Cleaning Up Another Apocalyptic Mess: Israel and the Palestinians

As one Rapture-related mess is being cleaned up, we should not forget another that great minds and national leaders are still struggling with: the tensions in the Middle East and in particular the plight of the Palestinians.

Most readers have probably heard or read President Obama’s speech, as well as Israeli and Palestinian responses to it, and are thus aware of renewed efforts to bring about a settlement to longstanding issues, and hurdles and challenges that may continue to get in the way of peace and justice.

But how is this a “Rapture-related” mess?

The modern state of Israel owes its existence at least in part to the decision of Lord Balfour to grant a homeland to the Jews from the British colonial holdings in that region. Balfour was among those who, like the Rapture-oriented Christians in the United States, believed that Israel would need to be restored in order for other end-times events to occur.

For the record, the basis for this belief is the desire to have the things described in Revelation and other parts of the Bible refer to things in our present and future rather than in the time of and near future of the author and earliest readers of these works. And so the belief emerged that Israel has to become a nation again, the temple rebuilt, and the Roman Empire reconstituted, simply to have the references to those institutions in certain Biblical passages still be in the future – whereas it is much simpler, and more faithful to what these Biblical texts say, to take them as referring to the situation of Christians as it really existed in the first century.

Be that as it may, Lord Balfour believed these things had to happen because the Bible supposedly said so, and he made them happen. And so his interpretation of Scripture can be compared to that of Harold Camping, inasmuch as both are problematic even when considered abstractly, and both have left those who came after with a mess to deal with.

The key to viewing the situation in Israel in a well-informed manner involves recognizing the wider application of something that is often said in reference to the Palestinians by supporters of Israel. It is often emphasized that there was no nation “Palestine” historically. This is true. (The term “Palestine” comes from one geographic designation for the region, used at least since the time of the Greek historian Herodotus) It is also true that there was no nation Israel in the modern sense that we refer to nation states until the middle of the 20th century, either. Prior to very recently, there were simply no nation-states in the modern sense at all, but rather territories, kingdoms and empires.

Historically, there has been, at times, a united kingdom of Israel ruled over by a Jewish king. Throughout most of the history of Israel, however, “Israel” was a designation of the Northern kingdom in distinction from the Southern kingdom Judah ruled by the Davidic line. And throughout most of the history of both of those kingdoms, as well as of the region more generally, the kingdoms and territories in question were vassals of larger empires that controlled the region: Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, Rome, the Arabs, the Ottomans, and the British – to name the most famous ones. During most of the Biblical period, as during most of history, Israel was not a united or an independent kingdom, much less an autonomous nation in the sense in which we use that term today.

The creation of nations in the Middle East is a relatively recent phenomenon.

When the United States emerged from the colonial era a longer time ago, it fought wars externally and internally and struggled with its identity and the rights of its citizens. It is all too easy, when one has had a longer time to work through that process, to wonder why it seems to be taking so long for others to do the same, forgetting that for them the legacy of colonial rule ended much more recently.

Those who know the above might be forgiven for feeling that the Bible (or at least, people willing to selectively quote it for particular ends have) has done more harm than good to the situation. But those whose faith includes a central place for the Bible are not doomed to be uncritical Zionists.

The covenant that some say justifies Israel possessing the land without conditions in fact demands certain things of the people, and threatens them with defeat and exile if they do not observe the covenant stipulations. And among those covenant stipulations one finds the following:

Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt…Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt…When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them…You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born (Exodus 22:21; 23:9; Leviticus 19:33; 24:22).

The choice is not between being “Biblical” or treating Israel like any other secular democratic nation with human rights issues. The choice is between the profoundly unbiblical, selective use of Scripture by conservative Christian supporters of Israel, a purely secular approach, and an approach that encourages Israel to be true to its religious heritage and its laws regarding the treatment of aliens and foreigners, as indicated for instance in the quotations above.

The territory of Israel has always been multicultural, as far back as archaeology can trace. Different ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups being found there is not something new. And those who think the Bible is important will presumably think that so too is the treatment of minorities, and of everyone, in the region in a manner that is just and fair rather than oppressive.

Obviously there is more that could be said, and some may feel that I have not done justice to the question of who in fact ought to be considered the earlier inhabitants, and who ought to be considered the foreigners and aliens. But my point is precisely to avoid playing that game. Most of us today live on land that at least some of our ancestors did not reside on if you go back millennia. The question of who was here first can almost always be answered with “somebody else” no matter who asks it. And so my point here has been to focus on the resources within the Bible that can be utilized to advocate justice, in a region where some have made use of the Bible for precisely the opposite purpose.

  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    The bible should not be an authority today! Whenver we seek to apply scriptures, we always have a political/social persuasion…therefore, that is what “reads” (or is seen thorough) to interpret the texts….we should not go to primitive sources to resolve modern problems!!!

