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Danny Zacharias

I don't believe that statement carries any weight (the 1980 Rhineland statement).

After reading this post, I kind of feel like the following quote was a self-fulfilling prophecy :-)

"The idea seems to be that one reserves one’s most indefensible statements for one’s personal blog. If that’s what’s going on, it might be better not to blog at all."



You are of course welcome to your opinion, which is, I gather, that a statement like that quoted (and of other Landeskirchen), even though it cannot be assimilated to vanilla-flavored Christian Zionism, is nonetheless indefensible.

I would ask you to explain your curt dismissal.

I assume you would grant that the Rhineland statement is the fruit of a long process of spiritual discernment. The process involved a number of Old and New Testament scholars which you have read and will read in the course of your studies. It involved lay and clergy at various levels.

If instead you feel that there is no building of bridges possible on these matters, I take note of the line in the sand you are drawing.

Biblical exegesis and Christian theology have long suffered from a tendency, mostly unconscious, to advance a teaching of contempt for Judaism, Zionism (religious, secular, a combination thereof; that doesn't seem to matter), and Israel (in the sense of the people to whom a particular land is promised in Scripture and who on that basis settle there). Surely you will not disagree. These are serious questions, matters of exegetical, theological, and spiritual discernment.

I have no idea how you understand Paul's statement that the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Rom 11:29). On the face of it, I'm left with the impression that you decanonize Paul in this sense.


I am not sure if Romans 11 can be used as support in saying that the present political state of Israel is a fulfillment of Paul's prophetic interpretation of the calling and salvation of the nation of Israel. It might also depend on how one hold to the means by which the Jewish people are saved. If one holds that they are saved through the work of Christ alone, does that provide for any political purpose for the political nation of Israel any more than the Kurdish nation?



I thought Paul's point was that the gifts and calling of God of the Jewish people obtain whether or not, in specific instances, they take Jesus to be the Messiah as Paul did.

Danny Zacharias

I'm not sure rhetoric like "On the face of it, I'm left with the impression that you decanonize Paul in this sense" is helpful in any conversation. I could just as easily and genuinely retort that it seems to me you decanonize the whole NT ! Not really very helpful for fruitful conversation to make accusations of decanonization :-)

I perhaps need a bit more context for understanding. What specifically do you mean when you say, "even though it cannot be assimilated to vanilla-flavored Christian Zionism"



Excuse me if I play hardball. I don't think Michael was playing softball in his post to which I am responding. I'm just trying to keep up with him.

The ethos and emphases of the German Protestant churches, their struggles before, during, and after the Nazi period, the positions that people like Wilhelm Vischer (Barth and Thurneyson's pastor in Basel), Karl Barth himself, Hellmut Gollwitzer, and many others, the work of countless Alttestamentler and Neutestamentler to create a new way of thinking in the last 60+ years, the intense opposition they encountered, all of this I would think is fairly well-known. It needs to be, if one is to contextualize the history of modern biblical scholarship.

It is a history that has nothing to do with the Christian Zionism which gave the impetus to the Balfour Declaration and other things since (nor do I wish to belittle that, either). Nothing.


Of course, Michael Bird's position is entirely defensible exegetically. See for instance:

Robertson, O. Palmer. The Israel of God: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 2000.

Wright, N.T. "Christ, the law and the people of God: The problem of Romans 9-11." Pages 231-257 in The climax of the covenant: Christ and the law in Pauline theology. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1991.



If you think so, give us a taste of the arguments you find convincing. So far, you content yourself with rank assertion based on an appeal to authority.


You did say: "one reserves one’s most indefensible statements for one’s personal blog." A couple of references showing that Michael's position, pace your own "rank assertion", is in fact exegetically defensible were provided. Up to you whether you want to follow them up or not. But as it stands, caricaturing Michael's position as "indefensible" and, since it was less than your own summation, "a travesty of the Christian faith" can only be done by neglecting appraisal of research such as that mentioned.


If that's how you want to respond, it's fine with me. This is what I said:

"Christians, it seems to me, are bound to be in solidarity, with respect to Israel and Palestine, with Jews, Christians, and Muslims. All three, in probably conflicting ways. Anything less IMO makes a travesty of the Christian faith."

Since you take issue with this statement, am I to suppose that you think it is Christian to withhold solidarity for, with respect to Israel and Palestine, the Jews? You might wish to clarify.

