspects of Israeli policy they disagree with. I also think this support of Israel is appropriate in light of both my “Amber in the French Club” metaphor and #2 of my last comment that you said you disagree with…which brings me to…
    5) Two years ago, I was walking past a branch of the national book store chain (“Steimetsky”), when I noticed a translation into Hebrew of Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer.” I have to admit that I chuckled at the absurdity of it. After all, even as a native English speaker from Pennsylvania, I needed to be taught by my English teacher the nuances of southern white and black slave “vernacular” of the nineteenth century South, as well as other aspects of the historical and cultural setting to that story to be able to both understand and appreciate it. That being the case, imagine the experience of a native Hebrew speaker, who doesn’t know English, let alone “southern vernacular,” or the history of the United States during that formative time of the American experience trying to get something out of that book. At best, MAYBE they can get a cursory understanding of what the author was communicating. Yet, perhaps a native southern resident of the Mississippi River valley may have an advantage over all of us, as they are culturally closer to the original milieux of the story? Likewise, both the systematic and intentional “de-Judaizing” of Christianity over the past two thousand years, as well as the natural consequences of being separated from the source by an incredible gulf in time and space (cultural and linguistic distance) puts most Christians at the disadvantage of the native Hebrew speaker trying to eke something out of his/her Hebrew translation of “Tom Sawyer.” Such is not the case with the Hebrew speaking/reading Jew, who can read the Bible in its original language and vernacular; who lives each day in the original setting of the Bible; and who is much less removed from the culture that produced it, than say a Japanese businessman, Nigerian shepherd, or American housewife. Such a person may rightfully think he/she has an advantage over all the above, which means…as a Jew, I will never defer to any of the above as it relates to understanding the national book of the Jews. This is not arrogance, this is reasonable. I don’t think a Christian can begin to understand the Hebrew Bible as it was meant to be understood until they learn Hebrew and step into the shoes of the Jew and walk, not a mile, but 4,000 (as in the cumulative experience of we’ve picked up as a people for the duration of our existence and apply when reading the Bible). Neither Luther, Calvin, Zwingli had this, nor their progeny. I think it was Emanuel Kant who coined the phrase “rose color lenses/glasses.” He claimed that none of us can see things as they really are, because we all approach the world through our “rose color lenses.” In conclusion, I think when we Jews read the Hebrew Bible, we come closer than anyone to reading it without those proverbial rose color lenses. Everyone else has those lenses on to some degree or another.

  36. January 24, 2013 10:08 pm

    “Another important difference between how Jews and Christians read their shared Hebrew Bible [the Christian 'Old Testament'] is that they order the books differently. The Jewish Bible, the Tanak, ends with the ideal situation—the temple operating in Jerusalem, surrounded by worshipers, a Jewish community serving the God of Israel and of all creation, and a Davidic monarchy whose main purpose is to support worship in the sanctuary. This is depicted in Ezra-Nehemiah, and 1-2 Chronicles. In contrast, the Christian order of Old Testament books ends with the prophet Malachi, who predicts the coming of Elijah to warn of God’s coming in judgment. This orients the reader to the future, to eschatological events—those having to do with the end of the world’s present state—events that will change the world as we know it forever. It emphasizes the apocalyptic strand in Second Temple Judaism.
    It was an aspect of Jewish religion at the time of Jesus through which Jesus himself, his followers, and the early church experienced life and interpreted their own situation. The first three Gospels held that John the Baptist was Elijah returned, so there is a firm connection between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New. For the most part, rabbinic Judaism downplayed the apocalyptic strand in Judaism. In Christianity it remained crucial.” — Frederick Murphy, Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World, xvi-xvii.

    Steve,

    Just threw in that quote as further substance regarding textual appropriation, which is an essential exercise of interpretation. I’m thankful that you’d take the time to read the article and respond. I really appreciate it.

    I’d like to respond to several of your comments.

    “The first Christians were also Jews and they were engaged in another attempt at Jewish appropriation—although of a VERY different sort—since now one’s true identity as the people of God is centered not on what had been Israel’s defining markers, such as Torah, land, temple, and king, but in Jesus of Nazareth who claimed to bring all of these things, and more, to their proper focal point.”

