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Isaac, Ishmael and Jesus:

Reconciling Abraham’s Fractured Family through the Gospel

Arnella Rose & Gordon Mullings

2003:07:20, corretive update to appendix 07:06:27a.1

OVERVIEW: The purpose of this session of the Conference on Islam, the Gospel and the Caribbean is to explore the underlying spiritual, familial and geopolitical dynamics that drive the relationships between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, with an eye to fostering a reconciliation through Christ, the Seed of Abraham, in whom all peoples may access the much-coveted Blessing of Abraham. To do this, the fractured family of Abraham is first explored based on the Genesis account and the aftermath that can be traced biblically and historically, with an eye to its influences on the current situation in the Caribbean. Based on these insights, a strategic framework for resolution through the mission of the Church under the fullness of Christ agenda is then articulated, and an action strategy is recommended for the Caribbean church and peoples.


 

CONTENTS:

INTRODUCTION                                                                                                                          

1.                   Background: Abraham’s Fractured Family                                              

2.                   Reconciliation and the Feuding Faiths                                                   

3.                   The Caribbean Church’s Response                                                                

4.                   Towards a Global resolution                                                                           

CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS                                                                          

REFERENCES                                                                                                                            

APPENDIX: Synopsis of the History of Modern Israel                                                     


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INTRODUCTION: Judaism, Christianity and Islam – the world’s three great (but mutually quarrelling) Monotheistic Faiths -- are sometimes viewed as the “Abrahamic Faiths.” This is because each is traditionally held to derive from Abraham’s relationship with God, more or less as described in Genesis.[1]  Thus, the debate among the three may be characterized as a family quarrel; naturally this raises the question: can it be amicably resolved?

Given the current Arab/Palestinian-Israeli dispute[2] and the wider resurgence of the 1400-year long clash between Islamic and Western Civilisations, this is not just an academic or theological question, but one with significant geopolitical overtones for the prospects for peace in the emerging global world of the 21st century. It is therefore of great interest to the Caribbean church as it seeks to fulfill the Great Commission in the Caribbean and the wider world in the 21st Century.

The thesis of this paper and presentation is that the key to the answer lies in Paul’s Epistle to Galatians:

Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith . . . . Christ redeemed us . . . in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit . . . . 

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ[3] . . . . if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.” [Gal 3:6 – 22.]

In short, the biblical teaching is that the way to reconciliation is through Jesus, the crucified and risen seed of Abraham[4] by whom all nations may access the blessing of the Father of the Faithful. How that blessing can be practically achieved in the nations of the Caribbean and beyond in our time is therefore the proper focus for our considerations.

1.  Background: Abraham’s Fractured Family

 Now, in an era dominated by science and the concept of rights, it is tempting to try to understand the clash among the Abrahamic Faiths and peoples in terms of naturalistic and cultural factors:

·          The geo-politics, issues and associated perspectives tied to the history of western colonialism and associated liberation struggles.[5]

·          The current state of the ever-evolving (and often significantly subjective) scholarly consensus on the accepted findings of historical research and associated archaeological digs and theories.

·          The typical Western skeptical spirit that views anything supernatural as dubious, or worse; especially the prophetic “Thus saith the LORD.”

·          The associated sneering subtext[6] that is too often present in the contrast educated Westerners typically make between “reason” and “faith.”

·          The notion that “all religions are equally roads to God,”  so the issue is sincerity and not truth.

However, unless we first understand, acknowledge and balance three key biblical concepts – (1) our creation in the image of God, now marred by our sinful fallen state; (2) God’s sovereign election of people he calls, gifts and covenants with to carry out specific parts of his redemptive plan for mankind; and, (3) the loving Fatherhood of God that energises his work of saving us through Christ  – we will be unable to make sound sense of the sometimes strange and yet unfolding story of the fractured family of Abraham; the man elected by God so that in his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed.

First, it is our creation in the image of God that gives us the dignity, rights and worth that are our due as human beings.  When we look at a fellow human, apart from our finitude and sinfulness, God is like that. [cf. Gen 1:26, Jas 3:9.] 

At the same time, through God’s Election, he has sovereignly made us diverse: as individuals, sexes, families, tribes, peoples. This reflects his calling placed on each of us, and the resulting multifaceted talents and gifts he has given us to fulfill these varied callings and roles in the whole world; towards the achievement of his overarching purpose for creation. 

That purpose has been aptly summed up:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight . . . In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins . . . And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ . . . . God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. [Eph 1:3 – 23.]

But most of all, God is our common, loving Father; whom we should trust, respect, love and obey. Thus, in love, God sent Jesus to be our Saviour so that “whoever[7] believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life . . . . that they may know . . . the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [he has] sent.” [Jn 3:16, 17:3.]

Moreover -- and most relevant to the underlying issue among the physical and spiritual offspring of Abraham – our Eternal Father has allocated to each people its own place in the sun:

The God who made the world and everything in it . . . from one man . . . made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times [Gk. kairous] set for them and the exact places where they should live . . . so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him . . . For in him we live and move and have our being . . . . we are God’s offspring. [Ac 17:24 – 28; cf. Deut. 32:8 - 9.]

In this context, God has in particular called and blessed Abraham:

Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you . . . all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. [Gen 12:1 – 3.]

. . . a son coming from your own body will be your heir  . . I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it . . . .  your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions . . . In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.[8] [Gen 15:4 – 16.]

You will be the father of many nations . . . and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant  . . . to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God . . . . your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him for his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year. [Gen 17:4 – 8, 19 - 21.]

Abraham will become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him. [Gen 18:18 – 19.]

I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have . . . not withheld your son, your only son [i.e. the son of covenant, Isaac; cf. vv. 2 - 12[9]], I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations will be blessed, because you have obeyed me. [Gen 22:16 – 18, contextual note added.]

In this context, we may now survey the relationships among the descendants of Abraham’s family: Lot his nephew/foster son, Ishmael, Isaac, and the sons of Keturah (and of un-named concubines); as well as those who identify with this family through the Abrahamic faiths.

First, the account speaks of Lot, who was the son of a brother who died young and so grew up with Abraham; eventually separating from him due to the tensions between their herdsmen. Eventually, the Moabites and Ammonites would derive from him.