For the rest, I was hoping for some actual exegetical engagement, the kind I offered Jay.

You might at least summarize the exegetical arguments that you find convincing. I don't think that is too much to ask.

Abdullah Reed

Glory to God, Who did take his servant for a journey by night from the sacred mosque to the farthest mosque, whose precincts We did bless― in order that We might show him some of our signs: for He is the one Who heareth and seeth all things.

We gave Moses the Book and made it a guide to the Children of Israel: "Take not other than Me as disposer of your affairs."

O ye that are sprung from those whom We carried with Noah! Verily, he was a devotee most grateful.

And We gave clear warning to the Children of Israel in the Book, that twice would they do mischief on the earth and be elated with mighty arrogance!

When the first of the warnings came to pass, We sent against you Our servants given to terrible warfare: they entered the very inmost parts of your homes; and it was a warning fulfilled.

Then did We grant you the return as against them: We gave you increase in resources and sons, and made you the more numerous in manpower.

If ye did well ye did well for yourselves; if ye did evil, ye did it against yourselves; so when the second of the warnings came to pass We permitted your enemies to disfigure your faces, and to enter your Temple as they had entered if before and to visit with destruction all that fell into their power.

It may be that your Lord may yet show mercy unto you; but if ye revert to your sins, We shall revert to Our punishments: and We have made Hell a prison for those who deny.

Verily this Reading doth guide to that which is most right, and giveth the glad tidings to the believers who work deeds of righteousness, that they shall have a magnificent reward;

And to those who believe not in the hereafter, it announces that We have prepared for them a penalty grievous.

The prayer that man should make for good, he maketh for evil: for man is given to hasty actions.

We have made the night and the day as two of Our signs: the sign of the night have We obscured, while the sign of the day We have made to enlighten you; that ye may seek bounty from your Lord, and that ye may know the number and count of the years: all things have We explained in detail.

Every man's fate We have fastened on his own neck: on the Day of Judgment We shall bring out for him a scroll, which he will see spread open.

"Read thine own record: sufficient is thy soul this day to make out an account against thee."

Who receiveth guidance, receiveth it for his own benefit: who goeth astray doth so to his own loss: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another: nor would We visit with Our wrath until We had sent a messenger to give warning.

When We decide to destroy a population, We first send a definite order to those among them who are given the good things of this life and yet transgress; so that the word is proved true against them: then We destroy them utterly.

How many generations have We destroyed after Noah? And enough is thy Lord to note and see the sins of His servants.

If any do wish for the transitory things of this life, We readily grant them--such things as We will, to such persons as We will: in the end have We provided Hell for them: they will burn therein, disgraced and rejected.

Those who do wish for the things of the hereafter, and strive therefor with all due striving, and have faith― they are the ones whose striving is acceptable.

Of the bounties of thy Lord We bestow freely on all these as well as those: the bounties of thy Lord are not closed to anyone.

See how We have bestowed more on some than on others; but verily the hereafter is more in rank and gradation and more in excellence.

Take not with God another object of worship; or thou will sit in disgrace and destitution.

Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour.

And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: "My Lord! bestow on them Thy mercy even as they cherished me in childhood."

Your Lord knoweth best what is in your hearts: if ye do deeds of righteousness, verily He is most forgiving to those who turn to Him again and again.

And render to the kindred their due rights, as also to those in want and to the wayfarer: but squander not your wealth in the manner of a spendthrift.

Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil Ones; and the Evil One is to his Lord ungrateful.

And even if thou hast to turn away from them in pursuit of the mercy from thy Lord which thou dost expect, yet speak to them a word of easy kindness.

Make not thy hand tied niggardly to thy neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach, so that thou become blameworthy and destitute.

Verily thy Lord doth provide sustenance in abundance for whom He pleaseth, and He provideth in a just measure: for He doth know and regard all His servants.

Kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide, sustenance for them as well as for you: verily the killing of them is a great sin.

Nor come nigh to adultery: for it is a shameful deed and an evil, opening the road to other evils.

Nor take life which God has made sacred― except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully We have given his heir authority: but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life: for he is helped.

Come not nigh to the orphan's property except to improve it until he attains the age of full strength; and fulfil every engagement, for every engagement will be enquired into.

Give full measure when ye measure, and weigh with a balance that is straight: that is the most fitting and the most advantageous in the final determination.

And pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of feeling will be enquired into.

Nor walk on the earth with insolence: for thou canst not rend the earth asunder, nor reach the mountains in height.

Of all such things the evil is hateful in the sight of thy Lord.

These are among the precepts of wisdom which thy Lord has revealed to thee. Take not with God another object of worship, lest thou shouldst be thrown into Hell, blameworthy and rejected.

Has then your Lord preferred for you sons and taken for Himself daughters among the angels? Truly ye utter a most dreadful saying!

We have explained things in various ways in this Reading, in order that they may receive admonition, but it only increases their flight!

Say: if there had been other gods with Him― as they say, behold, they would certainly have sought out a way to the Lord of the Throne!

Glory to him! He is high above all that they say! Exalted and Great!

The seven heavens and the earth, and all beings therein, declare His glory: there not a thing but celebrates His praise; and yet ye understand not how they declare His glory! Verily He is Oft- Forbearing, Most Forgiving!

When thou dost recite the Reading, We put, between thee and those who believe not in the hereafter, a veil invisible:

And We put coverings over their hearts lest they should understand the Reading and deafness, into their ears: when thou dost commemorate thy Lord and Him alone in the Reading, they turn on their backs, fleeing.

We know best why it is they listen, when they listen to thee; and when they meet in private conference, behold, the wicked say "Ye follow none other than a man bewitched!"

See what similes thy strike for thee; but they have gone astray, and never can they find a way.

They say: "What! when we are reduced to bones and dust, should we really be raised up a new creation?"

Say: "Be ye stones or iron,

"Or created matter which, in your minds, is hardest to be raised up--yet shall ye be raised up!" Then will they say: "Who will cause us to return?" Say: "He Who created you first!" Then will they wag their heads towards thee, and say "When will that be?" Say "May be it will be quite soon!

"It will be on a Day when He will call you, and ye will answer with His praise, and ye will think that ye tarried but a little while!"

Say to My servants that they should only say those things that are best: for Satan doth sow dissensions among them: for Satan is to man an avowed enemy.

It is your Lord that knoweth you best: if He please, He granteth you mercy, or if He please, punishment: We have not sent thee to be a disposer of their affairs for them.

And it is your Lord that knoweth best all beings that are in the heavens and on earth: We did bestow on some prophets more gifts than on others: and We gave to David the Psalms.

Say: "Call on those― besides Him― whom ye fancy: they have neither the power to remove your troubles from you nor to change them."

Those whom they call upon do desire for themselves means of access to their Lord even those who are nearest: they hope for His mercy and fear His wrath: for the wrath of thy Lord is something to take heed of.

There is not a population but We shall destroy it before the Day of Judgment or punish it with a dreadful penalty: That is written in the eternal record.

And We refrain from sending the signs, only because the men of former generations treated them as false: We sent the She-camel: to the Thamud― to open their eyes, but they treated her wrongfully: We only send the signs by way of terror and warning from evil.

Behold! We told thee that thy Lord doth encompass mankind round about: We granted the vision which We showed thee, but as a trial for men as also the Cursed Tree mentioned in the Reading: We put terror and warning into them, but it only increases their inordinate transgression!

Behold! We said to the angels: "Bow down unto Adam": they bowed down except Iblis: he said "Shall I bow down to one whom Thou didst create from clay?"

He said "Seest Thou? This is the one whom thou hast honoured above me! If Thou wilt but respite me to the Day of Judgment, I will surely bring his descendants under my sway all but a few!"

God said: "Go thy way; if any of them follow thee, verily Hell will be the recompense of you all― an ample recompense.


There are another 55 verses in the chapter. To see how it ends, search online for a Yusuf Ali translation of the Quran, and see chapter 17.

Exegesis of the chapter explains that this chapter is a great spiritual link between the Children of Israel and the prophet of Arabia.

Moses and Muhammad are on the same team. If the heart is opened, there is no issue here, one can see the beauty and brotherhood of their mission like a pair of cherries the same colour and size.

Blessed is God, who created all things and shaped them. Subtle is God, who is aware of all things.

My thoughts about this are: Religious Zionist: thinks he can push God around. Blasphemous. Secular zionist: thinks that security in the land is a goal of Judaism. Missed the point of it. Jew living in Israel, who got caught up in it, but never really pro or against Zionism: this person may have been gathered by God to Israel so that he could meet god's servants and return to the service of his Lord himself. He may meet muslims, directly or indirectly, and by God's grace, be brought back into the fold. And God knows best. If I have erred, then it is from me, and if I have said anything true, the credit is to God.