  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    The bible should not be an authority today! Whenver we seek to apply scriptures, we always have a political/social persuasion…therefore, that is what “reads” (or is seen thorough) to interpret the texts….we should not go to primitive sources to resolve modern problems!!!

  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    Augustine tried to give Christians hope after the fall of Rome! He was the culprit of some spiritualized vision (The City of God) that has set us up for apocalyptic faith that is separated from the real world….Paul (or the church) established a tradition of seeking the “spiritual” in the midst of the Roman Empire: to gain political power over others (Present your bodies, a living sacrifice). Today, it is no less so. The Church seeks ground by “Kingdom of God” talk, which is really humanitarianism! If someone wants to be a humanitiarian in resolving the conflict between the Palestianians and Israelis, or to do the “foot washing”….that is their personal choice of value! Not anyone elses business or right!!

  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    Augustine tried to give Christians hope after the fall of Rome! He was the culprit of some spiritualized vision (The City of God) that has set us up for apocalyptic faith that is separated from the real world….Paul (or the church) established a tradition of seeking the “spiritual” in the midst of the Roman Empire: to gain political power over others (Present your bodies, a living sacrifice). Today, it is no less so. The Church seeks ground by “Kingdom of God” talk, which is really humanitarianism! If someone wants to be a humanitiarian in resolving the conflict between the Palestianians and Israelis, or to do the “foot washing”….that is their personal choice of value! Not anyone elses business or right!!

  • JS Allen

    This feels like tinfoil hat talk to me. I don’t doubt that Darby’s dispensationalism influenced some of the people who voted to partition Palestine, but I highly doubt it was a *deciding* factor. Partitioning people by race and religion was standard operating procedure for the British. They didn’t need fevered exegesis to partition hindustan, pakistan, various arab states, and east asian colonies — why was Palestine an exception?

    Why isn’t it sufficient to say that the British faced a challenge about what to do about the Jews, and were being influenced by a powerful lobby of Zionists (who were not at all motivated by dispensationalism) encouraging them to employ standard British modus operandi?

    In addition to the (flawed, IMO) claim that Palestine never would’ve been partitioned without dispensationalism, you seem to be claiming that the world would be a better place (less of a mess to clean up) if we hadn’t partitioned Palestine. I’m not sure how you defend this claim. If you’re saying that there would be less conflict if all of the Jews were wiped out or confined to ghettos around the world, that’s certainly debatable, but I don’t see how that’s Britain’s fault in any case.

    Surely the largest part of the problem is caused by the people who use their scriptures to say that the Jews must be exterminated? As a thought experiment, imagine if an Islamic version of Darby was able to convince people that the Quran prophesied a return of Mohammed if Israel were given a stable homeland. This points out why it’s so bizarre to blame dispensationalism for the problems in Palestine. If Muslims and Christians both believed like Darby, I suspect that the problems would be nonexistent. On the other hand, if Muslims and Christians both believed the opposite, we can predict that the problems would be far worse.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      JS, I’m not sure what would have happened if Balfour’s religious views had been different. I certainly thought that I had made clear that I was not trying to either undo history, or suggest that typical British policy was not also a factor. The legacy of partitioning up of former British and other colonial territories counts for a significant proportion of ongoing conflict in the world. My point was to point out how bad Scriptural interpretation – not only Darby’s, but those today who think that any criticism of Israel represents an affront to God – can contribute to and exacerbate problems. I rejoice for every Jew who survived the Holocaust, but reject the suggestion that one has to choose between mistreatment of Jews and mistreatment of Palestinians as the only options. One of the reasons why Muslims who historically got on well with Jews living amongst them have taken an anti-Semitic stance in the modern era has a lot to do with the ongoing effects of Nazi propaganda in the region, and the ongoing plight of the Palestinians.

      Scriptures are treated as an authority by Jews, Christians and Muslims who may not even realize that they are focusing on passages that promote justice and peacemaking, or nationalism and violence, because of the circumstances they find themselves in. And so yes, it would be useful to make a similar case to the one I made here in relation to the Qur’an. It is just the convergence of premillenial dispensationalist interpretation of the Bible, and Middle East peace, being in the news at the moment, and my own Jewish and Christian heritage and interest in Biblical studies, that led me to focus on what I did. No blog post can cover everything. :-)

  • JS Allen

    This feels like tinfoil hat talk to me. I don’t doubt that Darby’s dispensationalism influenced some of the people who voted to partition Palestine, but I highly doubt it was a *deciding* factor. Partitioning people by race and religion was standard operating procedure for the British. They didn’t need fevered exegesis to partition hindustan, pakistan, various arab states, and east asian colonies — why was Palestine an exception?

    Why isn’t it sufficient to say that the British faced a challenge about what to do about the Jews, and were being influenced by a powerful lobby of Zionists (who were not at all motivated by dispensationalism) encouraging them to employ standard British modus operandi?

