A resolution that was considered by the Presbyterian Church brings up a very interesting theological problem facing some sects of modern xianity. Now I really don’t care about the theological positions of other religions or sects except if they are pushing to oppress or kill Jews. But it’s worth examining this one because of the conundrum they face DUE TO THE JEWS REFUSING TO DIE…
“The Presbytery of Chicago overtures the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.), to:
1. distinguish between the biblical terms that refer to the ancient land of Israel and the modern political State of Israel;
2. develop educational materials, with the help of our Presbyterian seminaries, for clergy, church musicians, worship leaders, and Christian educators regarding the “ancient Israel/modern Israel” distinction; and
3. inform our ecumenical partners of this action, nationally and globally—particularly within Israel and Palestine.
This overture was prompted by the publication of the beautiful new publication of Glory to God, The Presbyterian Hymnal, 2013, which has a section of hymns under the unfortunate heading: “God’s covenant with Israel.”
The use of the phrase “God’s covenant with Israel,” is open to interpretation by the reader/singer. Is this “biblical Israel”? Is it the “modern State of Israel”? As one Palestinian American Presbyterian who is a ruling elder said in a letter to those responsible for the publication of the new hymnal:
“Because I am a Palestinian Christian, I am uneasy with the word “Israel” in “God’s Covenant with Israel”—I am always told, however, that what is meant by “Israel” is Biblical Israel and not today’s Israel; but do all Christians know this? With the prevalence of Christian Zionism, which the G.A. repudiated in 2004, I highly doubt it. Even if not intentional, this language is inflammatory, misleading, and hurtful”
When xianity, via the Catholic Church, came about but insisted on using the Torah, what they call the “Old Testament”, as a base on which to build, the had the theological problem. There are many many many references to the Jewish people, Israel, Zion, and Jerusalem throughout the Torah and Prophets. They needed a way to position the Church as the successor to the Jewish people – which they did via a theological formulation called Supersessionism (also called fulfillment theology and replacement theology).
And this would have worked out fine IF THE JEWS WERE ALL KILLED OFF OR FADED AWAY…. if the Jews became extinct. Sadly for the Church, even under heavy persecution and significant slaughters every generation or so, those darned Jews refused to die.
Now we see the Presbyterians facing the same theological problem. Their prayer books and religious books start with the Torah and Prophets, and Psalms, which are still loaded with references to the Jewish people, Israel, Zion, and Jerusalem. If they were referring to a historic entity that no longer existed, this would work out fine (theologically speaking) (fine for them at least). But since those darn Jews have refused to die, convert, fade away, or even be wiped out by repeated genocides, they have a theological conundrum.
And worst of all, those darn Jews had the nerve to gather together in Israel and rebuild the Holy Land into a functional modern nation state.
So… is Israel Israel? Because if it is, if the Jews – who carry a mesorah (a chain of tradition from generation to generation) are the Hebrews, the Jewish People, the Holy People, the Light Unto the Nations, then those who would pretend Israel is not Israel have a foundational problem with their theology.
Their only way to resolve it is to declare the Jews not the Jews, so Israel can not be Israel.
Good luck with that.