The Olive Tree Anti-Semitism and Bible Prophecy

 

THE OLIVE TREE, ANTI-SEMITISM AND BIBLE PROPHECY

imagesDr. Thomas S. McCall

At a convention of the Pre-Trib Study Group in Dallas, Dr. John Walvoord presented a paper on the Pre-Tribulation Rapture and Premillennial teaching, including the history of doctrines throughout the Church age.  I was very much struck by something that Dr. Walvoord said as he analyzed the transition from widely held pre-millennial views of the early church in the first three centuries to the predominantly amillennial, postmillennial or anti-millennial views that developed afterwards, and it centered around Augustine.

Latent Anti-Semitism Caused Amillennialism

I appreciated especially what Dr. Walvoord said, as quoted from the audio tape of his message, in his analysis of what happened in the case of Augustine:

“Augustine arbitrarily made the millennium non-literal, while everything else was literal.  Now as far as I’ve been able to find out, there has never been a book on doctrine that explains this.  But there is possibly an explanation.  In the first two centuries the church was largely Jewish in its background.  They were the evangelists, and they were the apostles.  But as the gospel grew, the church became largely Gentile.  And, of course the millennium is a time when the Jews are prominent, and it could be that there is a latent anti-Semitism here that they were quite unconscious of, that made them question whether Israel is going to have a literal future like it says.  And that, of course, would lead to a non-literal millennial kingdom.   In any case, that’s what happened, and the Roman Catholic Church became amillennial, and the Protestant Reformers like Calvin, Luther and others went back to Augustine rather than to the Bible, and adopted amillennialism.  They brought in, though, a lot of other things that were important, like “every man a priest” and “interpret the Bible yourself,” and so on, very important doctrines that have been the bulwark of Protestantism.  But, it wasn’t until the 19th and 20th Centuries when the Bible Conference movement began, and people began to ask what does the Scripture actually say?  It was not until then that premillennialism became a prominent feature in the church–as it is today in some churches, at least.  And that’s the background.  So we have to understand there’s a long history of this, and we are a minority.  We believe the Bible is literally true and they don’t, and we believe we have the facts on our side.  That’s why we believe what we believe.”

Saint Augustine in His Study by Sandro Boticelli 1840

Saint Augustine in His Study by Sandro Boticelli 1840

 

Thus Dr. Walvoord said it was his impression that it was latent anti-Semitism that caused Augustine and those around him to have this transition in their thinking.  That’s a remarkable statement.   How in the world can latent anti-Semitism have anything to do with one’s eschatological viewpoint, and how can it impact the eschatological viewpoint of the whole church?  Well, I think that it does, and that’s one of the things we are going to be looking at in this article.

There is an inherent connection between one’s attitude toward the Jewish people and Israel and one’s attitude toward the Scriptures and eschatology.   How does that happen?   It’s an understanding of what the Scriptures teach about the nature of the church, the nature of Israel, and the nature of the Olive Tree.  As Dr. Walvoord brought out, at the time of the beginning of the Bible Conference movement, there was a rediscovery of Israel and the promises to Israel in the Scriptures.  Some of the early works published in this movement had to deal with the future of Israel, as scholars began to rediscover premillennialism and literal eschatology.  Of course many of the amillennialists, including Augustine, would have been shocked if someone were to say they were anti-Semitic, and they would deny it strenuously.  And they would say, why, there’s not an anti-Semitic bone in my body!  All we want to do (they might say) is to take away the promises that God has given to Israel and apply them to the church!  Well, that sounds pretty anti-Semitic to me.

The Meaning of the Olive Tree

If then it is true that latent anti-Semitism is a basic cause of much eschatological error, what is the solution?  I would suggest that a Biblical understanding of the Olive Tree discourse in Romans 11 would do much to combat latent anti-Semitism among Gentile believers in Christ. The Olive Tree of Romans 11 has been an enigma to many Bible interpreters throughout the centuries of the Church Age:

. . . if the root be holy, so are the branches. 17And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; 18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. 19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 21For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. 22Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 23And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. 24For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? (Romans 11:16b-24)

Most amillennial commentaries have jumped to the conclusion that the Olive Tree is the Church, beginning in Old Testament times and continuing on to the present in its current form.  Thus, the Church becomes the New Improved Israel, and the Jewish people are relegated to the dustbin of history, as an outmoded, irrelevant part of God’s plan, sort of like an appendix – a vestigial organ.  With this type of thinking, replacement theology was born and continues as the dominant teaching of the vast majority of Church scholars.

At the other extreme, some more recent interpreters have suggested that the Olive Tree is Israel, the Jewish people, and that Gentile believers, through their being grafted in, have become Israelites, now have a “Jewish heart,” and should be considered themselves as Jews.  While this interpretation may lie closer to the truth than the replacement theology noted above, it too seems to fall short of what the Apostle Paul, inspired by the Spirit, is endeavoring to teach us.

To understand the Olive Tree, it seems we have to see it in its broader context in association with the Church and Israel.

The Church, Israel and the Olive Tree

The Olive Tree by Thomas S. McCall Th.D.

Various Entities Created by God

For instance, God created the entity of marriage.  That was the first entity or institution, as it were, He created, and we who are married find our relationship with our spouse to be that we are actually “one flesh.”  Marriage is an entity in which we have to find our proper Scriptural relationship.

Then there is the entity of the family.  That’s a little different.  It includes the marriage, but it’s more.  There is the relationship between the parents and the child.  We have to find and understand our relationship there.  There are different Biblical principles involved in our relationships within the family.

