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Burge

Burge

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Published by Jim West
Review of Gary Burge's 'Jesus and the Land'
Review of Gary Burge's 'Jesus and the Land'

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Published by: Jim West on Dec 02, 2011
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11/26/2012

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Burge, Gary M.
 Jesus and the Land 
. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010.This slim yet weighty volume disabuses readers of the misprisions of a ChristianZionist interpretation of the New Testament. Part by part, Burge dismantles theunderpinnings of the proof texts which Christian Zionists are so fond of using.In the first part of the volume Burge discusses the biblical heritage as described inthe Old Testament. What is the covenant of the land and what does it mean to thepeople of ancient Israel? And, equally importantly for later developments, what dothe rabbis do with that covenant?In part two Burge turns his attention to Diaspora Judaism. Philo and Josephus arehis primary sources and in their writings the Jewish people
are a people widely distributed throughout the empire without anecessary territorial base. The benefit of life within their ranks is notan eschatological promise of the defeat of the Gentiles and theresumption of an Israelite kingdom. Nor will blessing be found in theland given as reward. Instead, obedience to God within the Jewishframework will result in a better life, longevity, and even prosperity.Here then we see that Judaism
s
Land Theology
has been entirelyredefined. And it will be a redefinition that will deeply influence theformation of Christian thinking in the New Testament (pp. 23-24).In light of that completely accurate evaluation of the evidence, Burge nextdemonstrates how Jesus too held precisely that perspective. I.e., that it isn
t thepromise of a land that is the core of faith, it
s faithful obedience to the will of Godin daily routine life.[Jesus] expresses no overt affirmation of first-century territorialtheologies (p. 40).When it comes to the Fourth Gospel, things are even less
land-o-centric
(myterm, not Burge
s) then they are in the Synoptics.Interestingly, Burge reminds us, the Christians who were in the land when theRomans invaded refused to fight against Rome on the side of the Jews and evenlater they refused to lift swords in the Bar Kochba revolt.
 
 The vineyard they loved was centered on Jesus and his life and thiscould be gained in any country (p. 57).Burge combs through Acts and the letters of Paul as well as the post Paulineepistles found in the New Testament. Even the book of Revelation is investigatedand in spite of the misreading of the Christian Zionists and dispensationalists, thattext too makes no claims to proffer a theology of the land.In short, nowhere does he find Christians concerned with the
theology of the land
 so central to modern Christian Zionism. One can only draw the implicitconclusion that the Christian Zionist has wandered far from the bedrock of Christian belief and practice.In the final chapter, then, Burge applies what he has discerned in the literatureChristians claim to value to the beliefs of Christian Zionists. He calls on Christiansto begin to think 
Christianly
about the land presently the center of theIsraeli/Palestinian conflict.A Christian Zionist Territorial Theology simply has no foundation in Scripture.Only a misreading, indeed, only an intentional misreading (misprision) of the NewTestament (and the Old!) can permit such a misplaced theological point of view.But debunking the arguments of the Christian Zionists becomes difficult in light of the fact that their movement is
a populist movement fueled by preachers who use its schemaevangelistically. No carefully argued theological study has comefrom within its own ranks. No New Testament scholar has written inits defense (p. 123).Naturally, I would suggest, the reason that the above statement is true is becausethe position of Christian Zionism is indefensible and only those persons basicallyignorant of the scope of biblical teaching adhere to it. Unfortunately there is sucha thing as invincible ignorance; an ignorance that can
t be pierced by anyreasoning, accurate exegesis, or theological truth.I wish every John Hagee following misinformed Christian Zionist would read thisbook. Unfortunately, they won
t. To their own harm and to the potential harm of 

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