Burge, Gary M. Jesus and the Land. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010.

This slim yet weighty volume disabuses readers of the misprisions of a Christian Zionist interpretation of the New Testament. Part by part, Burge dismantles the underpinnings 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 in the Old Testament. What is the covenant of the land and what does it mean to the people of ancient Israel? And, equally importantly for later developments, what do the rabbis do with that covenant? In part two Burge turns his attention to Diaspora Judaism. Philo and Josephus are his primary sources and in their writings the Jewish people … are a people widely distributed throughout the empire without a necessary territorial base. The benefit of life within their ranks is not an eschatological promise of the defeat of the Gentiles and the resumption of an Israelite kingdom. Nor will blessing be found in the land given as reward. Instead, obedience to God within the Jewish framework will result in a better life, longevity, and even prosperity. Here then we see that Judaism‟s “Land Theology” has been entirely redefined. And it will be a redefinition that will deeply influence the formation of Christian thinking in the New Testament (pp. 23-24). In light of that completely accurate evaluation of the evidence, Burge next demonstrates how Jesus too held precisely that perspective. I.e., that it isn‟t the promise of a land that is the core of faith, it‟s faithful obedience to the will of God in daily routine life. [Jesus] expresses no overt affirmation of first-century territorial theologies (p. 40). When it comes to the Fourth Gospel, things are even less „land-o-centric‟ (my term, not Burge‟s) then they are in the Synoptics. Interestingly, Burge reminds us, the Christians who were in the land when the Romans invaded refused to fight against Rome on the side of the Jews and even later they refused to lift swords in the Bar Kochba revolt.

The vineyard they loved was centered on Jesus and his life and this could be gained in any country (p. 57). Burge combs through Acts and the letters of Paul as well as the post Pauline epistles found in the New Testament. Even the book of Revelation is investigated and in spite of the misreading of the Christian Zionists and dispensationalists, that text 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 implicit conclusion 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 literature Christians claim to value to the beliefs of Christian Zionists. He calls on Christians to begin to think „Christianly‟ about the land presently the center of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. A Christian Zionist Territorial Theology simply has no foundation in Scripture. Only a misreading, indeed, only an intentional misreading (misprision) of the New Testament (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 schema evangelistically. No carefully argued theological study has come from within its own ranks. No New Testament scholar has written in its defense (p. 123). Naturally, I would suggest, the reason that the above statement is true is because the position of Christian Zionism is indefensible and only those persons basically ignorant of the scope of biblical teaching adhere to it. Unfortunately there is such a thing as invincible ignorance; an ignorance that can‟t be pierced by any reasoning, accurate exegesis, or theological truth. I wish every John Hagee following misinformed Christian Zionist would read this book. Unfortunately, they won‟t. To their own harm and to the potential harm of

this world. Ignorance does carry a heavy price-tag and the ignorance of Christian Zionism carries the highest of all. But even if the Christian Zionists won‟t bother with this book, I hope that you will. You will learn a great deal as Burge leads you through the relevant issues in a fair, informed, exegetically responsible and theologically accurate way. Baker Academic is to be applauded for taking on an issue that so many are afraid to tackle but which must be confronted for the sake of humanity and in the name of the truth.

Jim West Quartz Hill School of Theology