Monday, November 1, 2010

Christian Zionism: Definitions

I. Down from the Bleachers onto the Field: The Political Turn

One hundred years have passed since Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843-1921) inscribed the hermeneutics of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) into the footnotes of the King James Bible. Millions who grew up on the Scofield Reference Bible [1] came to believe that God’s programs for ethnic Israel and the non-ethnic Church were strictly separate, and that Israel, though long on the spiritual back-burner, could look forward to a revived monarchy and resumed Temple sacrifice. Scofield’s dispensationalism was popularized at prophecy conferences, charted at Moody Bible Institute, mass-marketed by Hal Lindsey, scratched onto vinyl by Larry Norman (in the key of D), revised at Dallas Theological Seminary,[2] franchised by Tim LaHaye, projected onto the big screen by Billy Graham, and preached from pulpits everywhere. Indeed as a phenomenon of American culture, Dispensationalism since Scofield has had a remarkably successful run.

The movement owes its longevity to more than a cast of skilled communicators and the margins of the Scofield Bible. Several historical developments encouraged believers to read morning paper and study Bible together. In 1948 from the ashes of the Holocaust rose the modern state of Israel. Two decades later, in 1967, the state of Israel more than doubled its territory to include Gaza, the Golan, the Sinai, the West Bank and, most importantly, East Jerusalem including its Old City and Temple Mount. For Dispensationalists, this migration of Jews to their ancestral homeland was not simply a natural consequence of the Ottoman Empire’s collapse; not just a convenient solution to European anti-Semitism; not merely compensation for the Holocaust[3]: the Chosen Ones were reclaiming centrality in the Divine plan, which reclamation Darby and Scofield had seen coming because, well, they’d read their Bibles. Dispensational hermeneutics was being vindicated, and Biblical prophecy confirmed before our eyes.[4]

During the final third of the 20th century—from Vietnam and the Six-Day War (1967) to the Gulf Wars (1991 & 2003) and 9-11 (or from The Late, Great Planet Earth, 1970[5] to Left Behind, 1996-2007[6])—a number of dispensationalist preachers descended from the hermeneutical bleachers onto the political playing field where they became increasingly engaged, media-savvy and influential.[7] These Christian Zionists[8] were not only spiritually vigilant and evangelistically zealous; they were becoming increasingly active in the political arena and increasingly vocal in support of Israel. CZ today is marked not only by hermeneutical confidence, eschatological urgency and pro-Israel zeal, but also by American-style political engagement. Indeed, some would contend that “Christian Zionism is best understood as political action, informed by specifically Christian commitments.”[9] In a time of international terrorism, regime change, blockades and peace talks, the influence of those who claim to speak for God should interest all of us.[10] I leave to others, however, the challenge of assessing the politic strength of the CZ lobby in this country. My less ambitious goal is to describe the core tenets of CZ and then narrow the focus to one: the belief that the Last Days will witness the Temple rebuilt.

II. You Might Be A Christian Zionist: Seven Affirmations

My sense is that most CZs could happily affirm the following seven propositions.[11]

1. The church does not replace Israel.

This is the sine qua non of Dispensationalism: “the Church is neither the ‘new’, the ‘true’, nor ‘spiritual Israel’.”[12] As John Hagee explains: “Scripture plainly indicates that the church and national Israel exist side by side, and neither replaces the other—ever!”[13] Many of God’s promises to Abraham’s literal descendants remain unfulfilled, including the restoration of Israel’s nationhood and the salvation of many ethnic Jews.[14]

2. All the Land belongs to Israel.

It is difficult to overstate the territorial dimension of modern CZ. God’s covenant promise that Israel would inherit the land was unconditional. Israel’s disobedience may incur exile but never dispossession.

The Land Promised
Gen 15:18-21 from Nile to Euphrates
Gen 17:7-9 all the land of Canaan an everlasting possession
Gen 23 cave in Hebron purchased for Sarah’s burial
Gen 26:2-4 land promise (along with others) confirmed to Isaac
Gen 28:13-15 land promise confirmed to Jacob
Lev 25:1-23 year of Jubilee reminds Israel: “the land is Mine”
Dt 4:25-27, 40 idolatry means perishing from the land; faithfulness means flourishing
Dt 8:17-19 to forget God is to perish from the land

We see God’s ongoing covenantal faithfulness to the Jews in the 20th century migration of Jews to the Land, in the establishment in 1948 of the state of Israel, and in the seizure in 1967 of East Jerusalem and the West Bank (known to Zionists by its biblical name: Judea and Samaria). When Jews today settle in the Occupied Territories, they are simply taking over land that is already theirs by divine entitlement.[15]

