We have finally heard from Dr. Robert H. Gundry, author of A Survey of the New Testament. He has defended his textbook, and we have passed his letter on to Dr. McCall who has replied to it point by point. The discussion below is very interesting. Two theologians more or less slug it out over points of Bible interpretation. Dr. McCall first addresses our viewers in gratitude for your letter-writing, and I want to add my congratulations to his. You have done a fine work.
Two theologians… slug it out
By Tom McCall
You have accomplished quite a bit during the last few months. Through your letters to the schools and the publisher you have caused the leaders to pay careful attention to a textbook that is symptomatic of some of the problems with which we are struggling on behalf of the Word of God, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the modern miracle of the restoration of Israel in preparation for the Second Coming. We have now received letters from the author, Robert H. Gundry, and Zondervan Publishing House attempting to defend their textbook, A Survey of the New Testament, 3rd edition. Please note that they accuse Zola and me of making charges that are unfounded, misleading and irresponsible; they also accuse you of writing letters to them in ignorance, without having read the textbook yourselves.
I will attempt to answer the main points Dr. Gundry raises in response to our complaints in letters, newsletters and the TV program.
There are two points that should be kept in mind in all of this debate. One is that Dr. Gundry was expelled out of the Evangelical Theological Society because of his unorthodox views on the inerrancy of Scripture, a fact that is not mentioned in his biographical descriptions. Why should we educate our future pastors and Christian leaders with a textbook by an author who has been so repudiated by his evangelical peers? The other is that Dr. Gundry is one of the leading proponents of the Post Tribulation Rapture viewpoint, and has written several books on the subject. Many of the schools that are using his New Testament textbook were founded on the conviction that the Lord will return for the church before the Tribulation with a Pre-Trib Rapture. Why should these schools use as a textbook a New Testament Survey book by an author who promotes an eschatological view contrary to that on which the schools were founded?
In the following discussion, I mean no disrespect by referring to Dr. Gundry as simply Gundry. This is common in theological discourse. I have responded below to each of the paragraphs in Gundry’s letter.
Dr. Gundry: You said the book is “anti-Israel” and “anti-Semitic” and it “demeans” and “defames” the Jewish people. Your senior theological advisor, Dr. Thomas S. McCall, added, “Every time he [Gundry] mentions the Gentiles, they’re noble-minded, high-minded, and full of faith” whereas the Jews are “the worst things that ever happened.” You also spoke of “those murderous Jews we read about” in the book, and described Paul the Pharisee as “not rotten at all,” in contrast to my description of the Pharisees.
These accusations need a double answer. First, Paul himself described his Phariseeism as “dung” (Philippians 3:8). No less an authority than Jesus issued a long series of woes against the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy (Matthew 23), not to detail other criticisms (the parable of the Pharisee and publican, for example). Peter, himself a Jew, told the “men of Israel” that they had taken Jesus “by lawless hands” and “put him to death” (Acts 2:23). So Stephen called them “murderers” (Acts 7:52), and Paul wrote that “wrath has come upon them [‘the Jews’] to the uttermost” (1 Thessalonians 2:14–16; compare the frequently derogatory use of “the Jews” in John’s gospel — 5:16, to take but one example, “the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill him”). These passages do not excuse anti-Semitism, and Gentiles bear an equal load of guilt for Jesus’ death; but if I had wanted to defame the Jews in SNT, I would have highlighted a passage like the Thessalonian one. I did not even mention it.
Dr. McCall: Gentiles have a problem writing about the condemnations of the Jewish people that are contained in both the Old and New Testaments. The tendency is for us to fall into the trap of thinking that God is more angry with Israel than He is with the Gentile nations. This is a terrible fallacy. In comparison, the Lord has much more condemnation against the nations of the world than against His own people. Furthermore, He reserves the greatest condemnation against those nations and individual Gentiles who abuse His Chosen People. We must maintain that perspective in all our pronouncements and writings. Of course, when individual Jews and Gentiles receive Christ, there is equal blessing and salvation for both.
