Thursday 23 December 2010

Ernest Lloyd Funeral

A brief funeral service Ernest Lloyd will take place at Belfast Crematorium on Friday 7 January 2011 at 11am, followed at 12.30pm by a Thanksgiving service at Bethany Baptist Church in Bangor. Refreshments will be served after the service.
The crematorium is situated at Roselawn Cemetery, 127 Ballygowan Road, Crossnacreevy, Belfast, BT5 7UD (entry is via Ballygowan Road). For directions, visit the crematorium website

Bethany Baptist Church is at 23-27 Gransha Road, Bangor, County Down, BT20 4TN and directions are available on the church website.

This coming Sunday, a Thanksgiving service will be held at 11.00am at Glenmanus Reformed Presbyterian Church, 23-25 Portstewart Road, Portrush, County Londonderry, BT56 8EH. Directions to the church are at here.

A memorial service is being planned to take place in London at the end of January or beginning of February. Details will be available on this website soon.

Ernest Lloyd: more tributes

Thanks to those of you who are leaving comments about Ernest (seen above as a teenager). Please keep them coming.

Here are four new ones:

I was a very young believer when introduced to Ernest 12 years ago in Belfast.

It was Valerie Shaw who introduced us and thanks to her initiative and efforts we became good friends. It was her also who informed me of Ernest’s death.

Soon after getting to know Ernest, I started to draw from him much inspiration in my Christian walk. His great love for Christ and life-long service, humility, meekness and a good sense of humour, were the main attributes which have always stood out in my memory. Being constantly captivated by Christ was the secret of whom he was and what made him so special. Mike Moore’s biography of Ernest conveys it much better than I can here in few words.

Ernest was a very faithful friend – I could always be assured of his interest and prayers. There was never any wavering in his warmth and friendship, even when my replies to his letters were much delayed. He often laughed when I was telling him that, paraphrasing, he shifted all paradigms when it comes to retirement. It was indeed a high privilege to be his friend.

His love for Christ was infectious; when listening to him one was captivated by something real and passionate in the way he spoke about the Lord. While speaking to Ernest one had no doubts that he was a spiritual giant.

I hoped to come to Ulster for a short spell to see him before he would pass away.
Though I feel sad for losing such a friend I am truly happy for him – he is finally in the presence of His beloved Saviour whom he served so passionately and faithfully his entire life. As Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:21 “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain”.

Thank God for His grace in Ernest’s life and for the example that he was to us.

Andrew Machauf

My brother who lives in England today sent me an e-mail to inform me of Ernest Lloyd's passing. I knew Mr Lloyd from the age of nine or ten through his visits to Cape Town where he usually stayed with our family during visits. Those were a particular pleasure for me because Mr Lloyd was full of fun and good humour, and prepared to put up with the distractions I created, almost certainly because I recognized the fun that he represented. Not particularly angelic as a child, my father and I clashed bitterly for years, but Ernest Lloyd saw through the harshness that existed and those few weeks around our home left special memories and a great impression regarding what a truly great Christian is all about. We managed to keep in touch over the many years and I can truly say that I have lost a friend. What a lovely Christian he was with that ever ready humour and no-nonsense approach.

Rob Porter
Mississauga, Canada.

I will be so grateful to G-d for bringing Ernest to the truth in Mashiach. The members of BMJA and other Messianic ministries have been heartfelt dearest of friends to me, bringing encouragement amidst the most terrible of storms. Over many, many years I have been able know and share such love and compassion with others because Ernest chose to follow the pathway Mashiach showed him.

Ernest will be mourned by many across the world. Many will wish they were there to say prayers at his graveside. So many more will write, far more eloquently than I, about the giant of a man – a true mensch – who spoke truth – emet – with such conviction.

His care for the following generations, his encouragement to all who came along his path, will have lasting effect. We are the poorer for his passing, the richer for his presence in our lives.

It is a tradition that at a burial in Judaism, the tzitzit [fringes] are cut from the deceased’s tallit [prayer shawl]. The people they are given to will look on them and remember the life of prayer lived by the one they once belonged to. Ernest was indeed a man of prayer and we can all look on the threefold cord that binds us all to Mashiach and to Ernest.

May HaShem grant Him the joy of eternal life.

Gerry Cohen

Heaven is peopled today by many noteworthy characters but, if one is allowed one’s imagination to picture things “humanly graphically”, dear Ernest’s entry may well have been noticed!! After such a full life, he certainly may have his well deserved rest, but his works will follow him, at least in the memory of so many friends, family and colleagues. May the Lord bring forth much fruit from his endeavours and hard labour, which the Lord promised would never be in vain.

It is sad not to have the prospect any more to hear his loud enthusiastic laughter, or the splendid jokes which produced it but, above all, how thankful I am to have known him and to have been encouraged so often and cheered by his good common sense, and Spirit filled advice!

I thank the Lord for lending to this world such a servant as Ernest; also for the privilege to have spent times of precious fellowship with him in Haifa when he was visiting, or on deputation tours in Scotland.

May God bless his family and close friends with comfort and care, and renew the strength of those who will continue to witness in his steps.


Wednesday 22 December 2010

Tributes to Ernest Lloyd

Within minutes of emailing the news of the death of Ernest Lloyd (seen above preaching in South Africa in the 1950s), the following two tributes appeared.

I have just heard a very sad news... My “adoptive” Grandfather, as we decided that I would call him, Mr. Ernest Lloyd, went to be with Jesus... I think I am still shocked... I was supposed to see him on January 10th, 2011... He was 97 and his life is one of the purest examples of what a servant of the Lord should be like...

He'd been serving the Lord through Christian Witness to Israel for over 70 years... a man whom God used to turn high numbers of people to Himself... A man with humble beginnings, but with an incredible Saviour, Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah)... A book was written about him -The Importance of Being Ernest, by Mike Moore -which impacted me greatly before entering this mission, but which was just a glimpse of the beautiful creation God had made in him...

I was going to see him... but Jesus wanted to have him quicker... I am not surprised He wanted to spend time with him... He is definitely someone everyone enjoyed spending time with...

Ernest Lloyd is with the One whom he'd given his heart and life to... what a gift for Jesus on this Christmas to take into heaven...

In my adoptive Grandfather's memory,


I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to meet Ernest in 2006, when he was 94. I was impressed by his hospitality, generosity, his lively mind, and by his sense of the history of the Messianic movement. More recently, Ernest twice wrote to me to encourage me in my role as [BMJA] President and, when I rang him a few weeks ago, he told me that he continued to pray for the BMJA. I know that any others of you who have met him, will share my admiration for him. May our thoughts and prayers be with Ernest's family, and with the many, many people whose lives were, under God, touched by this remarkable man.

In Yeshua, our Messiah and our Hope


Having had the privilege of meeting and getting to know Ernie Lloyd a little at an SDHS conference in Bournemouth a few years ago, I can personally say what a very special and godly man he was, and what a loss he will be to the church on earth. But now he is in glory with the Saviour he loved and served so faithfully, “which is far better”.


Ernest Lloyd 1913-2010

On Wednesday 23 December 2010, in his 98th year, Ernest Lloyd passed suddenly, quickly and peacefully into the presence of the Lord he had trusted, loved and served for almost eighty years.

By any standard, the life of Ernest Lloyd was remarkable, spanning, as it did, almost the entire twentieth century. He lived through the reigns of five monarchs and under the leadership of more than twenty different Prime Ministers; he experienced the trauma of two World Wars and saw the gradual decline of the British Empire as well as the establishment and survival of the state of Israel.

Ernest never owned his own home, never learned to drive, never learned another language and never sent an email. At the age of 98, he had a better memory than some men half his age. He was an avid and wide reader, a lover of music and an indefatigable writer of letters, almost all of which were bashed out with remarkable inaccuracy on a series of manual typewriters, each of which he has worn out.