    In addition to the (flawed, IMO) claim that Palestine never would’ve been partitioned without dispensationalism, you seem to be claiming that the world would be a better place (less of a mess to clean up) if we hadn’t partitioned Palestine. I’m not sure how you defend this claim. If you’re saying that there would be less conflict if all of the Jews were wiped out or confined to ghettos around the world, that’s certainly debatable, but I don’t see how that’s Britain’s fault in any case.

    Surely the largest part of the problem is caused by the people who use their scriptures to say that the Jews must be exterminated? As a thought experiment, imagine if an Islamic version of Darby was able to convince people that the Quran prophesied a return of Mohammed if Israel were given a stable homeland. This points out why it’s so bizarre to blame dispensationalism for the problems in Palestine. If Muslims and Christians both believed like Darby, I suspect that the problems would be nonexistent. On the other hand, if Muslims and Christians both believed the opposite, we can predict that the problems would be far worse.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      JS, I’m not sure what would have happened if Balfour’s religious views had been different. I certainly thought that I had made clear that I was not trying to either undo history, or suggest that typical British policy was not also a factor. The legacy of partitioning up of former British and other colonial territories counts for a significant proportion of ongoing conflict in the world. My point was to point out how bad Scriptural interpretation – not only Darby’s, but those today who think that any criticism of Israel represents an affront to God – can contribute to and exacerbate problems. I rejoice for every Jew who survived the Holocaust, but reject the suggestion that one has to choose between mistreatment of Jews and mistreatment of Palestinians as the only options. One of the reasons why Muslims who historically got on well with Jews living amongst them have taken an anti-Semitic stance in the modern era has a lot to do with the ongoing effects of Nazi propaganda in the region, and the ongoing plight of the Palestinians.

      Scriptures are treated as an authority by Jews, Christians and Muslims who may not even realize that they are focusing on passages that promote justice and peacemaking, or nationalism and violence, because of the circumstances they find themselves in. And so yes, it would be useful to make a similar case to the one I made here in relation to the Qur’an. It is just the convergence of premillenial dispensationalist interpretation of the Bible, and Middle East peace, being in the news at the moment, and my own Jewish and Christian heritage and interest in Biblical studies, that led me to focus on what I did. No blog post can cover everything. :-)

  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    Busing was used as a means to rid our school system of unjust divisions of race, when I was in junior high school. So many in those years spent time riding the bus instead of sitting in the classroom. Such are the forced tactics of ridding the world of prejuidice. There will always be prejuidice! And prejuidice will cause discrimination. What else is new “under the sun”?

    I thought the land was given to the Jews as restitution over WW2. And I agree with Netanyahu that one cannot go back to previous borders. The nation has changed and people’s identities have “set”. We cannot remove a people group, the Jew, after granting them certain rights…. To remove such established and trusted rights, would create WW3, I believe. Any nation-state would feel the same way.

    It is my understanding that the Palestinian has not wanted compromise as they feel all the land is their promised inheritance. It is true that the lobbyists do get heard in the U.S.A., but that is the right of petition to our government. And the loudest cry and closest bird gets heard….

    How do you know that the lobbyists were Zionists, and what does it matter to you?

  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    Busing was used as a means to rid our school system of unjust divisions of race, when I was in junior high school. So many in those years spent time riding the bus instead of sitting in the classroom. Such are the forced tactics of ridding the world of prejuidice. There will always be prejuidice! And prejuidice will cause discrimination. What else is new “under the sun”?

    I thought the land was given to the Jews as restitution over WW2. And I agree with Netanyahu that one cannot go back to previous borders. The nation has changed and people’s identities have “set”. We cannot remove a people group, the Jew, after granting them certain rights…. To remove such established and trusted rights, would create WW3, I believe. Any nation-state would feel the same way.

    It is my understanding that the Palestinian has not wanted compromise as they feel all the land is their promised inheritance. It is true that the lobbyists do get heard in the U.S.A., but that is the right of petition to our government. And the loudest cry and closest bird gets heard….

    How do you know that the lobbyists were Zionists, and what does it matter to you?

  • JS Allen

    OK, and to be fair, Harold Camping’s apocalyptic reading wasn’t a deciding factor for many people, either. So maybe it’s not a bad analogy.