    I disagree with his last point. They still met at the temple (according to Acts), kept the Jewish diet (Peter in Galatians), believed in “land theology” (Acts 1:6-7), kept the Torah, and definitely believed Jesus would ultimately reign in Jerusalem as the promised Davidic king. I’m not denying that their faith in Jesus was cardinal, but I do disagree with the above assertion that it replaced everything else. I only can concede that it likely changed the order of their priorities.

    I agree with you that at least at first their dealing with the dead, then resurrected Messiah did change the order of their priorities, and that because it changed their understanding of “Anointed One”. A killed, buried, then made alive again Messiah definitely did not fit with Messianic expectations. Yet, they had to deal with the Reality that presented Himself to their senses.

    A quibble or two to your objections…I don’t think it’s accurate to read Paul’s narrative about his dispute with Peter in the Galatians letter as proof that Peter strictly adhered to Jewish dietary rules. Actually, as Paul narrates, Peter was eating with Gentiles until some Jewish followers of Jesus arrived (“For before certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles, but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, [because he] was afraid of those [who were] of the circumcision,”). The proceeding verses indicate that Peter “lived like a Gentile”, at least some of the time.

    We certainly know, and you and I agree, that those early followers of Jesus did not think that they were creating a new “religion”. If they were asked what their religion was I’m sure they would have responded “Jewish” and as you indicate, the record we have is that those early followers of the Nazarene continued to practice Judaism. However, about 8 years after the opening chapter of Acts Peter is confronted by God’s acceptance of Gentiles, firstly in a warm-up vision on the roof top of Simon the tanners house, then by God’s acceptance of Cornelius and his family as demonstrated by “the Spirit coming upon them as it did us” (Acts 10:47). Not too long later Peter and Paul stood together at a council in Jerusalem explaining why they had gone to Gentiles and delivered unto them the Good News of the Kingdom without requiring those Gentiles to become Jews. This was extraordinary and caused some consternation, especially among those who were Pharisees. Peter said this;

    After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that some time ago God chose me to preach to the Gentiles so they would hear the message of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, has testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between them and us, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 So now why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they are.”

    The decision of the congregation and leaders in this Jerusalem council (composed entirely of Jews) was that God accepted Gentiles apart from having to keep the Law and traditions. Paul certainly wasn’t the first or only Jewish follower of the Nazarene to put himself “beyond the pale of Judaism” by your definition.

    My problem with Paul is that I think he wanted to “free” the Jews from being Jews, which I think is both wrong and unbiblical. Paul’s “One New Man” requires that the “wall of partition”–the law–be cast aside, which in essence means the cessation of “Jewishness,” and Jewish “distinction.” This, in my opinion, is when what originally was a first century Jewish sect became the newest Gentile religion in the Mediterranean world.

    Yes, Paul said that Jesus the Messiah “nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees” which was a wall of hostility. The Law stood as a wall not only between Israel and Gentile, but also between Israel and God. God’s blessings under the covenant made at Sinai were contingent upon Israel’s obedience. The Law served not only as a positive indication of right living before God, but also as a judge and condemnation to those who disobeyed. The condemnation of disobedience stood as a wall of division between man and God. However, in what Paul and others called the “new covenant” nothing stands as divisive between man and God because of the “faithfulness of Christ.”

    For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed – namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness…
    For we consider that a person is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles too? Yes, of the Gentiles too! Since God is one, he will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then nullify the law through faith? Absolutely not! Instead we uphold the law. (Romans 3)

    Distinction/identity is exactly what Paul says we must give up. Neither distinction or identity carries much truck with God anymore, except identity with His Son who gave up his own identity and distinctiveness to cancel the warrant against us (Gal. 3:26-29; Col. 2:14). The reference to Gal. 3 also asserts that “religion” as an identity and means of justification must also be given up. You are right that “Christianity” became the new religion on the block by the end of the first century C.E. That has been the monumental failure of the Jesus movement—that somehow by our religiosity we make ourselves acceptable to God or gain His favor. And, the hallmark of every religion seems to be the need to determine who’s in and who’s out. Followers of Jesus should—of all people—be able to say, “God has declared us all to be in the in’s with Him because of the work He has accomplished in Christ—and that for all of our benefits—not just a select few.”