Secondly, Ishmael was the son of Sarah’s handmaiden Hagar, according to the custom of the day and in light of the lack of issue from the marriage to Sarah.  However, as the record observes in Gen 16:2, here Abram “agreed to what Sarai said”; i.e. he did not inquire of God. [Cf. Josh. 9:14 & Gen 3:17.]  This would have devastating consequences, that yet reverberate; for the Elect resorted to the natural and the cultural, rather than the counsel of God, and so inadvertently opened the way for a multiplication of rival claims to the covenant blessings.

Soon, Hagar would despise her mistress when she became pregnant, provoking harsh treatment that caused her to in turn run away. [Cf. Prov. 30:23b.]

But, God intervened. So, on instruction from an Angel of God, Hagar returned; and the child was named Ishmael, God hears. However, also, his personality [Gen 16:11 – 12] was scarred by the family tensions that marked his birth; traces of which, sadly, may be discerned in his physical and spiritual heirs to this day.[10]

Thirteen years later, Isaac was born through a miracle.  But – perhaps three years yet later[11] -- Ishmael mocked Isaac at his weaning feast, provoking the demand for his expulsion from the household.  Abraham, distressed, sought God and was told to heed the request. However, he sent out Hagar and Ishmael with only some food and a skin of water.[12]  (Thus, Ishmael had a legitimate grievance over how he had been treated by his father, not only relative to Isaac, but even to the sons of Keturah and the concubines.)

In Isaac’s generation, Esau similarly had a poor relationship with his brother Jacob; who true to his name (‘Trickster”) had bought his elder brother’s birthright for a song and then tricked him out of his father’s blessing. Then, in the generation after that, the rivalry between Joseph, the firstborn of the favoured wife – Rachel -- and his half-brothers (born of Leah and the handmaidens of the two sisters), almost reached to murder and ended up in kidnapping and the sale to Midianite/Ishmaelite[13] traders, leading to the settlement of the family in Egypt, where they were eventually enslaved.[14]

Thus, we see a characteristic theme whereby God’s election often aroused jealous rage, leading to conflict. On the other hand, sometimes the elect failed to seek God’s counsel on decisions and actions, but instead looked to the natural and cultural situation to guide them; often leading to much grief. Worse, there were several clear points in the account where the elect acted arrogantly or insensitively and even disrespectfully to their kin; arousing legitimate grievances that fed into the dynamic of guilt and resentment that if unchecked naturally leads to hate and violence.

Sadly, this theme has reverberated across history ever since.  So, by the time of the First Century, Paul had to warn Gentile Christians against arrogant, presumptuous disrespect for unbelieving Jews:

I am talking to you Gentiles . . . . If some branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap . . . do nor boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you . . . . Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For is God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. [Rom 11:11 – 21; NB: cf. 22 – 31.]

Sadly, the warning has often gone unheeded. As a result, the history of the church has been marred by apostasies that among other damaging consequences, have led to many, bloody persecutions of the Jews.

Then, when Islam arose, a major reason for its ability to militarily defeat Syria and Palestine was that the religiously-backed tyranny of the Byzantine Empire had disaffected the peoples in the lands where the Christian Faith originated. Subsequently, the long and horrible history from the crusades to the renewed jihads under the Ottomans to the liberation struggles in the Balkans and recent ethnic cleansing in the Balkans has done much to widen the fissures.

No wonder so many hearts across the Missiologists’ 10/40 Window are closed to the Gospel.

A similar (but subtler) picture emerges with Islam, which in turn sees itself as superior to both Christianity and Judaism; asserting -- without solid evidence[15] -- that these “people of the Book” have distorted the Taurah and the Injil respectively so that the Bible disagrees with the Quran: which in Islamic eyes is a “corrective”. As a consequence, when Jews and Christians were conquered, through the Pact of Umar and its extensions, such believers have systematically been reduced to a subject people with sharply diminished civil rights or respect. (For instance, the word of such a Dhimmi[16] is not viewed by Islamic Courts as being credible relative to that of a Muslim.)

Therefore, we find in Genesis the origins of the fissures in Abraham’s physical and spiritual family, with its many deep-rooted, violently destructive resentments and quarrels. The main question, then, is how this situation can be remedied, with particular reference to the strained and warped relationships among those who are of the three Monotheistic Faiths that identify with Abraham and his family.

2.       Reconciliation and the Feuding Faiths

Given the above, it is only to be expected that the current clash over the Middle East situation is a  natural continuation of the millennia old rifts among the physical and spiritual heirs of Abraham:

O mountains of Israel, . . . This is what the Sovereign LORD says: The enemy said of you, "Aha! The ancient heights have become our possession.” . . . Because they ravaged and hounded you from every side so that you became the possession of the rest of the nations and the object of people's malicious talk and slander,  therefore, O mountains of Israel . . . In my burning zeal I have spoken against the rest of the nations,[17] and against all Edom, for with glee and with malice in their hearts they made my land their own possession so that they might plunder its pastureland.'  . . .  .

But you, O mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home . . . you will be plowed and sown, and I will multiply the number of people upon you, even the whole house of Israel . . . and will make you prosper more than before. Then you will know that I am the LORD. I will cause people, my people Israel, to walk upon you. They will possess you, and you will be their inheritance; you will never again deprive them of their children . . .

[W]hen the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions [Cf. Deut. 31:14 – 32:47] . . . So I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols.  I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries . . . And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, 'These are the Lord's people, and yet they had to leave his land.' 

I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone . . .  It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations . . . Then the nations will know that I am the LORD . . . For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean . . . I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees . . .  You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God . . . .  I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign LORD. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, O house of Israel! [Ezekiel 36:1 – 32, emphases added.]

These words could easily have been written for today’s newspaper; yet, they are over 2,500 years old. For, the underlying issues, motives and attitudes are even more ancient than that:

§         Israel, God’s blessed elect, has been promised a Land: but has too often allowed that election and blessing to instead become a point of pride and presumptuous sin [cf. Deut 8:1 – 20]; resulting in the judgement of God: exile -- even at the risk of exposing the LORD’s own name to ridicule among the nations.