He created human government, and we have to find our relationship to Caesar.  “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” We have a responsibility as citizens of government, especially when we are fortunate enough to be in a constitutional republic.  The Lord has created the concept of government as well as all of these entities.

God has also created work.  We have to find our relationship either as an employee or an employer in a Biblical sense.  There is a Biblical attitude we must understand, if we are directed by a boss or if we direct others in our livelihood.

In the realm of divine covenants, though, God has also created the Church, Israel and the Olive Tree.  We need to know our Scriptural relationship to all the entities God has created.

The Church

The Church as the Body of Christ is described in Eph. 2.  Outside the Body of Christ, are the unsaved Jews and the unsaved Gentiles.  The Jews are described as being very near.   Strange, many have thought that they were a long ways off out in left field, but the Scriptures describe the Jews as being near.  The Gentiles are seen as being far off.  Unsaved Gentiles are very far off, and between the two, Jews and Gentiles, there is a middle wall of partition. This was symbolized in the Temple, where no Gentile could pass the middle wall of partition, upon penalty of death.  Outside of Christ, this wall remains, as forbidding as it ever was, and I don’t think it’s ever been removed.   There is still this great wall between unsaved Jews and unsaved Gentiles.

However, when Jews receive Christ, they are baptized into the Body of Christ; and when Gentiles receive Christ, they are baptized into the Body of Christ, the middle wall of partition is broken down, and we are one in Him.  There is no difference in status: neither Jew nor Gentile, bond nor free, neither male nor female, we are all one in Him.  We are seated together in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  What remarkable doctrine is the Body of Christ!

To the Church belong unique prophetic promises, including the Rapture before the Tribulation, the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Marriage of the Lamb, Reigning with Christ during the Millennium, and the New Jerusalem for eternity.  As a member of the Body of Christ, I would not want to trade places with any other entity God has created.

Israel

Next is Israel.  Israel has many facets.  There is the nation Israel that is under the covenant of God, and that covenant relationship began with Abraham.  It continues to this day, and will continue through the Second Coming of Christ, when He will establish Israel as the head of the nations and no longer the tail.  All during this time of the covenant, the majority of the nation is unsaved.  The majority of the nation is, for all intents and purposes, unbelieving.  However, there has always been a remnant according to the election of grace.  In Elijah’s time, in Joshua’s time, in our time, there has always been a remnant that has been saved.  This is God’s promise.  It is one promise God has made to Israel that He has not made to any other nation, that every generation will have a remnant according to the election of grace.  In the Church age, the remnant of Israel is a significant part of the Body of Christ.  It’s a remarkable thing.  But the vast majority of the nation Israel does not know the Messiah.  They missed the opportunity to see the Kingdom established when He came to Israel (“the hour of their visitation”), and He has told them “You will not see me henceforth, until you say, ‘Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

Israel has a glorious future: the restoration of the nation, the national salvation of Israel when Christ returns to the earth, and the glory of being the head of the nations during the Millennium.  We are seeing the beginnings of this process now, as the “dry bones” of Ezekiel’s prophecy are being gathered together in preparation for the Tribulation and the Millennium

Furthermore, the Gentiles have a relationship to Israel.  It is part of the Abrahamic covenant, and it’s either a promise or a warning to Gentiles: “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.”  Thus, Gentiles can be blessed by God depending on how they relate to Israel:  blessings for blessings, curses for cursings.  Also, some Gentiles have become and still do become, to a certain extent, proselytes to Israel.  They are added on, by submission to circumcision, the Law of Moses and to Judaism as such.

The Olive Tree

Then there is the third entity, which is the Olive Tree.  It has as its roots in the fathers: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  If the root is holy, so are the branches.  This is the good and cultivated Olive Tree, which has been tended to through the centuries, and the natural branches are the Jews.  They are born into the Olive Tree naturally.  But, it is only believing Jews who remain in the Olive Tree.  Unbelieving Jews, of all things, are broken off.  They are dead, lying at the side of the tree.  Strangely enough, there are  also these wild olive trees, and branches from the wild olive trees that are grafted into the good Olive Tree, the cultivated Olive Tree, and live off the nourishment from the roots and the sustaining power of God.

That is how the Olive Tree is described.  But what is the Olive Tree?  How can it be defined?  First, it helps to clarify what the Olive Tree is not.

The Olive Tree is not the Church

It should be understood that the Olive Tree is not the Church.  Some people are born naturally into the Olive Tree, but no one is born physically into the Church, the Body of Christ.  The only way one can enter into the Body of Christ is by being born again by personal faith in the Lord Jesus.

Furthermore, it is clear from the New Testament that the Church began at the celebration of the Feast of Pentecost after Christ ascended to Heaven, when the believers were baptized into the Body of Christ. The Church did not begin in the Old Testament!  The Church began at Pentecost and will end its current ministry on the earth with the Rapture.  The Olive Tree, on the other hand, began with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), and continues on earth past the Rapture, and on through the Tribulation and the Millennium.  Thus, the Olive Tree cannot be the Church.

The Olive Tree is not Israel

Also, the Olive Tree cannot be Israel.  Some natural branches are broken off the Olive Tree, representing Jews who do not believe in Jesus the Messiah, even though they are physically still alive.  They are physically alive but are spiritually dead, broken off branches.  However, no one can be broken off of Israel, as long as he is physically alive.  The often-heard dictum, “I was born a Jew and I will die a Jew,” is an accurate saying.  Once a person is born into the covenant nation of Israel, he remains an Israelite until he is physically dead.