Praise be to God, who is wise and all-knowing. Praise be to God, The Irresistible, The Mighty.

Now what is the good of explaining things? Look what God said:

And We refrain from sending the signs, only because the men of former generations treated them as false: We sent the She-camel: to the Thamud― to open their eyes, but they treated her wrongfully: We only send the signs by way of terror and warning from evil.

Behold! We told thee that thy Lord doth encompass mankind round about: We granted the vision which We showed thee, but as a trial for men as also the Cursed Tree mentioned in the Reading: We put terror and warning into them, but it only increases their inordinate transgression!

Then he mentioned the devil in the following line. The arrogance of the devil, who refused the command of his Lord. So what is left for the Children of Israel, if the messiah has come, and the signs in the Reading, and patience, and they have been pardoned countless times, and yet people continue to suffer due to their usury.

Is it surprising that God usurp them and punish them? I am not saying to hate Jews. I hope that any Jew reading this is guided, not punished. But God showed the Pharaoh as many signs as He decreed, and then there was punishment. God does not go on indefinitely when the point of clarity has already been passed, and only stubbornness prevents the acceptance of his mercy.

In which case, He gives the rejecters what they want: material gain and loss. They become blind to spiritual life. They choose that, through rejecting the clear signs, so they receive that.

Glory be to God, the most merciful. Do not try to get more mercy than God's mercy. He is the most merciful. Suffice yourself with Him. O Bani Israel! Believe in Muhammad! Come to the faith!

You are being called! You are being gathered! There will not be another chance than this. He is the seal of the prophets. O Children of Israel! You are called! He is the prophet to the gentiles!

He is the ummiyeen prophet, the prophet to the gentiles. Jesus was for the Israelites, and Muhammad is for the rest of the world. Now we call you as well. Come to the call, and return to the favour of your Lord. O Progeny of Abraham! Come! Receive mercy, forgiveness, and know that your Lord is the most gracious. He has written that He will forgive you your wandering, your disobedience, your transgressing, and all of it.

Abdullah Reed



Thank you for your comments. I appreciate the care and consideration and reverence you show in your conversation. You live up to your beautiful name: Abdullah.

You say:

"My thoughts about this are: Religious Zionist: thinks he can push God around. Blasphemous. Secular zionist: thinks that security in the land is a goal of Judaism. Missed the point of it. Jew living in Israel, who got caught up in it, but never really pro or against Zionism: this person may have been gathered by God to Israel so that he could meet god's servants and return to the service of his Lord himself. He may meet muslims, directly or indirectly, and by God's grace, be brought back into the fold."

However, since very few Jews in Israel (or elsewhere) have shown an inclination to become Muslims, the question is whether Muslims, at least for the time being, will allow Jews to have a state in the midst of the ummah, a state in which they have the upper hand. I have yet to find a religious Muslim say, "That's acceptable."

If that is the case, then religious Muslims are, by definition, Zionists themselves. It's just that Zion is thought to be part of a vast piece of real estate the epicenter of which is in Arabia but which extends from Andalusia to Timor on the principle that, once a territory becomes a part of the Muslim ummah, it is always to be considered such, even if it is - temporarily by definition - lost.

If I am mistaken about this, feel free to correct me.

Note the pragmatic options for a Christian: (1) that of upholding the right of return of the Jewish people (a Zionist position, as you would be quick to point out; in this sense, most Europeans and Americans are Zionists of a sort without realizing it, but Muslims and indeed all Palestinians justifiably see things differently); (2) that of denying such a right, in which case, the raison d'etre of the state of Israel is called into question.

I certainly understand, BTW, that the right of return of Palestinians to their former homes in what is now Israel needs to be discussed, and, failing the concession of such a return, whether compensation is in order. The only reason I don't delve into the matter is because it's hard to talk about all of these things in the same breath.

Note the possible motivations for Christians who uphold the right of return for Jews: (1) because the gift of the land to Israel son of Isaac son of Avraham is not considered as abrogated or superseded; (2) because that gift is thought to be no longer in force, but the events which led to the birth of the modern state of Israel are considered to have a compelling logic of their own.