Dr. Gundry: Second, although my book emphasizes the conversion of many Gentiles, as the New Testament does, it also describes in lurid detail the degeneracy of Gentile morals, entertainment, and pagan religion (pages 50–51, 56–62) and notes that many Gentiles were attracted to the Jewish religion because of its superior morals and theology (page 73). Additional note is taken that “in Abraham’s descendants all the families of the earth will be blessed” (page 304). I dare say that your viewers and readers would never guess from your presentations that Jewish-favorable and Gentile-critical material appears in my book.
Dr. McCall: While Gundry has praise for the superior morals and theology of the “Jewish religion,” he has scant appreciation for the Jewish people themselves, who were the repository of the Word of God and the Messianic hope. Although there are some complimentary passages about the Jews, the tenor of the book as a whole is uncomplimentary of the Jewish people, and fails to recognize the great minority of Jews who received Jesus, His teaching, and His ministry.
Dr. Gundry: Next, you accused me of “trying to leave out the Jews” with my interpretation of Matthew 15:31, “And they glorified the God of Israel,” as a reference to Gentiles’ glorification of Israel’s God (page 187). One might have thought you would regard it as a compliment to Jews that Gentiles would be glorifying the God of Israel. No matter, though; it would not bother me in the least if Jews were doing the glorifying; and of course I recognize that they too, could use the phrase, “the God of Israel” (as they do in Psalms 41:13; 106:48; Luke 1:68, Acts 13:17). But these are the editorial words of Matthew, not directly quoted words of the multitude; and although Jesus had said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), he did in fact minister to the Gentile woman who had just come to him, as he had also ministered to the Gentile centurion who had come to him earlier (Matthew 8:5–13), so that it does not seem a “preposterous idea” (your phrase) that the multitudes who came to him and glorified the God of Israel should be seen as Gentiles. Note well that Jesus did not go to them; they came to him, just as the centurion and the woman had done (Matthew 8:5; 15:22, 30).
Dr. McCall: The point about Matt. 15:31, “And they glorified the God of Israel,” is that, in the book, Gundry takes this as proof that these people were Gentiles, with no further explanation. Gundry says in the letter that “it would not bother me in the least if Jews were doing the glorifying.” But that would undermine his whole argument that Christ was now turning away from the Jews to the Gentiles. The assumption that this was a large group of Gentiles is critical to his position. We show that there is no bonafide reason to assume that these were anything other than Israelites with whom the Lord was dealing all along.
Dr. Gundry: To counteract my statement that the multitudes “represent the great mass of Gentiles who are flocking into the church of Matthew’s time,” Dr. McCall asserted, “There was no Church in Matthew’s time; Jesus was presenting the kingdom to his people Israel.” But my verb, “represents,” shows that “Matthew’s time” was the time of his writing, when there most certainly was a church already in existence. Dr. McCall’s assertion would have been correct only if “Matthew’s time” had meant the lifetime of Jesus. It does not.
Dr. McCall: Concerning “Matthew’s time,” the natural assumption is that Gundry is referring to the time Matthew is writing about, during the earthly ministry of our Lord. With regard to tense, in the textbook he states, “they represent the great mass of Gentiles who are flocking into the church of Matthew’s time.” If he intended it to mean the time after the beginning of the Church age, he should have clarified this by using the future tense, such as “the great mass of Gentiles who will later flock into the church at the time Matthew wrote his gospel.” Nevertheless, there was no great mass of Gentiles involved in the ministry of our Lord, before His death, resurrection and ascension, as I have endeavored to explain above.
Dr. Gundry: Contrary to Dr. McCall’s further argument, you will not find in SNT any statement to the effect that for the purpose of feeding the multitude of 4,000 Jesus ventured “deep into this Gentile area of Decapolis” or “into the heart of Decapolis.” But since Dr. McCall has brought up the matter, I observe that though he correctly translates horion with “border,” he fails to note that in Mark 7:31, where the word occurs in a parallel to the Matthean passage under discussion, the word occurs in the plural, with a preceding phrase, ana meson (literally, “up the middle”), that produces the meaning, “between the borders of Decapolis,” that is, “in the middle of Decapolis.” Matthew 13:25 uses the same preceding phrase for the sowing of tares “between,” that is, “in the middle of,” wheat. Furthermore, Dr. McCall errs to argue simplistically that Galilee was Jewish, so that a Galilean setting would guarantee the Jewishness of a crowd. In fact, the population of Galilee was mixed. Why, within several miles, easy walking distance, of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth in Galilee lay a major Gentile city, Sepphoris. Archaeologists have been excavating it for some years now (compare Matthew 4:15: “Galilee of the Gentiles”).