Furthermore, Gentiles are not grafted into the nation Israel as Gentiles.  The only way Gentiles can become a part of the nation Israel is by conversion to the Law of Moses and ceremonial circumcision.  The Gentiles in the Olive Tree remain Gentiles, even though they have been grafted in.  Thus the Olive Tree cannot be Israel.

While at the Pre-Trib Conference, and before I spoke to the study group about this issue, I wanted to discuss it with Arnold Fruchtenbaum, who has done a lot of work on Jewish studies, including his major book on Israelology.  He reviewed this material, and made an interesting suggestion.  He pointed out that since the Jews in the end time “will be grafted into their own olive tree,” this shows that the Jews possess the Olive Tree, and therefore the Olive Tree is not identical to the Jews or Israel.  This further strengthens the argument that the Olive Tree is not Israel.

The Olive Tree is the Spiritual Commonwealth of Israel

If the Olive Tree is not the Church and it is not Israel, what is it?  The Olive Tree is a tertiam quid, a third entity, in this whole series of relationships.  Some have suggested it should be called the Abrahamic Covenant, and that approximates a good definition.  It comes close to what is involved here.  Some say it’s the position of spiritual blessing, and that also comes close to the truth.  I would suggest that a good working definition of the Olive Tree is that it is the Spiritual Commonwealth of Israel, and each of those terms has meaning.

Paul elsewhere speaks of the Commonwealth of Israel, and I believe the Olive Tree could well be understood to be the spiritual commonwealth of Israel.  In the context of his description of unsaved Gentiles, Paul says in Ephesians. 2:

11Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

That is a very stinging rebuke of unsaved Gentiles.  The Scriptures say some pretty hard things about unsaved Jewish people, but nothing comes close, I think, to this description of unsaved Gentiles, “being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, having no hope and without God in the world.”  Did you know that you, if you are a Gentile, were an alien before you received the Lord?  But in Christ, we have been brought near to the Commonwealth of Israel, and it is indeed spiritual.  Let us consider further these distinct terms of our working definition: the Spiritual Commonwealth of Israel.

The Olive Tree is Spiritual, Composed of Righteous, Born Again People

In contrast to the nation Israel, composed of believers and unbelievers, the Olive Tree is spiritual, because only righteous, born again, blood bought believers are in the Olive Tree, whether Jews or Gentiles.  Nobody else is in it.  Unsaved Gentiles are not in the Olive Tree.  Unsaved Jews do not remain in the Olive Tree.  Only born again believers are in the Olive Tree.

The Olive Tree is a Commonwealth, with Allegiance to the King of the Jews

The word the Apostle uses for commonwealth is “politeiva” (politeias), akin to our politics, people-hood or nationhood.  Through the blood of Israel’s Messiah (Christ), we Gentiles who were once aliens, have been made nigh (near) to the Commonwealth of Israel.  It appears that what Paul is describing as the Commonwealth of Israel is very similar to what he describes in more detail as the Olive Tree.

Furthermore, the Olive Tree is the Commonwealth of Israel, because Gentiles who have been attached (grafted in) to the Olive Tree owe allegiance to Israel’s Book (the Bible), Israel’s God, and Israel’s Messiah.  It is similar to the British Commonwealth, in which the people of Canada and Australia are not actually citizens of England, but owe allegiance to the Queen, and have a special relationship with the British people.  We Gentiles who have trusted in Jesus the Messiah, have a special relationship with Israel, its people and Land, and have sworn allegiance to the King of the Jews.

My conviction, then, is that the Olive Tree is none other than the Spiritual Commonwealth of Israel.

Gentile Believers Must Recognize They are Grafted In Among the Natural Branches

In addition to our special relationship to Israel, we Gentiles who have been grafted in to the Olive Tree by faith in Christ among the natural branches, have a special relationship to the Jewish believers in Christ, who are the natural branches.  The tragedy is that the two kinds of branches in the Olive Tree (Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ) have such a hard time worshipping our Lord together.  What a powerful testimony we would have to the unsaved world if we could find a way to be seated together in earthly places, as we have been positionally “seated together in heavenly places.”

Gentile believers also have a special relationship with the revived nation of Israel.  To some Christians, Israel has no more significance than Uganda or Pakistan.  But if we understand our role in the Olive Tree, we see that we are in the Commonwealth of Israel, and everything about Israel is important to us:  its history, archaeology, politics, preservation and prophecy.  Nothing about the Land of the Bible should be foreign to us, as the time of the return of the Messiah draws ever nearer, when Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, will be a prime focus of the Lord’s Millennial reign on earth.

Boast Not against the Branches

How ominous and prophetic is the command the Apostle Paul issues to the Roman Christians, when he warns them, “boast not against the branches.  But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, “The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.”

Why would Gentile believers boast against the unsaved Jewish branches?  Amazingly, they would boast that the Jews were broken off, so that the Gentiles could replace them.  This is the origin of Replacement Theology, which blossomed so greatly early in church history, and continues unabated until today.  As it is understood today, the largely Gentile Church has replaced the Israel of the Old Testament.  Indeed, the Church is the new, improved and enlarged Israel.  This has become the predominant theological view in most Christian circles, and is also found in evangelical circles, as well.  The Lord, however, condemns this boasting against the branches as something that is abhorrent to Him.

