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Did Jesus Give Away the Land of Israel to Christians? (Matthew 5:5) Part 2

Photo courtesy of The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation

Introduction

It is next to impossible to not know what the heartfelt cry, “Stop the Steal” refers to. In the aftermath of the November 3, 2020 presidential race, there are a great number of Trump supporters who believe the election was stolen; thus the declared winner of that contest, Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.

Along with the questionable belief that the election victory of former President Dοnald Trump was pilfered from the former POTUS, we find various conspiratorial assumptions fermenting among a select segment of his support base. According to some conspiracy subscribers, as reported by Joel Lawrence from Center for Pastor Theologians, God has promised to give President Trump another four years in the White House and the “Deep State” has been working to thwart the will of the Lord (“Faith, Apocalypse, and Nationalism: Why Evangelicals are Vulnerable to Conspiracy Theories”, Center for Pastor Theologians, 01/25/2021).

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

From these alleged concerns comes the cry, “Stop the Steal!” In the January 6th insurrection of our nation’s capital, we heard the cry repeatedly among those who stormed our nation’s treasured buildings and from those who protested “peacefully” outside. Joel Lawrence traces some of the roots that led to the “Stop the Steal” protest:

According to the Presidential narrative, this vast conspiracy involved Hugo Chavez, Dominion voting machines, Republican governors and Secretaries of State, Democratic poll workers in largely African American cities, Antifa, and countless others. These theories thrived in an environment of conspiracy, eventually leading to an attack on the United States Capitol, in which five people lost their lives and the safety of legislators were threatened.

“Faith, Apocalypse, and Nationalism: Why Evangelicals are Vulnerable to Conspiracy Theories”, Center for Pastor Theologians, 01/25/2021

The important takeaway is that President Trump, along with an extensive team of lawyers and advisors claimed without evidence in court, the 2020 vote for the president was rigged. Despite the data to the contrary, a majority of Trump supporters still aggressively believe the election was poached from the 45th president.

The steal of the identity of the nation of Israel

This author does not hesitate to apply the term “steal” to the teaching among conservative replacement theologians who profess the nation of Israel has been replaced by the church. Essentially, Replacement Theology(RT) maintains the Church or even Jesus is the “new Israel”.

If Jesus or the Church is the “new” Israel, God’s chosen nation has been replaced by a greater spiritual reality. Therefore, the status of Israel is reduced from a people who are the “elect of God” to a community “abandoned by God” when it comes to His national promises to the Jewish people. If this teaching is not true, then these academics, pastors and theologians are guilty of stealing the rightful God-given identity of Israel and misapplying this divine status to the Church.

Photo from Winnipeg Free Press March 24, 2021 https://bit.ly/3qsVFXY

The root of this thinking is the misunderstanding of the election of Israel. The chosen status of the Jewish people has been misread by the Jewish nation’s detractors and supporters in several ways:

1) Many believe chosenness implies the Jewish people are superior to other peoples. Since ethnic or racial superiority is contrary to biblical truth, the Jewish people have disqualified themselves to be divine representatives on earth. This responsibility, according to RT advocates has been transferred over to the Church. This erroneous impression of Israel’s runaway self-importance and superiority is absent from traditional Jewish teaching. if anything, God’s election of Israel calls for the nation to have a greater moral and spiritual responsibility before God and man.

2) Others wrongly maintain Israel’s election grants divine approval of all Israel’s decisions and actions when it comes to the Palestinians. A simple perusing of Israel’s 73-year history demonstrates the nation’s constant examination of its relationship with the Palestinians. On several occasions, Israelis have taken to the streets in protest of the IDF’s actions towards their Arab neighbors. The Jewish nation displays little evidence their concept of chosenness provides them a free pass when it comes to unfair treatment towards those who oppose the establishment of the Jewish state. Once again, anti-Israel evangelicals are grossly mistaken to try to belittle Israel’s elect status because of the Jewish state’s perceived or actual mistreatment of other peoples. When necessary, Israel has proven time after time its willingness for self-examination and self-correction in regards to the Palestinian people.

3) Israel’s election, according to some Christian Zionists, is an alternative for Jewish people needing to believe in the Messiah Yeshua. Christian Zionists who hold to this viewpoint believe are truly supportive of Israel. Yet they are not true to the divine plan for the Jewish nation which includes accepting Yeshua as the promised Messiah. Backing the nation of Israel by Christian Zionists is greatly appreciated by the Jewish nation. However, these well-meaning Christians are pilfering from Israel the blessing of finding redemption in Yeshua.