Dr. McCall: With regard to the translation of ana meson ton horion Decapolis, Gundry concludes that it means, “in the middle of Decapolis.” However, it literally means, “in the midst of the border of Decapolis.” The idea is that Jesus came to the northern border of Decapolis, probably not far from the Jewish town of Gamla, about midway between the Sea of Galilee and the eastern boundary. My two articles about the feeding of the 4,000 (Levitt Letter, July and August issues) go into this matter in considerable detail, and I would refer the reader to those articles.
Dr. Gundry: But this disagreement over the multitude of 4,000 has little or no theological significance. For even under my view that they prefigure the later influx of Gentiles into the church, Jesus still aimed his ministry toward the Jews. Whether few or many, Gentiles who benefited from it formed exceptions. Even Dr. McCall admits Gentile exceptions that proved the Jewish rule. He limits those exceptions to isolated individuals, however, so as to rule out the multitude; and he quotes Jesus’ instruction to the disciples that they not minister to Gentiles and Samaritans (Matthew 10:5). But John 4 tells us that Jesus “must needs go through Samaria,” that he took the initiative in ministering there to a Samaritan woman, and that “many” of the Samaritans “believed because of his own word” in addition to that of the woman (verses 4, 7, 39–42). No matter what Dr. McCall says, then, non-Jewish exceptions to the Jewish thrust of Jesus’ ministry cannot be limited to isolated individuals.
Dr. McCall: Gundry states in his letter that, “this disagreement over the multitude of 4,000 has little or no theological significance,” even though in the text he bases most of his argument for the Gentile ministry of Christ on that premise. Then he attempts to prove his thesis on the basis of the Lord’s ministry to the Samaritans in John 4, an argument he did not use in the text. The Samaritans, though, are a special case. They are not considered Gentiles, but rather apostate and corrupted Israelites. After all, the Samaritan woman said, “our father, Jacob” gave them the well. She considered herself an Israelite. After Pentecost, Peter and Phillip had a ministry in Samaria in Acts 8, and this was not considered out of the ordinary, because the Samaritans were, at least, partially Jews. It was not until Peter ministered to full Gentiles (the house of Cornelius), that there was an uproar about the Gospel going outside the realm of the Jewish people. Thus, it is not what I say, but the Scriptures say that the rule of Jesus’ restricted ministry to Israel was broken only by rare individual exceptions.
Dr. Gundry: Your TV presentation in June called it an “implication” of my view that “God made a mistake” by sending Jesus to the Jews if his main purpose had to do with Gentiles. Your August newsletter now calls it my “thesis” that “the Messiah made a mistake in coming to the Jews and corrected it by turning to the Gentiles.” In fact, nowhere does SNT state or imply that the Jewish mission was a divine or messianic mistake. Ironically, it is non-dispensationalists who usually charge dispensationalists like you and Dr. McCall with implying such a mistake in that God and the Messiah should have known the Jewish nation would reject an offer of the kingdom, and therefore should have gone directly to the Gentiles instead of introducing the church only as a stopgap at the last moment. Not that I level this charge. I do not; for though I hold to the historic Christian view of a posttribulational rapture of the church (for my reasons, see First the Antichrist [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977]), I join you and other dispensationalists in seeing an offer of the kingdom to the Jews during Jesus’ earthly ministry (see SNT, pages 114–115: “Through his preaching, Jesus brought God’s rule to the Jews”).