The mission Ernest actively served for seventy years changed its name twice – in 1965 the British Society for the Evangelization of the Jews became the International Society for the Evangelization of the Jews and, after uniting with the Barbican Mission to the Jews in 1976, became Christian Witness to Israel – and he outlived five of its directors. In his three score years and ten of missionary service Ernest travelled more than a million miles by land, sea and air and preached more than 200,000 times in some twenty countries to countless multitudes. Although his pace of life in the last two decades of his life was nowhere near as hectic as it was when he was a missionary, in the 1990s, Ernest was regularly away from home for three months each year on preaching tours that took him to Australia, New Zealand and Canada. He also served on the councils of Christian Witness to Israel (in an honorary capacity), the International Messianic Jewish Alliance, the British Messianic Jewish Alliance and the Spanish Gospel Mission.

He was an evangelist, a teacher, a preacher, an advocate of mission to the Jewish people and a spokesman for the international Messianic movement. In spite of frequent bouts of ill health, Ernest Lloyd single-handedly laid the foundations for the work of missions to the Jewish people in South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Though not all remained affiliated to Christian Witness to Israel, almost all those branches continue to present a vibrant witness to the Jewish communities in their countries.

The number of Jews and gentiles who have been saved through his ministry, either directly or indirectly, is incalculable. In many cases he led them to the Messiah himself but at other times his role was to break down prejudices and lay a foundation on which others could build or, to change the biblical metaphor, he broke up the fallow ground allowing others to sow and reap. The number of lives Ernest touched for good by preaching, teaching, encouragement, advice, kind words and actions, example and precept cannot be counted.

It was in his role as an evangelist that one of Ernest’s outstanding qualities was seen most clearly: an almost infinite patience enabled him to suffer being rebuffed time after time in his efforts to lead his “kinsmen according to the flesh” to the Messiah.

Ernest was the last of a generation of Hebrew Christian spiritual giants that included men of the calibre of Mark Kagan, Victor Buksbazen, Herman Newmark and the Bendor-Samuels. Another generation of Jewish believers has arisen, many of them learned in rabbinic literature and zealous for the cause of Messianic Judaism. It should be our prayer that the new generation will feel the same deep love for their people and be willing to sacrifice as much for their salvation as Ernest did. Nevertheless, it may be that other generations of Jewish believers will come and go before another appears who will play a role in the purposes of God as significant and important as that played by Ernest Lloyd.

“So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.” (John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress)

Monday 20 December 2010

Kristine Luken, 1966 – 2010

The following is a press release from CMJ UK:

Kristine Luken, 1966 – 2010

CMJ UK Administrator

CMJ UK is deeply shocked by the violent death in Israel of our much loved administrator Kristine Luken. Kristine had worked for the ministry for one year having previously worked for the American government. As a committed Christian with a deep love for the Jewish people she had had contact with CMJ in America, Israel and the UK. When the administrator position became available in the UK Kristine applied and was appointed in October 2009.

She had to cope with a move to a new country as well as a new job but quickly made the adjustment and became a key member of our team. She had a beautiful and gentle spirit as well as a strong and vibrant faith. She loved Israel and had visited on several occasions both as a tourist and as a member of CMJ. She had just taken on responsibility for Shoresh Tours, a CMJ company that organizes tours to Israel. Kay Wilson, who is the senior tour guide for Shoresh, was a close personal friend of Kristine’s as well as a colleague and her visit to Israel was for both

It is a tragedy that such a lively, caring and faith filled person should have been struck down in such a way. We are praying for her friends and family at this tragic time. However, CMJ will continue to share the gospel with the Jewish people and to work for forgiveness and reconciliation in Israel. This is a mandate that God gave us 201 years ago and we are confident that the best epitaph we could give Kristine is to continue to that to which she was totally committed to supporting.

Robin Aldridge


CMJ worker murdered in Israel

Two Arab men attacked and killed Kristine Luken and badly wounded Kay Wilson, her UK-born Messianic Jewish friend, in the Jerusalem Forest on Saturday 18 December.

Kay is a leading tour guide with Shoresh Tours, which operates under the auspices of the Churches Ministry among Jewish people. Kristine was an administrative secretary at CMJ’s headquarters in the UK. Her colleagues at the UK office are in shock.

As the two women were walking in the forest between the southern Jerusalem suburb of Tzur Hadassah and the nearby town of Beit Shemesh, they were approached by the two young men, who asked for water. Kay Wilson responded that they had no extra water but as she and Kristine walked away, the men attacked them, tied their hands behind their backs and began stabbing them.

Kay reported that when one of the men saw she Star of David necklace she was wearing, “He took it off of me, like a gentleman, and then stabbed me twelve times.”

She pretended to be dead and when she was sure the men had gone, Kay made for the nearby highway. A group of people at a children’s playground saw her and called the police. It was feared that Kristine had been kidnapped but her body was found on Sunday morning a few hundred yards from the site of the stabbing.

Kay is recovering in stable condition at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, and she is expected to be discharged in two or three days.

Please pray not only for Kay’s complete physical recovery but also for her emotional and psychological healing. Please remember Kristine’s parents and twin sister in the USA, as they seek to come to terms with their loss.

The incident raises several questions. It appears to have been a premeditated attack and there appears to have been no other motive for the attack other than to murder them; why else would they enter the forest carrying knives and the aparatus to tie up their victims?

Why did the two Arabs choose to murder Kay and Kristine? Had they deliberately chosen to kill them because they knew they were workers with CMJ and, if so, why would that matter?

A few years ago, I expressed concern to a British Christian anti-Zionist that in his books, talks and articles, he criticised not only Israel but also a range of Christian organisations, including evangelical mission agencies such as CMJ. I went on to point out the danger of this approach:

“Given the radical outlook of some Islamic groups, it is fair to ask whether you might not have endangered the ministries and possibly the lives of some Christian workers in the Middle East.

“This is not idle conjecture. Hamed Al-Tamimi of the Palestinian Authority’s Judicial Council has said, “Christians who support Israel are distorting their true faith, have adapted [sic] Satan as god [sic] and comprise the greatest danger to world peace... Very few people know the truth about this [Christian Zionist] movement, which unconditionally supports the Zionist enemy and unconditionally opposes Islam and the Muslims." (my emphasis).

“I am not claiming that radical Muslims have made comments like these in response to your influence, but in view of the fact that some Islamic websites carry your anti-Zionist articles, the potential for creating serious harm is there.”

Reading those words that I wrote some five years ago, I now literally shudder.

Did the two men who attacked Kristine and Kay know the two girls were workers with CMJ? And were their murderous intentions motivated by hatred for representatives of an organisation they had heard “unconditionally supports the Zionist enemy and unconditionally opposes Islam and the Muslims”? Do Christian anti-Zionists who denounce their Christian Zionist brothers indiscriminately through their published writings and speeches and on Muslim websites and at Islamic conferences bear responsibility – directly or indirectly – for the appalling attack on these CMJ workers? I don’t know but a day is coming when we will all know. Talk may be cheap but it can cost some people their lives.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

In the Shadow of Hitler

One of the most odious libels against Israel is the comparison of Israel with Nazi Germany. Those who peddle the lie seem unable to see just how offensive the charge is to Jewish people, especially those who survived the Holocaust seems. Such a comparison is rarely used to describe other regimes, even those which are actually guily of genocide.

Whatever we may think of Israel’s policies and actions, Israeli citizens – Arab and Jew alike – are allowed to voice their opposition to those policies from within Israel itself; something that was never allowed in Nazi Germany. Whatever we might think of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, Palestinians are not being systematically exterminated.

Now, a report by the UN National Archives, entitled “Hitler’s Shadow” demonstrates that Nazism and Islam share common values and, more importantly, a common enemy in the Jews. According to the report, World War II-era Palestinian Arab leader Haj Amin al-Husseini (pictured above with Hitler)was paid handsomely for fomenting hatred of the Jews in “Palestine” and for recruiting Muslims as Nazi soldiers. For his collaboration with the Nazis, Husseini was promised rulership of Palestine at the successful conclusion of the war.

One document cites Hitler informing Husseini that Nazi Germany’s only aim in conquering Palestine was to eradicate the Jews there. After that, the country would be Husseini’s to rule as he saw fit.