The corollary to Israel’s entitlement to the entire land is Palestinian non-entitlement. People who oppose a modern state of Palestine do so for various reasons: some reject the category “Palestinian”;[16] others claim the early Zionists arrived to find the Land virtually empty;[17] still others claim that any future Arab state so close to Israel would be unstable and expansionist.[18]. For their part, CZs oppose a state of “Palestine” principally because it would require expropriating land for Arabs that God promised to Jews.[19]

Those Christians who claim that the land promises were fulfilled in Jesus and the New Covenant community are, say CZs, wrongly “spiritualizing” what God intended for the literal bloodline of Jacob. Indeed, the day is coming when tiny Israel will not only be secure within her present borders but will expand far beyond them to include all the land God promised Abraham.

Christian Zionists claim dividing the Land is risky. Is it?

Christian Zionist zeal for the entire Promised Land including its geographical margins and contested territories went on public display at the time of Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in August, 2005. Both Pat Robertson and John Hagee weighed in to suggest that God was angry, and not just with Israel. Hagee famously asked “Washington” a question:

“Is there a connection between the 9,000 Jewish refugees being forcibly removed from their homes in the Gaza Strip now living in tents and the thousands of Americans who have been expelled from their homes by this tremendous work of nature, the hurricane Katrina? Is there a connection there? If you've got a better answer, I'd like to hear it.”[20]

Nor was John Hagee the only Christian Zionist to explain U.S. woes as divine judgment for American pressure on Israel to trade away land for peace with the Palestinians.[21] On Jan. 5, 2006, with reference to the debilitating stroke Ariel Sharon had suffered the day before, Pat Robertson made the following statement on his CBN show, The 700 Club:

“I have said last year that Israel was entering into the most dangerous period of its entire existence as a nation. That is intensifying this year with the loss of Sharon. Sharon was personally a very likeable person. I am sad to see him in this condition. But I think we need to look at the Bible and the Book of Joel. The prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who, quote, ‘divide my land.’ God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible, he says, ‘This is my land.’ And for any prime minister of Israel who decides he going carve it up and give it away, God says, ‘No. This is mine.’ And the same thing -- I had a wonderful meeting with Yitzhak Rabin in 1974. He was tragically assassinated, and it was terrible thing that happened, but nevertheless, he was dead. And now Ariel Sharon, who was again a very likeable person, a delightful person to be with. I prayed with him personally. But here he is at the point of death. He was dividing God's land, and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations or United States of America. God said, ‘This land belongs to me, you better leave it alone’.”[22]

3. Israel will build a third Temple.

At the center of all forms of Zionism is the Land of Promise. At the center of the land is Zion, the holy city. At the center of Jerusalem a Temple once stood, with its concentric circles of holiness: the outer courts, the holy place, the Holy of Holies.[23]

As the navel is set in the centre of the human body, so is the land of Israel the navel of the world . . . situated in the centre of the world, and Jerusalem in the centre of the land of Israel, and the sanctuary in the centre of Jerusalem, and the holy place in the centre of the sanctuary, and the ark in the centre of the holy place, and the Foundation Stone before the holy place, because from it the world was founded. Midrash Tanhuma

By way of reminder, the Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s Temple in 586 BCE. Rebuilt under Zerubbabel with the blessing of Darius, and dedicated in 516, the 2nd Temple was desecrated by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 BCE, rededicated in 164 BCE, and expanded and adorned beginning in 19 BCE under Herod and his successors. These restorations of the 2nd Temple were not completed until 64 CE, only 6 years (!) before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70.[24]

A sizeable swath of post-70 CE Jewish tradition, some of it collected in the Mishnah (200 CE) and Talmud (c. 600 CE), anticipates a 3rd Temple, to be built in conjunction with the coming of the Messiah. Generations of religious Jews have prayed “May it be Thy will that the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our days.” Christian Zionists concur: a 3rd Temple will rise where the 1st and 2nd Temples once stood.[25]

4. We live in the Last Days.

Our location along God’s timeline becomes clear when we study developments in the Middle East in the light of Scripture. As mentioned earlier, the key indicators are: the return of Jews to the land, the miraculous birth and stunning growth of the state of Israel, and the capture (or “liberation”) of the Temple Mount.[26] Some CZs dare to declare ours the last generation before Christ’s return; others more modestly contend that the end must be near, that nothing needs to happen before the Rapture,[27] and that the growing number of Jews eager to rebuild the Temple is telling. A global battle is coming, they say, with Israel pitted against the nations. Some suggest that our actions can hasten the end.

Christian Zionists claim Israel’s victory in ‘48 was a miracle. Was it?