Dr. McCall: Gundry does not really answer our charge that he appears to consider the ministry of Christ among the Jews a mistake. The whole tenor of the book is that the Lord was deeply distressed by the attitude of the Jews, and was greatly encouraged by His supposed reception among the Gentiles during His earthly ministry. It is the implications of this view that are so devastating. It implies (even if it does not clearly state) that the Lord had made a dreadful mistake in spending so much of His time among the Jews, when He could have had a much more effective ministry among the Gentiles. If the Lord made such a mistake, it would imply that He was merely human and not deity in the flesh. We are not claiming that Gundry flatly denies the deity of Christ, but that the logical conclusions of some of his positions about the ministry of the Lord would lead in that direction.
Dr. Gundry: You say that I subscribe to “Replacement Theology,” which you define as the view that “God’s through with the Jews. God’s fed up. He’s had enough.” Then you cite my statement, “Matthew writes his gospel for the church as the new chosen nation, which at least for the time being has replaced the old chosen nation of Israel” (page 161). But my phrase “at least for the time being” shows that I do not believe God is through with the Jews. This belief should be clear also from my references to “the renewal of Israel” (page 191, concerning Matthew 19:28) and to the future repentance of the Jews, so that “all Israel will be saved, that is, those Jews who are still living at the return of Christ…. Therefore Gentile believers should not self-righteously exalt themselves over Jewish believers…” (Page 386, concerning Romans 9–11, the very passage to which you and Dr. McCall appealed with the same understanding as mine; and see page 475 for my premillennialism). As regards the Jews’ temporary replacement by the church (which contains a remnant of believing Jews as well as a mass of believing Gentiles), my language echoes Matthew 21:43 (“the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it”) and Romans 11:11–36 (where Paul writes about the Jews “falling,” “being cast away,” “broken off,” “not being spared,” and “being hardened in part…until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in”).
Dr. McCall: In his letter, Gundry states that he does not subscribe to Replacement Theology, because he states in his book that the church has replaced Israel, “at least for the time being.” Thus, he says, the church’s replacement of Israel is only temporary, and there is a future for Israel. This is not as bad as the standard Replacement Theology, but it is still too much. The church has not replaced Israel at all; Israel is still in a covenental relationship with God which has not been changed. The church has been brought in for this current age to accomplish the Lord’s purposes as the Bride of Christ. However, the church is not Israel, and it has not replaced Israel.
Dr. Gundry: Whether or not Luke was a Gentile does not matter a great deal, as Dr. McCall seemed to recognize on your TV program in June; but I was surprised that neither you nor he tried to explain why in Colossians 4:7–15 Paul does not mention Luke until after he has mentioned others whom he described as his “only fellow workers…who are of the circumcision.” Since I cited this passage (page 206), I did not simply “assume” Luke’s being a Gentile, as Dr. McCall asserted. I forgo other arguments on this relatively minor point, but it strains the imagination for you to deduce that someone is anti-Jewish for thinking that Luke was probably a Gentile. I am sure you have seen, indeed experienced, real anti-Semitism, so that it puzzles me why you cannot distinguish it from the question of Luke’s ethnicity.
Dr. McCall: Gundry says that the ethnicity of Luke does not matter. However, if Luke was a Gentile, it would mean that God had reversed His policy of using only Jews to write revealed Scripture: “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God” Romans 3:1–2. This is significant because Luke wrote more pages of the New Testament than any other writer. Anyone who believes that God broke His standard rule of using only Jews to write Scripture has the burden of proof on him. The answer to the Colossians passage and the arguments for Luke being a Jew are more fully developed in my previous article, “Was Luke a Gentile?”
Dr. Gundry: You called me to account for saying that Peter had to “defend himself against parochially minded Jewish believers in Jerusalem who criticize his going to Gentiles” (page 308), and you explained that “naturally these Jewish believers were questioning of Peter because they had never seen Gentile salvation before.” Were you forgetting that Jesus had earlier given the great commission to make disciples of all the nations?
Dr. McCall: Gundry does not seem to comprehend how revolutionary the idea of bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles was to the Israeli church. The leaders of the first century church in Israel — Peter and James — were simply not prepared, at first, for an influx of uncircumcised Gentiles into the body of the Messiah. They were not prepared by anything Christ did in His earthly ministry or by the Great Commission. They had to be carefully taught by special revelation and enlightenment before they could accept that the Lord was doing this new work as the church age began.