Husseini praised new Muslim recruits to the Nazi military, and stated that “the entire Muslim world ought to follow their example.”

The report concludes by noting that despite the mountain of evidence against him, the Allied powers allowed Husseini to flee to Syria after the war and did not pursue a criminal investigation. Husseini died in Beirut in 1974, a hero among his people.
The international community’s lenient treatment of Husseini, even though he had openly collaborated with modern history’s most brutal and criminal dictatorship, was repeated when the world decided to reward one of history’s the most blood-soaked terrorists, Yasser Arafat, by making him a head of state.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Fire of Elijah?

Andrew Sibley is of the opinion that the fire in Israel’s Carmel region was significant. Could it be the “fire of Elijah”, he asks on my blog “The Israel Inferno” (Sunday).

What exactly does Andrew mean by the “fire of Elijah”? Presumably he is referring to the fire Elijah was able to call down from heaven to demonstrate to an apostate Israel that Yahweh was God, and Baal wasn’t. Elijah also called down fire from heaven to consume several of the king’s men when they were sent to arrest him.

Andrew wants to know my thoughts. Well here they are:

First, no one called down this fire from heaven; it was apparently the result of two Druze brothers leaving burning rubbish unattended.

Secondly, Elijah’s fire vindicated him as a prophet of Yahweh and everyone who observed the fire come down knew it was a supernatural vindication of the prophet.

Thirdly, the fire on Carmel came as the result of a showdown between the prophets of Baal and Elijah. This latest fire on Carmel was the result of an accident (forgive me if my theology sounds a little flaky there; I hope you know what I mean).

Fourthly, if I understand Andrew’s book Zion’s New Name properly (see my blog "Replacement Theology's New Name", Monday 11 January 2010), he believes the modern state of Israel no longer stands in a covenant relationship with Yahweh. Israel’s astonishing transformation of the land from desert and swamp to fertile arable land apparently means nothing; Israel’s remarkable technical achievements have no significance; the benefits bestowed on the rest of the world in the areas of agriculture, technology and medicine are too insignificant to mention. However, when a fire breaks out in an area of outstanding natural beauty, killing 42 people, that has significance. And biblical significance to boot!

Perhaps I am reading far more into Andrew’s brief comment than I ought and am judging him a little harshly, in which case I am open to correction.

For a very interesting and bizarre revelation on the "fire of Elijah", visit Joseph Weissman's latest blog at Harry's Place.

Sunday 5 December 2010

The Israel Inferno

I have just returned from Israel where the worst fire in Israel’s history had destroyed 12,000 acres of forest, just under half of the entire Carmel forest reserve. As I write, the fire is still blazing but it is hoped that Israeli fire fighters will put out the blaze tonight. According to the Jewish National Fund it will take decades to rehabilitate the area.

Aid has come from the USA, Spain, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Jordan, Egypt and Australia, and even the Palestinian Authority sent a token detachment of three fire engines to help put out the inferno.

The fire has claimed the lives of 42 people, including 36 prison guards whose bus was en route to a local prison that was being threatened by the fire and needed to be evacuated.

An editorial in Palestine Today stated: “We have to tell you how happy our Palestinian people are at the killing 40 Zionist wardens burned to death,” referring to the Israeli prison guards who were burned to death while trying to reach a prison that was under threat from the flames.

The editorial continued: “Many lessons will be learned from this ‘divine fire’, and the lesson that is most prominent is that the demise of this [Zionist] entity is just a matter of time.”

A survey of Arab media outlets by Jerusalem Post journalist Khaled Abu Toameh revealed that in surrounding Muslim countries the fire was seen as Allah’s judgment on Israel. Readers of those media outlets urged Allah to continue and intensify this punishment, and encouraged Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas to take advantage of the situation and attack Israel.

A typical comment was: “Thank Allah for this new Holocaust. Thank God for burning the Jews the same way they burned our Muslim brothers in Palestine [sic].”

Another urged Hizbullah, Hamas and all Arabs to see the fire as a “golden opportunity to get rid of Israel. The sea and fire are in front of the Jews and weapons are behind them.”

Another praised Allah for the fire, calling on his Palestinian brothers to set fire to all forests in Israel.

Commentators on the Arabic web forum (not a typo) posted photographs of Israelis burned to death in the fire with captions reading “Allah is Great!” and hailing the disastrous wildfire as a gift from Allah.

Nevertheless, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to offer his personal condolences. Fayyad also sent three Palestinian fire engines to fight the fire.

Sadly, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, one of Israel’s most senior religious figures, called the fire a divine visitation on the nation for not observing Shabbat.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

They tried to kill us; God saved us; let’s eat!

I’m sorry if you are housebound by snow in the UK but, as I write, I am looking out on Nof Ginosar, the Sea of Galilee. I hasten to add that I am working so I’m not able to enjoy the sun but it is nice to be in a warm climate. I arrived late last night and am spending a few days teaching the Bible to a group of Christians from Singapore.

However, today is the first day of the festival of Hanukkah and that is bad for waistlines. Jewish people say that all the festivals can be summed up with one succinct sentence: “They tried to kill us; God saved us; let’s eat!” Last night I had a healthy salad, followed by an obligatory sufgani (a doughnut filled with jam). Boy, they are sweet! Israel’s enemies failed to kill them but the sufganiyot might succeed.

Anyway, in the latest round of WikiLeaks documents, there is good news for Israel. Contrary to everything we are told in the media, the leaks reveal that the Arab states see Iran and its nuclear weapons program and not Israel as the real threat to Middle East stability and their own security. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the documents reinforced what Israel has been saying for years about the Iranian nuclear program.

According to WikiLeaks, the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani has said Israel cannot be blamed for mistrusting Arabs and that the Jewish state deserves credit for seeking peace in light of the threat posed by Hamas and Hezbollah. "When you consider that many in the region perceive that Hezbollah drove Israel out of Lebanon and Hamas kicked them ... out of the small piece of land called Gaza”, said al-Thani, “it is actually surprising that the Israelis still want peace."

Anyway, the festival of Hanukkah, which starts today and continues for the next eight days, has its origins in the heroic struggle of Judah Maccabee against the Syrian tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century BC. The story can be found in the two apocryphal Books of the Maccabees. It is probable that the references in Hebrews 11 to “others [being] tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection [while] still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment” refer to the martyrs of the Maccabean period.

Hanukkah means “Dedication” and the Talmud contains an account of a miracle that supposedly occurred after Judah Maccabee liberated the temple and rededicated it to the God of Israel. Tractate Shabbat 22b in the Talmud says that the Greeks had desecrated the sanctuary and the oil for the seven-branched Menorah, and that when the temple was rededicated, only one jar of oil remained undefiled – enough to last for just one day. By a miracle, however, the sacred oil lasted eight days, long enough for more oil to be obtained.

That miracle is remembered each year by the lighting of a nine-branched candlestick, the Hanukkia. This is the basic mitzvah, or commandment, of Hanukkah and for eight days Jewish people light the candles, one each day until on the last day of the festival eight candles are lit. The central ninth candle, the shamash, or “servant” light, is the one from which all the other candles are kindled. Because of the candles, the celebration has also come to be known as the Festival of Lights.

Falling, as it does, in December, for Jews living outside Israel, Hanukkah has in effect become a Jewish substitute for Christmas and it is fascinating to compare the similarities between the two festivals. Some of the similarities are obvious but others are not. Hanukkah recalls the dedication of the temple of God and the miracle of a supernatural light that accompanied the event. The birth of Jesus was the coming into the world of the true Temple of God and the true heavenly Light to shine on those who sat in darkness.

But there is a more challenging lesson we can glean from the feast. The tenth chapter of John’s Gospel records the visit of Jesus to the temple at Hanukkah (v22) an account that occurs at the heart of a section of the Gospel in which Jesus is presented as “the Light of the World” (8:12; 9:5; 11:9-10; 12:35,46). In chapter 13, Jesus reveals himself as the Servant to his disciples and sets them an example they are to follow.