A common CZ refrain is that Israel’s victory in 1948 was providential, even miraculous. How else could a handful of Holocaust survivors, blockaded by the British, defeat so vast a force of hostile Arabs from Palestine itself and from nearby Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq and Syria? Has not the God who long ago delivered Goliath and the Philistines into the hands of David ben-Jesse now delivered the Palestinians into the hands of David Ben-Gurion?

Was Israel’s victory historically improbable? Can the birth of the modern state of Israel only be explained as an act of God? Recent scholarship on the 1947-49 Arab-Israeli conflict has made it clear that although Palestinians outnumber Jews 1.3 million to 630,000, or roughly 2:1 (down from 9:1 at the start of the British Mandate) and initially held the high ground, in almost every other metric the Jews come out ahead: organization, motivation, infrastructure, war preparation, weapons production, weapons, trained fighters, command and control and international fund-raising. Local Arab bands were small, unorganized, untrained and poorly supplied. Arab recruits from neighboring countries numbered between 6 and 8,000.[28] Meanwhile, Jewish forces at the outbreak of the war numbered 50, 000, of which 30,000 were fighters.[29] In other words, combat-trained Jews outnumbered ill-equipped Arabs roughly five to one. Numbers don’t tell the whole story, of course. Other factors influenced the outcome of the war, including centuries of Ottoman and British rule, clan and tribal loyalties, factionalism, secret agreements, corruption, misinformation, terrorism (on both sides), collaborators,[30] British troop withdrawals, the aspirations of Transjordan’s King Abdullah, shifting American policies, and other international forces (organizations, foreign governmental pressure, lobbying and diplomacy). Most of these other factors, however, also favored Israel (e.g., by prior agreement Iraqi and Transjordanian forces never crossed the boundaries proposed by the U.N. partition plan into “Israel” proper). But the numbers alone make it difficult to defend the common CZ assertion that the Jews were the underdog in the fight. If it is true that “at each stage of the war, the IDF outnumbered all the Arab forces arrayed against it, and, after the first round of fighting, it outgunned them too,” then perhaps “the final outcome of the war was . . . not a miracle but a faithful reflection of the underlying military balance in the Palestine theater.” In other words, “the stronger side prevailed.”[31]

5. The conflict between Arabs and Jews is spiritual, not political.

No political pressure, no international diplomacy, no economic incentives, no treaty, no “two-state solution” will resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict and create a just and free society for all. Asking Israel to trade “land for peace” (to use a U.N. formulation) won’t work. Indeed, for Americans to pressure Congress, or for the U.S. to pressure Israel, for a political solution only paves the way for the lies, deception and false peace of a coming Antichrist.[32]

6. God calls us to bless and support Israel.

Genesis 12:3 might be called “Christian Zionism in a nutshell.”[33] God has promised to bless those who bless the Chosen People. Has not salvation come from the Jews (Jn 4:22)? Do not Gentiles owe Jews a debt of gratitude (Ro 15:27)? America has been blessed by God for supporting Israel. Should America withdraw that support she will face divine censure (Isa 60:12).[34] The (1909) Scofield Reference Bible, explains that Gen 12:3 (“And curse him that curseth thee [Abraham]”) is:

wonderfully fulfilled in the history of the dispersion. It has invariably fared ill with the people who have persecuted the Jew—well with those who have protected him. The future will still more remarkably prove this principle.[35]

Seventy years later, at the dawn of the Reagan era, Jerry Falwell transposed Scofield’s vague prediction into a pointed challenge:

God has blessed America because America has blessed the Jews. If this nation wants her fields to remain white with grain, her scientific achievements to remain notable, and her freedom to remain intact, America must continue to stand with Israel.[36]

Similar sentiments are widely and publicly held by CZs today,[37] so much so that a group of 34 evangelical leaders felt obliged to clarify in 2007 in an open letter to President Bush that “blessing” Israel does not mean withholding appropriate criticism.[38]

7. Sound interpretation of Scripture requires a literal hermeneutic.[39]

These days literal can mean many things, including its opposite—as in, “his head literally exploded with rage.” CZs like to define literal hermeneutics as common sense hermeneutics. Take Scripture at face value. Jerusalem means Jerusalem. Throne means throne. Judah means Judah. Texts mean what they say unless context demands otherwise. This principle is particularly important when it comes to Israel’s prophets. The prophets foresaw the end of exile, the restoration of monarchy, the return of prosperity and the resumption of sacrifice (e.g., Isa 66:20; Ezek 37:21-22; 43:18-27; Amos 9:11-14; Mal 3:4; see below). This, then, is precisely what careful interpreters will expect—that Israel’s restoration will not only be spiritual but also ethnic and geographical and religious and economic and political. Can anyone deny that literal Jews are now literally back in the literal Land? Surely Israel’s national rebirth is not only reason to trust Scripture, but also vindication of a literal hermeneutic.[40]