  • JS Allen

    OK, and to be fair, Harold Camping’s apocalyptic reading wasn’t a deciding factor for many people, either. So maybe it’s not a bad analogy.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Angie, however much I might agree with the sentiment of your comment warning against turning to ancient texts for solutions to modern problems, I find the reality to be more complex somewhat. We take older texts – whether the Torah, the United States Constitution, or something else – as in some way definitive or authoritative, and yet as much as those texts shape us, we shape the meaning perceived in the present “in” those texts. And so I think that however much it makes sense to advise against treating ancient texts as providing “the answer” to our problems, we also need to discuss the ways we find meaning in history and in texts from the past, so that we can learn to use them wisely, since it seems inevitable that they will continue to be discussed and cited in spite of warnings of the sort you offered.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Angie, however much I might agree with the sentiment of your comment warning against turning to ancient texts for solutions to modern problems, I find the reality to be more complex somewhat. We take older texts – whether the Torah, the United States Constitution, or something else – as in some way definitive or authoritative, and yet as much as those texts shape us, we shape the meaning perceived in the present “in” those texts. And so I think that however much it makes sense to advise against treating ancient texts as providing “the answer” to our problems, we also need to discuss the ways we find meaning in history and in texts from the past, so that we can learn to use them wisely, since it seems inevitable that they will continue to be discussed and cited in spite of warnings of the sort you offered.

  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    Are you saying that a tribal understanding of society is better than a Constitutional government?
    Are you suggesting that a pre-scientific view of reality is to be promoted and upheld? I know you are not.

    I don’t think that “the bible” is used by many to address pertinant questions of today, unless they are fundamentalists. These can’t be reasoned out of their way of thinking because they fear what might happen if they are “led astray”!! Their understanding of life and all that is is “wooden” and doesn’t allow for diverse viewpoints… Such are the Amish and Mennonite communities.

    The bible is not useful except to justify prejuidice, and group behavior, which define their understanding of life and all that is upon some simplistic verse or tradition they have been taught. Such a tradition is a matter of spirituality and distinguishing oneself, which makes for judgments of another and “the world”.

  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    Are you saying that a tribal understanding of society is better than a Constitutional government?
    Are you suggesting that a pre-scientific view of reality is to be promoted and upheld? I know you are not.

    I don’t think that “the bible” is used by many to address pertinant questions of today, unless they are fundamentalists. These can’t be reasoned out of their way of thinking because they fear what might happen if they are “led astray”!! Their understanding of life and all that is is “wooden” and doesn’t allow for diverse viewpoints… Such are the Amish and Mennonite communities.

    The bible is not useful except to justify prejuidice, and group behavior, which define their understanding of life and all that is upon some simplistic verse or tradition they have been taught. Such a tradition is a matter of spirituality and distinguishing oneself, which makes for judgments of another and “the world”.

  • Michael Bird

    James, you have to watch the DVD “With God on our Side” which is a Christian critique of Christian Zionism. Five stars!

  • Michael Bird

    James, you have to watch the DVD “With God on our Side” which is a Christian critique of Christian Zionism. Five stars!

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Angie, I am glad you could tell that I’m not advocating theocracy ov a constitutional democracy! But even in the case of the U.S. Constitution, we have found ourselves able to interpret it more liberally than its authors envisaged, giving rights to women and abolishing slavery and doing other things that go beyond what is written. There is a long history of doing the same with the Bible – finding loopholes, identifying principles and allowing them to trump specific passages. And so I think the issue is less whether there are older texts that are important to us, but our willingness to depart from them, disagree with them, and interpret them when we reach a point where we are able to see that those earlier compositions don’t go as far as we need them to in the present.

    Mike, thanks for the movie recommendation!

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Angie, I am glad you could tell that I’m not advocating theocracy ov a constitutional democracy! But even in the case of the U.S. Constitution, we have found ourselves able to interpret it more liberally than its authors envisaged, giving rights to women and abolishing slavery and doing other things that go beyond what is written. There is a long history of doing the same with the Bible – finding loopholes, identifying principles and allowing them to trump specific passages. And so I think the issue is less whether there are older texts that are important to us, but our willingness to depart from them, disagree with them, and interpret them when we reach a point where we are able to see that those earlier compositions don’t go as far as we need them to in the present.

    Mike, thanks for the movie recommendation!

  • Bob MacDonald

    OK – what’s supposed to be in the big space at the top of the post?

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Did the picture of the British Mandate of Palestine not load? Try refreshing…

  • Bob MacDonald

    OK – what’s supposed to be in the big space at the top of the post?

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Did the picture of the British Mandate of Palestine not load? Try refreshing…

  • PotterStuart

    Professor, Israel owes its existence to the fact that the World stood by while Hitler proceeded to exterminate the Jews.

    Sure, the World fought back…but only when attacked by Hitler, not to save the Jews.

    Israelis today say…NEVER AGAIN.

    Don’t you understand that they will not just sit back and let themselves be put in a position where they could be militarily defeated and a new EXTERMINATION begun?

    The JEWS have Nuclear Weapons.

    The Samson Option is in place.

    If the World stands by again…it can suffer a Nuclear Winter.

    The Gentiles will join us in the Ovens if that day ever comes again.

  • PotterStuart

    Professor, Israel owes its existence to the fact that the World stood by while Hitler proceeded to exterminate the Jews.

    Sure, the World fought back…but only when attacked by Hitler, not to save the Jews.