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus teaches his followers that they are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”. “As He is, so are we in this world”, John writes in his first letter, and in John 13 the Servant Light sets an example for the other lights to emulate.

The lesson for us, therefore, is that by serving others we truly become the light of the world. Isn’t this what Paul is driving at when he says he wants his Gentile readers in Rome to provoke the Jewish people to jealousy? It is God’s purpose that we Gentile believers serve as his shamash to kindle “such a candle” in Israel “as shall never be put out”.

Thursday 18 November 2010

The Uniqueness of Christ, Post-Holocaust Theology and Jewish Mission

From 15th to 18th November 2010, 84 participants from 18 countries, including Israel, met in Krakow, Poland under the auspices of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE). They gathered to exchange information and reflect on the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in relation to the evangelisation of the Jewish people in post-Holocaust Europe at a time when anti-Semitism continues to be a factor even within some churches.

It was significant that the delegates should gather in a land where, in living memory, so many Jewish people lost their lives on such a monumental scale. Papers presented covered a diverse range of subjects relating to the conference theme and it was particularly gratifying to have Polish evangelicals participating in the event. At the conclusion of the conference, the delegates issued the following statement:

We, the participants of the 9th European Conference of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism, as Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus the Messiah, rejoice in

• The growing number of Jewish people coming to faith in their Messiah in places that witnessed some of the worst atrocities of the Holocaust period.

• The renewed interest of Eastern European churches in reaching Jewish people with the gospel.

• The renewed desire of the mission organisations represented at the conference to cooperate more closely to make Messiah known to Jewish people.

Furthermore, we, the participants, affirm

• The Jewishness of our Saviour, Jesus (Yeshua), the Messiah and Redeemer of Israel.

• The uniqueness of Jesus the Messiah as the only way to God for both Jews and Gentiles.

• The necessity of formulating, in the shadow of the Holocaust, a biblically authentic understanding of the Jewish people and their relationship to God.

• The obligation to oppose more firmly than ever all expressions of anti-Semitism, particularly among professing Christians.

We therefore call upon the churches of Europe not to be ashamed of the gospel of Messiah but to proclaim it boldly as “the power of God for the salvation of all who believe, to the Jew first and also to the Greek”.

Papers from the 9th LCJE conference will be posted on the LCJE website (

Friday 12 November 2010

The Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish Mission

Next week I will be in Krakow, Poland at the European Conference of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE).

There, I will be presenting a "non-German, non-Jewish" response to the 2008 "Berlin Declaration on the Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish Evangelism in Europe Today". This is what I will be saying.

From 18-22 August 2008, an international task force of the World Evangelical Alliance Theological Commission met in Berlin to consider the uniqueness of Christ and Jewish evangelism. The task force, which included German Christians and Messianic Jews, issued The "Berlin Declaration on the Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish Evangelism in Europe Today". Echoing the more detailed 1989 "Willowbank Declaration", the Berlin Declaration endorses the proclamation of the gospel to Jewish people as an act of love incumbent upon all Christians. The authors mourn the history of Christian anti-Semitism and complicity in genocide, which they see as evidences of the reality of sin, a reality that can be overcome only through the transforming grace of Jesus the Messiah. Jews and all other people need to hear this message, declare the authors, cautioning that the proclamation of the gospel should not be disrespectful or coercive. The Berlin Declaration also affirms the positive value of dialogue in conjunction with – but not as a replacement for – evangelism.

As an English Protestant Christian who has been actively involved in mission to Jewish people for more than a quarter century, I heartily affirm the declaration, though I wish the document had defined its terms more clearly and that its argument had been more coherent and nuanced. Though acknowledging the need for respect, dialogue and vigilance, each point in the declaration immediately proceeds to evangelism. To Jewish people this may well sound like an exercise in sweeping the dust of past wrongs under a very large carpet in order to justify what they perceive as an anti-Semitic project: the conversion of Jews to Christianity. Indeed, Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, condemned the declaration as insensitive and misguided: “To issue this declaration from Berlin, where the Nazis directed their Final Solution to exterminate the Jewish people, is the height of insensitivity … We urge on the WEA to withdraw its call to target the Jews of Europe for conversion and immediately begin serious dialogue with Jewish interfaith representatives, so they can understand the immense pain and anger they are causing with their ill-advised and theologically misguided position.”

The Declaration concludes with a call to action under five heads, each of which in itself could be the subject of a paper. I wish to comment on the points in more, or less reverse order.

1. The paper calls for a “Renewed commitment to the task of Jewish evangelism.” The call is particularly relevant to the English churches. It is ironic that missionaries from across the globe are coming to England, the country where the modern missions movement originated. If English churches are able to regain a vision for Jewish evangelism it will inevitably result in a greater commitment to world mission.

2. “Reconciliation and unity amongst believers in Jesus.” This is somewhat vague; the writers presumably have in mind the unity of Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians rather than a vague ecumenism. In England there exists among the Reformed churches in particular a suspicion of the “Messianic movement”, an unwillingness to understand the difficulties some Jewish believers have trying to integrate into predominantly gentile churches and an insensitivity to the feelings of Messianic Jews. This will remain a challenge for many years to come and the Berlin Declaration’s call is welcome.

3. “Recognition of the uniqueness of Christ as the crucified, resurrected and divine Messiah who alone can save from death and bring eternal life.” This point is the crux of the declaration; everything else stands or falls on the truth or falsity of this proposition.

4. The call for “Respect for religious conviction and liberty that allows frank discussion of religious claims” follows from the declaration’s affirmation of “the importance of dialogue in promoting mutual understanding and sympathy”.

S.C.H Kim defines “Dialogue” as “a conversation which proceeds both from a commitment to one’s own faith and an openness with genuine respect to that of others”, adding that “Openness and respect do not presuppose agreement, or a search for a compromise, but do mean the willingness to listen.”

Pragmatically, it makes sense to listen to those we wish to persuade. It is a capital mistake, in any evangelistic encounter, to presume one knows what the other person believes even if that person is wearing peyot, a streimel and a long black gabardine coat. “Where there are two Jews”, goes the joke, “there will be at least three opinions”, and when speaking about matters of faith with Jewish people the opinions multiply.

The Jewish people are heirs to an intellectual and spiritual heritage that was intended to bias them against the message of Jesus. The sages of blessed memory fenced not only the Torah but also Judaism itself with emotional and prejudicial barriers that make it difficult for Jewish people today to respond positively to the gospel even if they cannot refute it.

Dialogue implies a willingness to listen but Jewish-Christian dialogue often takes place on the assumption that Judaism (presumed to be a “living” faith, older and richer than Christianity by a millennium-and-a-half) has little to learn from its “daughter”. At times dialogue is predicated on an “I’m OK, you’re OK” assumption as in, for example, Harrelson & Falk’s Jews and Christians: A Troubled Family. Rabbi Falk is prepared to say to Christians: “Glory in the teachings of Jesus. Pray his prayer daily, follow in his footsteps to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and extend a helping hand to all who have lost their way in the world. Strengthen the church, that its clarion call to salvation may be heard in the market place, and in the high places of government and commerce. Challenge bigotry and oppression, greed and lust for power, through your missions on every continent. Lead the way for men and women of every race and nation and creed to discover the glorious heritage we share and to build on its sturdy foundations a civilization committed top freedom and to peace”. The Christian message is wonderful, so long as it is not preached to the Jews.

I welcome the declaration’s carefully worded call to dialogue but dialogue, if it is to be meaningful, must be honest, frank and tough-minded, as in R T Kendall and Rabbi David Rosen’s The Jew and the Pharisee, in which both parties vigorously defend their own beliefs while allowing themselves to be challenged by the claims of the other.

5. “Repentance from all expressions of anti-Semitism and all other forms of genocide, prejudice and discrimination.” I address this particular call first as a Christian and then as an Englishman because English anti-Semitism has expressed itself in both religious and secular forms and has contributed to genocide, prejudice and discrimination beyond its own coasts.