Excursus: Christian Restorationism (= proto-Christian Zionism)

The Christian belief that Israel would one day recover her Land goes back at least to the early Puritans whose interest in Scripture, inspired by the Reformation principle of sola scriptura, contributed to the rise of Restorationism—the belief that Jews would be restored to their former glory and come to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah.[41] Influential representatives include:

Lord (Anthony) Ashley (Cooper), the 7th Earl of Shaftsbury (1801-1885), philanthropist: urged Jews to move to Palestine; wrote Prime Minister Aberdeen; published The State and the Rebirth of the Jews in 1839; may have coined the phrase “a land without a people for a people without a land” (from an 1854 diary entry)

Reverend William Hechler, chaplain of the British Embassy in Vienna (1845-1931): lent strong Christian support to Jewish restoration; introduced Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, to the Grand Duke of Baden in 1896, and to his nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, in 1898, to enlist their aid in the Zionist cause; believed the Jews of his day were fulfilling Biblical prophecy and regarded Herzl’s publication of The Jewish State as “a prophetic event”[42]; attended first congress of the Zionist Organization in 1897 in Basel (Aug 29, 1897).

Arthur James Balfour, the 1st Earl of Balfour (1848-1930): believed a Jewish return to the land would fulfill prophecy. As British foreign secretary, Balfour’s thought was shaped by the Zionist Chaim Weitzman. He was instructed by Prime Minister Lloyd George to write the so-called “Balfour Declaration” of 1917 which included the following:

“His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

How shall one assess these seven elements? Does Scripture indicate that we are living in the Last Days? Is modern Israel’s statehood an act of God foreseen by the prophets? Are current events in the Middle East fulfilling Biblical prophecy? Have CZ interpreters made a compelling case for their model of Biblical interpretation? In light of the subliminal message embedded in the title of this paper, you won’t be surprised to learn that I do not find CZ hermeneutics compelling.

In the next post I focus on one of several questions: whether Scripture warrants belief in an eschatological, 3rd Temple.

[1] Oxford, 1909; rev. 1917 & 1967. Helping to disseminate Darby’s ideas were James H. Brookes (1830-1897) of St. Louis, Dwight L Moody of Chicago (1837-1899), William E. Blackstone (1841-1935) also of Chicago, and Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945) of New York. On their respective contributions see Victoria Clark, Allies for Armageddon: The Rise of Christian Zionism (Yale, 2007), 85-92, and Paul R. Wilkinson, For Zion's Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby. Studies in Evangelical History and Thought (Wipf & Stock, 2007), 251-257.

[2] The founder of DTS, Lewis S. Chafer (1871-1952), was mentored by Scofield until his death in 1921.

[3] Gary Burge, Whose Land? Whose Promise? What Christians are not Being Told about Israel and the Palestinians. Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2003, 8ff., lists collective guilt about the Holocaust as one of four reasons many evangelical Christians are conflicted about the Israel/Palestine conflict. On the link between the Holocaust and early support for Zionism among liberal Protestants (e.g., Reinhold Niebuhr), see Paul C. Merkley, Christian Attitudes towards the State of Israel (Montreal: McGill-Queens, 2001), 161-162. Two recent monographs, both by sons of Holocaust survivors, have advanced the charge that various parties in and outside of Israel have exploited post-Holocaust guilt (sympathy?) to excuse Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and to obstruct the peace process: Norman Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (2nd ed.; Verso, 2003); Avraham Burg, The Holocaust is Over; We Must Rise from its Ashes (Palgrave MacMillan, 2008).

[4] See Craig A. Blaising, “The Future of Israel as a Theological Question,” JETS 44 (3, 2001), 436. John Hagee, In Defense of Israel (Florida: Front Line, 2007), 11, remarks: “The rebirth of Israel as a nation was an unmistakable milestone on the prophetic timetable leading to the return of Christ.” John F. Walvoord, “Will Israel Build a Temple in Jerusalem?” BibSac 125 (498, 1968) 99-106 (citation pp.102-03): “The fact that Israel is now in their ancient land organized as a nation, and the impressive recent events which have put the city of Jerusalem itself into the hands of Israel, have to a large extent revealed the premises and conclusions of both the amillenarians and postmillenarians to be in error. To claim that this supports the entire premillennial interpretation may be presumptive, but it certainly gives added force to the normal interpretation of Scripture in predicting such a situation.” For other Christian Zionist assessments of the events of ’48 and ’67 (e.g., by Hal Lindsey, Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell, Jack Hayford), see summaries in Gary Burge, Whose Land?, 134-35, and Stephen Spector, Evangelicals and Israel: The Story of American Christian Zionism (Oxford, 2008), 27-28. For one preacher’s struggle to interpret for his people the events of 1967, see Gershom Gorenberg, The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount (Oxford, 2000), 105-07.