§         Those who have long envied that election have seized the opportunity of exile to take the land, and it has become ruinate; for the land’s well-being is intimately tied up in the covenantal blessing. In the words of Moses in Deut 6:1 – 18:

“These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you . . . Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey[18] . . . .  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength . . . . When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers . . . then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery . . . Do what is right and good in the LORD's sight, so that it may go well with you.

§         But, for the sake of his Name, God will intervene and restore Israel to the land, and in so doing will effect a renewal of the covenantal relationship. To the message of Ezekiel, Isaiah 11:9 -12 adds several telling prophetic details:

the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.

§         Ominously, this messianic, eschatological, second restoration of Israel’s exiles from the whole earth to the Land is prophesied as being achieved in the teeth of identified enemies, close relatives and neighbours[19] of the nation of Israel – supported by the rest of the nations – enemies who declare of the hill country of Judea and Samaria [now usually called the West Bank]: "Aha! The ancient heights have become our possession.”

§         Flowing from this eschatological miracle in the teeth of fierce opposition, God concludes that  “Then the nations will know that I am the LORD.”

Thus, the restoration of Israel will break the power of declared enemies of God’s purpose (sadly, plainly including many who name the name of Christ), and will bring blessing to the nations across the whole earth; fulfilling the promise that in Abraham, all the nations of the world would be blessed -- a promise that Paul takes up in Gal 3:13 - 14:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."  He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

But for this to happen, the church – as God’s elect in Christ -- must now repent of its own arrogance, presumption and apathy relating to both Jews and Muslims; then rise to fulfill its true calling as God’s Ambassadors, and ministers of reconciliation:

For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died . . .  if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation . . .  We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.  For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. [2 Cor 5:14 – 6:2.]

Thus, in our day, the prophecy and calling embedded in Ishmael’s God-given name can be fulfilled: “God hears.” [Gen 16:11.]

3.       The Caribbean Church’s Response

The Caribbean church is peculiarly well placed to take up the above challenge of proclaiming the message of reconciliation in Christ among those who adhere to the three Abrahamic Faiths. 

For, as the very first victims of European colonialism, and among the first to benefit from the rise of the modern Missions movement from the Eighteenth Century on, we do not carry the lingering stench of the West’s (sadly, as yet unfinished) history of colonial oppression. At the same time, we possess a vibrant Christian faith, untainted by the long struggles, wars and persecutions that have marred the past two thousand years of interaction among the three great Monotheistic Faiths.

Thus, we are well positioned to be mobilised as a powerful missions force, ambassadors of Christ pleading with all men, and especially those who belong to the three Abrahamic faiths.

But, how can this be achieved?

§         First of all, we must become aware of our opportunities, responsibilities and challenges: we are perhaps the best-positioned Christians in the world to facilitate reconciliation among the three Abrahamic Faiths, through the Seed of Abraham; thus bringing the blessing of Abraham to all nations.

§         For that to happen, we will have to bring the election of God, image of God and Fatherhood of God into appropriate balance; under the Word of God. For, neither the issues at stake, nor the bitter envies and resentments that have plagued the fractured family of Abraham for thousands of years can be reconciled otherwise.

§         In so undertaking a ministry of reconciliation, we will have to respect Paul’s olive root and branch principle, and so shun the twin temptations to arrogance and apostasy among God’s elect -- as was highlighted by Ezekiel and by that Apostle [Cf. Ezekiel 36:16 – 36, Rom 11:11 – 36]; at the same time as we also speak to the jealousy of those who envy the elect.

§          But equally, each of us will have to first deal with the planks in our own eyes: for, we too have often resented or rejected the elect and the specially gifted in our own communities in the Caribbean, and our own families are notoriously fractured; often due to the unprecedented incidence of sexual immorality in the region. Also, many who have been gifted and blessed to make advances in society have forgotten that all people carry with them the dignity of the image of God, and have instead become arrogant and abusive; provoking legitimate grievances among the poor and neglected across our region.

§         Further, we dare not neglect the fact that we too have consulted the patterns of nature and the customs of men, but not the word of God; not only in dealing with the issues in the Middle East,[20] but also even in our own midst. So, many literal and metaphorical Hagars have been exploited, and many Ishmaels have thus been born under circumstances that have caused damage. But thank God, “God hears.”  So, let us turn in repentance and seek reconciliation and renewal, so that the blessings of Abraham might flow out across the Caribbean and beyond.

§         Finally, we must live up to our heritage. For, in the 1840’s, impoverished Caribbean ex-slaves who had become Christians helped to mobilise, send out and support a sterling body of Missionaries that helped to plant the evangelical faith in West and Central Africa. Today, in the face of a secularised, apostate and neo-pagan west on the one hand, and a militant 10/40 window dominated by Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and other traditional faiths on the other, it is time for us to organise, mobilise, send and support a formidable mission force.

4.       Towards a Global resolution

Clearly, the issues raised above are far broader than just the Caribbean. Indeed, it may be argued that the new global Millennium is being shaped by a three-way clash for global domination: (1) Western secularism, (2) Islamism, and (3) what could be called the Southern Christian Reformation.

For, at the turn of the 1990’s, Communism collapsed, creating a pause in history as market economics and secularist liberal thought began to dominate the global landscape.

But all too soon, cracks began to appear in the imposing edifice:

So, it was no surprise to see the sad spectacle of many people across the world – including many here in the Caribbean -- cheering mass murder when Mr. bin Laden’s minions dived passenger-crammed jets into the World Trade Center’s towers, bringing them crashing to the ground with thousands inside. For, it has been tempting to think: “the Americans, at last, are getting what they deserve.”

But these sights, concerns and trends are signs of an underlying groundswell: the world is at kairos. For, as Paul pointed out to the Athenians so long ago:

From one man [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times [kairous] and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ [Acts 17:24 – 28.]

That is, as in our time, God so orders the flow of history that the peoples of the world are brought to moments of decision, so that in the midst of crisis, we are forced to grope for God, however blindly. And, in his love, he sends to us his messengers in these kairos-times: seasons of crisis and decision; so that we may reach out to him and find a welcome in the arms of our common Father.