Anti-Semitism in England was initially a Roman Catholic phenomenon. The two major pretexts for the persecution of England’s Jews in the Middle Ages centred around an alleged Jewish thirst for non-Jewish blood. First, the Church accused Jews of stealing the consecrated host – which, according to Catholic dogma, had been transformed into the actual body of Christ – in order to torture it. Allegations of host desecration served to simultaneously bolster the belief that the eucharistic wafer, when consecrated, was literally transmuted into the body of Christ and to demonstrate beyond peradventure that Jews were eternal and implacable enemies of Christ.

Secondly, in mid-twelfth century England, a new and more insidious variation of the blood-libel developed. At Passover, it was said, Jews abducted and crucified Christian children in order mix their blood with matzah. Accusations of ritual murder became common in England and led to violent riots against Jewish communities often leaving Jews dead.

Having never been a Catholic I find myself unable to identify with a form of anti-Semitism founded on the theology of that church. As an Englishman, however, I am conscious that the blood-libel, which is now common in many countries, particularly Islamic lands, originated in my own country. I am also conscious that England gave birth to and nurtured a particularly urbane and sophisticated anti-Semitism that has continued to the present day, traces of which may be found in the Church.

In 1290, England made history by being the first country to expel all its Jews, an example emulated by France in 1306 and Spain in 1492. Though there would be few Jews in England for another 150 years, the idea that Jews lusted after the blood of Christians, in particular children, would remain a potent image in the minds of English people for many centuries, reinforced by the writings of Chaucer (The Prioress’s Tale), Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice) and Dickens (Oliver Twist). The blood libel became a staple of Nazi German propaganda5 and on 17th May 1934 an entire edition of the rabidly anti-Semitic Der Stürmer was dedicated to “The Jewish murder plot against non-Jewish humanity”.

Though few English people today believe that Judaism requires the mixing of the blood of Christian children with Passover matzah, the blood libel has been adapted by anti-Zionists. Scottish writer Tom Paulin’s poem “Killed in Cross Fire”, which appeared in The Guardian newspaper in 2001 following the death of Muhammad al-Durrah charged “the Zionist SS” with gunning down “another little Palestinian boy.” In 2009, The Guardian claimed that an Israeli doctor had admitted harvesting Palestinian organs in the Gaza conflict, a claim the paper would later retract, and when Israel set up a field hospital in Haiti, rumours quickly circulated on the Internet that the IDF was there to harvest the organs of Haitian children.

Echoes of the new form of the blood libel have appeared on the blog of Rev Stephen Sizer, the evangelical vicar of Christ Church in the Surrey town of Virginia Water9. In March, Rev Sizer’s blog carried a report of a visit he and Colin Chapman made to “Ghetto Bethlehem”. The checkpoint they passed through, said Sizer, “reminded” him of Apartheid South Africa, of Nazi Germany and of a “cattle abattoir”. On his website, under the heading “Herod's Soldiers Operating in Bethlehem Today”, Sizer posted several photos of Israeli soldiers. In an email, I asked Rev Sizer if the title suggested that the Israeli Prime Minister was Herod and that Israeli soldiers were the murderers of Bethlehem's children.

Sizer responded quickly: “I didn’t say that so please don’t put words in my mouth.”
I pointed out that I had put no words in his mouth; I had simply asked a question and, if the caption was not an allusion to Matthew 2:16-18, what did it mean? I received no reply.

Another peculiarly English contribution to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust (albeit an unwitting one) was Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which provided a “scientific” pretext for the oppression of the weak by the strong. Robert E.D. Clarke notes that “Evolutionary ideas―quite undisguised―lie at the basis of all that is worst in Mein Kampf―and in [Hitler’s] public speeches”. Though England’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, while recognising that “Hitler was a great admirer of Darwin”, feels Darwin “would have been horrified at this perversion of his ideas” (my emphasis), the full title of Darwin’s best-known work was The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (my emphasis). In The Descent of Man Darwin was even more forthcoming about the meaning of natural selection or “the survival of the fittest” as it is commonly known: "At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world” (italics mine).

In Hitler’s Germany the philosophy of “the survival of the fittest” was inculcated into the people. The Aryan race was superior to all other races and the Jews were the lowest, being almost “pure ape”, and in a speech at Nuremberg in 1933, the Führer declared a higher race would always defeat a lower race.

Evolutionary thinking percolated into every academic discipline in the German universities, including biblical studies and Julius Wellhausen's evolutionary approach to the study of the Bible undermined the divine origin or Scripture and Israel’s status as Yahweh's "chosen people". That the Jews were inferior was thus confirmed not only by science but also by religion.

For me as an English Christian, therefore, the Berlin Declaration’s call to repentance resonates. The issue is not theoretical. In February this year I sat next to a fellow Englishman man on a plane, “a Methodist” who had read Mein Kampf and was of the opinion that “if Hitler had been able to kill all the Jews the world would be a far better place”. However, for Christians who have never expressed prejudice or discrimination, the term “repentance” is inexact and inappropriate. It must be the duty of Christians to repudiate, denounce and expose anti-Jewish attitudes and sentiments where they exist in both the world and the Church.

Christian Witness to Israel recently adopted as its mission statement: “Sharing the Good News of Jesus with the Jewish people, combating anti-Semitism and to making the Church aware of its material and spiritual debt to the Jews.”

Respect for the Jewish people and their beliefs (however much one might disagree with them), repudiation of anti-Semitism, dialogue without compromise, affirmation of the core principles of the gospel message and a commitment to evangelism are values I endorse wholeheartedly and to which I, with the formulators of the Berlin Declaration, commit myself.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

PA is free to break agreements with israel

“Moderate” Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas announced last Sunday that the Palestinian Authority is to break its agreements with Israel at any time.

Addressing the first annual Sir Bani Yas Forum on Peace and Global Security in Abu Dhabi, Abbas declared: “We met our obligations, but [Israel] did not, and so we are free from obligations”.

Israel has complied with many previous agreements. The very fact that that Abbas’ Palestinian Authority today rules the Arab population in Judea and Samaria (the West bank), that the PA has an armed military force and that Israel fully evacuated all Jews from the Gaza Strip proves Israel’s compliance with previous deals.

Abbas’ tactic is to ignore the concessions Israel has made and its compliance with previous deals by focusing solely on his favourite current demand, which at the moment is that Israel cease all construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. As long as Israel fails to satisfy that demand, Abbas will claim that Israel is non-compliant and always has been.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has never fulfilled its earliest peace process commitments to disarm and dismantle the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure, end anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian media and to educate its public for peace and coexistence. If anything, the Palestinians have moved in the opposite direction.

Abbas spoke in Arabic in Abu Dhabi, so his inflammatory rhetoric has gone unreported ignored by the international media, and will not in the least influence US-led international peace brokering in the region.

Meanwhile, more than 10,000 Qassam rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israel over the past ten years. More than 600 Israelis have been injured and 28 lives have been lost as a result of the constant bombardment. The IDF cannot respond effectively to the attacks because almost all the rockets are fired from densely-populated civilian areas in Gaza, often near to schools, hospitals, and mosques. Since the so called “cease-fire” of February 2009, more than 250 Qassam rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza into Southern Israel.

In spite of all that Hamas is doing to destroy Israel and kill innocent people, some Israeli citizens that are responding in a very different manner. In fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah 2:4, that the day will come when men will beat their swords into ploughshares”.

In an interesting spin on Isaiah 2:4, members of Moshav Yated, led by Yaron Bob, are beating Qassam rockets into objects of beauty. The “Peace Rose” (above) was made from the remains of a Qassam missile. You can view and purchase some of the work of the Moshav Yated artists at the Jerusalem Depot.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

If pigs become kosher

Hamas’s interior minister Fathi Hammad (above) has admitted that Israel was right about the casualties in its assault on Gaza two years ago, “Operation Cast Lead”.

Hamas has maintained that the vast majority of casualties were civilians but in interview with the London-based Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, Hammad admitted that the 250policemen Israel killed on the first day of the Gaza conflict were combatants, just as Israel had claimed. Human rights organizations have repeatedly dismissed Israel’s claim that the policemen functioned as an auxiliary Hamas army unit. Hamas’s interior minister now, admits: “On the first day of the war, Israel targeted police stations and 250 martyrs who were part of Hamas and the various factions fell.”