[5] Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth (Zondervan, 1970), quips Victoria Clark, “did for Christian Zionism what the invention of the printing press did for the Bible.” Allies for Armageddon, 154. According to Clark, ibid., 156, both Ronald Reagan and Menachem Begin read it.

[6] The series of sixteen Left Behind volumes were published during this period.

[7] Tracking this shift from observer to participant is Timothy P. Weber, On the Road to Armageddon: How evangelicals became Israel’s best friend (Baker, 2004), chapter 7, esp. pp.187, 196, 212. Merkley, Christian Attitudes, 163-183, provides a useful inventory of CZ organizations that emerged during this period. Cf. John J. Mearsheimer & Stephen M. Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007), 133-34.

[8] The phrase “Christian Zionism” goes back at least to Theodor Herzl who applied it in 1896-97 to various Christian supporters of the Zionist cause (on which see Paul Wilkinson, For Zion's Sake, 16). These days CZ is attracting attention from across the academic disciplines. In 2010 alone CZ was the subject of both an international conference in Bethlehem (“Christ at the Checkpoint” Mar 12-17, 2010) and a new documentary (With God on our Side [Rooftop, 2010]). Assessments since the turn of the millennium include Naim Ateek, Cedar Duaybis and Maurine Tobin, eds., Challenging Christian Zionism: Theology, Politics and the Israel-Palestine Conflict (Melisende, 2005); Gary Burge, Whose Land?; idem., Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to "Holy Land" Theology (Baker, 2010); Colin Chapman, Whose Promised Land? (Baker, 2002); Victoria Clark, Allies for Armageddon; Dan Cohn-Sherbok, The Politics of Apocalypse: The History and Influence of Christian Zionism (One World, 2006); Shalom Goldman, Zeal for Zion: Christians, Jews, and the Idea of the Promised Land (UNC, 2009); Clifford Kiracofe, Jr., Dark Crusade: Christian Zionism and US Foreign Policy. International Library of Political Studies. (I. B. Tauris, 2009); Donald M. Lewis, The Origins of Christian Zionism: Lord Shaftesbury and Evangelical Support for a Jewish Homeland (Cambridge, 2009); Merkley, Christian Attitudes; Kenneth G. C. Newport & Crawford Gribben, eds., Expecting the End: Millennialism in Social and Historical Context (Waco: Baylor, 2006); Stephen Sizer, Zion’s Christian Soldiers? The Bible, Israel and the Church (Inter-Varsity, 2007); idem, Christian Zionism: Road-Map to Armageddon? (IVP, 2005); Stephen Spector, Evangelicals and Israel; Weber, On the Road.

Recent defenses of Christian Zionism include John Hagee, In Defense of Israel (Frontline, 2007); Barry E. Horner, Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged (B&H, 2007); David Pawson, Defending Christian Zionism (True Potential, 2008); Sandra Teplinsky, Why Care about Israel? (Chosen, 2004); Wilkinson, For Zion's Sake.

[9] Robert O. Smith, “‘Christian Zionism’: It Challenges Our Lutheran Commitments,” The Lutheran 164 (June, 2009), cited by Gary M. Burge, Jesus and the Land, 115. The June, 2009 issue of The Lutheran is devoted to the topic of Christian Zionism, and is available here:

[10] Somewhat alarmist in tone is Clifford A. Kiracofe, Jr., Dark Crusade: Christian Zionism and US Foreign Policy (International Library of Political Studies). I. B. Tauris, 2009. Pages 155-181 discuss the growing influence of CZ on the Republican Party in the two Bush administrations. Clark, Allies for Armageddon, 176-283, looks at the CZ lobby during G. W. Bush’s presidency, as does Steven Zunes, “The Influence of the Christian Right in U.S. Middle East Policy,” in Naim Ateek, et al., Challenging Christian Zionism (Melisende, 2005), 108-114, who may overstate CZ clout. Robert O. Smith, “Toward a Lutheran Response to Christian Zionism,” Paper, ELCA Conference of Bishops, San Mateo, CA, March, 2008 (, warns against exaggerating the impact of Christian Zionists on American politics: “It is a stretch . . . to say that Christian Zionist leaders actively shape U.S. policy toward the Middle East. Instead, . . . Christian Zionist leaders are open to being used by politicians, politicians who in turn see in Christian Zionist leaders access to an easily mobilized political bloc. In the end, Christian Zionist activism serves to maintain the status quo of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.” Likewise, Mearsheimer and Walt, Israel Lobby, 132-39, regard CZ as “a significant adjunct to the Jewish elements of the lobby, but not its most important part” (ibid., 139). The Walt-Mearsheimer thesis concerning the substantive and strategic influence on U.S. foreign policy of the so-called “Israel lobby” (= a collection of pro-Israel individuals and groups like AIPAC, AJC, ZOA, ADL), lies beyond the scope of this study and my expertise.