Dr. Gundry: You are correct, the index to SNT contains no entry for “Israel.” But neither does it for “Gentiles” (yet you claim that the book has a pro-Gentile bias) or even for “Jesus” (yet you could hardly accuse the book of attacking Jesus). Obviously, the index is selective and not intended as a barometer of importance and unimportance. Who would say that “Albinus” is important just because it, or he, appears in the index?
Dr. McCall: The point about Israel in the index is that the term Israel is rarely used in the body of his textbook, much less than in the New Testament itself. It seems very strange that the ministry of the One who came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, is described in a textbook on the New Testament with little reference to Israel.
Dr. Gundry: As to the use of “Palestine” and “Palestinian,” we all know that words mean what they mean according to current usage, not according to their derivation. Your use of “January” does not imply that you believe in the god Janus, after whom the month was named. “Prevent” does not mean “precede” any more, as it did in the King James Version of 1611 at 1 Thessalonians 4:15. So “Palestine” does not refer any more to the land of the Philistines. The map-makers who are responsible for the title, “Palestine in the Time of Jesus,” are themselves Israelis. They hold the copyright, including the title against which you objected. Will you call them anti-Israel and anti-Semitic?
Dr. McCall: It is true that the term Palestine has entered into Biblical maps as well as textbooks, but it should be recognized that the term was never used in the New Testament, and that it was coined much later by the anti-Christian and anti-Jewish pagan Emperor Hadrian. He wanted to erase the memory of Jerusalem, Jesus and Israel from the face of the earth, after suppressing the Second Jewish War for Independence in 135 AD. To accomplish this purpose, he used the name of the ancient enemies of Israel, the pagan Philistines, and changed the name of the land to Palestine. Should we Christians participate in this attempt to obfuscate the name of Israel? It does not matter to Gundry, who is quite prepared to go with the flow.
Dr. Gundry: Finally, your latest newsletter attributes to me “distrust of scriptural veracity and even the deity of our Lord.” Untrue! I both believe in the veracity of Scripture and teach its veracity (see pages 175 and 416 of SNT). The same goes for Jesus’ deity (for example, see the statement on page 262 that the preincarnate Logos, or Christ, “shared God’s own identity”).
Dr. McCall: Gundry may believe in the veracity of the Scriptures and the deity of our Lord, but the logical extension of much that he teaches in his text would lead us to question the Scriptures and even the infallibility of Christ. But don’t take our word on this. As we stated above, the Evangelical Theological Society considered Gundry’s views about the Scripture to be unorthodox and expelled him from their membership. This alone should give us pause about using his textbook.
Dr. Gundry: To counter your claim that the third edition of SNT marks a theological deterioration from earlier editions, all my references to the book in refutation of your accusations have come from the allegedly corrupt third edition. I have no intention of prolonging this discussion beyond the current communication, nor do I pretend that you and I agree on every jot and tittle (though I suspect we agree on more that you think, and certainly on the major truths of the Christian faith). But in the interests of fairness and accuracy, you would do yourself a great honor, and me a great courtesy, to publish this open letter uncut and unedited.
Dr. McCall: It is remarkable that there has been a decided shift in viewpoint from the relatively mild first edition of Gundry’s book to the third edition. He does not deny the changes, but merely states that he uses quotations from the third edition to respond to our complaints. The problem is that the later edition reflects a much stronger bias against Israel, a stronger insistence on a pre-Pentecost massive Gentile ministry by the Lord, and a partial embracing of Replacement Theology. The movement in these directions are symptomatic of the gradual decline in doctrinal accuracy from the first edition to the last.
It is my prayer that this discussion will help our readers understand the issues we are addressing, will draw them closer to the Lord, and will enable all of us to edify the church and proclaim the gospel of Christ “to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.”
A Note From Zola
In view of the terrorism at the embassies in Africa last month, we may have already started what previous Levitt Letters referred to as the war of the 21st century. It does not take an expert in prophecy or world affairs to foresee that the next war will be between Islam and Democracy, and it will be a world war of tremendous proportions. If the Lord tarries, Christians will be an important part of that as primary enemies of the Moslems.
I don’t mean to overdramatize the situation, nor to indict the Israeli Arabs, most of whom are very moderate, truth to tell. They are a very different group from Osama bin Laden, the alleged bomber of the embassies and all-purpose international terrorist. bin Laden doesen’t even trouble to say why, but wants to kill “Jews and Americans” as if it’s evident that the world needs to be rid of these two types of vermin. He calls Christians Crusaders and is evidently fighting the Middle Eastern war of 1,000 years ago.
The news magazine 60 Minutes played reruns of their programs about the Taliban government in Afghanistan and the personable young Israeli Arab bomb maker they first interviewed last year. Both the Taliban spokesman and the Palestinian young man present personalities almost unknown to Americans. They talk gently and intelligently, and they are very sincere. But their missions are strange to Western ears: In the case of the Taliban, the total suppression of women and the institution of utterly primitive Islamic laws; The Palestinian fellow would just like to kill some innocent bystanders, as long as they are Israelis. They seem entirely different from the brooding and silent Timothy McVeigh who, I am still suspicious, might have had some partners we haven’t discovered in his Oklahoma City assignment. But in any case, these reasonable, interesting and alert young men are all mass-murderers.
The Dallas Morning News and many other media sources immediately pointed out that the U.S. retaliation against bin-Laden was not about Islam. The President himself said as much. The article in my home town paper was so laudatory toward Islam that one would think they were the most devout and peaceful citizens of the world. And, truth to tell, many of them are decent moral human beings. Still and all, the Koran preaches animosity toward Christians and Jews, and all non-Moslems for that matter. We are the “idolators,” or the “infidels,” and when necessary must be killed. Now that is called a minority interpretation of the teachings of Islam. But, let’s face it, there are a billion Moslems in this world. If only one in a million of them takes that kind of teaching seriously, we would have 1,000 terrorists like bin-Laden operating all the time. With all of our best wishes to peoples of all sorts as a democratic nation, we must concede that Moslem malcontents cause an awful lot of trouble in this world.
With their unfortunate experience in being the target of terrorism, the Israelis were very helpful in the African embassy bombings. One very grateful Kenyan survivor credited the Israeli rescuers for saving his life in The Jerusalem Report, a magazine published in Israel; but you won’t likely read that in the American media. CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, pointed out that Israelis, representing a technologically advanced nation, typically help in all sorts of emergencies internationally, but are seldom credited for that.
While on the subject, we would be remiss not to point out that Iraq is at the moment a more dangerous threat than bin-Laden and the more fashionable terrorists. Saddam Hussein has somehow gotten the best of our government and the United Nations, and is evidently building weapons of mass-destruction as fast as possible with no inspections in progress. He is, of course, capable of wiping out whole states in his neighborhood, or possibly in ours. Until we deal with him decisively, shooting occasional missiles at renegade mountain men doesn’t count for much. Far more Americans have been killed in terror attacks than Israelis, and we might as well face the fact that we are the target of the whole world of envious misfits.
On another subject, I was arguing with a friend who respects the divinity schools of such as Harvard, Yale, etc. I tried to explain the difference of liberal theology and true Bible study. He made the statement, “There’s more to theology than Scripture.” I gave that some thought, and I think he’s dead wrong. Theology is the study of Scripture, and that’s all there is to that. Any additions to what Scripture states are a matter of mere moralizing and human philosophy. The way is narrow indeed, narrower than my friend thinks.
The Swiss banks have finally settled at 1.2 billion dollars to return the bank accounts they stole from Jews in the Holocaust. Lawyers for the Jewish plaintiffs say this is only a first step. There will be more action in more countries coming. We are beginning to see that the Holocaust amounted to a major robbery of the European Jewish community. The simplest way to get away with stealing is to kill your victims.
The Jerusalem Post has the best coverage of the Swiss situation and many other pieces of news relevant to Israel. Let me tell you the 1-800 number. You can subscribe to the International Edition wherever you live in America and receive that excellent newspaper once a week. I enjoy it very much and quote from it often. That number is 1-800-448-9291. The Post straightens out a lot of American media myths. For example, a poll recently taken in Israel shows that the majority in that country does not favor another Arab located state within their borders. The number opting for that solution to the peace process has fallen to 44%.