I'm simplifying, but my purpose here is to lay out the foundations for clarificatory dialogue on these matters. Once again, Abdullah, I thank you for taking the time to state the Muslim position with care. I have heard it expounded in this way before by Muslim friends, but for most of the Christian readers of this thread, I dare say, the terms of the debate as it actually works itself in the hearts and minds of Jews and Muslims are quite unknown.

Danny Zacharias

first, it is my understanding the the promise for the land was conditional on adherence to the covenant, no? (eg.Ezek 33:25-29)

second, aren't there passages in the OT that imply the covenant has been fulfilled (Neh 9:23, Josh 11:23; 21:43-45) ?

Finally, aren't all of the promises fulfilled in Christ? 2 Cor 1:20?

Just questions to move the dialogue along......


Thanks, Danny. I knew we could do this.

Re: The conditionality of the covenant. You're right about that, but somehow that is combined with an understanding of the covenant as unconditional.

That's why, in the context of Luke-Acts, the question of the disciples in Acts 1:6 is expected to receive a fulfillment, according to a time-frame that is "under study" but not actually known by mortals (Acts 1:7; so also Romans 9-11; note that, according to Paul, the Savior will come *from* Zion to wrap things up).

The sense of alienation through galut (exile) in Jewish tradition is so strong that the theme is traced from Adam and Eve's galut from the garden of Eden to the people of Israel's galut from the Holy Land in a seamless whole. But the sense, as for Christians, is that sooner or later God's grace overpowers our failures. It's already laid out in the Jacob cycle in Genesis.

Re: Fulfillment. Yes, but one fulfillment leads to another as biblical prophecy is understood, once again by Jews and Christians. It's already there in the book of Daniel vis-a-vis the book of Jeremiah; in the exegesis of Qumran; in that of Jesus as reported in Luke 4 with respect to Isa 61; etc. Prophecy on this understanding is open-ended and continually vital. To be sure, not all contemporizing interpretations are equally cogent. Think of the history of interpretation of the book of Revelation. But rarely has it been thought an option by Jews or Christians to read the promises in the Bible as time-limited, with expiration dates.

Re: Fulfillment in Christ. You bet. That's why the NT contains texts like Matthew 19:28; Acts 1:6-9; and Romans 11:25-32. It's part of the not-yet part of the already/not yet eschatology which characterized all forms of early Christianity, albeit in very different ways.

Danny Zacharias

All right, let's continue, as I agree with what you stated. N.T. Wright makes much of Rom 4:13, of which I essentially agree with him. Paul seems to "balloon" the promise of the land to be that of the world.

We also have New Jerusalem coming down from heaven in Revelation— Hebrews talks of the true tabernacle in heaven, and the church as the temple. Do not these passages displace Zion as being the geographical location it once was to something more— something fuller and part of the already/not yet matrix?


Rom 4:13 takes the *original* universalism of the promise to Abraham in Gen 12, 17:5 and elsewhere and contextualizes it in a larger message of justification by faith through grace for Jews and Gentiles alike. This is about being "a father to many nations." Not about the elimination or encapsulation of the hopes attached to Zion in the scriptures Paul relied on.

The Book of Revelation, Hebrews, the Johannine literature are three corpora with eschatologies that are supercessionist without remainder. Granted. But the eschatologies of Matthew, Luke-Acts, and Paul find room for Israel and the traditional hopes of the people of Israel, hopes that have a firm basis in scripture.

Mike Koke

John, I was wondering your thoughts on the latest article by Julia M. O'Brien on this question:
I appreciate what you say about the long history of anti-Judaism/anti-Semitism among Christian interpreters and that Christians need to be in solidarity with both Jews and Muslims, but the way I read Michael Bird's post is a critique of the generally one-sided evangelical support for Israel which is often due to the influence of dispensationalism and seeing the reestablishment of Israel in 1948 as direct fulfillment of biblical prophecy/sign of the end times rather than out of concern for establishing a peaceful solution for the region and overlooking the plight of the Palestinians. About how NT authors interpret the Scriptures, on the one hand I generally agree with you that Jesus, Paul and others were grounded in traditional Jewish eschatological expectations and grant your arguments about Rom 11 (Gentiles have been grafted into Israel because Israel's gifts and call are irrevocable) as well that Luke-Acts seems to envision some future restoration of Jerusalem and Israel (Luke 21:24; Acts 1:6-9; though see Stephen's speech in Acts 7 which de-emphasizes Land and practically compares the Temple to an idol "made with human hands"). But I am curious to see how you deal with some of the texts that Danny cites that seem to reinterpret traditional symbols in light of the new situation? So not only does the New Jerusalem come down from heaven in Revelation, but the author is explicit that it will not have a Temple (Rev 21:22). Not only Rom 4:13, but also Eph 6:3 seems to make the promise to "live long in the land" applicable to anyone in any land who obeys the commandment. John portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of all the festivals and argues that Jesus body is the Temple (2:19-21) and through him are the healing waters (John 7:38; cf. Ezek 47:1-12). Thanks John.