[11] As this paper neared completion, I discovered a similar list of CZ tenets in Stephen Sizer, “The Theological Basis of Christian Zionism,” in Ateek, Challenging Christian Zionism, 59-76: 1. An Ultra-literalist Biblical Hermeneutic. 2. The Jews Remain God’s “Chosen People.” 3. The Restoration to and Occupation of Eretz Israel. 4. Jerusalem, Eternal and Exclusive Jewish Capital. 5. The Rebuilding of the Jewish Temple. 6. Antipathy toward Arabs and Palestinians. 7. Anxious for Armageddon.

[12] Wilkinson, For Zion’s Sake, 17.

[13] Hagee, In Defense, 179.

[14] This is not to say that CZs affirm Jewish salvation apart from Jesus. See, e.g., Pawson, Defending Christian Zionism, 73-93; Hagee, In Defense, 179. Some of Hagee’s earlier statements (e.g., in Should Christians Support Israel? [1987]; cf. Clark, Allies for Armageddon, 276) appear to envision devout Jews saved apart from faith in Christ. More recently, perhaps in response to criticism, Hagee has distanced himself from “dual covenant” theology. On the post-Holocaust emergence of two-covenant theology, particularly in the context of Jewish-Christian dialogue, see Blaising, “Future of Israel,” 440, n.15.

[15] Horner, Future Israel, 143; Pawson, Defending Christian Zionism, 120-125. Never one to opt for understatement, John Hagee, In Defense of Israel, 181-182, remarks: “On May 15, 1948, a theological earthquake leveled replacement theology when nation Israel was reborn after nearly two millennia of wandering. . . . Their rebirth was living, prophetic proof that Israel has not been replaced.” On the relationship between Dispensationalists and Christian Zionists on the national future of Israel, see Darrell L. Bock and Craig A. Blaising, both Dispensationalists: “One of the most well-known features of the dispensational tradition is the belief in a future for national Israel. That future includes at least the millennial reign of Christ and for some dispensationalists, extends into the eternal state as well. Because of this strong belief, some early dispensationalists, such as W. E. Blackstone, played a key role in garnering support for the Zionist movement. That has carried forward to present times in the pro-Israeli political activities of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. While not all dispensationalists have strongly supported the modern Zionist movement, still they have traditionally held that prophecies regarding the political, national restoration, and blessing of Israel will be fulfilled in the next dispensation. And while other theologies have also come to the point of according the future of Israel serious consideration, it has often been due to the insistence of dispensationalists who have always made national Israel a prominent feature of their biblical interpretation.” Progressive Dispensationalism (Baker, 2000), 21.

[16] See Wilkinson’s discussion of “the Palestinian hoax,” For Zion’s Sake, 41-42.

[17] Phrases like “a land without a people for a people without a land” go back at least to an 1854 diary entry by ardent Restorationist, Lord Ashley, the 7th Earl of Shaftsbury (1801-1885), on which figure see D. Lewis, Origins of Christian Zionism, 151-52 and V. Clark, Allies for Armageddon, 71-72. The land’s “emptiness” was emphasized in 1891 by Old Testament scholar George A. Smith in The Historical Geography of the Holy Land: especially in relation to the history of Israel and of the early church. (Armstrong & Son, 1902). Consider this excerpt from his description of the shores of the Sea of Galilee:

“Only one town is visible, Tiberias, now a poor fevered place of less than 5000 inhabitants ; besides this there are not more than three or four small villages round all the coast. There are no farmsteads, or crofts, such as break the solitude of our most desolate Highland lochs. The lights which come out at night on shore and hill are the camp-fires of wandering Arabs. It is well known, too, how seldom a sail is seen on the surface of the Lake. How very different it was in the days when Jesus came down from Nazareth to find His home and His disciples upon these shores! Where there are now no trees there were great woods; where there are marshes, there were noble gardens; where there is but a boat or two, there were fleets of sails; where there is one town, there were nine or ten” (pp.445-446).