    Sorry Steve, I’ve done gone t’ preachin’ ;o) Be that as it may, that’s how I see it now, at this point in my life.

    I really do appreciate the strength and determination of your little nation which sits in the middle of a pack of junk yard dogs. However, from a political/strategic perspective it seems that Israel’s political leadership have been wasteful of the stability and security which the military and security services have produced over the last 3-5 years. At the same time I realize that the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority have yet to not squander a peace and land agreement made with Israel over the past 30 years. It’s a real hum-dinger of a situation in your neighborhood.

    So, if the Messiah arrived next week, what you expect to see happen?

    BTW, from your perspective what did the election this week mean?

    Tom

  37. Steve Mizrachi permalink
    January 25, 2013 3:12 am

    Tom,
    I’m afraid you and I have entirely “hijacked” Aubry’s blog. I’m surprised she hasn’t taken down this board, yet…as anyone who is alerted to new posts via their email accounts are being bombarded, nearly daily, with our conversation. Let me know if you wish to move the conversation to your own blog (if you have one…I don’t have one).
    Before I answer you latest post, I want to share about an experience or two I have had here in Israel that are reminiscent of the parable of the “Good Samaritan.” I am reminded of this because of something I experienced yesterday.
    Yesterday, I went into the hospital for a checkup/treatment that was somewhat invasive (nothing life threatening, I am in great health). The nurses who received me were all young Palestinian Muslim women. They treated me with the upmost compassion, and they weren’t just acting in order to stay in good favor with their employer. I felt it was genuine. I was somewhat shocked, and even moved by this, as I know the constant hate and brainwashing they get from their political and religious leaders concerning us. Anyone who comes away from that not only not hating, but actually doing acts of love and kindness is a miracle.
    Here’s even a better example: several years ago, while doing my Masters degree here in Jerusalem, I was on my motorcycle on the way to a class called “How Jewish is the New Testament?” taught by a panel of two Catholic priests and Jewish professor. I was merrily on my way when a taxi nearly sideswiped me, which caused me to slam on the brakes. Because I put too much breaking power on my front wheel disc brake, the motorcycle flipped, landed on top of me, and dragged my into an oncoming lane where I was nearly hit by a city bus (which had time to stop, than God). I was pinned under the motorcycle and could not lift it off. No one got out of their cars to help me lift the thing, but only honked and hurled expletives at me. Suddenly, two Palestinians, probably in their late teens, who were walking by, came running to me and lifted the motorcycle off of me. After walking me to the side of the road, they refused to leave me until I told could assure them that I was in no need of medical attention or an ambulance. I told them I was fine, just my knee was banged up, and they were free to go. In truth, those two Palestinians proved themselves to be my “neighbors” that day.
    But, there is a part 2 to this story: because the accident happened only two blocks from my apartment, I walked the motorcycle home, took a shower, then caught a taxi to school to catch the last part of the class mentioned above. At the end of the class, one of the Catholic priests, a saintly older man if there ever was one, asked me if I had experienced something traumatic on the way to school that day. I figured after a shower and putting on an “everything is fine” face, no one would have a clue as to what happened to me. I asked the priest why he was asking me this, and he replied, “Since you walked into class, I sensed something was wrong and prayed silently for you the whole class.” I was absolutely floored. That Catholic priest, who most of my evangelical tourist would have dismissed as a “false Christian” representative of the “whore of Babylon” was also my “neighbor” that day, as well as the closest I have seen anyone approach the image of being a “good shepherd.”
    With regard to the recent election…I am very happy with the results. I am “center/right” in my political orientation, with the emphasis being on “center,” as I believe the truth in both politics and economics usually is somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. The rise of the centrist/secular party “Yesh Ateed” is good for the country, as the party’s leader wants to end the current situation in which ultra orthodox Jews neither work, do the army, or pay taxes…a great social injustice.

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  1. Steve Mizrachi and his “Good Samaritans”. « Volkmar1108′s Weblog

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