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Paul Pomerville: The New Testament Case Against Christian Zionism

My chief objection to The New Testament Case Against Christian Zionism is the author’s insistence that the prophecies of return to Eretz Israel were completely fulfilled with the return from Babylonian exile. Pomerville writes, “Today, no New Testament scholar has written in Christian Zionism’s defense of its territorial theology” (171). This is not the case. For example, in his Reading Backwards (2014) Richard Hays claims that Jesus and the apostles expected a future return. Hays suggests that in quoting Isaiah’s prediction that the temple would become “a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17), Jesus concurs with Isaiah’s vision of “an eschatologically restored Jerusalem,” where foreigners would come to God’s holy mountain to join the “outcasts of Israel” whom God has gathered” (Isaiah 56: 7-8). Hays insists that John’s figural reading of Jesus’ body as the new temple (John 2:21) should be read neither as flatly supersessionist nor as hostile to continuity with Israel.” Furthermore, in Matthew 19 Jesus tells his disciples that “in the new world, when the Son of Man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (v. 28). This reference to the twelve tribes implies a restoration of Israel, particularly in Jerusalem.

As to his contribution to scholarship, Pomerville succeeded in providing a thorough critical analysis of Christian Zionism from a biblical perspective. However, in the interest of a fair trial, he could have engaged with recent scholarship on Christian Zionism and Replacement Theology, including Diprose (2000), Merkley (2011), Vlach (2010), and Wilkinson (2007). Nonetheless, Pomerville convinced me of the pervasive influence of the Judaizers in the elaboration of New Testament perspectives on Israel and the Church. Further work is needed to sort out the problems posed by the use of replacement as the operative schema for understanding the reconfiguration of the Old Covenant in the New, for which an excellent resource is Kendall Soulen (1996). All in all, Paul Pomerville should be credited for producing a thorough and creative critical analysis of Christian Zionism from the perspective of the New Testament polemic against Judaism.

Reviewed by Eric N. Newberg

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Category: In Depth, Summer 2015

About the Author: Eric N. Newberg, Ph.D. (Regent University), M.Div. (North Park Theological Seminary), is Associate Professor of Theological and Historical Studies at Oral Roberts University. He is the author of The Pentecostal Mission in Palestine: The Legacy of Pentecostal Zionism (Wipf & Stock, 2012). ORU Faculty page

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