Mike Koke

p.s. I just saw your response above that contrasts the eschatologies of Hebrews/Revelation/John with Matthew/Paul/Acts. I would then completely agree with that there is diversity of eschatological expectations in the canon and perhaps let them stand in tension with one another as no author had the complete picture of how God's complete reconciliation of the world would turn out.



I like your way of parsing your namesake's post. I'll take it. However, M.B. threw me off by siding with Gary Burge without apparent qualification.

It's possible to treat Burge as providing a necessary counterweight to the real movers and shakers among evangelicals whose support for Israel is often uncritical.

It's also possible to take a position of straight-up political correctness: sorry, that's how Julia O'Brien's op-ed comes across to me; see Phil Sumpter's comments in reply on his blog, Narrative and Ontology.

But I don't think either Burge or O'Brien come anywhere close to providing a real alternative to weak or strong forms of Christian Zionism. Zionism at least in the sense of concurring with the right of return (going back to the Balfour Declaration, which has a Christian Zionist pedigree). Zionism in the sense of maintaining (against rather fierce opposition) the legitimacy of the state of Israel on the terms in which it came into existence in 1948.

I agree on the necessity of recognizing the diversity of eschatological expectations in the New Testament and the collateral need not to reduce that diversity to a boilerplate unity.

However, I don't plan to be bashful about advocating for standing within the parameters marked out in Matthew, Luke-Acts, and Paul's letters in which universalism and particularism reinforce each other rather than cancel each other out.

From another angle, this is part of a larger discourse about national identities which Miroslav Volf discusses with some sensitivity in Exclusion & Embrace.

At the same time, since I believe in reading the Bible canonically, I re-read the Pauline strand e.g. in light of the entire Old Testament witness. This goes in the opposite direction you are heading; but I feel this is important; John Goldingay argues for this as a general hermeneutical principle in his recent OT Theology.

In another step, I re-read the entire biblical witness in light of the Johannine component, and the J component in light of the remainder; idem for the Petrine literature, James, Hebrews, and the Apocalypse, etc.

It's a never ending project, accomplished to some extent but very inadequately by churches on a lectionary cycle.

Furthermore, I am quite in favor of supporting Arab Christians in Palestine and Israel through long-term partnerships, but without illusions about *any* of the passive-aggressive political authorities they must seek to accommodate and, if they are Israeli Arab Christians, the authorities they are allowed to criticize openly without necessarily facing ugly consequences.

But that kind of support can be combined with a commitment to the right of return of the Jewish people and of the legitimacy of the state of Israel - the one we have, not the one we wished we had.

Only by accepting the one we have, do I have the right to make a suggestion or two about the one we might wish we had. To me this is an essential point.

Let me put the question sharply: do you really want to develop an eschatology that is non-Pauline, non-Lucan, and non-Matthean in nature, put more gently, an eschatology that sublimates the above eschatologies in a larger container that is supersessionist without remainder?

It's been done before. Go no further than Augustine, Chrysostom, and all the rest, down to recent times with few exceptions, until God raised up movements - mixed blessings all of them - like dispensationalism, Vischer-Barth-Gollwitzer-Marquardt, and recent trends within Catholicism.

On diverse premises, these movements, a breath of fresh air in a history once dominated and still largely dominated by the teaching of contempt vis-a-vis Judaism and its particular hopes and dreams, reach a converging result, id est, that the coming into existence of the state of Israel is a sign of God's faithfulness to the Jewish people, and that the right of return has direct or indirect warrant from scripture. (It's the "direct warrant" business that scares the liver out of many intelligent people: Jews first and foremost! But the indirect qualification strikes me as unseemly hedge, and without practical consequences.)