    Israelis today say…NEVER AGAIN.

    Don’t you understand that they will not just sit back and let themselves be put in a position where they could be militarily defeated and a new EXTERMINATION begun?

    The JEWS have Nuclear Weapons.

    The Samson Option is in place.

    If the World stands by again…it can suffer a Nuclear Winter.

    The Gentiles will join us in the Ovens if that day ever comes again.

  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    PotterStuart,
    This is commendable that Jews don’t want to be the victim again! And it is also true, I think, that people did not get involved until they had a stake in the issue. But, isn’t this the way the political world works for the most part; self-interestedly. Self interest does not deny what really happened as Iran seems to want to do. The Holocost was a reality. And for that, there needed to be restitution.

    America cannot take care of the world’s humanitarian problems, but some seem to think that this is our obligation or responsibility. Without intervention, it is supposed that hunger, poverty and disease will allow “evil governments” to increase their power, or exasperate rival groups for limited resources. America is stretched now with our engagement in three countries, and Americans ask why we are involved in the first place. Is America to “foot the bill” for the world’s needs? It seems that those that begrudge America’s success do…..there have been no direct and complete answers.

    But, if Israel believes that they have a right, then the Palestinians do, as well, don’t they? How does one compromise or negotiate such a difficulty? Many think that Palestinians also need a geographical identity. Is there room somewhere for those that are displaced to go and have a home? The problem lies in the question of who “owns the Temple Mount” doesn’t it?

  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    PotterStuart,
    This is commendable that Jews don’t want to be the victim again! And it is also true, I think, that people did not get involved until they had a stake in the issue. But, isn’t this the way the political world works for the most part; self-interestedly. Self interest does not deny what really happened as Iran seems to want to do. The Holocost was a reality. And for that, there needed to be restitution.

    America cannot take care of the world’s humanitarian problems, but some seem to think that this is our obligation or responsibility. Without intervention, it is supposed that hunger, poverty and disease will allow “evil governments” to increase their power, or exasperate rival groups for limited resources. America is stretched now with our engagement in three countries, and Americans ask why we are involved in the first place. Is America to “foot the bill” for the world’s needs? It seems that those that begrudge America’s success do…..there have been no direct and complete answers.

    But, if Israel believes that they have a right, then the Palestinians do, as well, don’t they? How does one compromise or negotiate such a difficulty? Many think that Palestinians also need a geographical identity. Is there room somewhere for those that are displaced to go and have a home? The problem lies in the question of who “owns the Temple Mount” doesn’t it?

  • Bob MacDonald

    I’m using Chrome – the image shows only if I open it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Is it better now?

  • Bob MacDonald

    I’m using Chrome – the image shows only if I open it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Is it better now?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Elsewhere on Patheos, Scot McKnight on Jesus Creed also shared some thoughts on the recent exchange between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Elsewhere on Patheos, Scot McKnight on Jesus Creed also shared some thoughts on the recent exchange between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

  • Bob MacDonald

    yes the image is now fixed.

  • Bob MacDonald

    yes the image is now fixed.

  • Tony_theprof

    I can’;t find the slightest trace of Balfour’s dispensationialists views, and while there are links between him and others who were dispensationists, that hardly counts as evidence, any more than links between Darwin and his acquaintances suggests he held their beliefs!

    From his most prominent writings, such as his Gifford Lectures, I cannot see the slightest trace of that kind of thinking, and I would really like to know the source of these statements, as they don’t seem to be backed up with any documentation.

  • Tony_theprof

    I can’;t find the slightest trace of Balfour’s dispensationialists views, and while there are links between him and others who were dispensationists, that hardly counts as evidence, any more than links between Darwin and his acquaintances suggests he held their beliefs!

    From his most prominent writings, such as his Gifford Lectures, I cannot see the slightest trace of that kind of thinking, and I would really like to know the source of these statements, as they don’t seem to be backed up with any documentation.

  • http://www.gentlewisdom.org.uk/ Peter Kirk

    I think Tony is right. It seems to be a myth that Balfour was a dispensationalist. See http://www.biblicist.org/bible/hank.shtml

    But I agree that the current mess is down to a man trying to make God’s purposes happen, but in his own way, not God’s: not Balfour but Abraham, in sleeping with Hagar. The roots of this conflict are traced by both sides back to the birth of Ishmael, that “wild donkey of a man [whose] hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility towards all his brothers” (Genesis 16:12). But of course it takes two sides to perpetuate that hostility for 4000 years.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Tony and Peter, I’ve found sources supporting as well as some questioning the influence of Dispensationalism on Balfour. Most of the academic sources I looked at seemed to suggest that, if it was not at that point his own view, it seems to have been held by a significant number of those who influenced and supported his plan. But you may be right that the link was at the very least more indirect than I implied.

