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An Unusual Relationship

An Unusual Relationship: Evangelical Christians and Jews

Yaakov Ariel
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 316
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  • Book Info
    An Unusual Relationship
    Book Description:

    "In this enormously well researched and gracefully argued book, Ariel develops a nuanced theme: the complexity, ambivalence, and even paradox that has characterized conservative Protestant beliefs regarding Jews and Israel, and the diverse responses among Jews. . . . First-rate scholarship presented in a pleasingly accessible style." - Stephen Spector, author of Evangelicals and Israel: The Story of American Christian Zionism It is generally accepted that Jews and evangelical Christians have little in common. Yet special alliances developed between the two groups in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Evangelicals viewed Jews as both the rightful heirs of Israel and as a group who failed to recognize their true savior. Consequently, they set out to influence the course of Jewish life by attempting to evangelize Jews and to facilitate their return to Palestine. Their double-edged perception caused unprecedented political, cultural, and theological meeting points that have revolutionized Christian-Jewish relationships. An Unusual Relationship explores the beliefs and political agendas that evangelicals have created in order to affect the future of the Jews. This volume offers a fascinating, comprehensive analysis of the roots, manifestations, and consequences of evangelical interest in the Jews, and the alternatives they provide to conventional historical Christian-Jewish interactions. It also provides a compelling understanding of Middle Eastern politics through a new lens. Yaakov Ariel is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His book, Evangelizing the Chosen People, was awarded the Albert C. Outler prize by the American Society of Church History. In the Goldstein-Goren Series in American Jewish History

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6293-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-14)

    In 2002, the American government released a 1972 recording of a conversation that Richard Nixon, one of America’s most controversial presidents, conducted with Billy Graham, America’s most respectable evangelist in the second half of the twentieth century. The content of the audiocassette shocked many Americans. The transcripts revealed that Graham and Nixon expressed negative opinions of Jews, blaming them for the ills of the age and echoing stereotypical images of Jews as subversive liberals whose aim was to undermine Christian values and institutions.¹ Many had already been aware of Nixon’s prejudices against Jews but were surprised that Graham shared the...

  5. 1 The Roots and Early Beginnings of the Evangelical-Jewish Relationship
    (pp. 15-34)

    The evangelicals’ interest in the Jews, the role they ascribe to that people in history, and their understanding of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity have roots that go back as far as the early generations of Christianity. Evangelical relations to the Jews, however, have also departed in meaningful ways from more traditional Christian perceptions of who the Jews are and what that people’s position is in God’s plans for humanity. One should look for the beginnings of evangelical attitudes toward the Jews among Protestant groups in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that emphasized a literal reading of the Christian...

  6. 2 The Evangelical Messianic Faith and the Jews
    (pp. 35-57)

    The evangelical messianic vision, in which the Jews play a central role, draws on a long Christian eschatological tradition.¹ Christianity started as a messianic movement, its early texts speaking about apocalyptic times and the near coming of the kingdom of God on earth.² After Jesus’s death, his disciples expected his imminent return and the beginning of a long-sought righteous divine reign. However, in the fourth and fifth centuries, when Christianity became the established religion of the Roman Empire, mainline Christianity became mostly amillennial in character. Christian thinkers such as Augustine, bishop of Hippo, postponed the materialization of the messianic era...

  7. 3 Evangelical Theologians, Institutions, and Publications and the Jews
    (pp. 58-81)

    Leading evangelists, major Protestant publications, popular prophetic conferences, and new teaching institutions were instrumental in spreading and shaping the dispensationalist messianic hope in America and beyond. They turned the dispensational view of the Jewish people into part of the creed of millions of evangelicals, often connecting it with their understanding of America and its role in world history. Dispensationalism reached America in the 1860s. John Darby, who helped crystallize the new messianic faith in Britain, visited America to disseminate his ideas. From 1862 to 1878 he made seven trips to the United States and Canada, lecturing, meeting ministers, and teaching...

  8. 4 Evangelicals and Jewish Restoration
    (pp. 82-99)

    As early as the seventeenth century, Protestants holding to the premillennialist faith had followed the prospect of Jewish restoration to Zion and had promoted the idea that Christians should assist Jews in carrying out this project. In the early nineteenth century, with the rise of a large evangelical movement in English-speaking countries, evangelical Protestants took a renewed interest in the Jewish people and their fate, at times directing their energies to initiatives to restore the Jews to Palestine. Most such evangelical proto-Zionist initiatives were undertaken in the English-speaking world, although one could find proponents of Jewish restoration in other societies...

  9. 5 Evangelicals and Jews in the Holy Land
    (pp. 100-110)

    William Blackstone was one of a long series of evangelical Christians who found meaning in the Holy Land. In principle, evangelical Protestants had not recognized the concept of holy sites, but during the nineteenth century Palestine became more accessible to evangelical Protestants than before, and their relation to that country came to resemble that of Catholic, Orthodox, and Monophysite Christians. They began traveling to Palestine, arriving as tourists, missionaries, explorers of the land, biblical scholars, archaeologists, and diplomats. They wished to obtain inspiration or solace, or to be at “ground zero” when the great events of the end times took...

