Not Paying Heed to Jewish Fables – Part 1 of ‘The Hope of Israel’

(This is an edited version of the preamble and first chapter of Mauro’s book, The Hope of Israel.)

Jewish fables (literally, myths) are no new thing. Paul has plainly warned the household of faith not to heed them. He has not given us a list of those grievous heresies; but it is well known that the one that was most fondly cherished, and that constituted the gravest menace to the truth of the gospel, was the notion that the leading purpose of the mission of the coming Messiah would be the reconstitution of the Jewish nation and its elevation to the highest pinnacle of earthly dominion and glory; for that fatuous doctrine was the cornerstone of orthodox Judaism in Paul’s day; and because of his sturdy opposition to it he was persecuted, his enemies plotted to take his life, and he was sent as a prisoner to Rome. No wonder that, during the term of his imprisonment there, he wrote to Titus his plain-spoken warning against ‘Jewish fables’ (Titus 1:14).

This being the case, we question if there is anything in all the long history of Christianity that is more difficult to account for than the fact that that particular fable, concerning the purpose of Christ’s mission to the Jewish people, has become the central feature of a system of doctrine which, since the late 19th century, has found numerous and zealous advocates amongst orthodox Christians. In view of this extraordinary phenomenon, it surely behoves those who take the Holy Scriptures for their guide and instructor in all matters of faith and doctrine, to search them with the utmost care, ‘whether these things be so.’ The Hope of Israel is the result of a painstaking investigation of that important question.

This issue involves more than the true explanation of prophecies concerning the Jews, the Gentiles and of the Church of God, however interesting and important these may be, for one may have mistaken ideas on these issues without harmful consequences. It touches the very truth concerning the gospel of Christ and the salvation of man is involved in it. Especially, the work of evangelization of the Jews (on which, in the opinion of many, including the present writer, the coming of the Lord awaits), is vitally affected by it.

What lies directly in the path of our present inquiry is a system of doctrine which, though of recent origin, is now accepted among strictly orthodox Christians, even ‘fundamentalists’. According to this system the promise of God to Israel through their prophets was that the coming Messiah would restore the earthly kingdom to Israel, would give it a glory far surpassing that of the days of David and Solomon, and would exalt the Jewish nation to the place of supremacy over the nations of the world. The leading proponent of this new system of teaching puts it as follows: ‘When Christ appeared to the Jewish people, the next thing in the order of revelation as it then stood should have been the setting up of the Davidic kingdom’ (Scofield Reference Bible).

I propose to bring this radical statement to the test of Scripture; for it is subversive of the Christian faith, in that it removes the sacrifice of the Lamb of God from its central place in God’s eternal plan (Revelation 13:8).

That many who accept this radical doctrine do not realize what is involved in it, is easy for me to believe, because I also at one time accepted these teachings, without the slightest suspicion that it involved the denial of important truth. But in the course of time, after a prolonged study of the Word of God, I was compelled to acknowledge, on the testimony of the New Testament Scriptures (particularly that of the apostle Paul) that this doctrine is not only directly contrary to the Scriptures, but is the setting up, for the benefit of a future generation of Jews, of another hope, different from the ‘one hope’ of the gospel of Christ; that, in other words, it is ‘another gospel,’ the very thing against which Paul utters that tremendously solemn warning of Galatians 1:8-9.

Because of this, and also because of the great benefits that have followed since my deliverance from this ‘strange’ doctrine, I consider it a duty to all the household of faith to bring to their attention, by every means available, the true teaching of the Bible touching the future of the Jewish people. It is with a view to the performance of that duty that these pages are written.

What then is the true and biblical Hope of Israel? For a full answer to this question, we must search the Scriptures from beginning to end. But in order to have a general idea of the answer, as we pursue our study, I will refer to a few incidents in Paul’s ministry, from the last chapters of Acts.

The subject is very prominent in these scriptures, and indeed it was because of Paul’s views and his preaching that he was furiously persecuted by the Jews, and was finally sent in chains to Rome. For this we have his own testimony to ‘the chief of the Jews’ at Rome, to whom he said, when he had called them together: ‘For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you and to speak with you; because that, for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain’ (Acts 28:17-20).

Inasmuch as what Paul had been preaching, both to the Jews and also to the Gentiles, had been the gospel of Jesus Christ, and nothing else, it follows that the true ‘hope of Israel’ is an essential part of that gospel; and is therefore a matter regarding which we cannot afford to be mistaken.

The above quoted statement of Paul to the Jewish leaders at the imperial city is very illuminating. It shows, to begin with, that, whatever it was he had been preaching as ‘the hope of Israel,’ it was something so contrary to the current Jewish notion, that it caused the people to clamour for his death (Acts 22:22), and instigate charges against him as “a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world” (Acts 24:5). Had he been preaching what the Jews themselves believed to be, and what their rabbis had given them as the true interpretation of the prophecies (namely, that God’s promise to Israel was a kingdom of earthly character which should have dominion over all the world), they would have heard him with intense satisfaction. But what Paul and all the apostles preached as God’s promise through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, was a kingdom over which Jesus Christ of the seed of David should reign in resurrection, a kingdom which flesh and blood cannot inherit, a kingdom which does not clash with the duly constituted governments of this world, and one into which the Gentiles are called upon terms of perfect equality with Jews (Acts 13:23, 34; Acts 17:2,3,7; Rom. 1:1-4; 14:17; 1 Cor. 15:50; 1 Pet. 1:12; cf. Luke 24:26).

Thus the gospel of Christ and His apostles in respect to the vitally important subject of the Kingdom of God, i.e. the hope of Israel, came into violent collision with that of the leaders of the Jews; and because of this He was crucified and they were persecuted.

Whether or not the prophets of Israel were the mouthpieces of God was not in question; for the Jewish rabbis, as well as Christ and His apostles, held firmly to the full inspiration of ‘the scriptures of the prophets.’ It was solely a question, then as it is now, as to how those prophecies are to be understood – i.e. a question of interpretation. The Jewish teachers understood the scriptures, and still interpret them, in what is now (wrongly) called the ‘literal’ sense (i.e. that Israel is an earthly people, Zion an earthly locality, Messiah an earthly conqueror, like David, etc., etc.); but Paul declared, when speaking of Jesus Christ in one of their synagogues, that it was ‘because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day, that they have fulfilled them in condemning Him’ (Acts 13:27).

The choice presented to orthodox Christians today as to the interpretation of the prophecies concerning the hope of Israel lies once again between that of the Jews in those days, and that for which Christ was crucified and Paul was sent in chains to Rome. This will be clearly seen by all who consider, with open minds, the proofs that follow.

The question of the ‘literal’ interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies is discussed in part two.