Due to this fallacious grasp of the election of Israel, many evangelical theologians are susceptible to eliminating Israel from God’s eternal plan for the nation. One of the ways this depreciation pans out is through the teaching Israel has been replaced by the triumphant Church that DID accept Yeshua as Messiah. I often wonder if we applied these same tests of moral superiority and unchecked behavior to evangelicals, how well our elect status would hold together? Church history-both ancient and modern-is filled with numerous occasions when the Church has behaved in ways that betrayed its elect status. Yet to select evangelical scholars, the moral test only applies to Israel.

in contrast, the Apostle Paul warns Gentile Christians, “do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you” (Romans 11:18–21 ESV).

The steal of the land once promised to the people of Israel

RT advocates the Old Testament land promises no longer describe a geographical space. The nation Israel failed to enter into the physical and spiritual rest to be found in the Promised Land. Presently the land promises have been overhauled. These Christian academics teach the spiritual rest Israel was to experience in the physical land of Israel can now be encountered in the promised spiritual rest in Jesus minus the possession of the land. Some Christian thinkers have added the land of Israel was merely a shadow of the ultimate eternal rest experienced in heaven or in Yeshua.

Thus, the geographical promise of the land of Israel made to the Jewish nation has been transformed into a spiritualized improvement. The spiritual rest in the Son of God appeals especially to those evangelicals who have bought into a Gnostic dualism in which the material world is inferior to the transcendent reality of heaven. If the material land promises now refer to Jesus or heaven or the Church, then the Old Testament promises to the Jewish people are null and void or unnecessary. We now have the greater spiritual reality that the land promised to Abraham pointed to.

In the opinion of this author, the belief system of Replacement Theology is a “steal” of Israel’s rightful place in biblical theology. Once God made time-tested promises to Israel regarding a people, a land and a channel for blessing to others. Now these promises have been reinterpreted and confiscated from the Jewish people by replacement theologians.

Louis Lapides

This present series of articles focuses on the use of the third beatitude to disparage God’s promises of the land to Israel. The misapplication of the third beatitude is a prime example of how RT theologians have no qualms about deploying New Testament passages to support their theological system that supplants or steals God’s blessings from the nation of Israel.

(more…)

The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: Was Jesus Married?

I thought the issue of whether or not Jesus was married was settled when Dan Brown’s fiction book, The Da Vince Code, often taken as non-fiction, was debunked by one conservative biblical scholar after another.  Yet the conjecture Jesus had a wife does not seem to ever want to go away.

In The Da Vince Code the author relied heavy on third and fourth century Gnostic texts to concoct his unprovable premise that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, and together brought a child into the world, Jesus Jr.  According to Brown and Michael Baigent’s Holy Blood, Holy Grail  (the true literary source for Brown’s plagiarised work), Mary Magdalene took the “Jesus child” out of Israel to protect her treasured progeny and made off to France.  The child grew up, married and fathered a child whose descendants married into the French royal line and, after several generations, engendering the Merovingian dynasty.

Dan Brown’s hypothesis bears no biblical evidence and lacks historical proof as many biblical researchers exposed during the “Da Vince Code” mania that grabbed the attention of the biblically illiterate who would rather believe a Hollywood film over the historical veracity of the Bible. Yet somehow Tom Hanks, who starred in the film production is more credible than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John!

The “Wife of Jesus” Papyrus Revealed

Recently Harvard Divinity School historian of early Christianity Karen L. King announced she has come across an ancient papyrus fragment from the fourth century that, when translated, appears to indicate that Jesus was married.

The Wife of Jesus Gospel

Coptic papyrus fragment claims Jesus was married

An article in the Huffington Post on this discovery states:

The text is being dubbed “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” The part of it that’s drawing attention says, “Jesus said to them, ‘my wife'” in the Coptic language. The text, which is printed on papyrus the size of a business card, has not been scientifically tested to verify its dating, but King and other scholars have said they are confident it is a genuine artifact.

Concerning the controversial section of the text, the Huffington Post records:

The quote about Jesus’ wife is part of a description of a conversation between Jesus and his disciples. In the conversation, Jesus talks about his mother twice and speaks once about his wife. One of them is identified as “Mary.” His disciples discuss whether Mary is worthy of being part of their community, to which Jesus replies, “she will able to be my disciple.”

In her presentation about the Coptic fragment King admits the papyrus does not prove Jesus was married. What it does prove, according to King, is that the debate about Jesus’ marital status was present in the early formation of Christianity. In fact, in order to give credence for those who advocated celibacy as the highest state of purity, many Christians appealed to Jesus’ unmarried status.