Therefore, even as we see war clouds looming, especially in the Middle East; with clear signs of economic, political, social, military and environmental instability in their train, let us lift our eyes. Let us look up: from the chaotic crises of our times to the peace, order and security – shalom – that are to be found through Christ. And, let us consider how we may help to fulfill the words of Jesus:

You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth-pains . . . . And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. [Matt 24:6 – 8, & 14.]

In short, Jesus correctly predicted that as history rushes on, we can expect to see accelerating waves of crisis driven by political, social, economic and environmental instability. But, such chaotic and critical times naturally force men to grope, however blindly, for an alternative.

For, our Creator and Father has so ordered the affairs of the nations that “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Therefore, our sinful folly naturally triggers chaos and crisis, forcing us to grope for him. And, in his love, God has sent his messengers in these times, so that through the gospel we may receive the Christ and find welcome and relief in the Father’s arms; manifesting the foretaste of that Kingdom that shall ultimately triumph and bring blessings to all nations.

For, it is only through that gospel that the spiritually hungry can be fed, that the balance of freedom and caring for the needy can be struck, and a way to peace and sound stewardship of our common planet can be found.

That is exactly what is happening in our day as we see the gathering storm-clouds in the Middle East.  In turn, as we just discussed, the Caribbean church is ideally posed to bring the gospel of the kingdom to that troubled region.

Let us therefore renew our commitment to bring blessing to the nations – including those of Abraham’s fractured family of faith -- through the grace of Christ.

CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS

First, Abraham’s fractured family of faith can only be reconciled in Christ, the seed of Abraham, through the power of the gospel.  Second, we the Caribbean church are peculiarly poised to carry that message of reconciliation to these nations.  Thus, we hear again Mordecai’s ever-telling question: “who knows but that you have come to . . . position for such a time as this?”

Consequently, we should now consider at least the following possible action steps towards that end:

§         Promoting awareness of our opportunity, responsibility and challenge: we are perhaps the best-positioned Christians in the world to facilitate global reconciliation.

§         Bringing the election of God, image of God and Fatherhood of God into appropriate balance; under the Word of God. For, unless this is done, the issues at stake cannot be resolved.

§         Acknowledging Paul’s olive branch principle [Rom 11:11 – 32] and repentantly addressing the arrogance and apostasy of the elect as was warned of in Ezekiel 36 and Rom 11; at the same time as we speak to the jealousy of those who envy the elect their peculiar gifts and calling highlighted in Ezekiel 35 and Psalm 83.

§          In so doing, first deal with the planks in our own eyes: for, we too have often become arrogant in our blessings, and/or resented or rejected the elect and the specially gifted in our own communities; and, our own families are fractured by sexual sin and bad relatioonships. Also, many who have been gifted and have benefited from the overflow of God’s election have become arrogant and abusive; provoking legitimate grievances especially among the poor and neglected.

§         We also dare not neglect the fact that in the Caribbean, many literal and metaphorical Hagars have thus been exploited, and many Ishmaels have thus been born under circumstances that have caused damage. But thank God, “God hears.”  So, let us turn in repentance and seek reconciliation and renewal, so that the blessings of Abraham might flow out across the Caribbean too.  Thus, by demonstrating the foretaste of the Kingdom, we may help provoke the fractured family of Abraham to awareness of the blessings and reconciliation that lie in the Seed of Abraham.

§         Let us then follow the Caribbean’s missionary pioneers of the 1840’s, so that we may mobilise, send out and support a sterling body of Missionaries to a secularised, apostate and neo-pagan west on the one hand (including Israel), and to a militant 10/40 window dominated by Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and other traditional faiths on the other. For, it is time for us to organise, mobilise, send and support a formidable mission force.[21]

Thus, again, let us finally, and prayerfully ask:

WHY NOT NOW? WHY NOT HERE? WHY NOT US?

REFERENCES:

Calvert, Nancy L. “Abraham.”  Dictionary. of Paul & His Letters. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1993. pp. 1 – 9.

Goldberg, Rabbi Michael. Jews and Christians: Getting our Stories Straight. Philadelphia, PA: Trinity Press International: 1991.

McCurry, Don.  Healing the Broken Family of Abraham.: New Life for Muslims. Colorado Springs, CO: Ministries to Muslims: 2001.

Mullings, Gordon.Islam in the Caribbean,” 2003b. http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/Mars_Hill_Web/Islamism.htm

Pannenberg, Wolfhart. Human Nature, Election and History.  Philadelphia: the Westminster Press, 1977.

Peters, Joan. From Time Immemorial: the Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine. Chicago, IL: JKAP Publications: 2002.

Ramsay, William M. The Education of Christ. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing: 1981.

Rose, Arnella. Israel and the Church: the Olive Branch Conection. Kingston, Jamaica: Olive Branch Ministries: 1998.

Szulc, Tad. “Journey of Faith.” National Geographic, Vol. 200 # 6. Dec 2001. Washingston DC: National Geographic Society, pp. 90 – 129.

PRESENTERS:

Arnella: Arnella Rose, MA, is the Founder and Director, Olive Branch Ministries; which highlights the biblical, prophetic significance of Israel in light of Rom 11:11 - 32. She holds a Masters Degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the Institute of Holy Land Studies, in Jerusalem; completed during her 1986 – 1991 residence in Israel, in which time she was a member of a Messianic congregation, lived in a Kibbutz and interacted with the Jewish-Arab population and pilgrims to the Garden Tomb. Currently, she also collaborates with Exobus, an international ministry that assists Jews in Eastern Europe who seek to make Aliyah; in light of Isaiah 49:2.2 NB:  cf. 60:1 – 10, esp. vv  9 – 10].

Gordon:  Gordon Mullings, MSc Physics, MBA; Director of Kairos, is affiliated with the ARC Network, and has had a long term interest in issues relating to the strategic promotion of the reformation of the Caribbean and wider world through the Gospel. In particular, he has focused on the Fulness of Christ theme, the role of small/cell groups in discipleship towards filling the world with Christ’s blessing, and issues relating to the Secularist-neopagan and Islamic challenges to the Caribbean. He is a member of the team that has helped to initiate the Conference. His reference web site is: http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/


 

APPENDIX:

A synopsis of the modern history of Israel

(update 07:06:27a.1, on 1956, basic info on 1967 added too)

CONTEXT/RATIONALE: The following notes are intended to provide a context for Caribbean people to build for themselves a more accurate and balanced picture of the Middle East situation than we would normally obtain from reading or listening to the usual media outlets and pundits in our region.  Accordingly, it emphasizes material facts and issues that are unfortunately (and often ignorantly) typically suppressed in news and analysis.


