Inside View Sep/Oct 2013
Israel’s enemies are at it again. The latest attack comes from the Church of Scotland in its document The inheritance of Abraham? A report on the ‘promised land,’ which refutes Israel’s God-given right to the land and reinterprets well-known biblical concepts.
The report initially challenged Israel’s right to exist at all. But a strong outcry from the Jewish community led to a revision that concedes Israel’s right to exist but denies the State of Israel is God-sanctioned. The situation is a replay of Psalm 83:
They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.” For they have consulted together with one consent (vv. 3–5).
The document also claims the concepts of Israel, Temple, Jerusalem, and land are reinterpreted by the New Testament.1 So, according to them, not only does the Promised Land not belong to the Jewish people, but the land promise is not even literal. The Church of Scotland would have us believe land is a metaphor for the way things ought to be in the church, and Israel means Christians—a tenet of Replacement Theology.
Dennis Prager, an Orthodox rabbi and popular radio host, commented, “Imagine if a major Muslim body declared that Jesus means Muhammad; Christ means Quran; crucifixion means Islamophobia; and resurrection means the Hajj.”2
Even more troubling is the Church of Scotland’s method of interpretation. It presumes you cannot interpret the Old Testament until you first interpret the New. This is a new hermeneutic, a new way of interpreting God’s Word.
We believe the Bible should be interpreted literally—in its grammatical, historical context. We also believe in the progress of revelation, meaning we interpret the Bible in the order God revealed it to man. God has revealed Himself to us through His Word. Although the New Testament often enhances our understanding of such concepts as Israel, Temple, Jerusalem, and land, it does not radically change their meaning.
But there is an even bigger issue: The Church of Scotland’s hermeneutic attacks God’s character, integrity, and honesty. It presents a God who revealed His Word but made it impossible for people to interpret it for hundreds of years because they did not have the New Testament. What kind of God is that?
The Church of Scotland is saying God gave Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob revelation that misled them into believing (1) they were a chosen people and (2) that He promised them an actual piece of real estate. Its view would make the physical boundaries God gave for the land in Genesis 15; Exodus 23; Numbers 34; and Ezekiel 47 a lie, as well God’s declaration that He chose Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital and that He wanted the Jewish people to build a Temple where He would be worshiped.
The Church of Scotland presents a God who can’t be trusted. How can it be sure God won’t reveal further written revelation that will change its interpretation and understanding of key concepts in the New Testament?
What a sad day for the Church of Scotland. It used to be a staunch supporter of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to the land God promised to them. From the early 19th century, influential Church of Scotland leaders encouraged the idea of a Promised Land. Its Rev. Alexander Keith even cited the phrase “a land without a people, for a people without land.”
As for me, I will stick with following the progress of revelation and the literal interpretation of Scripture. That is the normal way we understand spoken and written words in everyday life, and I believe it is the way God intended for us to interpret His Word.
Interpretation is a critically important issue today when so many are trying to transform Scripture to suit themselves. We need to stand up for proper interpretation of God’s Word because it affects our understanding of God, Israel, and His plan of redemption.
- The Inheritance of Abraham? A Report on the ‘Promised land,’ rev. ed., May 2013, The Church of Scotland <churchofscotland.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/14050/The_Inheritance_of_Abraham.pdf >.
- Dennis Prager, “The Church of Scotland’s Scandal,” TownHall.com, May 14, 2013 <townhall.com/columnists/dennisprager/2013/05/14/the-church-of-scotlands-scandal-n1594126/page/full>.