Reformed Theological Understanding
The 219th General Assembly (2010) directed the General Assembly Mission Council to study ... Reformed theological understandings of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and of historical understandings that encompass various narratives and verifiable sources ...
To fulfill this directive, the Office of Theology and Worship will post an annotated bibliography of books on the land of Israel/Palestine, highlighting theological and biblical method. This bibliography will be added to over time. If you have a book to suggest for the bibliography, please email the relevant information.
The following is a list of books that focus on theological and biblical understandings of the land of Israel/Palestine. For each book a short description of the biblical and theological method/content is provided.
March, Eugene W.
Israel and the Politics of Land: A Theological Case Study.
Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 1994.
March's book is seen by many as the most important Reformed reflection on the topic of the promise of the land. March employs the historical-critical tools that he used as an Old Testament scholar to examine the character of the promise of the land to the biblical people of Israel. He also provides a historical overview of the land of Israel from ancient times to the present. March highlights the conditional nature of the promise to ancient Israel, lifting up biblical principles that emphasize land responsibility over land rights. Land responsibility is vital because the land ultimately belongs to God. The promise of and responsibility for land are universalized, because March contends that ancient Israel and modern Israel are two distinct historical realities: "any rights held by biblical Israel do not belong to modern Israel" (p. 67). In this universal context, all those who follow God are called to be earth keepers.
Burge, Gary M.
Whose Land? Whose Promise?: What Christians are Not Being Told about Israel and the Palestinians.
Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2003.
Gary M. Burge is an evangelical New Testament scholar teaching at Wheaton College & Graduate School who has written several books on the subject of land in Israel and Palestine. Burge’s main thesis of the book is this: “If Israel makes biblical claims to statehood, Israel must be an exemplar of biblical righteousness among the nations… Because she has been abused in the past – exiled into foreign nations – Israel must not be the abuser today” (p. 258-259). That Burge, as an evangelical, makes a compelling case that political policy of Israel has not met the standards of biblical righteousness and hospitality to aliens and strangers but has consistently been hostile to them is a significant departure from a typical Christian evangelical view. The power of Burge’s arguments comes not only from his biblical exegesis of passages in the Old and New Testaments concerning Israel and land or from his historical and cultural analysis of Israel and Palestine which are formidable and persuasive, but more so from the stories of his personal experiences and relationships with Palestinians and Jews, and particularly with Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land. He recalls one powerful conversation he had with a young Palestinian Christian woman about what seemed to her as an unconditional American support for Israel. When she asked him, “But why do American Christians support the Israelis as well? Why don’t they help us? Why not even us, the Palestinian Christians?” Burge had no answer. Burge’s book gives voice to the Palestinian Christians that has been almost absent in the Holy Land debate. He has a whole chapter, “Living Stones in the Land” that highlights stories of twelve Palestinian Christians in the struggle for freedom. This alone makes Burge’s book worth reading as a spiritual discipline to “hear the voices peoples long silenced” (A Brief Statement of Faith). Burge makes a compelling case that when Christians, even evangelical Christians, make a biblically informed critique of Israel’s land policy, they are not being anti-Semitic but faithful to the gospel.
Israelis and Palestinians: Why Do They Fight? Can They Stop? 2nd ed.
(Yale University Press, 2004)
Bernard Wasserstein is a historian (University of Chicago) who has written extensively on Israel and Palestine. His thesis in this book is that the causes of Israel-Palestine conflict are not rooted in some intractable religious, ethnic, or cultural reasons but that the “causes of their contention may be located in the particularities of their intertwined experiences over the past century.” (p.2) He attempts to explain the conflict in terms of demographic, socio-economic, environmental, and territorial dimensions. Therefore, the book is not organized chronologically but thematically; the chapter divisions are as follows: People, Society, Environment, Territory, Dynamics of Political Change. Wasserstein is erudite in bringing together multiple sources for making his case and the book assumes that the reader is familiar with the basic history of the conflict. Throughout the book, Wasserstein argues for the inescapable inter-dependence of the two peoples and how that realization hammered out in their century of tumultuous history will inevitably bring mutual compromise and peace. Although this is a work of a historian and not a theologian, the book is helpful in putting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a fresh framework that will help readers to appreciate the depth and intricate context of the situation. Wasserstein, in drawing out the complex multi-level sources of the conflict, is also cautiously optimistic. He makes the case that both sides are running out of options and are forced to come to the realization that some agreement on the formation of a Palestinian State will be integral to the survival and future interdependence of the two peoples. The last two sentences of the volume provide a quick summary of the book:
The current status quo is unendurable for the Palestinians and unsustainable for the Israelis. If any form of civilized human existence is to survive in their common homeland, these ineluctable forces must sooner rather than later bring them to terms. p. 178