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“Dangerous Narratives - Replacing the Jewish Messiah of the Bible With a Palestinian Martyr”
by Tom Olago   
October 26th, 2015

Jeremiah Wright, who led Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago from 1972 to 2008 and served as served as Obama’s pastor for 20 years, is back at the center of controversy. 

Wright was one of several speakers at a rally in Washington, DC that included notorious Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, well known for his anti-Semitic stance. 

Wright stoked controversy with his statement that “Jesus was a Palestinian,” alluding to Israel as an apartheid state and comparing “the youth in Ferguson and the youth in Palestine”.

Is there any theological justification for the “Jesus was a Palestinian” bandwagon? James Showers, Executive Director for Friends of Israel stated describes this view as "Christian Palestinianism, a form of liberation theology that emphasizes Jesus’ humanity and portrays Him as the great liberator of the poor and oppressed of this world. It replaces the Jewish Messiah of the Bible with a Palestinian martyr”.

This view isn’t new either. One of its earliest proponents was Naim Ateek, a Palestinian Anglican serving as canon of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem. In 2008 he reportedly wrote: “Palestinian liberation theology focuses on the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth, who was also a Palestinian living under an occupation.”

Also attributed to Ateek is a 2001 Easter message in which he states that “Jesus is the powerless Palestinian humiliated at a checkpoint. . . . It seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him... Palestinian men, women, and children are being crucified. Palestine has become one huge Golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.”

The following summarized rebuttals to the “Jesus was a Palestinian” viewpoint were extracted from Showers’ list of “10 Errors of Christian Palestinianism”:

1. It blames Israel for much of the conflict between Israel and the Arabs living in Israel and not only dismisses Islamic terrorists, but aligns with them in opposition to Israel. 

2. It attacks Israeli sovereignty but ignores the fact that Israel came to control the land because of Arab wars that sought to eliminate Israel. Its leaders fail to admit …Palestinian Arabs must recognize Israel as a nation and promise to live peaceably with it. 

3. It ignores the Biblical names for Israel. In the Bible, the West Bank is called Samaria and Judea. The Biblical name for the entire land is Israel, not Palestine

4. It ignores the Biblical people of the covenant. There are no Palestinian people in Scripture. There has never been a Palestinian nation in the Bible or in history.

5. It manufactures a Palestinian history that does not exist, and it redefines Jesus as someone He was not. In the process, it changes the purpose for which He truly came: to save the world from sin. 

6. It is founded on a bias against Israel, rather than from a careful study of Scripture. The fact that Christian-Palestinian scholars say difficult passages should be ignored and the Bible should be “de-Zionized” confirms this error. 

7. It diminishes God and the authority of His Word. Twisting Scripture to justify one’s position violates the basic rules of language. Christian Palestinianism ignores context and literal meaning and selectively infuses its own meaning for some texts, while outright dismissing the meaning of other texts. 

8. It corrupts the understanding of what God is doing on Earth—His plan for the ages as revealed through His written Word—by redefining God’s purpose for history and for His Redeemer, Jesus Christ. 

9. It presents God as covenant breaker by stealing the promises He gave to Israel, as well as Christ’s promised earthly inheritance. 

10. It greatly exaggerates the Christian-Zionist influence on U.S. foreign policy. Christian Zionists wish they had such power. But in reality, it does not exist.

Yet, other Christian theologians continue to champion the cause of Christian Palestinianism. Colin Chapman, a lecturer in Islamic studies at a theology school in Lebanon, reportedly claims Israel has no future or prophetic significance because the church is “the new Israel.” Similarly, according to Gary Burge of Wheaton College: “… Jesus does not envision a restoration of Israel per se but instead sees himself as embracing the drama of Jerusalem within his own life…”

One of the opponents of the “Jesus was a Palestinian” view is Pastor Victor Styrsky. In his words: “…after reviewing the narrative that for some purports to define the appropriate Christian reaction to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, I have come to a simple conclusion: The fundamental tactic of the effort to separate Christians from Israel is to directly violate God’s ninth Commandment. In short, the pro-Palestinian Christian narrative, as defined by its leaders, is a lie”. 

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