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Jesus and the Land

The New Testament Challenge to “Holy Land” Theology

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"A helpful resource in understanding how the NT challenges 'Holy Land' theology. . . . We can be grateful for a work that takes Scripture on its own terms, puts forth a cohesive message, and applies it to today's world."--Oren R. Martin, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
In Jesus and the Land, respected New Testament scholar Gary Burge describes first-century Jewish and Christian beliefs about the land of Israel in order to help contemporary readers develop a Christian theology of the land and assess Bible-based claims in discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. Burge provides a full survey of New Testament passages that directly address the question of land and faith and offers an honest and compelling presentation of present-day tensions surrounding "territorial religion" in the modern Middle East. This accessibly written volume will appeal to undergraduate and seminary students, pastors, teachers, and anyone interested in the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
Introduction: Land, Place, and Religion
1. The Biblical Heritage
2. Diaspora Judaism and the Land
3. Jesus and the Land
4. The Fourth Gospel and the Land
5. The Book of Acts and the Land
6. Paul and the Promises to Abraham
7. Developments Beyond Paul
8. Land, Theology, and the Church


"Gary Burge writes out of a deep knowledge of Scripture and personal acquaintance with the Middle East to demonstrate how the concern for the geographical land in the Old Testament is transmuted into concern for a spiritual inheritance for God's believing people, both Jewish and Gentile, in the New Testament. His exposition of the biblical material offers a gracious corrective to some inadequate and misinformed ideas about the role of Israel in the plan of God and about the Palestinian-Jewish situation and has important consequences for Christian belief and behavior. I warmly commend this thorough and scholarly but nevertheless clearly and simply written presentation."--I. Howard Marshall, emeritus professor of New Testament exegesis, University of Aberdeen

"Gary Burge has made a valuable contribution to the ongoing matter of the 'Holy Land' so contested by Israelis and Palestinians. Burge recognizes the powerful impulse to a territorial dimension in much of Judaism. But then he reflects on New Testament texts--notably those by Luke, John, and Paul--to see that Jesus and the early church distanced themselves from any territorial dimension of faith. This leads Burge to offer a powerful, compelling critique of 'Christian Zionism,' to which 'the NT says: No.' Clearly a faith that intends to reach Gentiles must, perforce, refuse any closed tribalism that makes exclusive territorial claims. Burge's reading of Scripture is persuasive and provides a fresh way to think about 'faith and land.'"--Walter Brueggemann, professor emeritus of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary

"Gary Burge may be American evangelicalism's foremost expert on a biblical theology of the land of Israel. This book reintroduces sanity, common sense, and exegetical acumen into a discussion that often sadly lacks these traits. Absolutely essential reading for any Christian who wants to hold a biblically defensible position on the topic."--Craig L. Blomberg, distinguished professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary

"For many years Gary Burge has focused on issues relating to Palestinians and the land of Israel. In this careful survey of biblical material, he pulls the rug from under any Christian emphasis on a special status for the land of Israel and from under Christian Zionism. Churches and pastors need to give serious attention to this study and follow its lead."--Klyne Snodgrass, Paul W. Brandel Professor of New Testament Studies, North Park Theological Seminary

"Once in a while a book comes along that reshapes the theological landscape. This is such a book, and it is destined to become a defining text on the biblical theology of the land. Gary Burge carefully and systematically reveals the way in which Jesus and the apostles understood how the Abrahamic covenant to the land would be fulfilled. He shows how in Jesus Christ the promises made to Abraham embrace not only the Jewish people but all peoples and indeed the entire cosmos. Jesus and the Land is a magnificent book--a 'must read' and a point of reference for all concerned with a thoroughly biblical theology of the land as well as the causes of the Arab-Israeli conflict."--Stephen Sizer, author of Zion's Christian Soldiers? The Bible, Israel, and the Church

"Burge's accessible consideration of 'holy land theology' in relation to New Testament texts cannot be overlooked. From now on, Christians who wish to engage responsibly with this highly charged and controversial issue will need to interact fully with Burge's careful, constructive, and challenging presentation."--Bruce W. Longenecker, professor of religion and W. W. Melton Chair, Baylor University

The Author

  1. Gary M. Burge

    Gary M. Burge

    Gary M. Burge (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is dean of the faculty and visiting professor of New Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He previously taught at Wheaton College and Graduate School for twenty-five years. His...

