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Whose Promised Land?Promised land

A landmark when first published in 1983, this examination of the crisis over territory in the Middle East has now appeared in a revised and updated edition. It is Colin Chapman's Whose Promised Land? (Lion, 2002, 0-7459-5111-2). Its subtitle is The continuing crisis over Israel and Palestine.

Chapman combines an intimate knowledge of the history, geography and politics of the situation with a competent grasp of the prophetic Scriptures. This book is an absolute must for anyone with an interest in the current situation in Israel. The following samples are taken mostly from the sections on biblical interpretation in connection with the land.

What if you happen to be an Arab Christian, and find that you are identified in the minds of Israeli Jews with the ancient Canaanites and all the other tribes which Joshua defeated in the thirteenth century BC? How are you likely to think about the book which seems to give the Jews a divine right to take away your land in the twentieth century AD? (p127)

If the land was a gift which carried with it an obligation to obey the law of God, it followed naturally that when this obligation was not honoured, the gift could be taken away…. While the promise and gift of the land were unconditional, their continued possession of the land was conditional and depended on their loyalty and obedience to the God who had given it to them. (p135, 138)

'On the third day he will rise again' (Luke 18:33). It is widely accepted that when Jesus spoke of his resurrection as being 'on the third day', he was using the words of Hosea 6:1-2. In their original context, these verses express the hope of a national restoration - in other words, the resurrection of the people of Israel. (p161)

[Re Acts 1:4-8] It was as if Jesus was saying, 'I want you to put out of your minds once and for all the idea that the establishment of a sovereign Jewish state has any special significance in the establishment of the kingdom of God. I want you to see the kingdom of God in a different light - as a kingdom which is spiritual and therefore has nothing to do with any piece of land; a kingdom which is international and has no connection with any nation or state.' (p172)

If we understand how the writer of the letter to the Hebrews thought about the land [as God's rest for the believer], how can we believe that the establishment of a Jewish state in the land is the fulfilment of OT hopes and aspirations for the land? Now that the Messiah has come, we cannot possibly go back! (p180)

By starting with a schema that is imposed on the Bible and does not arise naturally out of the text itself, Christian Zionists find it hard to recognise the human realities of what is actually happening on the ground. (p285)

When seen in the context of the whole Bible, both Old and New Testaments, the promise of the land to Abraham and his descendants does not give anyone a divine right to possess or to live in the land for all time, because the coming of the kingdom of God through Jesus the Messiah has transformed and reinterpreted all the promises and prophecies in the OT. God has acted in the land not only to demonstrate his love but also to deal with the root causes of injustice and evil. Jesus the Messiah, who lived, died and was raised from death in the land, has opened the kingdom of God to people of all races, making all who follow him into 'one new humanity' (Eph 2:15 NRSV). (p310)

[On this general topic see also Andrew Kirk's The Middle East Dilemma and my own article, Red Herring in Galilee.

I have also reviewed two books on the subject by Stephen Sizer, one popular, one more theological.]

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