That is, in these messy historical events - not less and not more messy than those recounted in the Bible as God-directed, from Gen to 2 Kings to the book of Acts and in symbolic form in the Apocalypse - God has been and continues to be provident to the Jewish people.

It's scary to say something like that. Many Jews and Christians today are what some have called Bible deists: God got his hands real dirty in history in Bible times, but since then (thank God), he's kept his nose clean.

I don't buy it. That doesn't ring true.

Nor do I have any patience with those who make an exception or two for a particular history of liberation which all people of good will speak highly of, say, that of African-Americans in the United States. I assume you are familiar with James Weldon Johnson's "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and when it was written; enough said.

Well, there are lots of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" stories out there. One of those stories was born in the bitter days of the pogroms which fiercely polarized Jews in Eastern Europe; read Bialik's poem I translate on this site. A story which has involved faithful Jews and faithless Jews, an uprising in Warsaw, the contributions of Christian Zionists and Harry Truman and Richard Nixon for God's sake. A story that sets Jews against Jews" there are, after all, anti-Zionist Jews! Of people as diverse among Zionists as Martin Buber and Yehuda Amichai and Golda Meir and Ariel Sharon.

You know, complicated stuff.

Are we to expect something else when God is in the picture? Do we even read the Bible? I don't mean that as a criticism of anyone or any position in particular. It's just a sign of a certain impatience I have with the way Israel is talked about on the part of theologians and biblical scholars.

Mike Koke

John, thanks for the response. I do share your concern against supersessionism from Chrysostom to some Christian theologies in the present. After spending the last couple of years in Barnabas and Justin Martyr I find Paul's words about the reconciliation of all humanity in all its particularity in Romans 11, when the "fullness" of the nations comes in and "all Israel" will be saved, to be one of the most compelling visions in the NT. But I am not quite comfortable with equating biblical eschatological promises directly with the re-establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 or the events of the Six Day war in 1967 or being able to confidently declare which side God is on. I think the issue is much more complex as both Israelis and Palestinians have a legitimate claim to the land (and you rightly note that there is no monolithic viewpoint but a diversity of opinion here), and we should hope for some sort of a lasting peaceful resolution that protects the mutual right to exist and basic human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians because they are our fellow human beings. I think there is plenty of biblical warrant for that - such as the image of the God of Israel as one who shows no partiality and cares for the poor and the alien or the words "blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."


Thanks for the engagement. I agree with your emphasis on the complexity of things. I fully understand the hesitancy. Furthermore, I do hold Israel to a higher standard than I do Hamas or the PLO. Just as I hold my own sibs to a higher standard than I would someone I don't know from Adam. Actually though, I have Palestinian friends, so I press a high standard with them as well.

I think cocky confidence in a situation of bitter unresolved conflict is always misplaced, although, at a certain point in the stream of things, it is necessary to, as Luther put it, "sin boldly, and believe with more audacity still."

Even in small things, I'm not sure that's happening at the moment. For example, I support the by-now traditional role of the United States as a sort of honest broker in the resolution of the conflicts which involve Israel, even though that role, if played well, will earn a mixture of both disdain and respect from all sides.

But I don't think this administration any more than the last is willing to spend enough real political capital to get the job done, though perhaps some baby steps are taking place.

Danny Zacharias

"universalism of the promise to Abraham"

Abraham's promise was universal in terms of blessing and offspring, but land too? I've never understood it that way, and that certainly confuses things more. If the promise to Abraham was universal in terms of land, shouldn't we be arguing for the Jewish people taking over the UN or something? Why the attachment to Palestine?

just to insert a little excursus here: I believe the Jewish people have a right to their own country, and one could make a case for it being Israel. But a biblical case for that is a different matter. I believe the Palestinian people have the same rights as the Jewish people.


Danny, I don't think Rom 4:13 is about land at all. It's about nations and how they relate to each other. Rom 4:13 is not particularly relevant to the subject matter at hand.

Your excursus is appreciated. But it raises the question: on what basis do you take the land promises in the Bible to be null and void? Furthermore, note that the Muslim case for doing away with the Zionist entity is also religious in nature.

With a bit of exaggeration, one might say that the only people who don't see these things in theological and religious terms are third parties.

That ought to give pause.

