I. A Historical & Political Perspective
In this article, I would like to deal with the “Problem of
During the last week of November, 2007, the Annapolis Peace Conference began its sessions with opening speeches from President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, and President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. I don’t intend to comment on the conference, as many experts have already made their points. My concern is to point to the root cause of the Problem, namely Islam.
The Arab population of
The years between the two World Wars were tumultuous in
As soon as the war was over, the British Government having failed to convince the two antagonists to accept an interim resolution of the problem brought the matter over to the United Nations Organization. Its General Assembly voted in 1947 for the partition of the land into an
On Saturday morning, May 15, the armies of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Egypt entered Palestine in a move to stop Israel from taking those parts of the land that were allocated to it by the UN Partition Plan. The newly-born
It is needless to give detailed accounts of the major and minor wars that erupted almost every decade since 1948. I will refer to them briefly. In October, 1956,
In June, 1967, after almost two weeks of
President Nasser died in September, 1970, and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat. On
Lesser wars between
Throughout all these years, several American administrations got involved in diplomatic efforts to bring about a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, beginning with Presidents Carter, Clinton, and Bush. During these years, quite often a resolution seemed to be at hand, only to vanish when put to the test.
What makes the Palestinian problem so impossible to solve? Or, what is the root cause for the seemingly perpetual Israeli-Palestinian conflict? I believe it is Islam.
Over the years, Islam developed an ideology that goes like this: any land that becomes a part of Daru’l Islam (House of Islam) must always remain Islamic. Islamic imperialism has distinguished itself by being totally different from European imperialisms. The latter were all “over-seas” and eventually came to an end. On the other hand, Islamic imperialism spread in a contiguous manner, and did not easily divest itself of its conquered territories. The lands lost to Islam were those that resisted total assimilation into the Islamic faith such as in
The central drive or impulse of the Islamic ideology is what I would like to call “the Divine Right of Conquest.” Muslims glory in the great Futuhat (Conquests.) After all, they were all done “Fi Sabeel-Allah” (in the Pathway of Allah.) They are blessed by Him; more than that, they have been foreordained by the divine will! Thus, Islam cannot and would not concede to the birth of a Jewish homeland within
I don’t want to show any disrespect for Western political leaders. They need our prayers and cooperation in these difficult times. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to understand the true nature of Islam when they launch their initiatives for solving problems between Islamic countries and their neighbors. They either ignore, or are unaware of the fact that Islam is far more than a religious faith; it is a complete worldview with global aspirations and pretensions. If the West, during the last three centuries, succeeded in separating church and state, this has not happened in Daru’l Islam. The opposition to the existence of
In this connection I would like to quote from Bernard Lewis’ article, “On the Jewish Question,” published in the Wall Street Journal, on
“The first question (one might think it is obvious but apparently not) is, ‘What is the conflict about?’ There are basically two possibilities: that it is about the size of
“If the issue is about the size of
If, on the other hand, the issue is the existence of
“PLO and other Palestinian spokesmen have, from time to time, given formal indications of recognition of
“[To go] back to the
The Problem of
II. A Biblical Theological Perspective
It would be wrong for Christians, who believe in the supreme and final authority of the Word of God, to regard the Problem of Israel simply from a political and historical point of view. For example, in his Letter to the Romans, Paul devoted Chapters 9, 10, and 11, to a treatment of this problem within God’s plan of salvation. Quite often, we neglect to comment on these chapters, leaving the field to the Dispensational school of hermeneutics (principles of interpretation.) According to this school, the birth of the State of Israel was a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.
On the other hand, Christians who subscribe to the Historical-Grammatical school of hermeneutics, deny that the emergence of
“But what of chapters 9 to 11? It might seem that there is discontinuity in this portion of the epistle and its length appears to aggravate the question raised. It is only as we fail to discern or overlook the relation that these chapters sustain to the thesis of this epistle that any thought of irrelevance or discontinuity is entertained. On closer inspection this part of the epistle is seen to bring to climactic vindication the thesis stated in , 17 and correlative doctrines unfolded later in chapters 1 to 8. If this section of the epistle were absent, there would be a hiatus leaving us with unanswered questions and the corresponding perplexity. It is not that we may demand or expect answers to all questions. But in this instance we may be profoundly grateful that the supreme author of Scripture inspired the apostle to deal with questions so germane to the grand theme of this epistle and urgently pressing upon the minds of intelligent readers.