The claim that waves of Zionist immigrants found the Land virtually “empty” was echoed recently by Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine (1984; JKAP, 2001) and Alan Dershowitz, The Case for Israel (Wiley, 2003), 22-28. Peters’ work, however, was declared fraudulent by several serious reviewers, including Norman G. Finkelstein (whose assessment of Dershowitz is equally scathing), Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (2005; updated, UC Press, 2008), 273-298. The “empty” land narrative was recounted recently at Westmont by guest lecturer Baruch Maoz (“An Israel-Christian’s Perspective on Israel and Palestine”; Sept. 14, 2010; download available from iTunes U; relevant portion from 10:30 to 14:35). On the vitality of Arab society before and during British Mandate Palestine, see Rashid Khalidi, The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (Beacon, 2006), 1-104; Alan Hart, Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews. Vol.One. The False Messiah (Clarity, 2009), 74; and Sandy Tolan, The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East (Bloomsbury, 2007).

[18] As argued by Benny Morris, One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict (Yale, 2009), 193-96.

[19] Teplinsky, Why Care? 223-224, cites Biblical reasons to oppose a Palestinian state on Israel’s land.

[20] As heard on Bill Moyers Journal (Oct 5, 2007): (accessed 9-3-10).

[21] See, e.g., S. Teplinsky, Why Care? 49, 223, who cites as evidence the side-by-side correlations of land-for-peace diplomacy and domestic disasters in J. McTernan and B. Koenig, Israel: The Blessing or the Curse (Oklahoma City: Hearthstone, 2001), 103-04 and 212-218. For more of the same see William Koenig, Eye to Eye: Facing the Consequences of Dividing Israel (rev. ed.; About Him, 2008); J. McTernan, As America Has Done to Israel (Whitaker House, 2008).

[22] Video and transcript posted by Media Matters For America:

[23] See graphic in Frederick J. Murphy, Early Judaism: The Exile to the Time of Jesus (Hendrickson, 2002), 46. In an important sense the Temple was regarded as the part that represents the whole. See G. Beale, “The Final Vision of the Apocalypse and its Implications for a Biblical Theology of the Temple,” in T. D. Alexander & S. Gathercole, eds., Heaven on Earth: The Temple in Biblical Theology (Paternoster, 2004), 191-209, who affirms (on pp. 192, 196, 207) the claim of J. D. Levenson (“The Temple and the World,” Journal of Religion 64 [1984], pp. 294-295) that in the OT the city of Jerusalem was often shorthand for the Temple. Likewise, R. E. Clements, God and Temple (Phila.: Fortress, 1965), p.67, cited by Beale, ibid., 194.

[24] For a CZ history of the 1st and 2nd Temples and the Jewish hope for a 3rd, see Price, The Coming Last Days Temple, 59-135; T. Ice and R. Price in Ready to Rebuild: The Imminent Plan to Rebuild the Last Days Temple (Harvest House, 1992), 39-99.

[25] Lindsey, Late Great, 51, 55-58, 152; Ice and Price, Ready to Rebuild; Price, Coming Last Days Temple. Apparently John Hagee is less certain than many CZs on this point. See Clark, Allies for Armageddon, 276-77.

[26] Lindsey, Late Great, 50-55; According to J. Walvoord, Israel in Prophecy, 26 (see pp. 15-26, 115), “few events can claim equal significance as far as Biblical prophecy is concerned with that of the return of Israel to their land. It constitutes preparation for the end of the age, the setting for the coming of the Lord for His church, and the fulfillment of Israel’s prophetic destiny.”

[27] It should be noted that some influential Christian Zionist groups (e.g., the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, ICEJ) do not advocate a pre-tribulation rapture (though they do anticipate a restored Temple). See Merkley, Christian Attitudes, 177.

[28] Benny Morris, 1948: The First Arab-Israeli War (Yale, 2008), 81-93, esp. pp. 81, 85.

[29] Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford, 2006), 44.

[30] See esp. Hillel Cohen, Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948 (UC Press, 2008), 260 et passim.

[31] Avi Shlaim, “Israel and the Arab coalition in 1948” in Eugene L. Rogan and Avi Shlaim, eds., The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948 (CUP, 2001), 81. Cf. E. Rogan, “Jordan and 1948: the persistence of an official history,” in ibid., pp.110-116; Jonathan Cook, Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books, 2008), 26-27; Charles D. Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents. (7th ed.; St. Martin’s, 2007), 200-01. Shlaim, Morris and Pappe (see previous notes) are among the so-called New Historians whose research has challenged “official” Israeli historiography at many points including its position on the balance of power during the war.