 SYNOPSIS: HISTORY OF MODERN ISRAEL[22]

By the late 1800’s, the geographic region of Western/Cis-Jordanian Palestine was largely ruinate land. From the 1893 Ottoman Census and Vital Cuinet’s independent 1896 Geographical work, Syrie, it also had a relatively light population: ~ 92,000 “Arabs” (including significant numbers of non-Arab Muslims and Christians[23]) in the ~ 8,000 sq. mi. areas that became modern Israel.[24] The rest of Cis-Jordanian Palestine had another 300 – 400,000 “Arabs.” At this time, there were also ~ 60,000 Jews in the area West of the Jordan[25]; who had their own established communities and had recovered Hebrew as their mother-tongue.

The resulting overall situation, circa 1902, has been summed up by Sir William Ramsay, a main founder of the disciplines of Biblical Archaeology and Geography:

The scenery, more especially in the central and southern regions, is . . . devoid of the rich beauty of high cultivation and productiveness. The hills as a rule are bald, bare and featureless. The terraces by which in happier times the soil was supported on the slopes have almost everywhere been destroyed, and the soil has been washed down into the hollows, where it impedes the outflow of the waters and produces marshes [NB: malarial]. Thus the land is desolate and unattractive. In general the slopes and hillsides are a wilderness of stones and rocks, where a few scanty shrubs can barely find a hold, and the glens a wilderness of marsh, with a scanty rim of cultivable land above the level of the bare rocks, just sufficient to grow food for the miserable and scanty population. [1981, p. 78. Explanatory note on Malaria and italics added.]

This sad spectacle had been created by centuries of misrule, debt- and disease- ridden tenant farming operated by absentee landowners, and a resulting largely landless and migrant peasantry preyed upon by their overlords and semi-nomadic bandits from the deserts to the East.

The transformation to the land we now see was in the main due to the Zionist resettlement from the 1870’s on, whereby Jews bought land that often had largely been dismissed as useless (at highly inflated prices) from the wealthy absentee Effendi landowners -- then restored it to agricultural production. In the process, they injected large quantities of capital and skill, thus creating employment opportunities that attracted waves of Jewish, Arab and other immigrants from the region and globally. This process was then accelerated by the post World War I collapse of the defeated Ottoman Empire; which led to the creation of the League of Nations Mandate Palestine[26] (i.e. the British Mandate), which was intended to promote Jewish immigration without prejudice to the existing Arab population. [Cf. Peters, 2002, pp. 137 – 359.]

Associated with this League Mandate[27], Dr Chaim Weizmann [later, first President of Israel] and Emir Feisal Hussein of the Hejaz (S.W. Arabia) had negotiated a Versailles Treaty side agreement[28] to promote mutually supportive Jewish and Arab nations that would help modernize and develop the region. However, in the Hejaz, the al Husseinis were defeated by the Saudi family; and in Palestine, the aggressive, violently anti-Jewish policy of the British-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem prevailed. So, by 1926 – 29, Abdullah Hussein had been settled as ruler of the eastern ¾’s of the Mandate in Transjordan (a 38,000 sq, mi. region; from which Jews were banned) and Feisal as King of Iraq. Sadly, violence also swept the land, leading to the massacres of the ancient Jewish populations of Jerusalem and Hebron.

Consequently, over the next twenty years, Jewish immigration was significantly hampered [in the teeth of the rising anti-Semitic tide of Hitler’s Germany] and unofficial Arab immigration was a strongly material demographic trend in the now truncated Mandate Palestine.  [Cf. Peters, pp. 196 – 412.[29]] As one result, the Middle East was deprived of the talent and treasure of many of the Jews who subsequently perished in the Nazi death camps. Then also, when the British surrendered the Mandate in the late 1940’s, Transjordan became the nation of Jordan [briefly, “Palestine”] in 1946 and the UN in 1947 proposed a partition of the cis-Jordanian region into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem and environs being an International city.

The Jews accepted, and the Arab League rejected the UN vote; declaring intent to annihilate the Jews. Thus, within 24 hours of Israel’s independence on May 14, 1948, the 600,000 Israeli Jews faced invasion from five Arab armies, some of them much better equipped than the Haganah, the Jewish part-time militia. However, contrary to the expectations of many, Israel survived. As a result of the conflict, there was an exchange of refugee populations: 400 – 600,000 Arabs [under a unique criterion that 2 years of settlement in Palestine qualified one as a refugee], and 620,000 Jews from Arab lands who were resettled in Israel.[30] [An additional 200,000 oriental Jews settled elsewhere in the world.]

The Jewish refugees were welcomed and absorbed by Israel, becoming the largest single sector of the population today. However, the Arab refugees in the main were not similarly accepted by the Arab countries [with the major exception of Jordan], and provided the nucleus for today’s Palestinian refugee population.

Three major wars, terrorism and two uprisings in the West Bank and Gaza (and the two Gulf Wars) have dominated the subsequent history:

·   In 1956sustained closure of the straights of Tiran (and the Suez canal) to Israeli shipping -- in spite of post-1948 truce terms, Egyptian sponsorship of hundreds of Fedayeen terrorist attacks, and a destabilising 1955 arms deal that injected modern Soviet Bloc armaments into the military situation induced Israel to make common cause with the British and French (who undertook a military response to Nasser's seizure of the jointly owned Suez Canal in the name of nationalism). The Sinai was captured in a 4-day campaign, but was handed back under a US-led, UN–sponsored settlement.