Provoke to Jealousy

One of the responsibilities that Gentiles who believe in Christ have toward the nation Israel is to provoke them to jealousy, as we read in Romans 11.  We must admit we have not done a very good job.  Some have said, rather than provoking the Jews to jealousy, we have mostly just provoked the Jews.  But when a Jewish person sees Gentile believers in Christ, his reaction is supposed to be, “What is that Gentile, that goy, doing with my God, my Bible and my Messiah?  I want them.”  The good part about it is that we can all have them.  But I fear that we have not live our lives in such a way that it would cause many Jewish people to be provoked to jealousy.

Understanding of The Olive Tree is Essential to Biblical Ecclesiology & Eschatology

As stated as the outset, the Olive Tree has been an enigma to Bible interpreters for most of the church age, and is often ignored more than explored.  My conviction is that the Olive Tree is the Spiritual Commonwealth of Israel.  It does not detract from the unique features of the Church or Israel, but it is a special entity created by God.  Just as we need to find our proper relationship to the Church and Israel, we also must relate in an obedient manner with reference to the Olive Tree.  Anything less would be intentional blindness to the revealed Word of God.

There is also a serious problem about attempting to do prophetic study with an attitude that ignores the teachings of the Olive Tree and leans toward an anti-Semitic or anti-Israel position.  There are wonderful prophecies specifically about the Church in the Scriptures, including the imminent Rapture, the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Marriage of the Lamb, the reigning with Christ in the Millennium, and the New Jerusalem.  However, most of the volume of prophecy in the Bible has to do with the future destiny of Israel, such as Preservation in the Diaspora, the Perpetual Remnant, the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, the National Reconciliation with Messiah Jesus, the Restoration of Israel in preparation for and during the Millennium, and the New Jerusalem.

If we do not understand Israel or the Olive Tree, we will be prone to make many errors in interpretation of Bible Prophecy.  Sadly, this is what has happened in much of church history, in the development of Replacement Theology, Amillennialism, and, more recently, Progressive Dispensationalism.  It is only the Apostolic premillennial, literal interpretation of the Word that recognizes the Church, Israel and the Olive Tree, and their rightful position in the plan of God.

Posted with permission of the author

Thomas S. McCall Th.D.

Some Artwork selections by Daniel E Woodhead

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The Lord Uses Israel to Protect Israel

 

The Lord Always Restores Israel

Painting by Sharlene Lindskog-Osorio

Painting by Sharlene Lindskog-Osorio

Zechariah 9:12

12Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope: even to-day do I declare that I will render double unto thee (ASV 1901).

The prisoners of Zion are going to be rescued by God Himself and He will provide them with a double blessing. As promised in verse eleven “because of the blood of thy covenant I have set free thy prisoners from the pit wherein is no water.” Now God tells the Jews to turn to their stronghold (levetsahron), which is Him. This Hebrew word levetsahron, translated as stronghold is found only here in the entire Old Testament. It can mean citadel or place of safety. Some have taken this to refer to Jerusalem. It is better directed to the only one who is our only true stronghold, the Messiah. It is best to view Him here as the entire ninth chapter has been discussing His first and second advents. God Himself is referenced as the safe hiding place and defense of His people in other sections of Scripture (Joel 3:16). The third chapter of Joel uses a different Hebrew word for stronghold, which is oomahoz, but the conveyance of God protecting Israel is the same. He has blessed them and provided them with many covenants to certify His promises to bless them. In the Hebrew text the word hope is actually “The Hope.” The definite article personifies this hope and adds certainty to the observation that this refers to God in Christ the Messiah. Zechariah speaks about, this special hope of Israel, “the hope which offered them a future through all the years of expectation.” For most of the Jews this will not be fully realized until He appears again to establish His righteous rule on the earth.

The same hope is carried over to the New Testament as Paul speaks of it as “the hope of Israel,” for which the Jews of Rome caused him to be bound as a prisoner (Acts 28: 20). He also referenced this hope when he said in his defense before Agrippa: “I stand here to be judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers, unto which promise our twelve tribes earnestly serving God night and day hope to attain. And concerning this hope I am accused by the Jews, O King” (Acts 26:6-7). Paul also spoke of “the blessed hope and the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13), for then the hope of the Church, and Israel, and the world, will be fully realized.

The double blessing mentioned in this verse references Exodus 4:22 and Deuteronomy 21:15-17. In the Exodus passage wherein God is commanding Moses saying, “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith Jehovah, Israel is my son, my first-born:” Jehovah God is saying that Israel is the “First Born” of all the nations. The Deuteronomy passage presents some important aspects of the First Born status.

Jacob Blessing Joseph's Sons by Rembrandt Cir 1656

Jacob Blessing Joseph’s Sons by Rembrandt Cir 1656

The double portion of the First Born is clearly stated in this passage. There is however a situation of forfeiture of the First Born status. Personal unfitness or transgression could cause the forfeiture of this coveted status. The Exodus passage shows that in a spiritual sense, God considered the nation of Israel as His firstborn among all nations. Jacob whose name was changed to Israel was not the firstborn son of his parents Isaac and Rebecca. He was born second, because his brother Esau emerged first from the womb. Nonetheless, though he was the younger, Israel still received the blessing of the firstborn. Esau despised the First Born (Genesis 25:34) status and sold it to his brother Jacob for a meal. Therefore Jacob/Israel became the First Born spiritual nation on the earth. Other instances of this forfeiture of the First Born status are in Scripture.15If a man have two wives, the one beloved, and the other hated, and they have borne him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the first-born son be hers that was hated; 16then it shall be, in the day that he causeth his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved the first-born before the son of the hated, who is the first-born: 17but he shall acknowledge the first-born, the son of the hated, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath; for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the first-born is his (ASV 1901).