  • http://www.gentlewisdom.org.uk/ Peter Kirk

    I think Tony is right. It seems to be a myth that Balfour was a dispensationalist. See http://www.biblicist.org/bible/hank.shtml

    But I agree that the current mess is down to a man trying to make God’s purposes happen, but in his own way, not God’s: not Balfour but Abraham, in sleeping with Hagar. The roots of this conflict are traced by both sides back to the birth of Ishmael, that “wild donkey of a man [whose] hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility towards all his brothers” (Genesis 16:12). But of course it takes two sides to perpetuate that hostility for 4000 years.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Tony and Peter, I’ve found sources supporting as well as some questioning the influence of Dispensationalism on Balfour. Most of the academic sources I looked at seemed to suggest that, if it was not at that point his own view, it seems to have been held by a significant number of those who influenced and supported his plan. But you may be right that the link was at the very least more indirect than I implied.

  • PotterStuart

    Angie, the Palestianians elected Hamas.

    Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel.

    The Palestinians chose, and have given up their rights. They can all move east of the Jordan and get out of Israel for all I care.

    Your post means nothing, and no one cares what you think is commendable.

    The JEWS will never just sit back and be shoveled into the ovens like they were the last time.

    This time, if the worst happens, the WORLD will experience NUCLEAR WINTER and join us in the ovens.

    The WORLD needs to GET IT…what happened to the JEWS is not going to be allowed to happen again without a fight that will INVOLVE THE ENTIRE PLANET.

    THE SAMSON OPTION IS IN PLACE.

    Deal with it.

    • Angie VanDeMerwe

      I am ill informed, as to the history of Israel and Palestine. And it is necessary for the world to know that history. I didn’t realize that Hamas was the official “government”, if one can call it that. I was given the impression that Hamas was just a segment of the Palestinians and that the Palestinians were suffering from being misplaced and hardship due to their circumstances…

      I realize that Hamas in not an organization that one can deal with rationally, as they are ideologically driven.

      Thanks for your response. Keep informing people.

  • PotterStuart

    Angie, the Palestianians elected Hamas.

    Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel.

    The Palestinians chose, and have given up their rights. They can all move east of the Jordan and get out of Israel for all I care.

    Your post means nothing, and no one cares what you think is commendable.

    The JEWS will never just sit back and be shoveled into the ovens like they were the last time.

    This time, if the worst happens, the WORLD will experience NUCLEAR WINTER and join us in the ovens.

    The WORLD needs to GET IT…what happened to the JEWS is not going to be allowed to happen again without a fight that will INVOLVE THE ENTIRE PLANET.

    THE SAMSON OPTION IS IN PLACE.

    Deal with it.

    • Angie VanDeMerwe

      I am ill informed, as to the history of Israel and Palestine. And it is necessary for the world to know that history. I didn’t realize that Hamas was the official “government”, if one can call it that. I was given the impression that Hamas was just a segment of the Palestinians and that the Palestinians were suffering from being misplaced and hardship due to their circumstances…

      I realize that Hamas in not an organization that one can deal with rationally, as they are ideologically driven.

      Thanks for your response. Keep informing people.

  • PotterStuart

    Angie, the Palestianians elected Hamas.

    Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel.

    The Palestinians chose, and have given up their rights. They can all move east of the Jordan and get out of Israel for all I care.

    Your post means nothing, and no one cares what you think is commendable.

    The JEWS will never just sit back and be shoveled into the ovens like they were the last time.

    This time, if the worst happens, the WORLD will experience NUCLEAR WINTER and join us in the ovens.

    The WORLD needs to GET IT…what happened to the JEWS is not going to be allowed to happen again without a fight that will INVOLVE THE ENTIRE PLANET.

    THE SAMSON OPTION IS IN PLACE.

    Deal with it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      PotterStuart, posting the same thing over and over again is spam, and having had to deal with a spammer with the same tactic and style of ALL CAPS rants I should let you know that I have a low tolerance for that sort of thing. I am happy to allow discussion and hope that a wide range of views are going to be expressed and discussed, but that’s decidedely different from what a spammer who copies and pastes the same thing multiple times brings to a blog. And so I warn you that if you are here to spam as part of an antisemitic campaign to make Jews look bad by suggesting that they are eager to unleash a nuclear holocaust on the world, then expect to find your comments marked as spam in the near future.

      Or to put it in a manner you may be more likely to understand:
      The spam filter option is in place. Deal with it. :-)

      • HerbertWest

        And the Samson Option is in place.

        It is not a joke.

        It is not a Myth.

        What happened to the jews in World War Two will never happen again.