“Factions” is a standard Palestinian euphemism for their armed militias.

Fathi Hammad also revealed, “about 200 to 300 were killed from the Qassam Brigades (Hamas’s main fighting force), as well as 150 security personnel.”

Now do the sums: 300 Qassam Brigade members + 150 “security personnel” + 250 policemen = 700; a figure as near-as-makes-no-difference to Israel’s estimate of 709.
So why has Hamas lied about its casualties for almost two years? Because, for terror organisations, lying is standard practice. After all, if someone wants to kill you, it’s not outside the bounds of possibility that they’d lie about you.

Speaking at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federation of North America’s in New Orleans on Monday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report on the conduct of the conflict “a modern day blood libel.” The report accused Israel of targeting Palestinian civilians and also accepted at face value the inflated Palestinian casualty figures. The international community, said Prime Minister Netanyahu, owes Israel an apology for accepting without question Hamas' propaganda about the Gaza conflict and using it to accuse the Jewish state of war crimes.

Will Israel get the apology it deserves? I suspect pigs will become kosher first.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Was St Luke a Jew?

Someone recently took issue with me over a statement I had made to the effect that the entire Bible, including the New Testament,was written by Jews. What about Luke? He wasn't a Jew; he was a Gentile.

First of all, I think most scholars simply assume Luke was a Gentile but among those who seek to defend the Gentile identity of Luke, the only real line of argument they have stems from Colossians 4:7-14, where Paul concludes the letter by listing the various people who were with him as he was writing the epistle. He mentions some who were of “the circumcision” (Col. 4:10-11), which included Aristarchus, Mark and Jesus called Justus. In v 14, Paul refers to Luke, the beloved physician, but because Luke is not mentioned among those of “the circumcision”, it is assumed he was not a Jew. However, in his commentary on Luke, the respected New testament scholar E. Earle Ellis points out that this line of reasoning is far from conclusive:

The large majority of scholars believe that Luke was a gentile. Although appeal is made to Luke’s good Greek, Col. 4: 10f., 14 is the only strong argument for the prevailing view. Luke is excluded from those ‘of the circumcision’. However, the meaning of the passage is not at all clear. One need not, with C. F. D. Moule … and C. C. Torrey … only call attention to the ambiguous wording of Col 4: 11. There is a more important question: who are those ‘of the circumcision’? In some passages the phrase can simply mean ‘the Jews’ (e.g., Rom. 4: 12).But there is no instance with the certain meaning, ‘Jewish Christians’. F. F. Bruce … thinks that outside Acts the phrase refers to Judaizers, that is, Jewish Christians who want to impose the Mosaic Law upon Gentile believers. This meaning fits Gal. 2: 12 and Tit. 1: 10 (‘the circumcision party’, RSV). But it is impossible at Col. 4:11…

Although not provable, this explanation accounts for the New Testament use of the phrase. To identify those ‘of the circumcision’ merely as Jewish Christians does not. Without that identification the evidence that Luke was a gentile disappears. There is no proof, of course, that he was not. But the balance of probabilities favours the view that Luke was a hellenistic Jew. This leaves open the possibility that Luke is the Lucius (Paul’s cousin?) mentioned in Rom. 16: 21. Like Silas and Silvanus, Luke and Lucius were alternate forms of the same name.
(E. Earle Ellis, The Gospel of Luke. New Century Bible Commentary, Marshall, Morgan & Scott/Eerdmans, pp 52f)

Mikeal C. Parsons recent commentary, Luke: Storyteller, Interpreter, Evangelist (Hendrickson, 2007), also leans toward Luke’s Jewish identity.

Secondly, there is further support for the Jewishness of Luke in Romans 3, where Paul asks the rhetorical question, “What advantage has the Jew?”. He answers: “Much every way, chiefly because that to them were committed the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:1-2). The Jewish nation was the vehicle of God’s revelation to the other nations. If Luke was a Gentile then most of the New Testament “oracles” were committed to a non-Jew, because Luke and Acts make up over half the New Testament writings.

Fourthly, evidence that Luke was a Jew can be found in the book of Acts. Luke was a constant companion of Paul from the time Paul sailed from Troas to Europe. He accompanied Paul on his last trip to Jerusalem and was an eyewitness to the arrest of Paul in the Temple in Acts 21 after he was accused of taking Gentiles into the Temple precincts.

Luke records that Paul had been seen on the streets of Jerusalem with “Trophimus an Ephesian”. It would seem Paul had taken Trophimus to Jerusalem so the apostles could see some of the fruit of his ministry as the apostle to the Gentiles. Even though the charge against Paul was false, the rumour spread among the people and caused a near riot on the Temple Mount. This was the reason for which Paul was arrested.
This raises an interesting point. When the Jews in Jerusalem accused Paul of taking a Gentile into the Temple, they pointed to Trophimus. If Luke was a Gentile, why didn’t Paul’s accusers use Luke as evidence? The fact that Luke is not mentioned in the accusation is a strong indication that he was not a Gentile.

Fifthly, another argument for the idea that Luke was a Jew is that his Gospel is very Jewish and he demonstrates an intimate knowledge of the Temple, more so than Matthew or John, and certainly more than Mark. When Luke describes the announcement to Zacharias concerning the birth of John the Baptist, he provides considerable detail to describe the service of the Levitical priests according to their families. He describes the place where Zacharias the priest was standing before the altar of incense, when the angel appeared to him (Luke 1:8-20). The fact that Luke alone of the four Gospel writers provides us with this account and does so in such vivid detail, argues for his being a Jew, familiar with the Temple procedures.

A final argument for the Jewish identity of Luke is the close contact he appears to have enjoyed with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Luke relates the story of the birth of Jesus primarily from her point of view and tells us she hid these things “in her heart” (Luke 2:19, 51). How did Luke, of all the Gospel writers, manage to get so close to Mary that she revealed to him what she had hidden in her heart? Given the close-knit nature of the Jerusalem church, it would seem highly unlikely that Luke could have gotten so close to the mother of Jesus if he were not a Jew.

On the basis of these considerations, if we are to make any assumption about the ethnic identity of Luke, it should be that he was Jewish and we should reject his Jewishness only when compelling evidence to the contrary is presented.

Thursday 30 September 2010

Word of mouth

I’ve just been talking to one of our field workers who is in contact with an Orthodox Jewish man via e-mail and she feels frustrated because the man in question draws his teachings from the Talmud, that enormous compendium of rabbinic wisdom contained in over sixty tractates, whereas she wants to refer him to the Tanakh, the Hebrew Scriptures. Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner believes it is impossible for Jews and Christians to talk together meaningfully because, as he puts it in his book Jews and Christians: the Myth of a Common Tradition, Christianity is the religion of the Bible whereas Judaism is the religion of the Talmud. Christianity, he says is concerned with personal salvation, whereas Judaism is concerned with national sanctification. Consequently, there is no middle ground where both can meet. This is just a scholarly way of avoiding confrontation that could lead to Jewish people becoming concerned about personal salvation and exposing them to the teachings of the Bible.

I never come away from any discussion with people of other faiths without asking myself whether they might, however weak their arguments, be right. I suppose that’s because we as Christians are concerned about truth. I get the impression thatsome people defend their religion as they might defend their local soccer team or their favourite rock band. They want to win the argument so you’ll go away and they are prepared to bluster and even make up facts to get you to do that.

The Orthodox man my colleague is witnessing to believes that, at Sinai, God gave Moses not only the written Law but also the Oral Torah, to explain the written law. According to tractate Pirke Avot (Sayings of the Fathers), “Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it Joshua. Joshua transmitted it to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise many students, and make a protective fence for the Torah.”

The Oral Law (the Talmud) is the cornerstone of traditional Judaism but the written Torah says nothing about God transmitting a verbal explanation of the Torah. The only evidence for the Oral Law comes from the Oral Law itself.