·   In 1967, again after a buildup of tensions, and accompanied by declarations of intent to drive the Jews into the sea, the straights were again closed by Nasser, who also instructed the UN peacekeepers in the Sinai to leave. He then put in seven divisions and several independent brigades into the Sinai, inducing other Arabs to join him in a ring of steel surrounding Israel: 450,000+ men, 2,800 tanks, and 800 aircraft.  After the failure of diplomatic initiatives, the Israelis undertook a risky pre-emptive air strike and ground campaign in June, that in six days retook the Sinai (again, in four days), captured the Golan heights [handed over to French Mandate Syria by the British in the 1920’s] plus Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza strip. Thereafter hostilities continued at a lower level, especially during the War of Attrition.

·   On October 6, 1973, Yom Kippur [the holiest day on the Jewish Calendar], Egypt and Syria attacked the Israeli positions in the Sinai and teh Golan, and made significant progress (in the North) that threatened the survival of the Jewish state.  Reportedly, Egypt had access to Soviet nuclear weapons, and the Israelis assembled several nuclear bombs; the Superpowers came to the brink of a global confrontation as well. However, Israel soon recovered the military initiative on the ground, in part due to the American decision to resupply them with key weapons. 

·   Thereafter the uneasy situation was broken through when, after back-channel contacts, Egyptian President Sadat made a dramatic peace overture; and in 1979 the Camp David peace accord was reached between Egypt and Israel.  For this, Sadat paid with his life, being assassinated while reviewing a military parade.

·   Then, in 1986, Israel and Jordan reportedly almost completed an agreement to jointly manage the West Bank towards an eventual settlement. However, a street uprising broke out in the disputed/occupied territories, the first Intifada.

·   In 1991, after the first Gulf War (during which Arafat backed Saddam Hussein), an opportunity for a settlement seemed to arise, and what became the Oslo peace process was initiated. However, in 1995, Yitzak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist, and by 2000 the unprecedented deal put on the table by US President Clinton and agreed to by Barak of Israel, was rejected; a second Intifada followed. (At least one Palestinian leader has publicly stated that the Sharon visit to Temple Mount was the excuse, not the cause.)

·   Currently, in the aftermath of the second Gulf War, the Americans and the EU are sponsoring a Roadmap to Peace framework.  It seems to be facing very similar roadblocks to those that have frustrated every other effort to date. [UPDATE: Subsequent to 2003, Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza has led to further attacks from that territory, and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers there and by Hezbollah terrorists attacking from the S. Lebanon region Israel evacuated in 2000 provoked a short war in 2006. The situation still repeatedly deadlocks in violent confrontations, and so blocks any reasonable compromise along the lines envisioned as long ago as 1919.]

The timing of the two Intifadas is therefore highly suggestive: they have both happened when a compromise peace more or less along the lines of the 1947 UN partition has been on the table.  That is, they are not simple “spontaneous uprisings” of an oppressed people; but rather reflect a shift in Arab strategy post-1973, to the fostering of a Palestinian national identity and state, towards fulfilling the policy intent that has dominated the Arab world since the 1920’s[31]: the unacceptability of a Jewish -- thus Dhimmi-ruled[32] -- state  in the Middle East.[33]

Currently the United States has intervened strongly in the Middle East, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks by Arab Muslim extremists. The underlying policy appears to be that the US not only wishes to root out the bases for the terror networks that have attacked it[34] (similar to the Barbary Coast anti-piracy naval wars of the turn of C19), but also it aims:

1)     To block the emergence of an Islamic Nuclear power (e.g. Iraq, Iran, possibly Syria), probably on the grounds that that would make a regional nuclear war all but inevitable; and

2)     To foster democratization, economic development and liberalization across the region; in the hope that these globalization-linked forces would help to drain the pool of resentments that lie at the root of the region’s instability.

Such a goal will prove to be difficult to achieve at best, and may well prove unsustainable in the long run, as Islamists (and a great many more moderate Muslims) view all three policy aims as incredibly hostile to the global mission and dignity of Islam. But, the US is probably encouraged by the success of its similar interventions with Germany and Japan from the 1940’s on, and the outcome of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

However, in the background of the headline-grabbing diplomatic and military events, Israel has undergone a dramatic and exemplary economic transformation in the past 120 years that is an object lesson not only to the Middle East but also to the whole world.

For, the initial Kibbutzim[35] created an agricultural powerhouse out of what had been largely ruinate land, farmed under unsustainable systems of tenure.  Then, with the traditional Jewish focus on education, from the 1930’s on a world-class university system has been created; which now serves to underpin one of the leading high-tech economies in the world.  For, arising from the need to develop its own armaments industries the Israelis have spun out an impressive array of inventions and industries, ranging from drip irrigation to cutting-edge aerospace systems and a strong software sector.   

The net result has been that in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, the per capita income in the early 2000’s was US$ 10,600. In Jordan, it was $ 4,200; in the West Bank, $ 1,000; in the Gaza, $ 625. And, in a resource-poor State of Israel that has had to devote a major part of its resources to the military, it was $ 20,000. [36]

In conclusion, it is evident that the underlying deep-rooted hatreds in the Middle East have frustrated every seemingly reasonable attempt to bring about a positive change and a betterment of the people of the region as a whole.  This underscores the importance of the issues raised in the main body of this paper; for, unless reconciliation is found in the arms of the Prince of Peace, there will be no lasting positive settlement of the Middle East situation. (And that is exactly what many leading expositors infer from the relevant prophecies in the Bible.)

Let us pray for the peace of the hitherto ironically named City of Peace, JerusalemEND



[1] A Recent National Geographic cover story on Abraham observes --  tellingly, on the penultimate page of a 40 p. article --  that the biblically based, traditional claim that  “Palestinians and Israelis . . . [have a] common heritage is now a matter of scientific proof.  A recent study of the DNA of male Jews and Middle Eastern Arabs – among them Syrians, Palestinians, and Lebanese – shows that they share a common set of ancestors.”  [Szulc, 2001, p. 128.] Also, cf. Goldberg, 1991, pp. 13 – 19, 213 – 222  on the formative and transforming influence of a culture’s/ religion’s Master Story; and for how divergences in the way such stories are told between competing faiths contributes to the intensity of their confrontation.

[2] Cf. the attached survey of the modern History of Israel, and the pro-peace http://www.mideastweb.org/briefhistory.htm ,  the pro-Israeli http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/myths/ , and the pro-Arab http://www.cactus48.com/truth.html  (nb http://www.think-israel.org/fraudhistory.html)  sites to survey  the clashing perspectives.