        Deal with it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    PotterStuart, posting the same thing over and over again is spam, and having had to deal with a spammer with the same tactic and style of ALL CAPS rants I should let you know that I have a low tolerance for that sort of thing. I am happy to allow discussion and hope that a wide range of views are going to be expressed and discussed, but that’s decidedely different from what a spammer who copies and pastes the same thing multiple times brings to a blog. And so I warn you that if you are here to spam as part of an antisemitic campaign to make Jews look bad by suggesting that they are eager to unleash a nuclear holocaust on the world, then expect to find your comments marked as spam in the near future.

    Or to put it in a manner you may be more likely to understand:
    The spam filter option is in place. Deal with it. :-)

    • HerbertWest

      And the Samson Option is in place.

      It is not a joke.

      It is not a Myth.

      What happened to the jews in World War Two will never happen again.

      Deal with it.

  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    I must say that human experience teaches that no one can make a judgement call without all the facts of the matter. That means one has to look at the history behind human events and then decide whose right lines up where. Even then, though it will helpin understanding, it will not do to hold to retributive justice in most instances internationally. This would be backward thinking because the climate has changed, as Netanyahu pointed out….

    I do not believe that we can affirm terrorists by listening to their threats. Nor can we upset the “apple cart” by negating what is in place and gives some sanity, as in “law and order”. Therefore the sins of the past whatever they are and however they are assessed can never be rectified directly by going back to the past…one has to learn from the past and go forward….The “justice” retribution is the stance of the “Black Panthers” in using revolution to usurp injustices…that will never resolve the world’s problems. One must go “from here” and let bygones be bygones…that is important for healing and an establishment of the future….

  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    I must say that human experience teaches that no one can make a judgement call without all the facts of the matter. That means one has to look at the history behind human events and then decide whose right lines up where. Even then, though it will helpin understanding, it will not do to hold to retributive justice in most instances internationally. This would be backward thinking because the climate has changed, as Netanyahu pointed out….

    I do not believe that we can affirm terrorists by listening to their threats. Nor can we upset the “apple cart” by negating what is in place and gives some sanity, as in “law and order”. Therefore the sins of the past whatever they are and however they are assessed can never be rectified directly by going back to the past…one has to learn from the past and go forward….The “justice” retribution is the stance of the “Black Panthers” in using revolution to usurp injustices…that will never resolve the world’s problems. One must go “from here” and let bygones be bygones…that is important for healing and an establishment of the future….

  • Tony_theprof

    James, I’ve done some considerable digging into Balfour’s sources, and there is no indication that he believed in any dispensationalism. In fact, insofar as his religion impacted on his politics, it seems to have been a kind of ethical liberalism.

    He became interested in Zionism because he couldn’t understand why the Zionists had rejected the 1902 offer of land for settlement in British East Africa by the British Government, which seemed to him perfectly reasonable (hardly a dispensationalist belief!). He met Dr. Weizmann, who was the leader of one of the Zionist circles, and his niece describes how Dr. Weizmann told of this meeting:

    I began to sweat blood to make my meaning clear through my English. At the very end I made an effort, I had an idea. I said: ‘Mr. Balfour, if you were offered Paris instead of London, would you take it? Would you take Paris instead of London?’ He looked surprised. He: ‘But London is our own!’ I said: ‘ Jerusalem was our own when London was a marsh.’ He said: ‘That’s true!’ I did not see him again till 1916.”

    Balfour for his part told me often about the impression the conversation made on him. “It was from that talk with Weizmann that I saw that the Jewish form of patriotism was unique. Their love for their country refused to be satisfied by the Uganda scheme. It was Weizmann’s absolute refusal even to look at it which impressed me.”

  • Tony_theprof

    James, I’ve done some considerable digging into Balfour’s sources, and there is no indication that he believed in any dispensationalism. In fact, insofar as his religion impacted on his politics, it seems to have been a kind of ethical liberalism.

    He became interested in Zionism because he couldn’t understand why the Zionists had rejected the 1902 offer of land for settlement in British East Africa by the British Government, which seemed to him perfectly reasonable (hardly a dispensationalist belief!). He met Dr. Weizmann, who was the leader of one of the Zionist circles, and his niece describes how Dr. Weizmann told of this meeting:

    I began to sweat blood to make my meaning clear through my English. At the very end I made an effort, I had an idea. I said: ‘Mr. Balfour, if you were offered Paris instead of London, would you take it? Would you take Paris instead of London?’ He looked surprised. He: ‘But London is our own!’ I said: ‘ Jerusalem was our own when London was a marsh.’ He said: ‘That’s true!’ I did not see him again till 1916.”

    Balfour for his part told me often about the impression the conversation made on him. “It was from that talk with Weizmann that I saw that the Jewish form of patriotism was unique. Their love for their country refused to be satisfied by the Uganda scheme. It was Weizmann’s absolute refusal even to look at it which impressed me.”

  • Tony_theprof

    But there were also very strong political motivations – the same sort as we see when America, for instance, gets involved in South America to protect its foreign policy interests.