Jacob’s own firstborn son Reuben lost his rights to the First Born son status. From his deathbed Jacob gave each of his twelve sons as well as Joseph’s two sons Ephraim and Manasseh a forecast of what their tribes would become.  Jacob prophesied over Reuben:

Genesis 49:3-4

 3Reuben, thou art my first-born, my might, and the beginning of my strength; The pre-eminence of dignity, and the pre-eminence of power. 4Boiling over as water, thou shalt not have the pre-eminence; Because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; Then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch (ASV 1901).

Israel then divided up the blessings of the First Born status to two of his sons. Judah got the spiritual blessings, as the Messiah would come through his line. Joseph got the physical blessings as Israel blessed his two sons. The Lord Jesus stated this principle, But many shall be last that are first; and first that are last (Matthew 19:30). Here He was referencing the Jews who would be rejected during the Church Age but in the Millennial Kingdom would be running the world’s government along with King Jesus who will rule all from David’s Throne in Jerusalem. Moses prophesied this quite clearly to the Jews.

Deuteronomy 28:13

And Jehovah will make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if thou shalt hearken unto the commandments of Jehovah thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them (ASV 1901).

The dispensing of a double inheritance and punishment is also given in two other passages. In these passages Israel as God’s First Born among the nation had a corresponding responsibility of obedience to God’s Law. If Israel did not realize the blessing due to disobedience they would be doubly punished. Several passages affirm this.

Isaiah 40:2

2Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem; and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she hath received of Jehovah’s hand double for all her sins (ASV 1901).

Jeremiah 16:18

18And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double, because they have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable things, and have filled mine inheritance with their abominations (ASV 1901).

As the serious Bible student notices, Israel’s sorrows and sufferings surpass that of all the rest of mankind. But Israel’s disobedience and consequent sufferings will not last forever. In the diaspora they were, “prisoners of the hope,” and when restored to their land and brought back into favor as God’s “first­born” among the nations, then as He told the Jews through Isaiah:

Isaiah 61:7-9

7Instead of your shame ye shall have double; and instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be unto them. 8For I, Jehovah, love justice, I hate robbery with iniquity; and I will give them their recompense in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9And their seed shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which Jehovah hath blessed (ASV 1901).

The Victorious Road to the Messianic Kingdom

Zechariah 9:13-15

13For I have bent Judah for me, I have filled the bow with Ephraim; and I will stir up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece, and will make thee as the sword of a mighty man. 14And Jehovah shall be seen over them; and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning; and the Lord Jehovah will blow the trumpet, and will go with whirlwinds of the south. 15Jehovah of hosts will defend them; and they shall devour, and shall tread down the sling-stones; and they shall drink, and make a noise as through wine; and they shall be filled like bowls, like the corners of the altar (ASV 1901).

Zechariah now receives assurance that not only will their double chastisement not last forever but also He will use them to personally defeat their enemies. The example used here in Judah the southern kingdom metaphorically representing a military bow and the northern kingdom Ephraim metaphorically representing a missile to be projected from the bow. The actual force provided to the arrow will be God as He says, And Jehovah shall be seen over them; and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning;” So in essence God Himself is the warrior using Judah and Ephraim as the armaments!  This section of Scripture chronologically depicts the persecutions of the Greeks against the Jews and their eventual victory over them by the Jewish Maccabees. Previously He turned Alexander away from Jerusalem by divine intervention. He will allow the Jews to be victorious over one of Alexander’s successors Antiochus Epiphanies IV in the war of 175-163 B.C. Jehovah God will be seen over the Jews and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning; and the Lord Jehovah will blow the trumpet, and will go with whirlwinds of the south. He will hover over them as a storm with the arrows leaving the bows as lightning quickly leaves the center of a storm to reach its target. The Greeks had dominated the Jews on a number of occasions for which the Lord will get His vengeance as described here.

 

Isaac asks Esau to hunt for venison by Bertram of Minden cir. 1383

Isaac asks Esau to hunt for venison by Bertram of Minden cir. 1383

The book of Joel references a time before the Babylonian captivity when the Phoenicians delivered Jews to the Greeks to be used as slaves. The following paragraph excerpted from the Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties explains this.

Joel 3:6 reads: “You [Phoenicians and Philistines] sold the sons of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks [Yewanim] in order to remove them far from their territory” (NASB). The very wording of this verse precludes dating the composition of Joel at any time subsequent to the conquest of Asia by Alexander the Great. The Greeks are referred to here as a people living “far from the territory” of Judah, and probably also far from the territory of the Phoenician and Philistine slave-raiders themselves, who swooped down on defenseless Judean towns in order to sell the captives on slave markets very far from Canaanite territory.

 From Gleason Archer’s Bible Difficulties.