Of course, if he so chose, God could have imparted a verbal explanation of the Law in order for the Jewish people to know how to order every minute of every day of their lives. He could have explained the minutiae of the Torah in such a way that every case brought before the judges of Israel could have been solved by reference to the Oral Law.

However, there is evidence in the writings of Moses that cast serious doubt on the claim that there ever was an unwritten body of law. Take, for instance, the case of the Sabbath breaker in Numbers 15:32ff:

Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. They put him under guard, because it had not been explained what should be done to him.

Maybe I’ve misunderstood precisely what the Oral Torah is, but if God had exhaustively explained the application of the Law to Moses, why did Moses have to enquire of God what had to be done to the Sabbath breaker?

Take again the case of the five daughters of Zelophehad in Numbers 27. It is obvious that Moses did not know what should be done in the light of the request of those five women for property rights in the Promised Land. He had to seek the Lord’s mind.
There is much in the so-called Oral Law that is wise and helpful but the final authority in all matters of faith and practice must be the written word. Whenever tradition, however good that tradition might be, is added to Scripture, it swallows Scripture. This is the case with Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Christian Scientism and every other sect that sets a body of tradition alongside Scripture.

Our principle for knowing God’s mind and will must always be: “To the [written] law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).

Dancing in the Dark

Imagine condemned criminals dancing for joy around the courtroom holding up the very documents that seal their fates! That bizarre scenario becomes a reality for the Jewish people every year when they celebrate Simchat Torah: “Joy of the Law”.
Today was “Simchat Torah” and every year on 23 Tishri in the Jewish calendar, Jewish people celebrate the conclusion and restart of their annual Torah-reading cycle with an unbridled joy that surpasses even the joy of Sukkot.

Every year, the books of Moses are read in synagogues, starting with Genesis 1 and concluding, at the end of the year, with Deuteronomy 34. Tishri 23 began last evening and in synagogues tomorrow (Friday 1 October), chapters 33 and 34 of Deuteronomy will conclude the annual cycle of Torah readings. Genesis 1, the first chapter of the new cycle will also be read.

At Simchat Torah, it is customary for every man to take part in the celebration by receiving an aliyah, by “going up” to the bimah in synagogue to read from the books of Moses. Children too receive an aliyah, but the highlight of Simchat Torah is the hakafot, when congregants march and dance with Torah scrolls around the reading table in the synagogue.

On reflection, there is something profoundly sad about Jewish rejoicing in the Torah. At one level, it is wonderful to possess God’s law, or instruction (which is what the Hebrew word Torah means), and we should be grateful for it. But to rejoice with unrestrained joy is another matter altogether, for the Torah is not an unmixed blessing. According to the apostle Paul, the Torah is a curse because it condemns us all, and if Jewish people can read the Torah and rejoice in it, there is only one conclusion to be reached: they simply have not understood it.

Messiah Jesus instructed his Jewish disciples to rejoice that their names were written in heaven (Luke 10:21). Jewish people around the world spent the Jewish New Year, the ten Days of Awe and Yom Kippur seeking to have their names inscribed in heaven, in the Book of Life, but were not able to rejoice. Today, Jewish people rejoiced in the very law that keeps them from being written in the heavenly volume.

Saturday 18 September 2010

Got to get you into the Book of Life

A few minutes ago, the most solemn day in the Hebrew calendar. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, ended. It began on Friday evening and for the next 25 hours Jews around the world afflicted their souls by fasting and spent the day in synagogue confessing their sins and repenting of them in a bid to have their names inscribed in the Book of Life.

An Orthodox friend told me he was trying to make his life “100% fantastic” in preparation for the big day.

I was on a plane to Israel on Wednesday and found myself seated with an Orthodox Jewish family, squashed between the pater familias and his teenage daughter. I wished him Shanah Tovah (a Good Year) and asked if he would be keeping Yom Kippur at the Western Wall. He told me he would be at a synagogue in Jerusalem.

I asked if the prospect of being judged by God frightened him. It did.

When I asked if he knew his name would be in the Book of Life at the end of the Day of Atonement, he shrugged. Who could tell?

I asked about Gentiles, since the rabbis teach that at Rosh Hashanah God judges everyone’s sins, not just those of the Jewish people. What could I do to find a place in the Book of Life?

“Do good things” was the only response I got.

Also on the plane was a friendly, non-religious Jewish man. He heard our conversation and joined in. He told me about two events he had attended to hear Rabbi Shmuely Boteach debate Messianic Jews. The first event he told me about was when Rabbi Boteach took on Dr Michael Brown in London two years ago. He thought Michael Brown got the better of Shmuely and I agreed.

The other debate was about twelve years ago when Shmuely went head to head with Messianic “Rabbi” Philip Sharpe. I was also at that debate and Zev was of the opinion that Rabbi Boteach wiped the floor with Sharpe. I agreed but that was only because Sharpe was an easy target. I asked if he remembered the last question of the evening. When I reminded him that Shmuely had called the questioner a liar, he remembered. The questioner was me.

Rabbi Boteach had stated in his presentation that Matthew, the author of the Gospel, did not understand Hebrew. If he had, he would never have understood Isaiah 7:14 as a reference to the virgin birth, since the Hebrew word almah means “young woman”, not “virgin”. In Greek, claimed Rabbi Boteach, there is one word that serves for both “virgin” and “young woman”.

In my question, I pointed out that Shmuely was factually incorrect. The Greek word for “virgin” is parthenos and “young woman” is neanis. When I asked Shmuely why the Jewish scholars who translated Hebrew Scriptures into Greek 300years before the birth of Jesus also used parthenos to translate the Hebrew almah, he yelled – to the astonishment and horror of the audience – that I was a liar. I thanked him for his opinion but continued to press the point.

Afterwards, when I confronted him, Shmuely angrily insisted that, unlike him, I had no interest in truth but I kept asking why the translators of the Greek Septuagint understood Isaiah to have been referring to a virgin in chapter 7 of his book. Finally, in frustration and anger, he shouted ay me that it was because they were “stupid”.

Please pray for the family on the plane, for the secular Jew and for Shmuely Boteach, that they may discover the "Book of Life" is "the Lamb’s Book of Life" and look to the Lamb of God, who alone can take away their sins.

Friday 10 September 2010

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. find out what it means to me

Okay. We all know that Terry Jones, the pastor of the inappropriately named "Dove World Outreach Centre" was wrong to call for the burning of Korans. Worse than wrong. Pastor Jones' foolishness has already generated hostility and violence in the Islamic world. Even though he has called off the burning of copies of the Muslim holy book, the genie is out of the bottle.

Although I deplore Jones' stupidity, I understand what motivated his ill-conceived project: his anger at the proposed erection of an Islamic cultural centre/mosque across the road from Ground Zero.

But let's not forget that among all those eager to cast the first stone at an easy and soft target, there is a double standard at work. Suppose a Muslim cleric had pre-empted Jones and announced a burning of copies of the Talmud. Would there have been an international outcry? Suppose an imam organised a Bible-burning jamboree? Would he have been denounced on the front pages of the world's dailies?

The hypocrisy is astonishing. Don't offend Islam but allow Islam to offend everyone else. Respect Islam, even though it has no respect for anyone else.

Pastor Jones is indeed a foolish shepherd but he is being denounced for copying the very people the media refuses to censure - whatever they do.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Monty Python's Frying Circus

I always thought Terry Jones was a member of that team of madcap, surreal comics behind Monty Python's Flying Circus. Perhaps he's become a man of the cloth.

Gun-toting Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Florida has declared Saturday 11th September “International Burn a Koran Day”. He and his little flock have announced they intend to burn Korans this Saturday, on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre nine years ago.

This proposed Koran-frying circus is stupid, ill-conceived, counter-productive and, worst of all, unchristian. Book burning serves no useful purpose except to get up the noses of the people whose books you are burning. I’m no prophet, but I predict the results of the book-burning will be anti-American riots in Islamic countries and increased attacks on US and British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jones may well be putting his own life and the lives of his congregation in danger.