[3] Cf. Gen 12:7, 22:17 – 18. [NB. N. L. Calvert, IVP: Dict. of Paul & His Letters, 1993, p. 3: “seed . . . (Heb zera’; Gk sperma), is a collective singular (Ellis, 73) . . . The one descendant, Christ, represents not only the fulfillment of the promises . . . but also . . . the head of the spiritual race and . . . the solidarity of  believers.”]

[4] Cf. Rom 1:1 – 4, 1 Cor 1:18 – 25 and 15:1 - 28 for the importance of this Christian distinctive and the resulting controversies with non-messianic Jews and pagan Greeks. Also, cf.  the summary and analysis at http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/Mars_Hill_Web/Islamism.htm for the C7 Islamic rejection of the incarnation and crucifixion (thus resurrection) of Christ. Thus, the battle lines have long been drawn relative to the central claims of the gospel.

[5] This has sometimes tempted Caribbean people to a resentful anti-West bias that sometimes has inappropriately coloured our analysis, understanding and actions; this may make us vulnerable to exploitation by those who appeal to this bias.  Injustice is injustice, and so it is wise to beware that it  often ends in tyranny, even if unjust acts are done in the name of liberation. [Cf Lev. 19:15 – 18, Matt 7:1 – 5, 2 Cor 10:4 – 5.]

[6] The structure of worldviews and the nature of “proof” and “explanation” imply that reason and faith-commitments are inextricably intertwined; so that the true issue is which set of basic beliefs we hold, not whether we have them. Cf. http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/Mars_Hill_Web/apologetics.htm

[7] The vexed question of the tension between God’s election and man’s choice arises. Both are biblical revelations, and given the centuries of debate, full resolution requires a conceptual level beyond the human to fully resolve. [Cf. Isa. 55:6 – 13.]  However, Acts 27:1 – 28:16 illustrates concretely how very real human choice and actions, with good/bad consequences related to their wisdom/folly, worked to fulfill the purpose of God to bring the Apostle to Rome.  [Cf. 27:24.] Pannenberg, in a similar vein, discusses Election as the dynamic of redemptive history: “[t]the particularism of the love of God for the elected one is to be related to the more comprehensive horizon of God’s love for all mankind.  The chosen one, then, is assigned a function . . . in order to serve as God’s agent . . . in serving God’s greater purpose in the world. . . . [and] is accountable to God for the performance of his mission . . . . The accountability of the elected one for his mission in the context of God’s further purpose in history entails the possibility of his failure [and of God’s further merciful redemptive intervention].” [1977, pp. 49 – 50, ff;  summary of the onward argument is added in the final parenthesis.]

[8] Thus is noted the principle that the nations are God’s tenants and stewards; who hold their land under his requirement of righteousness. [Cf. Deut 8:1 – 9:6, 28:15 - 43 and Matt. 21:33 – 46; & http://www.christian-thinktank.com/qamorite.html.] 

[9] This identification is consistent in the Heb., Gk. and other early versions that precede the rise of Islam; so the as yet unmet burden of proof to substitute Ishmael here properly attaches those who hold to the usual Islamic reading of Sura 37:100 - 113. [cf. http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/eid.html and http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Contrad/MusTrad/sacrifice.html ]

[10] Cf. McCurry, 2001, pp. 15 – 35 for an analysis that speaks to us in the Caribbean at least as directly as it does to the damaged heart of  Ishmael: ‘Sin, real of imagined, engenders a sense of guilt. Guilt, if not dealt with, breeds fear. This fear, if not removed, leads to a vague sense of hostility . . . [which] will begin to focus either inwardly, causing psychosomatically induced illnesses or suicidal tendencies, or it will project itself outward on some designated hate object . . . [leading to] acts of violence, either against a person (homicide) or against a people (genocide or war).  Ishmael’s hostility and propensity to violence were rooted in the sin of his own scoffing and jealous attitude towards his brother Isaac  . . . [it] has today been perpetuated in the lives of  [those who] have voluntarily chosen to identify with Ishmael and have, consciously or unconsciously, embraced the spirit of that ancient and bitter rivalry. What makes Islam unique* is that it has institutionalized and even blessed this propensity . . . in the form of jihad  . . . as a religious duty in Islam.” (*Added note: But so-called Holy War was “justified” by the medieval church; though clearly in contradiction to the teaching and practice of Jesus: Matt. 26:47 – 56.) [p. 33; citing and applying Hunter’s psychological analysis of the fate of  US Korean War POWs in his Brainwashing in Red China (NY: Vanguard Press, 1953).]

[11] Inferred from the typical custom of ancient times.

[12] From Gen 12:14 – 13:2, on his departure from Egypt, Abraham had become very wealthy in livestock, silver and gold.  By contrast, in the case of  the sons of Keturah, Gen 25:5 – 6, “he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac.”

[13] descended from Keturah’s sons and Ishmael; Gen 35:25 – 28; cf. http://www.brow.on.ca/Books/Ishmael/Ishpost.htm for an interesting discussion on the evolution of Jewish and Arab identity.

[14] All of this is highly suggestive of the family dysfuntionality implications of favouritism,  concubinage, multiple marriages and the power struggles attendant on the resulting polygamy and sibling rivalry; lessons we would do well to heed in the Caribbean.

[15] Cf. http://www.answering-islam.org.uk/Hahn/integrity.html

[16] Cf. Bat Ye’or’s  http://www.dhimmi.org/

[17] Cf. Zech 12:1 – 14:21, which envisions not only the hostility of neighbouring nations, but that of  “all the nations of the earth.” [12:3.] Let us therefore soberly reflect on this, given the church’s explicit mandate to disciple the nations, in the way of the greatest of all Jews; one who lived by and taught the way of love and peace. [Cf. Matt. 26:47 – 56.]

[18] Cf. Deut 28:1 – 30:20, & Appendix.