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"[Burge] argues that any sort of 'territorial theology'--any intertwining of God's promises and kingdom with a particular geographical area--is foreign to the New Testament. . . . His careful reconsideration of prophecy and the Promised Land merits attention."--Madison Trammel, Christianity Today

"This is an exceptionally fine and timely book that tackles head-on a type of Christian 'Zionism' that can lead to an exaggerated focus on the land of Israel and the state of Israel on the part of some Christian groups--mainly evangelical. The importance of Burge's study is that he himself is a professor at Wheaton College with sound evangelical credentials and is a sympathetic supporter of Israel and the Jewish people. Yet his careful study of the New Testament, including the gospels, Acts, Paul, and other key texts demonstrates that Christianity is inherently extraterritorial. . . . Given the sensitivity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the polarities it has created in the Christian world itself, this is a courageous and sorely needed contribution."--Donald Senior, CP, The Bible Today

"American Evangelical Churches have been among the most forthright defenders of Israeli government policy in regard to the question of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories of the Holy Land. As an Evangelical biblical scholar in the main line of contemporary scholarship, Gary Burge is well placed to address this issue for a thoughtful general audience. . . . These surveys, expressed in non-technical language but displaying a sophisticated and intelligent reading of the sources, provide the framework from which he addresses the question of a Holy Land theology in the final chapter. . . . Christian Zionism may be a phenomenon that is largely confined to the United States of America but Burge's invitation to develop a coherent theology of the Holy Land, including a mature theological reflection on the import of the political existence of the State of Israel, may be found useful by Christians elsewhere who struggle with the theological consequences of an anti-Judaism within their own traditions."--Brendan McConvery, CSsR, Irish Theological Quarterly

"This short treatise provides a balanced overview of a biblically-rooted motif that has repercussions in today's headlines."--Casimir Bernas, Religious Studies Review

"This is a significant volume, the best I have seen of the general anti-Christian Zionist perspective currently available."--A. Boyd Luter, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"There is much to commend in Jesus and the Land. Burge should be applauded for approaching the text as canonical Scripture and exploring a theme through its unity and diversity. Furthermore, throughout his exploration the theme of land is helpfully connected to other theological themes. . . . Finally, it is refreshing to see the primary focus of this controversial topic on Scripture rather than current events. With a topic that is often examined through the lens of today's news, Burge navigates through a highly charged area with clarity and deft interpretive insights. . . . Burge has provided a helpful resource in understanding how the NT challenges 'Holy Land' theology. . . . We can be grateful for a work that takes Scripture on its own terms, puts forth a cohesive message, and applies it to today's world."--Oren R. Martin, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"This is a thoughtful treatment of vexed issues which the western Church needs to address urgently. . . . The book is accessible to thinking and educated lay Christians. It challenges prevailing attitudes to Israel and, while not attempting to resolve the contemporary political issues, can usefully inform Christian attitudes to these questions."--Nicholas H. Taylor, Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"This slim yet weighty volume disabuses readers of the misprisions of a Christian Zionist interpretation of the New Testament. Part by part, Burge dismantles the underpinnings of the proof texts which Christian Zionists are so fond of using. . . . You will learn a great deal as Burge leads you through the relevant issues in a fair, informed, exegetically responsible and theologically accurate way. Baker Academic is to be applauded for taking on an issue that so many are afraid to tackle but which must be confronted for the sake of humanity and in the name of the truth."--Jim West, zwinglius redividus blog

"An important study aimed at clarifying what the NT has to say about the issues of 'land' and 'territorialism.'. . . Burge presents an excellent survey of the biblical material. . . . The critique of Christian Zionism is on target and will be especially helpful for pastors and teachers who know little about this theological/political movement."--W. Eugene March, Interpretation

"Burge . . . has masterfully approached this difficult subject in a balanced and engaging manner. . . . Burge articulates his thesis soundly and logically. . . . [The book] has strong insights into understanding how a 'Holy Land' theology has evolved through the centuries. Reading the book makes one more aware of the sensitivities and ideas that can spring from a 'Holy Land' theology."--Donald McNeeley, Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin