It is a very tricky task to offer any sort of cogent response to a very recent publication of the Church of Scotland, entitled, ‘The Inheritance of Abraham? A report on the ‘promised land’. One might summarise the paper’s thesis, rather glibly as ‘The Jews have no legitimate right to the State of Israel (or the territory of that region) and the Scriptures, supplemented by history and the statements of carefully selected Jewish and Christian writings (ignoring a very large amount of what has been written, said or done on this issue) support this contention.
The difficulty is that it is very hard to identify what the Church of Scotland actually believes about the ‘Bible’. On its website the Church of Scotland maintains that it promotes and follows the life and teachings of Jesus. One can find certain Creeds and statements of faith. Study of the ‘Bible’ seems to be strongly advocated, but what the ‘Bible’ is said to be is not apparently something the Church has a position that it states publically. One is left to conjecture as to a) what is the status of the ’Bible’? and b) what sources are legitimately used to ascertain what the life and works of Jesus were and what concomitant lessons can be drawn? The extent of the literal or figurative reliability of what is said in the ‘Bible’ is impossible to discern from the Church’s website.
Traditional Jews identify our Scripture as being contained in the Tanach, the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets and Writings and explained and supplemented by an Oral Law. Both written and Oral Law are understood to be Divine and authoritative.
The first part of the paper’s title ‘The Inheritance of Abraham’ is the first disingenuously weak attempt to rubbish Jewish claims to Israel. The verses quoted as the supposed basis for Jewish claims to the Land are limited to promises by God to Abraham of the Land as an ‘eternal possession’. What are ignored are references in Genesis (Genesis 17:19, 21:12 and 35 9-12) wherein God unequivocally extends the gift of the Land and the heritage of what will become the Jewish people from Abraham to Isaac and then to Jacob. Prophecies of the return of the Children of Israel, the descendants of Jacob, to the land, such as Ezekiel 36-24, are similarly ignored. More pertinently the fact that the bulk of the Five Books of Moses is given to the formation of a nation whose task is to fulfil God’s law in the Land itself, is not at all significant to the writers of the paper. Nor does the fact that the bulk of the remainder of the Jewish Bible focuses on National Jewish religious life in the Land of Israel, or is replete with aspirations of the ultimate restoration of them to that land hold any water for the learned writers of the article.
Although the Church’s claim to follow the life and teachings of Jesus is something they claim to follow and venerate, the article gives no recognition to the fact that on all secular and religious accounts, the historical Jesus lives in the land of Israel as a Jew! Nor does the paper mention the fact that at the time the land of Israel is under occupation by an empire, who has changed the name of the Land from Israel and Judea to Palestine. The Philistines who had lived some centuries earlier in the approximate area of today’s Gaza strip, (never part of the Biblical Israel) have already disappeared centuries before the Roman occupation.
While the paper claims that Jesus in essence supplants what Judaism was it ignores the fact that after the destruction of the Temple the Jewish prayer liturgy becomes more formalised. The Rabbis enact prays for the return to Israel and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Even Neturei Karta, the arch-anti-Zionists say these prayers. While Judaism and Christianity may argue as to who carries the mantle of the ‘Bible’ and God’s Will on earth, it cannot be disputed that the biological and genealogical descendants of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, continue to hold a desire to return to Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel through the past two millennia.
In a vain attempt to present a seemingly balanced view of Israel and history the thoughts of a few individuals who are anti-Zionist. They cite one Jew who changed his views after a visit to Israel in 2008, as if he were the Gospels. The paper ignores a large weight of cogent authority that supports the case for Israel.
The conclusion of the paper might be summarised as follows. Jesus came to fulfil the aspirations and substance of the Bible. His message and salvation is available to all and is thus universal. Thus it is not only the Jews, or even the Jews, but everyone who has a stake in this universal Israel. How does this benefit the Palestinians? Most of them are not Christians, so do they not get a share in the inheritance of Abraham. Or is the inheritance of Abraham merely a spiritual benefit accruing to Christians and the physical land itself is simply the property of, well, um the Palestinians?
You see the Jews, or Zionists, are, according to the paper violating human rights and acting unjustly. This seems to undermine any claim the Jews might have from the Bible. Since you are beastly to the Palestinians, you are unjust and forfeit any claim to the land. Surely Jesus has fulfilled justice as well along with all else foretold in the Bible? One can take them to task for treating as Gospel truth the slanders of Israel as oppressor, etcetera. Again any argument in favour of Israel is simply ignored. But why should the fact that Palestinians suffer in and of itself undermine Jewish or Zionist claims to Israel. The original conquest of the Land at the time of Joshua was sanctioned by an authority higher than the European Courts and the United Nations. It could not have been much fun to be a Canaanite at that time!
As the Bible says ((Exodus 23:7)
‘Distance yourself from a false matter.’
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