[19] It hardly needs to be underscored, but should be duly noted, that the identified enemies of Ezekiel 36 [and of the parallel Psalm 83:1 – 8, which lists God’s “enemies” that intend the destruction of Israel as a nation as comprising: Edom, Ishmaelites, Moab, Hagrites, Gebal, Ammon [cf. Judges 11:12 -28, 2 Chron. 20:1 - 12], Amalek, Philistia – Falestin is of course “Philistine”, Tyre, and Assyria; cf. Ps 2, 82, 110] are now in the main self-identified as Arabs, and are predominantly  adherents of the Islamic faith; i.e. followers of  the teachings and example of Ishmael’s most illustrious son. Sadly, the ancient animosity that the Bible describes lingers yet, and has sometimes tempted some Arabs (understandably resentful of Western imperialism and Israeli  military and economic domination*) to turn to the hatred, envy and violence deplored in Ezekiel 35:5 – 13; in some cases provoking similar hatred and violence on the side of some of the Jews (and at least some Westerners) -- thus the proverbial (but significantly lopsided) Middle East “cycle of violence” emerges and defies all human attempts to bring peace.  [Cf. Dan 8:23 – 25, 9:25 – 27.] Therefore, the question of reconciliation through Christ [2 Cor 5:14 – 6:2]  is vital in a world of proliferating WMDs, not just for the broader Gentile world and the Jews but also for their Arab cousins; as well as for the three  Abrahamic faiths that have made competing claims to the land and the promises. [Cf. Rom 9:1 – 11:32, esp. 11:13 – 24]
----------
* But often forgetful of their own imperialist past and present (e.g. in
Sudan).

[20] Cf. typical commentary and opinions on the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli disputes across the region. These reflect not just a spiritual deficit, but an all too easy equating of our painful colonial past to the situation in the Middle East; whilst the facts and circumstances – as opposed to the propaganda and associated polarized opinions on the respective sides -- are in fact quite diverse.

[21] We must also now firmly but respectfully [cf. 1 Pet. 3:15] answer the question on the cover of the June 30, 2003 Time Magazine: “Should Christians Convert Muslims? A new flock of missionaries has launched a campaign to take the Gospel to Islamic countries. But will they inspire more backlash than belief?” On the contrary, this cover  -- displayed around the world by a leading Newsmagazine founded by the son of Missionaries to China -- is in fact grossly unfair: as the companion paper, on the Afroz “Caribbean Islamic past” thesis highlights, Islam has already undertaken the Dawa project to convert Christians, here in the Caribbean and elsewhere across the globe. Much of this effort is funded by Saudi Arabia, which not only bans the building of churches but the public expression of any religion other than Islam.

[22] NB: For further detail, the MidEastWeb’s survey is the best place to begin: http://www.mideastweb.org/briefhistory.htm. The pro-Israeli site http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/myths/  and the Fordham University History site  at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/modsbook54.html provide further corroborating and supplementing details and source documents. The site  http://www.cactus48.com/truth.html  (but nb http://www.think-israel.org/fraudhistory.html) gives a pro-Arab/Palestinian perspective that is apparently quite commonly reproduced by many Palestinian sites. ( Many Palestinian Arabs were (and are) Christians, and there have been significant settlements of Greeks and people from all over the world. Data does not permit greater exactness. Cf. Peters, pp. 227 – 229; nb: http://www.mideastweb.org/palpop.htm)

[23] Many Palestinian Arabs were (and are) Christians, and there have been significant settlements of Greeks and people from all over the world. Census data does not permit greater exactness. Cf. Peters, pp. 227 – 229; nb: http://www.mideastweb.org/palpop.htm

[24] The Negev, ~ ½ the total, was unsettled until the 1940s.

[25] Jews lived mostly in (a) sacred cities such as Jerusalem and Hebron [for centuries]  and (b) since the 1870s in the ruinate agricultural areas that became the heart of modern Israel.

[26] Since the days of the Bar Kochba revolt in AD 133 – 5, apart from the Crusader kingdoms, there had not been a separate political entity in this region, until the Mandate. Even provincial boundaries cut across the region we see on our maps today, which was viewed as Southern Syria in the days of the Ottoman Empire.

[27] Cf. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1922mandate.html

[28] Cf. http://www.mideastweb.org/feisweiz.htm

[29] Peters probably  understates the impact of natural increase among Arabs, but amply documents the impact of immigration patterns and policies; including British perfidy and the Mufti’s Nazi collaboration (and associated war crimes).

[30] Arab policy, by contrast (with the notable exception of Jordan) in the main refused to resettle the Arab refugees. This contributed to the rise of the PLO, which in its Charter declared an intent to destroy Israel.

[31] At the turn of the 1920’s Emir Feisal had hoped for a mutually beneficial parallel development of a Jewish state and an Arab nation. Significantly, the Arab state that is still  ruled by a Husseini dynasty, Jordan, enjoys perhaps the best relationship with Israel of all the neighbouring Arab states. [The Husseins originally ruled the Hejaz, in SW Arabia; and were key leaders of the Arab rebellion assisted by Lawrence of Arabia in the 1914 - 18 war. They were the prospective rulers of the emerging Arab Nation of 1919, but in the 1920’s the Saudis defeated them in Arabia. Two Husseini regimes were then set up by the British; one in Iraq, the other in the eastern ¾ of the Palestine Mandate,  i.e. Transjordan. The dynasty in Iraq was overthrown in the 1950’s.]

[32] Cf. Bat Ye’or: http://www.dhimmi.org/

[33] The parallel fate of the Lebanon, a largely Christian Arab state, now occupied by Syria in the aftermath of civil wars in which the PLO played a crucial role, is a sobering exemplar for those who hope for a sustainable compromise peace.

[34] In part because it is viewed as the Sponsor of Israel, and in part because of resentment at Western domination and the history of colonialism; but also because the USA is in Islamist eyes the leading power of dar al Harb; therefore an inevitable enemy of dar al Islam.

[35] The world’s only long-term successful socialist experiment (which materially helped to attract the initial support of the Soviet Union for the fledgling state; which proved vital to victory in the War of Independence – at the time, and until the 1960s - 70s, the US was distinctly cool towards the new state). The Kibbutz, an agricultural commune unique to the Zionist movement,  was the founding institution of the modern State of Israel, and kibbutzim have been disproportionately represented in both Israel’s leadership and the casualty lists from that nation’s wars.

[36] National Geographic Map Supplement, October 2002.