On May 3, the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland issued a report to be presented at the Church’s General Assembly starting May 18, entitled “The inheritance of Abraham? A report on the ‘promised land.’” The report draws on classic replacement theology to invalidate the state of Israel and the ancient Jewish hope for a return to Zion, including statements like this:
If Jesus is indeed the Yes to all God’s promises, the promise to Abraham is fulfilled through the impact of Jesus, not by restoration of land to the Jewish people. Jesus gave a new direction and message for the people of God, one which did not feature a special area of land for them. . . . Promises about the land of Israel were never intended to be taken literally, or as applying to a defined geographical territory.
The report drew so much criticism from Jewish and Christian communities that it was withdrawn for revision on May 8, and then re-issued at the opening of the General Assembly on May 17. Click here to download the full report.
The UMJC joined with other international Messianic Jewish organizations in issuing the following response.
Leaders of the International Messianic Jewish Alliance (IMJA), the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA), the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC), the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues (IAMCS) and the British Messianic Jewish Alliance (BMJA) have issued the following open letter to the Church of Scotland as they consider adopting this report and position against Israel.
Throughout history, Christian anti-Semitism and persecution of the Jewish people have followed a distinct and clear pattern. The first phase is the defaming, delegitimizing and demonizing of the Jewish people, thus providing justification for further persecution. The second phase often isolates the Jewish people economically by calling for boycotts of Jewish businesses and products. This leads to further measures which include the destruction of Jewish communal life, often resulting in national expulsion and bloodshed. Over the last seventeen hundred years this shameful pattern has resulted in the loss of millions of Jewish lives.
In recent decades, Christian denominations, as well as individual Christian thinkers and theologians, have renounced Christian anti-Semitic attitudes and anti-Jewish positions and helped to open a whole new era of understanding and Jewish-Christian dialogue. “The Inheritance of Abraham,” originally released on May 3 and still under consideration by the Church of Scotland, abandons this progress to revert to centuries-old mischaracterizations of the Jewish people in the following dangerous ways:
- The report ignores the clear contextual teaching of Scripture in favor of a faulty, out-of- context, and biased theology. This is evidenced in the report’s claim that, “Promises about the land of Israel were never intended to be taken literally, or as applying to a defined geographical territory” (p. 8; emphasis added). Thus with one brief and unsupported comment the report attempts to overturn not only the plain sense of Scripture, but also centuries of Jewish biblical interpretation and practice. As the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities noted on May 3, “The arrogance of telling the Jewish people how to interpret Jewish texts and Jewish theology is breathtaking” (http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-News/Scottish-church-Jews-not-entitled-to-Holy-Land-312088, accessed May 5).
- A second profound flaw is the report’s mischaracterization of Zionism and the history of Israel. In 1947 the Jewish people accepted the UN partition plan, which established the borders for both a Jewish State and a Palestinian state. It was the Palestinian Arabs, as well as every Arab nation around Israel, that rejected the partition plan and immediately attacked the fledgling state with the intent of destroying it and, as they so famously stated, “pushing the Jews into the sea.” In recent years the Palestinians have rejected at least two offers of statehood. Despite these realities, the report speaks repeatedly about “the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” and “Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.” But in reality the report supports the radical Arab position that the entire State of Israel, the territory at the time of independence in 1948, and not just territories held since 1967, is “occupied.” Furthermore, the report accuses Israel’s pioneers of failing “to treat the indigenous Palestinians with respect and good judgment,” ignoring years of Zionist advocacy for equal rights and fair treatment for the Arab inhabitants of the land, before and after statehood. The Israeli Declaration of Independence, the ultimate Zionist document, explicitly proclaims “the equality of all its citizens,” including Israeli Arabs, as the report itself acknowledges (p. 5).
- The report ignores or invalidates the numerous prophetic promises throughout Scripture given to the people of Israel concerning the land of Israel. While it is true that Israel’s disobedience, as described in Scripture, could and did result in the expulsion of our people from the land of Israel, the report completely ignores the fact that whether Israel is in or out of the land, God always refers to it as the land of Israel. He never transfers the right of tenancy to another. In addition, the report also ignores the numerous prophecies found throughout Scripture which clearly state that in the future God will regather Israel to their own land and restore Israel both physically and spiritually. “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land” (Ezek. 36:24, etc.).
- And finally, the report cites the biblical call for “a commitment in every place to justice in a spirit of reconciliation,” but violates the most basic premises of justice. It hears only Palestinian and anti-Zionist voices and accepts their allegations uncritically. The proverb says, “The one who first states a case seems right, until the other comes and cross-examines” (Pr. 18:17), but perhaps the drafters of the report would say that this text also was never intended to be taken literally.
In short, “The Inheritance of Abraham” is an instrument not of peace and reconciliation but of religious imperialism, which imposes its own faulty interpretations upon texts that originate with the Jewish people and are part of their ongoing identity. The report claims a commitment to peace, but actually serves to undermine a realistic peace process by delegitimizing the Jewish State of Israel. Furthermore, the report demands that Israel recognize and unconditionally correct the “inequality in power” between itself and the Palestinians, with no concern over the rocket attacks and terrorist acts that this inequality in power is keeping under control. Expecting Israel to place itself in a weaker position and to abandon its founding vision as a refuge for the Jewish people is not only foolish but unjust.
As Messianic Jews who stand in the line of our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the prophets and apostles, we remind our Christian brothers and sisters that they worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was because of the sacrifice of many Jewish men and women that the good news of the Messiah’s redemption for all was brought to their forefathers. Without the benefit of that vital work the Church of Scotland would not exist today.
As Messianic Jewish leaders representing the international Messianic Jewish community, we call on the Church of Scotland to remove the report from consideration ahead of its forthcoming General Assembly, and restore a sense of justice and integrity to their proceedings consistent with the Jewish Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. We also call upon our colleagues in the Christian world to join our condemnation of this report, to stand with Israel and the truth of Scripture, and to urge the Church of Scotland to reject it.
Paul Liberman, President
Joel Chernoff, General Secretary
Messianic Jewish Alliance of America
John Fischer, President
Paul Wilbur, Executive Director
International Messianic Jewish Alliance
Kirk Gliebe, President
Russell Resnik, Executive Director
Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations
Jeff Forman, Chairman
International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues
Mr. J. Mendelsohn, President
Mr. D. Nessim, Vice-President
British Messianic Jewish Alliance