The Israel described in the Bible and the modern state of Israel are not the same and should not be understood as such by Christians, states a new paper drafted by the mission council of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The Bible does not provide any clear geographical boundaries of the ancient land of Israel, notes the PC(USA)'s General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC). Therefore, “it is dangerous” to bring the Bible into the debate on how to define the boundaries of Israel or any other modern state, it adds.
Presented at the Feb. 24-25 meeting of GAMC, the paper, titled “Christians and Jews: People of God,” was recommended to the upcoming 219th General Assembly for approval and weighs in on the ongoing lsraeli-Palestinian land dispute.
In the paper, GAMC recognizes that most Jews understand that the land of biblical Israel and the modern state of Israel as two distinct realities – the state as a contemporary secular and political entity, and the land as the geographic place promised and given by God in the Torah but the boundaries of which are not exactly defined.
It also acknowledges how the different understandings of Israel affect how Christians understand the Palestinian people’s right to the land.
“While we affirm that God's gift of land was, like the incarnation, particular and concrete, we also give thanks God as the giver of the potential for life, fruitfulness and justice to all of humanity,” GAMC states in the paper.
“Both peoples have claims on the same land,” adds the council, which advises PC(USA) in its Israel-Palestinian peace initiatives to seek justice and security for both peoples..
Other Jewish-Christian topics addressed in the paper include Christian evangelism of Jews and replacement theology, which asserts God's relationship with Christians as being either the "replacement" or "fulfillment" or "completion" of the promise made to the Jews or Israelites.
In the paper, GAMC asserts PC(USA)'s rejection of replacement theology, or supersessionism, and affirms that “the church, elected in Jesus Christ, has been engrafted into the people of God, established by the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
“Therefore, Christians have not replaced Jews,” the paper states.
The council also states that PC(USA) rejects the Scriptural interpretation that attributes the creation of the modern state of Israel directly to God, and the gathering of Jews to the state as the fulfillment of prophecy about the end times.
In terms of witnessing to Jews, the paper says Christians should avoid presenting Christianity in “Jewish guise” by using Jewish liturgies and minimizing Christian sacraments as a strategy to convert Jews.
“The New Testament makes it clear to Christians that Jews are not empty vessels, without God, who must be filled with Christianity in order to be restored to divine favor,” the paper contends.
“God remains faithful to the people Israel; God remains faithful to Christians,” the paper continues. “Jews remain faithful to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Christians remain faithful to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob whom we know in Emmanuel, Jesus Christ.
“As two peoples who are known and loved by God and who know and love the one God, Christians and Jews are therefore called to be faithful to one another in bonds of love,” it states.
The 219th General Assembly will be held July 3-10.