 The Greeks already came to public notice, of course, after the collapse of Xerxes’ attempted conquest of Greece in 480–479 B.C. But Greek coins are found in Palestinian hoards from as early as the late sixth-century issues of Peisistratus. Greek mercenaries or adventurers served in the court and army of the Babylonians as early as the Lesbian poet Alcaeus, who refers to his brother Antimenidas as engaged in such service. Alcaeus’s date was the seventh century B.C. Neo-Babylonian ration tablets published by F. F. Weidner mentioned Ionian carpenters and shipbuilders as recipients of these rations. (Edwin Yamauchi’s Greece and Babylon [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1967], p. 33, discusses the Cretan Linear B tablets dating from 1500 B.C., and gives full documentation for all these references, and also includes references to Egypt, Beirut, Tyre and Phoenicia, in general.) In the light of such data as these, it is nothing short of naive to suppose that a late ninth-century Joel could not have known anything about the Greeks, or to imagine that no slave-traders ever went to Greek ports with captives from Near Eastern slave raids.[1]

The Maccabean war is one instance where the Jews miraculously prevailed against the Greeks in spite of the Greeks superior strength. The Greek Antiochus Epiphanies sought to force Greek culture and manners on the Jews. In imposing Hellenism, Epiphanies was following the intentions of Alexander whose dream was to create an empire, not just by the sword but by culture. Because of this Hellenization, the region was speaking Greek by the time of Christ and the New Testament, which was written in Koine Greek and spread quickly.

Massacre of the Innocents by Domenico Ghirlandalo Cir 1486-90

Massacre of the Innocents by Domenico Ghirlandalo Cir 1486-90

By the introduction of Hellenistic cults and non-biblical foods, Epiphanies tried to put an end to the Jewish religious community. The events were the cause of the Maccabean struggle. Severe punitive measures merely brought the matter to a head and the revolt followed. [2]

Women who had had their children circumcised were put to death…with their babies hung round their necks.”
(I Macc. 1:60, 61) As a result of the persecution many Jews hung on to God and His commandments.

Many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die.  Very great wrath came upon Israel. (I Maccabees 1:62-64)

In 170 B.C.  A law was announced requiring all citizens to present themselves four times a year to pay formal homage to Antiochus Epiphanies as the senior god of the Seleucids. The day chosen for these periodic submissions was Shabbat, the Jewish day of prayer and they preferred not to leave their homes. Epiphanies was met by a revolt and the setting up of a small state in which the high priest was the central figure. He launched a war of persecution against the Jews soon after that. The Maccabean revolt gained the Jews their independence for a short while. God let the Jews get themselves out of the trouble they brought upon themselves.

The Zechariah prophecy continues chronologically to the time of the end when God will defeat all their enemies, as all nations shall besiege Jerusalem in the final stages of the Campaign of Armageddon. God is using the Greek persecutions as examples for His defeat of Israel’s enemies. For then will God issue the judgments to be inflicted on the world’s armies who shall be gathered against Jerusalem, not only directly by the hand of God, but also by the hand of Israel, who shall then be made strong in Jehovah, so that “the feeble among them shall in that day be as David, and the house of David shall be as God, as the Angel of Jehovah before them” (Zechariah 12:8).

The fifteenth verse illustrates the word of the Psalmist, “Through God we shall do valiantly, for He it is that shall tread down our adversaries (Psalm 60:12) Jehovah of hosts will defend them; and they shall devour, and shall tread down the sling-stones; and they shall drink, and make a noise as through wine; and they shall be filled like bowls, like the corners of the altar” The devouring (or “eating”) and “drinking” is understood in a figurative sense.



[1] Archer, G. L. (1982). New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (p. 296). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[2] Josephus, Flavius. The Works of Josephus Translated by William Whiston. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987, 323.

Daniel E. Woodhead Ph.D.

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Jesus & Zippori A Key to Authenticating The Gospels

Jesus and Zippori

By Dr. Thomas S. McCall

Zippori Photo From Hebrew University

Zippori Photo From Hebrew University

 

One of the more interesting events during our trip to Israel with Zola Levitt Tours in the summer of 2011 was when we visited the Orthodox Kibbutz near the neighboring towns of Nazareth and ancient Zippori (known as Sepphoris to the Romans). The friendly group welcomed our pilgrims and provided our people with dress similar to what was worn in First Century Israel, and a demonstration of how bread was cooked by families in those days.

Zippori is revered by Orthodox Jews as the birthplace of Talmudic Judaism. After the Romans destroyed the Jerusalem Temple and Jews were scattered over the world, Rabbi Judah Hanasi codified the “Oral Law”, which had been passed down verbally from generation to generation, as a kind of extended commentary on the Torah, the five books of Moses. His work was called the Mishnah, the core of the Talmud. He did this work in Zippori around 200 A.D. Because of this, Zippori is a favorite place to visit when the Orthodox Jewish pilgrims come to Israel. However, most Christian groups know nothing about Zippori, and do not visit it.

While our group enjoyed the festivities down the hill, I remained by the main building of the Kibbutz, sitting on a bench. When our excellent Israeli guide, Ilan, came over, I asked him if he knew the story of the connection between Jesus and Zippori. He said no, and wanted to know about it. I mentioned a book that was written a decade ago on the subject. At the time I could not remember the title, but later got the name, JESUS AND THE FORGOTTEN CITY, by Richard Batey

Ilan and I reviewed the Biblical account of Jesus’ escape as an infant from Bethlehem to Egypt with his family when Herod the Great sought to kill Him. The event that brought the Holy Family back to Israel was Herod’s death. The angel informed Joseph of the event, and told him to take his family back to Israel. Joseph took them to his home town of Nazareth, and there Joseph and Mary raised Jesus. Nazareth is based on the Hebrew term netzer, which means branch, and Matthew comments that this was the fulfillment of a prophecy, that the Messiah would be called the Nazarene, the branch of Jesse. Other events were occurring as a result of the death of Herod the Great. His kingdom was divided.