I was not at all surprised by the situations with unethical reporters at The Boston Globe. That newspaper years ago asked us for information on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and then treated us terribly shabbily in print, virtually laughing at “the breathless ranting of Zola Levitt, a televangelist.” The media in general have fallen to a level that puts them with used car salesmen and certain lawyers in public estimation.
CNN reporter Walter Rogers, a constant critic of Israel and supporter of the Palestinians, prefers the Israeli side of Jerusalem when he goes out to dinner. I observed him eating in the Crowne Plaza hotel where he enjoyed fine kosher food. I almost went over to his table to ask him why he wasn’t taking supper in Gaza, where he would have been so welcome. And speaking of Gaza, Hanan Ashrawi has quit Arafat’s cabinet in disgust. She thought there was too much corruption even by Arab standards, and threatened to quit unless there was reform. Arafat made only cosmetic changes and, by golly, she did quit. Perhaps we’ve heard the last of her. I quote her on occasion with this propaganda prize-winner that appeared in an American Episcopal church magazine: “Jesus Christ was a Palestinian prophet born in Bethlehem in my country.”
CNN has lately been courting Syria as it seems that nation might be a headquarters for a new CNN outlet, and CNN can stand their company just fine for money. CAMERA cited a whitewash interview with Syrian “President” Hafez al Assad, one of the world’s truly bloody dictators.
Our tape series Discovering Our Jewish Roots has become extremely popular even in other nations in translations. Lately it has been requested by a leper colony in India, and by a ministry in the Philippines. If the Lord leads you, I have this thought: if you wish to buy a Discovering Our Jewish Roots tape series, the price is $39 for the eight tapes, beautifully packaged. For each one that you buy, we will contribute one free to an administrator at a college using the Gundry textbook. Evidently they are not aware of our Jewish roots, and this tape series may help them. Just specify with your order that you would like a free set sent to one of those colleges, and we’ll acknowledge.
We’ll keep you posted on the textbook, the Middle East, etc. Thanks so much for all of your help and your kindness.
Our Christmas/Hanukkah Tour is fast approaching. Departing on December 12 and returning on December 27, our extended tour includes an exciting extension into Jordan visiting Mt. Nebo and the ancient rose-red city of Petra, as well as two luxurious nights in the resort city of Eilat on the Red Sea. The extension also offers a visit to the Shepherd’s Fields around Bethlehem, where our Lord was born, for your Christmas Eve celebration, and a Christmas party on December 25 before we return to the States.
Our Deluxe Israel-only tour, December 12–22, includes all the wonderful sites so familiar to our Bible-reading pilgrims: Capernaum and the Mount of Beatitudes in the north; Masada, the Dead Sea and Qumran in the south, and of course Jerusalem. O Jerusalem! Within the Holy City itself we visit the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives, the Upper Room, the Garden Tomb and so much more. For an unforgettable trip of a lifetime, join us this December in Israel!
Now for an entirely different treat, we are offering for the first time a Caribbean Cruise, February 5–8.
As we sail through the lovely Bahamas, Nassau, and Cococay, I will be speaking and conducting Bible studies each day in the relaxing atmosphere of our luxury cruise vessel. There will also be time to work on a winter suntan, interesting optional island trips, etc. The cruise starts when you leave your home on Friday morning, February 5, and you’ll be back on Monday evening, February 8. Prices are nominal, depending on the style of cabin and how far you live from Miami. Please call 1-800-WONDERS (966-3377) for a brochure, and 1-800-769-9466 for more details.
Our new eight-program television series on Love stories in the Bible will be delayed briefly because we are beginning to add closed captions to each program to benefit the deaf. This will not be seen by any hearing viewer, but those who cannot hear can have written text of what is being said in the program. Our series is a delightful way to look at some very charming and romantic biblical escapades. Don’t think for a minute that the ancient Israelis did nothing but sacrifice animals and count people!
Remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
Rosh HaShana — The New Year
A Type of the Rapture of the Church
By Thomas S. McCall, Th.D
Thomas S. McCall, Th.D
At sundown on Sunday evening, September 20, Jewish people in Israel and throughout the world will be observing Rosh HaShana. These are two Hebrew words that mean “the head of the months,” or New Year. In the Scriptures, this holy day is called the Feast of Trumpets, the great convocation. This was one of the seven feasts the Lord gave Israel in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus, the third book of Moses.
These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. (Leviticus 23:4)
In our Western culture, there are no holidays instituted by God. But Israel has at least these seven feasts designed and ordained by the Almighty, and they have been observed annually for some 1,500 years. These seven feasts were actually divided into three festival periods:
- Passover, which included the three individual feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits, was in the first month of the year, that is in March–April.
- Pentecost, which stands alone, was in the third month of the year, May–June.
- Tabernacles was the third period and fell in the seventh month of the year, our September–October, and includes the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles.
For these three festival periods, every Jewish man in Israel under the Mosaic Law was to leave his pursuits, his agriculture, and whatever else he was engaged in, and make the journey to Jerusalem to worship the Lord in His Temple. After each festival period, he would return home, taking up his pursuits again until the time he was to go back to Jerusalem for the next festival period.
The Feast of Trumpets
As we approach the fall of the year, we are about to start the season of the Tabernacles Festival. It begins with the Feast of Trumpets, sometimes called Rosh HaShanah, or the New Year. On the first day of the seventh month, which occurs sometime in our September–October, trumpets would be blown, and the Feast of Trumpets would occur:
And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. (Leviticus 23:23)
On the first day of the seventh month, just as for Passover and Pentecost, Israelites would come from their businesses, from their agricultural work, from their various locations, and they would ascend the hills of Jerusalem. There would be a great blowing of the Shofar, the ram’s horn, by the priests on the wall of the Temple, and they would gather in Jerusalem to prepare for the important days ahead. It was a great convocation, a great coming together in Jerusalem. The harvests were over and had been laid aside in the storehouses. The approaching fall and winter were coming; it was a time of celebration in the Holy City.
In modern Judaism the Feast of Trumpets is not called that any more; it is called instead Rosh HaShana, “the head of the months,” but it still has the blowing of the trumpets. This is actually considered the beginning of the year in the Jewish calendar. Jews send New Year’s cards and wish for one another that they should be inscribed in God’s book of life for the next year.
Rosh HaShana, is the beginning of the Days of Awe, the ten days leading up to the Day of Atonement. In Rabbinic theology, it is during these ten days that God weighs every man in the balance — his good deeds versus his evil deeds. Then God determines whether or not the person will be permitted to go through another year.
To the believer in our Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Feast of Trumpets has great prophetic significance. We are told in I Thessalonians 4:16, 17:
The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
This event is known as the Rapture, the catching up. It is the time when the Lord will come for His own, when Jesus will descend through the stratosphere and take those of us who have trusted in Him to be with Himself. It is imminent, it can happen at any moment; it can happen today, it can happen ten years from now. We do not know when it will be, but it could happen at any time. And so, the prophecy of the Feast of Trumpets will be fulfilled in the Rapture of the Church. It has not yet been fulfilled. We are still in the period between Pentecost and Trumpets in God’s prophetic calendar.
The Feast of Trumpets not only has reference to the Rapture of the Church, but also has a prophetic reference to Israel. In Isaiah 27:12 and 13, the Lord promises Israel:
Ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel, and it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.
There will be a time in the future when the Lord will blow a trumpet for Israel to be regathered back in the land, and so the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets will have to do with not only the calling of the Church to its home in glory, but also calling the Jewish people back to their home in the Land of Israel. We are seeing the beginnings of this even now. When the Lord blows the trumpet, the migrations back to Israel will be on an even greater scale than they are now, and will be complete.
The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh HaShana, New Year), then, both looks back to the ancient days of Israel’s past, and looks ahead to our Redeemer’s return. The blowing of the trumpet signifies the Rapture of the Church (composed of believing Jews and Gentiles of this age) to its home in Heaven, and the calling of Israel back to its home in the Promised Land. Let the trumpet blow!
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