“It is, however, not merely the questions which emerge from this epistle that are answered in chapters 9 to 11. They are the questions which the biblico-theological perspective derived from the whole of Scripture necessarily provokes. It is noteworthy to what an extent Paul appeals to the Old Testament in this part of the epistle. This appeal shows that the subjects with which he deals are those which have their roots in he Old Testament and are, therefore, to be understood in the light of the apostle’s interpretation and application. In other words, the apostle, writing in the full light of the fulfillment which the advent of Christ brought and the inspiration of the Spirit of Pentecost, furnishes us with the orientation in terms of which the prophetical Scriptures are to be understood.
“In chapter 11:11-32, Paul discloses what at he calls ‘this mystery’ that the rejection of
I have quoted at length from Professor Murray’s commentary to emphasize that the problem of
Across the ages, there were many conversions of the Jews to the Christian faith. The 19th Century was especially rich in such occurrences.
I like to quote the following from an article in Wikipedia on the life and accomplishments of an Austrian Jew who came to the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Alfred Edersheim (1825 – 1889) was a Jewish a convert to Christianity and a biblical scholar known especially for his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883).
“Edersheim was born in Vienna of Jewish parents of culture and wealth. English was spoken in their home, and he became fluent at an early age. He was educated at a local gymnasium and also in the Talmud and Torah at a Hebrew school, and in 1841 he entered the University of Vienna. His father suffered illness and financial reversals before Alfred could complete his university education, and he had to support himself.
“Edersheim emigrated to Hungary and became a teacher of languages. He converted to Christianity in Pesth when he came under the influence of John Duncan, a Church of Scotland chaplain to workmen engaged in constructing a bridge over the Danube. Edersheim accompanied Duncan on his return to Scotland and studied theology at New College, Edinburgh and at the University of Berlin. In 1846 he was ordained to the ministry of the Presbyterian Church. He was a missionary to the Jews in Romania for a year. In 1861 health problems forced him to resign and the Church of St. Andrew was built for him at Torquay. In 1872 Edersheim's health again obliged him to retire, and for four years he lived quietly at Bournemouth. In 1875 he was ordained in the Church of England and from 1876 to 1882 Vicar of Lodera, Dorsetshire. In 1882 he resigned and relocated to Oxford. He was Select Preacher to the University 1884-85 and Grinfield Lecturer on the Septuagint ,1886-88 and 1888-89. Edersheim died at Merton, France, March 16, 1889.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Edersheim
Another prominent conversion was that of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847). He added Bartholdy to his family name after becoming a Christian. Among his many accomplishments as a composer and conductor, is his role in the revival of J. S. Bach’s music. He conducted Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion in 1829, in
The 19th century witnessed a great revival of interest in the Hebrew language and in missions to the Jews. One of the men who played a major role in that movement was Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890). Here are some quotations about him from Wikipedia:
“Franz Delitzsch (1813- 1890) was a German Lutheran theologian and Hebraist. He held the professorship of theology at Rostock from 1846 to 1850, and at Erlangen until 1867, and after that at Leipzig until his death. Delitzsch wrote many commentaries on books of the Bible, Jewish antiquities, biblical psychology, a history of Jewish poetry, and Christian apologetics.
“He defended the Jewish community against anti-Semitic attacks and translated the New Testament into Hebrew. In 1880 he established the Institutum Judaicum in Leipzig for the training of missionary workers among Jews.
“Today Delitzsch is best known for his translation of the New Testament into Hebrew. Delitzsch's translation is still considered the standard New Testament edition in Hebrew. It is remarkable in that it was composed before the modern revival of the language but still remains fresh and alive for readers today.
“Delitzsch also collaborated with J. F. K Keil on a commentary series which covers the whole of the Old Testament and is still in print, having first appeared in 1861. Delitzsch contributed the commentaries on Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Isaiah.”
I must add to the above information from Wikipedia, that these commentaries were written in German, and translated into English. I have the entire set published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The special value of this series is that the comments are based on the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. While the initials of Dr. Keil are listed in Wikipedia as J.F.K., the commentaries in my possession list them as C. F.! Furthermore, Dr. Delitzsch wrote a two-set commentary on the “Epistle to the Hebrews” based on the Greek text of the New Testament.
Having considered the great achievements of the 19th century in the field of missions to the Jews, it is the responsibility of Christians in our day not restrict their concern for the Jews simply to the political aspects surrounding the State of Israel, and its struggles for survival in a hostile Islamic atmosphere. The Good News of the Messiah should be proclaimed to the Jews everywhere, in love and sincerity. We can do that based on the great hope given to us in Romans 11: 25 to 36:
“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
‘The Deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’
“As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election in concerned, they are loved on accunt of the patriarchs. For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.”
Having contemplated that great future event, Paul burst into one of the most joyful doxologies of the Bible:
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (NIV)