His son Archaelaus received Jerusalem and Judea, including Caesarea.  Herod Phillip received the Golan Heights, and Herod Antipas received the Galilee and Perea (an area east of the Jordan River).  According to Josephus, Antipas established two capitals: Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, and Zippori, some 4 miles from Nazareth in the hill country of Lower Galilee. Josephus said Antipas made Zippori the “ornament of the Galilee,” and that it was well fortified militarily. He further said that it took 30 years to build.

The Mona Lisa of Zippori at the traclinium & colonnaded courtyard of a spectacular Roman mansion

The Mona Lisa of Zippori at the traclinium & colonnaded courtyard of a spectacular Roman mansion

Isn’t it remarkable that at the same time the Messiah was being raised in the home of the carpenter Joseph, one of the sons of Herod the Great decided to build a splendid capital city within walking distance from the Messiah’s childhood and young manhood home?

It would appear that just as Jesus was exiled from Israel in His infancy, and God provided for the family through the valuable gifts of the wise men: gold, frankincense and myrrh, so He provided for the family through a nearby building boom where Joseph, and later Jesus, could find employment for 30 years while Antipas was constructing his capital.

Many things can be deduced from this connection of Jesus with Zippori, including His cultural exposure.

Theological liberals teach that the Gospels could not have been written by eyewitness disciples in the First Century, because Jesus and His disciples were too backward to be able discourse on kings, generals, bankers, physicians and the multitude of other subjects discussed in the Gospels. These liberal teachers think that the Gospels were written much later by people purporting to be eye witness writers. This is what is taught in the most elite professing Christian seminaries in the world. Inasmuch as they think that the Jesus of the Gospels was not the same as the Jesus who actually lived in Galilee, they are constantly “in search of the historical Jesus.”

However, if Jesus was raised living and working at the construction of a prosperous Jewish and Greco- Roman political and cultural capital, this puts an entirely different perspective on the matter. Jesus would then have been exposed to the advanced Jewish learning available in Zippori, and He would have also been exposed to the high culture of the theatre, art, and some of the finest architecture of the Roman Empire.  He would have been acquainted with what was said about the political, economic and military conversation carried on at the king’s court. Thus the Jesus of the Gospels is not mythical, but a credible description of the kind of man raised in these circumstances.

Attention should be paid to the term used to describe the trade of Joseph and Jesus, tekton. It is translated carpenter, but it can have a broader meaning, a technician, or a builder, as Strong’s Concordance notes:

Meaning:  1) a worker in wood, a carpenter, joiner, builder 1a) a ship’s carpenter or builder 2) any craftsman, or workman

It stands to reason that both men might have been heavily involved in all aspects of the construction of Zippori, and might have come in contact with many government and private dignitaries in the process of doing their work. The idea that Jesus would have known the treasurer of Herod Antipas and his family under those circumstances is not unreasonable (See Luke 8:1-3).

There are also the ancient traditions about Zippori. During Byzantine times (c. 300 – 600 AD), Christians built a church building in honor of the father and mother of Mary, the mother of Jesus. It was believed that Mary was born in Zippori, and that her father was the headmaster of the Yeshiva (Rabbinic school) there.  Another tradition is that Jesus was educated at His grandfather’s school, and there received His rabbinic training. After all, people did call him Rabbi, and this was not a term lightly used. You had to have been through rigorous training to be recognized as a rabbi. These traditions are not mentioned in Scripture, but there is a ring of truth and consistency with the Scripture to them.

Ancient Map of Galilee

Ancient Map of Galilee

All these things we mentioned to Ilan, our guide, and he seemed genuinely interested. He left me and went inside the Kibbutz building. I continued there on bench outside the building. Some minutes later an older thinner man came out of the building. I took him to be one of the leaders of the Kibbutz, perhaps the rabbi. He came up to about six feet from me and simply said, “It’s an interesting theory, but why is it that Zippori is never mentioned in the New Testament?” That was a very pertinent question, and I tried to respond succinctly, “That is correct, but Luke 8 informs us that one of the primary financial supporters of the ministry of Jesus was a woman named Johanna, the wife of Chuza, the treasurer of King Herod Antipas. How did this happen?” I thought the gentleman and I would then have a discussion about the whole question. Instead he looked very thoughtful, perhaps a little stunned, briefly nodded and turning around, returned to the building. Again, time passed, and the next thing I knew, Ilan came out of the building toward our pilgrims returning to the bus. He began telling them excitedly about the connection between Jesus and Zippori and asked me to tell the passengers about the book I had mentioned to him.  My impression was that there had been a considerable discussion in that room about this issue, maybe even looking up the passage in Luke I had indicated, and had come to the conclusion there was something to this connection between Jesus and Zippori.

Why would these dedicated rabbinic men be excited about Jesus and Zippori?  They were not particularly interested in Jesus or the New Testament. Why then?  Tourism might be involved. Tourism is the life blood of Israel. Pilgrims come from all over the world to visit the holy places in the Holy Land, but relatively few come to Zippori. If it could be established and publicized that there was a lengthy and genuine connection between Jesus and Zippori, Christian tourists would flock to Zippori as well as to Nazareth. These Orthodox settlers may well envision how this increased activity could enhance their tourist outreach.

Batey’s book has been out there for years, but only a few evangelicals have picked up on its message. I have made inquiries, and found that all of the above information has been ignored in most of the publications on Zippori. Why?  The story behind the book is instructive. Batey informs us that the book was originally designed to be a lengthy cover article for the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine. They advanced him a handsome sum to produce a fully photographed and documented report on the archaeological findings about Zippori. Batey worked closely with one of the lead archaeologists there, Dr. James Strange, a professor at the University of Southern Florida, originally from Tyler, Texas.