Danny Zacharias

How does descendants like stars in the sky equal inheritance of the world. It seems κοσμος fits best as "planet earth" here.

I do think about the subject in theological terms in the way I think that my Christian worldview should inform all of my thoughts. Principles of peace and justice are foremost in my thoughts on this matter. But finding a biblical argument for it, not so much.


Thanks, Danny, for the conversation.

We all think about these things, sometimes more than a little. It's nice to think about them out loud, without pretending to be able to solve the worlds's problems - and they are legion - overnight.

Danny Zacharias

One more question on this great discussion we've had— Mike mentioned his concern over equating 1948 with prophetic fulfillment. You never really mentioned anything about it— do you see 1948 as the fulfillment of prophecy?



I enjoyed the discussion, too. It's difficult to give a plain yes/no answer to your question. To you, since I know what your point of departure is, I would say "yes." I concur with the church statement quoted earlier:

"the continuing existence of the Jewish people, its return to the Promised Land and the creation of the State of Israel . . . [are] a sign of God’s faithfulness to his people."

These facts are "a sign" because they are in accord with God's promises found in Scripture to the Jewish people.

To an over-enthusiastic Christian Zionist, I would no doubt say "no" to begin with. I would draw their attention to Luke 13:31-35 and work from there.

Phil Sumpter

- I like your dialectical movement between the various poles found in both testaments, in this case concerning the land. I wonder when the movement will stop ... For a great contribution to precisely this issue from a Biblical theological perspective, you should read the following two essays by Wolfgang Kraus: "'Eretz Jisrael'. Die territoriale Dimension in der jüdischen Tradition als Anfrage an die christliche Theologie," in M. Karrer et al (eds) Kirche und Volk Gottes (2000, 20-41) and "Die theologische Bedeutung des 'Heiligen Landes' als Problem einer Biblischen Theologie" in Frühjudentum und Neues Testament (2003, 251-274). He analyses the relevant texts, respects the tensions, yet also respects the theological unity under-girding the whole. His conclusions are unfortunately still a tad too zurückhaltend.

- You almost studied under Marquardt? The Systematics Professor here in Bonn (Pangritz) is a fan of Marquardt and is even involved in the deliberations of the German state church represented in the quote in your post. I think Marquardt is very interesting ... but I think he is far too radical. I think that in his deep disappointment with the German church (and his family's past?) and in his attempt to genuinely carve a new path for the future he reifies "the Jews" and everything "Jewish" into a kind of infallible touchstone of everything that is good and true. At least, that's the impression I get from reading extracts from his dogmatics. His teachers were more subtle, e.g. Breukelman (who's only work is in Dutch!) and Miskotte. I highlly recommend a great response to Marquardt, which compares him to Barth on the issue of Israel in the following essay by S. Kläs, "Der 'Staat Israel' im Spannungsfeld von Politik und Religion. Theologische Wahrnehmungsübungen bei Karl Barths und Friederich-Wilhelm Marquardt." in Pontzen et al (eds) Das Gelobte Land (2003, 300-327). I strongly identify with Barth's comments, which I may try and post on my blog.

- I think we should be careful when affirming statements made by the rheinsiche Kirche on these issues. It's not just a process of "metanoia," in my experience it's also tinged by elements of "paranoia." OK, "paranoia" is an exaggeration, but it rhymes :). What I mean is that I feel that feelings of guilt can blur our vision and not just sharpen it, and I think that that is the case when you read the whole document along later documents it has generated. For example, you can just see the EKD bending over backwards to try and say that Jews do not need to believe in Jesus, that the church is not even adopted into Israel but rather exists as a quasi separate identity. Pangriz even said in a seminar that it is the responsibility of the church to make sure that Jews do not believe in Jesus! Whatever you think of his sentiments, this is simply indefensible on so many biblical and theological levels. I believe Rendtorff goes in a similar direction and has been critiqued for this in various ways in a recent German doctoral analysis of the relationship between EKD and State. In short, caution needs to be exercised here!

- The video clip on M. Bird's post was biased and simplistic and may well do more damage than good.

- I love the phrase "Biblical deist"!

- My wife is calling for me to come to bed! So good night :)

Philip Sumpter

Phil Sumpter

I've just read Robert Jenson's fascinating article, "Towards a Doctrine of Israel" and its made me realize how utterly ignorant I am on this matter.


That was a very interesting article. Thanks for pointing it out.

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