[32] See Hal Lindsey, Late Great, 151-152: “When the Jews re-established their nation in Palestine they created an unsolvable problem: they displaced Arabs who had dwelt in Palestine for several centuries. All the legal debates and logical dissertations that can be advanced will never change the basic state of hostility that exists between the Israelis and the Arabs.” S. Teplinsky, Why Care? 221-24, warns of divine wrath against those who endeavor to “divide the land” by helping establish a Palestinian state. Similarly, Price, The Coming Last Days Temple, 448-49. Britt Merrick of Carpinteria Reality puts it this way: “The conflict in the Middle East is not political and therefore cannot be solved politically” (Aug 6, 2006): ( Sizer, Christian Zionism, 252, summarizes his CZ opponents: “To advocate that Israel compromise with Islam or coexist with Palestinians is to identify with those destined to oppose God and Israel in the imminent battle of Armageddon.” See also S. Spector, Evangelicals and Israel, 50-52, 76, 88-95, 109.

[33] David Brog, Standing with Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State (Frontline, 2006), 69, cited by Wilkinson, For Zion’s Sake, 69. Another key CZ verse is Ps 122:6-7.

[34] Spector, Evangelicals and Israel, 23, cites Gen 12:3 as “by far the most prominent reason evangelicals cite for their backing of the state of Israel.” Cf. Pawson, Defending Christian Zionism, 150-155; Hagee, In Defense, 95-123. On Hagee’s efforts to “honor” Israel (by forming Christians United For Israel), see ibid., 40-47, and In its literature [], CUFI speaks of “the Biblical and moral imperatives of supporting Israel.”

[35] From note 3 on p. 25, at Gen 15:18 but referring explicitly to Gen 12:3. The New Scofield Study Bible (1967) moves the note to Gen 12:2 (p.21), updates the wording slightly, and adds an ominous warning: “For a nation to commit the sin of anti-Semitism brings inevitable judgment.”

[36] Jerry Falwell, Listen, America! (Bantam, 1980), 98, cited in Spector, Evangelicals and Israel, 24.

[37] See Wilkinson, For Zion’s Sake, 37-38, for an inventory of CZ remarks. Also, Clark, Allies for Armageddon, 159-60; Britt Merrick, “How Christians Should View Israel (Part II).”, 2006, pts. 4-5 (accessed 8-21-10). For a CZ account of God’s care for Israel through history, see “The Preservation of the Jewish People” by Will Varner (Bible and Greek professor at The Master’s College) in Israel My Glory 60 (3), available online in two parts:

[38] Published in the NYT (7-29-07) and online: See also Spector, Evangelicals and Israel, 107-109.

[39] Walvoord, Israel in Prophecy, 30. For CZ interpreters, “literal” stands over against “figurative” and “spiritualizing” readings. This is not to imply that they are oblivious to symbolic language (see ibid., 30); rather, they place the burden of proof on those who would read Scripture in non-literal ways. Gorenberg, The End of Days, 121, recalls the words of Hal Lindsey: “‘If you take the Bible literally’, he says, ‘then you come up with the premillennial point of view. I hate those who read their ideas into the scripture by using allegory’.”

[40] CZs do not hesitate to cite current events as evidence of Scripture’s truthfulness. L. Nelson Bell, editor of Christianity Today, wrote in 1967: “That for the first time in more than 2,000 years Jerusalem is now in the hands of the Jews gives the students of the Bible a thrill and a renewed faith in the accuracy and validity of the Bible.” [Cited by Donald Wagner, “Bible and Sword: US Christian Zionists discover Israel,” available at] John Hagee, In Defense, 182, ups the ante: “If Israel as a nation had not been reborn, if the Jews had not returned to the land, . . . if Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) had not been settled, . . . there would be a valid reason for every person to doubt that the Word of God is true.” Similarly, Dave Hunt, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!” The Berean Call (Sept. 2000), 1, cited by Wilkinson, For Zion’s Sake, 37. Such sentiment may be sincere but it muzzles an important hermeneutical debate.

[41] Paul Richard Wilkinson, For Zion’s Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby (Paternoster, 2007), 135-161, argues that Puritanism (with its renewed interest in scripture) was the source of restorationism. On the Puritan roots of Christian Zionism, see also Clark, Allies for Armageddon, 27-50.

[42] Shalom Goldman, Zeal for Zion: Christians, Jews, and the Idea of the Promised Land (UNC, 2009), 88-136 (quote from p.105; see further 93, 102-109). Hechler had calculated that the 2nd coming of Jesus was due in 1897-98.