    The British issued the Balfour declaration for a number of reasons: to preempt what was expected to be a similar announcement by Germany; to win the support of worldwide Jewry, especially in the United States and USSR, that would aid the war effort; and to have a group beholden to British interests in Palestine in order to protect the right flank of the Suez Canal, act as a buffer between the anticipated French position in Syria and the British position in Egypt, and provide a land bridge from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf (from Palestine across Transjordan and Iraq to the Gulf.

  • Tony_theprof

    But there were also very strong political motivations – the same sort as we see when America, for instance, gets involved in South America to protect its foreign policy interests.

    The British issued the Balfour declaration for a number of reasons: to preempt what was expected to be a similar announcement by Germany; to win the support of worldwide Jewry, especially in the United States and USSR, that would aid the war effort; and to have a group beholden to British interests in Palestine in order to protect the right flank of the Suez Canal, act as a buffer between the anticipated French position in Syria and the British position in Egypt, and provide a land bridge from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf (from Palestine across Transjordan and Iraq to the Gulf.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Tony, thank you so much for the additional information about Balfour. It seems that whatever sources I derived the impression from that Balfour was a dispensationalist may have been mistaken. I wonder whether this was simply an error on their part, an assumption, the perpetuation of a pre-Internet rumor, or whether over the course of his life his views changed. Perhaps I should find a reliable book about him to take along for in-flight reading this summer!

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Tony, thank you so much for the additional information about Balfour. It seems that whatever sources I derived the impression from that Balfour was a dispensationalist may have been mistaken. I wonder whether this was simply an error on their part, an assumption, the perpetuation of a pre-Internet rumor, or whether over the course of his life his views changed. Perhaps I should find a reliable book about him to take along for in-flight reading this summer!

  • Deane

    Balfour’s memorandum sent to Lord Curzon in 1919: ‘For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country…the four great powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism…is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import tha[n] the desires and prejudices of 700 000 Arabs who now inhabit the land’” (Ingrams, Doreen. Palestine Papers 1917-1922: Seeds of Conflict. London: John Murray, 1972, 73).

  • Deane

    Balfour’s memorandum sent to Lord Curzon in 1919: ‘For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country…the four great powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism…is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import tha[n] the desires and prejudices of 700 000 Arabs who now inhabit the land’” (Ingrams, Doreen. Palestine Papers 1917-1922: Seeds of Conflict. London: John Murray, 1972, 73).

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Thanks for your comment, Deane, and since you didn’t make reference to it, let me share a link to your post on this topic, too:

    http://remnantofgiants.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/david-and-goliath-israel-and-palestine/

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Thanks for your comment, Deane, and since you didn’t make reference to it, let me share a link to your post on this topic, too:

    http://remnantofgiants.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/david-and-goliath-israel-and-palestine/

  • http://www.gentlewisdom.org.uk/ Peter Kirk

    James, whatever you may think of Herbert’s comment, it is surely true that the Israelis have a nuclear capability and would not be afraid to use it if they faced what they perceived as a threat of annihilation by their neighbours. They are factoring this into their attitude to peace talks, and others would be wise to also. I write this not to approve of this threat, simply to note its existence.

  • http://www.gentlewisdom.org.uk/ Peter Kirk

    James, whatever you may think of Herbert’s comment, it is surely true that the Israelis have a nuclear capability and would not be afraid to use it if they faced what they perceived as a threat of annihilation by their neighbours. They are factoring this into their attitude to peace talks, and others would be wise to also. I write this not to approve of this threat, simply to note its existence.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Peter, my only objection to the comment by “Herbert” is that the last time he was “Stuart” and copied and pasted the exact same comment. I’d be happy to discuss nuclear weapons as deterrent, but copying and pasting a rant isn’t discussion, it’s spam, and so I will probably have to make use of the spam filter if whatever his real name is cannot switch from spam mode to real human being having a conversation mode.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Peter, my only objection to the comment by “Herbert” is that the last time he was “Stuart” and copied and pasted the exact same comment. I’d be happy to discuss nuclear weapons as deterrent, but copying and pasting a rant isn’t discussion, it’s spam, and so I will probably have to make use of the spam filter if whatever his real name is cannot switch from spam mode to real human being having a conversation mode.

  • http://cawoodm.wordpress.com/ Marc

    “The choice is between the profoundly unbiblical, selective use of Scripture”… Erm, that may be irresponsible, but it ain’t unbiblical. The biblical writers and speakers did it as well. Think of Paul’s use of selected Genesis verses to show how circumcision was unrelated (or at least unnecessary) to covenant when the context shows it was. Or, to pick on poor Paul again, his idea that the Law was given unto death not life, contra Deuteronomy. Being selective is human.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @cawoodm:disqus , that’s a fair point. I was, of course, addressing selectivity on the part of those who claim not to be selective and that “picking and choosing” is unbiblical, but one can indeed make the case that it is profoundly biblical! :)


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