  10. 6 Instructing Christians and Jews: Evangelical Missions to the Jews
    (pp. 111-125)

    Since the eighteenth century, missions to the Jews have occupied a central place in the agenda of evangelical Christians. Their meaning for evangelicals has gone far beyond trying to turn individual Jews into confessing Christians, though this aspect of missionary work has certainly been important. Propagating Christianity among the Jews has meant teaching that people about their true role and purpose in history. Missionaries concluded that only a handful of Jews in the current generation would be “saved” but that many others would learn about God’s plans for humanity and what to expect when the Rapture took place and the...

  11. 7 Evangelical Yiddish: Christian Literature in a Jewish Language
    (pp. 126-141)

    Residents of Jewish neighborhoods in the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century noticed a phenomenon that at first glance seemed like an oxymoron—Christian missionaries distributing literature in Yiddish. To many, Yiddish symbolized a unique culture that Jews had developed apart from the Christian society when they lived in Europe and in their first decades in the New World. That missionaries would use Yiddish to promote Christian beliefs and agendas seemed almost unthinkable. However, evangelical missionaries and Jewish converts to Christianity created in America and elsewhere a lively Yiddish literary subculture.

    Like the evangelical missionary movement...

  12. 8 Evangelical Christians and Anti-Jewish Conspiracy Theories
    (pp. 142-152)

    Not all evangelical views on Jews’ culture and literary heritage were affirming; at times, they had a darker side. In 1933, for example, Arno Gaebelein, a renowned conservative evangelical theologian, published a best-selling book,The Conflict of the Ages, that accused the Jews of conspiring to take over the world.¹ The 1920s and 1930s witnessed a resurgence of anti-Jewish accusations and incitements, especially in European nations, such as Germany, Hungary, Romania, and France. However, the United States was also affected by the trend. Amazingly, in this case, the author considered himself to be a friend of the Jews and could...

  13. 9 The Evangelical Understanding of the Holocaust
    (pp. 153-170)

    Since the 1970s, the evangelical rank and file have shown growing awareness of the suffering of Jews and others during the Second World War. Books relating to the Holocaust have become popular in evangelical circles, often in conjunction with other themes, such as the position of the Jews in God’s plans for humanity and the moral and theological questions arising from the murder of millions of innocent people. Biographies, memoirs, and novels have been written to inform evangelical readers about the Nazi regime in Europe from 1933 to 1945, as well as to educate Christians on the meaning and purpose...

  14. 10 Evangelicals and the Birth of the Jewish State
    (pp. 171-197)

    While evangelical activists and leaders noted the plight of Jews in Europe under the Nazi and communist regimes, they also followed the growth of the Jewish community in the Land of Israel with interest and satisfaction. Their reaction on the whole could be described as supportive, yet apprehensive. They were happy to see the birth of a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine, yet they wished the new country had a different cultural and religious agenda. A number of evangelical missionaries and writers visited Palestine during the 1930s and 1940s, watching closely the developments among the Jewish community there and sending home...

  15. 11 Evangelical Christians and the Building of the Temple
    (pp. 198-213)

    In August of 1969, a young evangelical Christian, Dennis Michael Rohan, set fire to the al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount. A member of the Church of God, Rohan was motivated by a desire to bring about the messianic age and thought that clearing the ground for the building of the Temple would set the apocalyptic clock going.¹ Rohan was diagnosed as insane and sent back to Australia, and many at the time chose to believe that the burning of the mosque was an act of one unstable individual. Since the 1970s, however, a number of evangelical and Jewish groups...

  16. 12 Evangelical Jews: The Rise of Messianic Judaism
    (pp. 214-244)

    In the 1970s and 1980s, both Jews and Christians were surprised to see the rise of a large and vigorous movement of Christian evangelical Jews. Considering the two faiths to be completely separated from each other, many observers considered such an amalgam bizarre, like a cup of “half coffee and half tea.” Attempting to overcome the historical differences between the two religious traditions, these Jewish converts to Christianity often defined themselves as Messianic Jews instead of using the Hellenistic termChristian. The new name highlighted the messianic element in Christianity and pointed to the movement’s ideology of emphasizing the Jewish...

    (pp. 245-252)

    In the history of relationships between religious communities the interactions between evangelicals and Jews have been extraordinary. In no other instance have members of one community of faith considered another group to hold a special role in the divine course of human redemption and to be their God’s first nation. Likewise, there are not many situations in which a religious tradition views a country in another part of the globe as the locale of great events leading from one era to the next. This belief is particularly remarkable in light of evangelicals’ insistence on the exclusivity of the Christian faith...

  18. NOTES
    (pp. 253-292)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 293-306)
    (pp. 307-307)