Friday, March 22, 2013

Jerusalem: Not Holy?

I like reading opposing viewpoints. So, when I saw that "Jesus and the Holy City" by Anglican minister Peter Walker was enthusiastically endorsed by Tom Wright & Gary Burge, I added it to my library. It was a bargain at Half Price Books anyway. You can get a decent fix on Walker's position HERE:

"Walker’s book is a healthy antidote to the earth bound and materialistic theology of much Christian Zionism, preoccupied as it is with the rebuilding of an earthly Temple, with supporting Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem and their conquest of most of the Middle East to fulfil the Abrahamic promise."

Walker writes:

"...Jerusalem has lost whatever theological status it previously possessed. The way the Old Testament ascribes to Jerusalem a special, central and sacred status within the on-going purposes of God is not reaffirmed by the New Testament writers. Instead they see God’s purposes as having moved forward into a new era in which the previous emphasis on the city (as well as on the Land and the Temple) is no longer appropriate. The coming of Jesus has been its undoing...Jesus expressed his true love for Jerusalem not by acceding to its agendas but by denying them. Those who follow in his steps and who truly love Jerusalem may similarly have to resist some of the enticements which this city offers." (p. 319, 326 Emphasis mine)

"The argument of this present book is that the New Testament understands these Old Testament promises of 'restoration' to have been fulfilled in Christ, and that therefore fulfillments of a different kind are not in accordance with New Testament expectation." (p 323)

"...the New Testament asserts that it is possible to have a high christological (sic) doctrine which does not lead to a parallel elevation of Jerusalem (or its 'holy places'); on the contrary, the higher one's christology (sic), the greater the tragedy of what occurred in Jerusalem and the more logical conviction that this 'Christ' could indeed fulfill the previous functions of the Temple and city in his own person...contrary to the opinion of many, this was a vital issue for the apostles, and that they were forced to the unexpected conclusion that the longed-for 'restoration' of Israel had been accomplished in Christ." (p 324)

Ironically, the organizers of the Christ at the Checkpoint Conferences, Sabeel, and other anti-Israel activists habitually refer to Palestine and Jerusalem as "The Holy Land" and "The Holy City". It appears that they are only a Holy Land and City if they incorporate inter-faith racial diversity, sans a Jewish state. But scratch the "Holy" from anything to do with OT Zionism, i.e., ownership of the land and a distinctive national role for a Jewish Israel.

According to Gary Burge:

"Peter Walker’s study is both comprehensive in its scope and practical in its wisdom...Walker shows how a correct view of the Jerusalem theme will utterly affect not only our biblical theology but also our politics as we view Jerusalem today." (Emphasis mine)

Burge is right about one thing; he is an excellent example of a theology shaping one's political view of Israel and Jerusalem. His form of political activism is okay because it's driven by the right theology. The problem is that this theologically-driven politics consistently and unfairly demonizes and disadvantages a nation that struggles to exist within a hostile region.

Here's another interesting comment:

"Walker shows that it is quite vacuous for Christians to quote Old Testament texts concerning Jerusalem to imply that God’s purposes remained unchanged with the coming of Jesus. Walker shows convincingly that the way New Testament writers view Jerusalem is indicative of the way they view the Land." (Emphasis mine)

Maybe I missed something. The OT affirms promises to Israel that need to be reaffirmed in the NT if they are to remain viable? Who made that rule up?

Walker cites a number of academic sources that agree with him. Yet he barely acknowledges OT passages relevant to Israel. There's no need for him to expound them as they reside, impotently, in the wrong part of the Bible and, hence, don't align with the NT's new perspective. He skillfully steers around problem areas in a manner that would have made the Captain of the Titanic envious. He insists that Jesus: "pointedly did not promise a restoration of Jerusalem after the forthcoming destruction." He notes parallels between Jesus' narrative and Jeremiah's prophecy, but assumes that Jeremiah's restoration is post-exilic (no exposition provided), and insists again that: "Jesus made no such promise [of restoration]".

Walker performs a neat Aikido-like sidestep around Jesus' response to the disciples in Acts 1:6-7 (pp 284-285 etc), reminiscent of Waltke in Discontinuity (p 273). While ignoring the significance of Jesus' time-centered response in v 7, he points to Luke 24:21(p 285) as evidence that Jesus rebuked the Emmaus disciples over their expectation of the nature of Israel's redemption. Citing vv 25-26 as support, he avoids the obvious conclusion that, if Jesus expected these disciples to understand what the prophets wrote about Himself literally, then why not what they wrote about Israel literally? Moreover, the context of vv 21-32 demonstrates that the disciples' concerns were not exclusively about Israel's redemption, but also about Jesus Himself.

Walker links the "third day" with Hos 6:2 and Jonah, and then cites Dodd to conclude that: "the resurrection of Christ is the resurrection of Israel of which the prophets spoke." Presumably, this verse abrogates Hos 5:15, the rest of the book, and pretty much the rest of the OT relevant to future national Israel.

Don't bother with Rom 11:28-29 either. Perhaps it was just an oversight that he stopped at Rom 11: 27. Or maybe he figured that the intelligent reader should have worked out what the NT perspective was by then.

Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Rom 11:28-29

What irrevocable gifts and calling to unbelieving Israel would these be, exactly? On this, Walker is silent. If quoting God's OT promises to Israel is a "vacuous" exercise, then, given that God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), does not that make God disingenuous? I mean, why bother making detailed promises if Your audience understands them one way, but You're eventually going to transform the identity of the recipients and the nature of the blessings anyway?

Speaking of vacuous:

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth-- If I do not exalt Jerusalem Above my chief joy. (Psa 137:5-6

"then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever. Jer 7:7

Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, And its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name): If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the LORD, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever." Thus says the LORD: If heaven above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel For all that they have done, says the LORD. Jer 31:35-37

"Then say to them, `Thus says the Lord GOD: "Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; "and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. "They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God. Eze 37:21-23

I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, And no longer shall they be pulled up From the land I have given them," Says the LORD your God. Amos 9:14-15

For thus says the LORD of hosts: "He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye. Zec 2:8

"For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. Mal 3:6

Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" **And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority Act 1:6-7

Note from the Walker Wright Burge Study Bible (Antidote to the LaHaye Scofield versions):

**Jesus told the disciples to scrap those Old Promises. There's a change of Agenda. This is, after all, the NT.

Further reading:

Thomas Constable: Notes on Hosea


The New Jerusalem

See also Paul Henebury's:

A Disingenuous God?

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