The Description of the Coptic Fragment

The fragment only has eight incomplete lines of text on one side and additional barely legible lines on the other side showing only three faded words.  The text is written in the Coptic language rather than Koine Greek, so it is a copy of an earlier version or an original penned in the fourth century. King claims it is from a second century Greek text but offers no proof.

Along with Karen King,  Princeton University professor Anne Marie Luijendijk and Roger Bagnall, director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, claim they have confirmed the document is valid.

So what should Christians make of this most recent discovery of a papyrus fragment  from the fourth century that claims Jesus was married?  Was Jesus married? If so, and this fact was deliberately or inadvertently left out of the New Testament records of the life of Jesus, does this then cast doubt on the accuracy of the four gospels and their writers?

The Debunking of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife

First, the document is from the fourth century. Four hundred years after Christ lived on earth. How can writers in four hundred years later know more than the eyewitnesses who lived with Jesus three years and knew His life on a daily basis?

Second, the dating is not verified yet, but give or take a fifty or one hundred years we are dealing with a document 300-400 years removed from Jesus’ historical appearance on earth. I find the historical method used by King to be highly unusual.

When asked where did the papyrus come from. King answered, “We don’t know.  . . nothing is known about the circumstances of its discovery,” an admission that has raised red flags for other scholars. King speculates the fragment may have been tossed in an ancient garbage heap by someone who objected to the idea of Jesus being married.  As a student of biblical history, I am somewhat taken back by King’s unfounded speculation about an historical document about which he is clueless regarding its origins. Instead, this Harvard scholar offers her conjectured opinion based on absolutely nothing.

Third, the Coptic papyrus fragment does not prove Jesus was married.  Even King admits the historical artifact is not old enough to prove Jesus was married.  The only thing the document proves is that early Christians may have discussed whether Jesus was married.

The Harvard historian is quick to admit that the reference to Jesus’ wife may have been figurative:

King also acknowledged that Jesus might have been speaking figuratively when he referred to “my wife.” After all, the fragment is just 33 words long, with incomplete sentences and very little context.

Fourth, in the fourth century Gnosticism was at its peak in influencing unsuspecting Christians. This is when all those weird gospels made their appearance such as the Gospel of Judas made their contested appearance in Christianity.   Gnosticism was always looking for “secret knowledge” and seeks to reveal hidden truth about Jesus previously unknown, hence the entire  gnostic influenced premise of the Da Vince Code which has been disproved over and over.

When asked by Huffington Post about what other ancient texts say about Jesus being married, King answered,

The Bible, of course, says nothing about Jesus marrying, though New Testament writers occasionally used the metaphor of the church and God’s people as the “bride of Christ.” Some of the Gnostic gospels — ancient texts unearthed in the 20th century that are not included in the Christian canon — suggest that Jesus had an intimate relationship with Mary Magdalene. The apocryphal Gospel of Philip, for example, says that Jesus kissed Mary, and loved her more than the apostles.

Again, these are unfounded speculations based on documents that came later than the original gospels written by men who knew Jesus.

Fifth, Gnosticism made its appearance in the first century in an elementary form and was refuted by the New Testament writers. They claimed Jesus was pure spirit and did not have a human body. To the Gnostic flesh is evil. I John deal with the fact that to be a believer one must confess Jesus came in the flesh in order to be a true believer.

I John 4:1-3 refutes early gnosticism:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.

Sixth, this is a fragment the size of a business card. Are you going to trust the four books of four eyewitnesses who lived with Jesus or a fragment from a papyrus?

Seventh, Harvard professor Karen King is a specialist in Gnosticism, “King, who focuses on Coptic literature, Gnosticism and women in the Bible, has published on the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Mary of Magdala.” Is it any wonder that these extra-canonical books which contradict the New Testament make their appearance in order to cast doubt on the validity of the New Testament canon. A lot of the teachings in these text contradict the theology and teachings of Jesus and the writers of the gospels and the epistles.

Eighth, if Jesus was married, then when He was on the cross, why did he tell John to only take care of His mother and not His “wife”? Also, the NT lists Jesus’ brothers and sisters, mother and father, his cousin John the Baptizer, and his aunt and uncle Elizabeth and Zacharias. Why wouldn’t his wife be mentioned?

Ninth, the issue raised by the appearance of this Coptic text, despite what King claims, is not celibacy as viewed by early Christians or whether or not Jesus remained chaste. The significance of this “discovery”  is  whether a Gnostic papyrus fragment the size of a business card written 400 years after Jesus has more authority than the four books of the New Testament by men who knew Him intimately.

For further information on this “wife of Jesus” Gospel, check out  BIOLA professor Gary Manning Jr.’s blog.

 

 

 




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