After the extended project was completed, Batey submitted the work to the magazine. The board rejected it with no explanation. Batey was, of course, surprised, but could get no explanation for the action. He speculated that the reason was that this new view of the early life of Jesus was totally incompatible with the current view that is taught in the major elite professing Christian seminaries in America and Europe. They teach that Joseph and Jesus were menial carpenters in the sleepy village of Nazareth, and that Jesus had no exposure to the advanced cultural atmosphere of the Greco-Roman world. For this reason, some radical theologians also teach that the Gospels were not written in the First Century, but at least a century later, by more sophisticated writers who posed as the immediate disciples of Jesus, as Murdock indicates:

 Moreover, even the latest of the accepted gospel dates are not based on evidence from the historical, literary or archaeological record, and over the centuries a more “radical” school of thought has placed the creation or emergence of the canonical gospels as we have them at a much later date, more towards the end of the second century. D.M. Murdock, Stellar House Publishing.

Thus, they teach, the Jesus of the Gospels is fiction, fable, mythology, and is not historical. As a result, they are constantly looking for “the historical Jesus,” not finding Him in the four Gospel accounts. Apparently, Jewish scholarship follows the same pattern. The Israeli National Park description of the history of Zippori glosses over the time frame when Jesus lived in Nazareth close to Zippori:

 After Herod’s death (4 BCE),. . . . Zippori did not remain in ruin for long––Herod Antipas restored it so beautifully that Josephus Flavius described it as “the ornament of all Galilee.” Later, Rabbi Judah Ha-nasi moved the Sanhedrin from Bet She’arim to Zippori, where he redacted the Mishnah in 220 CE. The sages of Zippori also contributed to the Jerusalem Talmud, which was completed in the fourth century CE.

Thus most of the academic and archaeological world is convinced that there was no significance to the proximity of Nazareth and Zippori in the life and ministry of Jesus.

Then Batey’s article comes with this stunning evidence from archaeology, Josephus and intimations from the Gospels themselves that Jesus could well have been exposed to, and even participated in, one of the most advanced cultural settings in the Roman Empire.  This would mean the Gospels are a reliable First Century account of the life, teachings and ministry of Jesus. In the minds of the National Geographic board, that would be an impossible scenario, and could not be entertained. Batey thought that because of this elite mindset, the article had to be rejected and the scenario presented had to be suppressed. As a result, Batey used the material in his book, but this received little recognition. Therefore, for this past decade, the information about the connection between Jesus and Zippori has been denied, glossed over and forgotten. A top Israeli guide and a group of Jewish scholars highly invested in the history of Zippori had apparently never heard of this historical scenario. What if this group so close to Zippori began to emphasize the world of Jesus

in reference to Zippori in relation to Nazareth? What if Christians began to realize the full significance of the teachings of Jesus in light of what was going on at the time in Galilee and in Israel?

It is my prayer that the Lord might use these brief contacts and discussions on the hills of Lower Galilee to help bring many to learn more about the Jesus accurately presented in the Gospels, and believe in the incomparable Teacher, the crucified and risen Christ.

Text reprinted with permission of

Thomas S. McCall Th.D

artwork added by Daniel E Woodhead

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Introduction to Israelology

 

WHAT IS ISRAELOLOGY?

Ancient Map of the Temple Mount

This is a recently identified subject within systematic theology as taught in competent seminaries, which recognizes the election of the nation Israel by Yahweh Elohim. When the Hebrew Tanakh is coupled with the eyewitness accounts of the life of the man who claimed to be the Hebrew Messiah YESHUA HAMASHIACH which is called the New Testament it provides a complete picture of the nation Israel, past, present and future. Approximately four fifths of the entire Bible is devoted to the Jews and their story as told by God. In fact every writer of both testaments of the Bible who were chosen by God to give us His oracles was Jewish. Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum was the initiator of this component of systematic theology.

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Antichrist Will Mirror Hitler’s Rise to Power and Jewish Persecution

The Antichrist will persecute the Jews on an industrial scale like Adolph Hitler did. 1/3 of the world’s Jewish population died under Hitler. 2/3 will  die under Antichrist’s reign (Zachariah 13:8)

 Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler review SS troops during Reich Party Day ceremonies. (September 1938)

Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler review SS troops during Reich Party Day ceremonies. (September 1938)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many have written about their hatred for the Jews from the time of the Bible. Christ said that they would suffer because they did not recognize Him at the time of His visitation. Corporate Israel refused to recognize Him as their long awaited Messiah.

Luke 19:42 saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.(NASB)

 Matthew 23: 37-38 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!(NASB)

 Within the militantly intolerant and violent Nazi Third Reich, Jews were considered to be foul, have shameful lives, and were subjected to horrible treatment. The Nazis wanted to first expel them from Germany and then later to subject them to cruel treatment as well as painful death simply because they were Jews. The Nazis used the same despicable kind of language found in Martin Luther’s The Jews and Their Lies when describing them publicly. It also appeared in Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Nazi Germany did not invent anything new regarding the treatment of Jews. They simply amplified the anti-Jewish attitude inherent in European Christianity and its history. The constant “question” which rose in Hitler’s party and later in his administration was, what do we do with the Jews? The issue became known as the “Jewish Question.” They attributed the Jews as the source of all economic and social problems. Their answer was found in 1941which became known as the “Final Solution.”

 

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