Jones and his flock are stooping to the tactics of the inarticulate and ignorant who, unable to defend their world views, resort to violence and destruction. Battles for truth are won by contending for the faith and exhibiting Christ-like attitudes. What is required in the battle for minds and souls is constructive debate, illumination of facts and reasoned analysis.

The Nazis burned Jewish books, Muslims burn US flags and radical rabbis in Israel burn New Testaments. Now, a professing Christian pastor is going to burn Moslem holy books.

Pastor Jones will have his fifteen minutes of fame (or infamy, depending on your perspective) but he’ll also have blood on his hands and the judgement seat of Christ to look forward to. I wouldn’t be in his shoes for all the oil in Kuwait.

Terry Jones had better keep that gun close. Muslims the world over know where his church is...

On the beach

If you went down to the beach today, you might have seen Orthodox Jews at the water’s edge throwing bread in the water. You would have seen the same thing on the banks of some rivers. In New York, the Brooklyn Bridge would have been crowded with Hasidic Jews casting bread into the Hudson River below. They will not be feeding the ducks but instead will be taking part in the solemn ritual of Tashlich, which in Hebrew means “casting off”. As well as casting bread into the water, some will deposit fluff and other bits of debris from their pockets, while reciting Micah 7:18,19:

Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if sin and guilt could be cast away so easily; if transgressions could be carried away or cast into the sea? The great tragedy of Rosh Hashanah is that the Jewish people could literally know their sins to be cast away and buried, never to be remembered again. That is why CWI exists; to tell Jewish people that they can know the reality of that which Micah foresaw 700 years before Messiah was born.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

A Question of Balance

Tonight at sunset, something awesome will happen. According to the Jewish Lubavitch Chabad sect, God will “recode the Universe”.

In less esoteric terms, the Jewish New Year of 5771 will commences when the sun sets this evening. According to the Jewish calendar, God created the world 5770 years ago. The Talmud says that the world is to last for 6,000 years. The first 2,000 years were years of desolation after which the Torah flourished for 2,000 years after the Law was transmitted to Israel at Sinai. The last two millennia of world history were to be the Messianic Age. According to the Jewish system of calculation, Messiah should have appeared 1,771 years ago!

But coming back to this evening, as we stand on the threshold of the new year, all the deeds you have committed in the last year will be weighed in the balances of heaven. According to Rabbi Ahron Lopianski on, “Rosh Hashana is a day of judgment on who will enter this most exclusive club of eternity along with which deeds, and what is to be discarded.”

If you are judged by God to be perfectly righteous you will be inscribed in the “Book of Life” thus being admitted to Rabbi Lopianski’s “exclusive club”; if you did nothing good in the last twelve months but only evil, you will be inscribed for death. The good news, if you are one of the “intermediate” class, having done a fair amount of both god and bad in the last year, you have ten days till Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement to tip the celestial balances in your favour. This can be done through acts of tzedaka, or righteousness, such as giving to charity. You should also seek to make amends with anyone you have wronged and give attention to study of the holy books.

Ten days to tip the balances of heaven in my favour? I would need a whole lot longer than that. The tragedy of Judaism is that it has become like the religions of the nations; it is a religion of personal merit. God forgives if we prove worthy of his forgiveness.

Friday 20 August 2010

Shock Horror! A balanced Israel documentary on the Beeb

When the BBC's flagship documentary programme Panorama last broadcast a documentary Israel in January, the result was a one-sided and biased distortion of Jewish history and Jewish rights to Jerusalem.

When Panorama announced it was airing "Death in the Med", an examination of events that took place on board the Turkish “aid” ship Mavi Marmara and the Gaza flotilla in May, I expected more of the same.

Instead, the BBC presented a balanced and comprehensive examination of the incident.
If you didn’t see the programme you can see it at Honest Reporting’s website, where there is other useful information about the Gaza flotilla.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Allah's uneven playing field

Although President Obama has backpeddled on his support for the building of a massive Islamic Cultural Centre/Mosque just yards from Ground Zero, the project still enjoys the support of New York’s Jewish mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mayor Bloomberg and other supporters of the proposal are motivated by a sense of fair play, tolerance and American values but they need to remember that for centuries Muslims have built mosques on the sites of their great military victories to celebrate the triumph of their religion over their enemies. That's why the Dome of the Rock was built on the site of the Temple in Jerusalem. That is why the Cordoba Mosque (for which this project is named) was built in Spain. The Ground Zero Mosque will be a clear signal to radical Islamists the world over that America is a soft target and ripe for another attack. And to add further insult to the injury, the proposers of the project want to dedicate the building on the tenth anniversary of 9/11!

Although the developers of the mosque are not revealing where the $100 million for the project is coming from, it is more than likely that Saudi Arabia – which has funded the building of nearly 2,000 mosques around the world – is the source of funding. While Hamas demands that Muslims be allowed to worship where they wish, not a single church or synagogue has been constructed in Saudi Arabia.
Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, where they were indoctrinated with hatred of Israel and America.

One of the main movers and shakers behind plans for the Ground Zero Mosque is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf who is frequently described in news reports as a “moderate” Muslim. in an interview with the US TV news programme 60 Minutes not long after the 9/11 attacks, Feisal Abdul Rauf declared that America was, "an accessory to the crime that happened" because the US has been an accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world." He believes the United States should be governed by Islamic sharia law rather than the Constitution.

If you are as concerned as I am, Michael Evans has organised an online petition addressed to Mayor Bloomberg that you can sign. Click here.

Monday 16 August 2010

What a difference a day made

US President Barak Obama has withdrwan his support for plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero (see The House Barak wants to build)after families who lost loved ones on 9/11 labelled him “insensitive and uncaring”.

On Friday, he said: “As a citizen and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right ... to build a place of worship and a community centre on private property in Lower Manhattan.”

On Saturday the President modified his comments: “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque [at Ground Zero]. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to [America’s] founding … my intention was simply to let people know what I thought. Which was that in this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion.”

Hamas co-founder leader its chief on the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud al-Zahar, speaking on Sunday on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on WABC-AM in the US, said that Muslims “have to build everywhere so that followers can pray, just like Christians and Jews build their places of worship.”

Fair enough. But if Moslems must have freedom to build places of worship wherever they choose in the West, regardless of whether the places they choose to erect their mosques offends the sensitivities of bereft families, why don't Christians and Jews have the same freedoms accorded them in Islamic lands?

Saturday 14 August 2010

The house Barak wants to build

If you didn't know it, plans are afoot to construct an Islamic Cultural Centre cum mosque in the shadow of the site where almost 3,000 people died on 11 September 2000, after Muslim hijackers flew two airliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.

Not only that, the plan has the support of New York’s mayor and President Obama. “As a citizen, and as president”, Obama says, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community centre on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”

The president made his remarks at a White House dinner to celebrate the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. In making his statement, he waded into a national controversy that has sparked passionate and angry debate.

Republicans were quick to jump on the president's remarks. Representative Peter King of New York said it was "insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero."

While the Muslim community had the right to build the mosque, said King , "they are abusing that right by needlessly offending so many people who have suffered so much."

Top Republicans including former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich announced their opposition. So did the Jewish civil rights group, the Anti-Defamation League.

While insisting that the place where the twin towers once stood was "hallowed ground", President Obama said the proper way to honour it was to apply the "American values" of tolerance and respect to those who were different.

While his pronouncement wil find favour among Muslims of the world, the president's stance runs counter to the opinions of the majority of Americans, according to polls. A CNN/Opinion Research poll released this week found that almost 70 per cent of Americans opposed the mosque plan.

Some September 11 victims' relatives, see the prospect of a mosque so near the destroyed trade center as an insult to the memory of those killed by Islamic terrorists in the 9/11 attacks.

So what should America do? Should it apply the vallues of tolerance and respect to those who apparently don't share those values. Should America forgive and forget?

Well, try to imagine the response of the Jewish people and the western European nations if a Hitler Appreciation Society requested permission to build a Nazi Cultural Centre at Auschwitz.

Imagine what would happen if the Japanese proposed building a Japanese Cultural Centre at Pearl Harbour.

The seismic shock would register 10 on the Richter scale.