4. Pro-Zionist Christians in the 19th Century

In the middle of the 19th century when Palestine was under Turkish rule, and the Ottoman Empire was on the decline, Great Britain had a vital interest in the fate of the Empire for general political reasons.

It was the era when Christians of the Western culture were taking an interest in biblical lands. Jews all over Europe were expressing their hope of return to their homeland. Lord Palmerston, British Foreign Secretary, wrote in 1840 to the British Ambassador in Constan-tinople (modern Istanbul in NW Turkey), the Sultan's seat. He expressed the British policy to keep the Ottoman regime in power as long as possible. He made a recommendation to his Empire's benefit involving the Jewish people with reference to Palestine:

There exists at the present time among the Jews dispersed over Europe, a strong notion that the time is approaching when their nation is to return to Palestine. . . . It would be of manifest importance to the Sultan to encourage the Jews to return and settle in Palestine because the wealth which they would bring with them would increase the resources of the Sultan's dominions; and the Jewish people, if returning under the sanction and protection, and at the invitation of the Sultan, would be a check upon any future evil designs of Mehemet Ali (of Egypt) or his successor. . . . I have to instruct Your Excellency strongly to re-commend (to the Turkish Government) to hold out every just encouragement to the Jews of Europe to return to Palestine.

Lord Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1801-1885) was a man of unshakeable faith who based his life on literal acceptance of the Bible. His guiding principle in life was the old Judeo-Christian Bible decree: "Love thy neighbour as thyself". The Jews he always called "God's ancient people", and he accepted them in the same way that he accepted the Bible," wrote Dr. Pragai.

When Mehemet Ali of Egypt threatened the Sultan in 1838, Palmerston and Ashley influenced the Turkish Government to permit the establishment of a British Consulate in Jerusalem. Ashley's delight over the achievement is reflected in his diary:

"The ancient city of the people of God is about to resume a place among the nations, and England is the first of Gentile kingdoms that ceases "to tread her down."
Q. Now, that is an interesting quotation from the New Testament. Would you elaborate a little about that?

Jesus spoke predictions about the future of Jerusalem, and said that Jerusalem would be trodden down, or trampled on by Gentile powers until the fulness of the Gentiles be fulfilled the Gospel of Luke 21:24. Jesus implied that a day will come when Gentiles would no longer rule in the Holy City.

Jerusalem became the religious centre of the Jewish nation with King David's conquest of the Jebusite fortress of Zion in the 10th century B.C. The Babylonians destroyed the Temple and the city in the sixth century B.C. (Nebuchadnezzar). Then, the Persians brought the Holy City under their rule in the same century (536 B.C., Cyrus). After the conquests of Alexander the Great, his successors the Seleucids and the Ptolemies made Jerusalem "a bone of contention" as rival kingdoms in the second century B.C. (198 B.C., Seleucid conquest of Jerusalem). The Maccabean victory over those Hellenistic kingdoms resulted in an autonomous Jewish state which lasted about 127 years (from 164-63 B.C.), the Romans having conquered the Jewish nation in 63 B.C. (Pompey).

Jerusalem drove out the Romans during the Bar Kokhba Revolt (A.D. 132-135), which lasted only a few years, and the Emperor Hadrian subdued the city for the Roman Empire. In turn, Jerusalem was "trampled on" by Persians (A.D. 614), Moslem Arabs (A.D. 638), Egyptians (A.D. 878-1516), (the Mame-lukes from Egypt ruled in Palestine from 1250 to 1517) except for periods interrupted by: the Crusaders (A.D. 1099), the Holy Roman Empire (Frederick II, A.D. 1219), then, under Ottoman Rule, the Turkish Empire (A.D. 1517-1917), for 400 years until General Allenby of Britain took Jerusalem from the Turks in 1917. We must mention that for a brief period of about eight years, the Holy City was in the possession of the Pasha of Egypt (A.D. 1832-1840). Then the great historic fulfilment of prophecy, 1948, when the State of Israel was reborn.

However, the ancient city of Jerusalem was still held by the Kingdom of Jordan ruled by the Hashemite Dynasty. During the "Six-Day War" the Holy City came back into Jewish government on June 7th, 1967. Liberty Bible Commentary makes this note: "On June 7, 1967, the "times of the Gentiles" were completed" (page 2062).

Q. What significant reaction followed Palmerston's and Ashley's influence on the Turkish Government?

Two years later (1840) the London Times, on March the 9th, carried a full text of a Memorial addressed to the "Protestant Monarchs of Europe" appealing for the Restoration of the Jews, and stated that an opportune moment had arrived for "what may be the probable line of duty for Protestant Christianity to the Jewish people."

Dr. Pragai in his book notes: "When a hundred years later Hitler's Germany had embarked on the `final solution', i.e., the physical extermination of Europe's Jewry, there was virtually no call at all regarding a `line of duty' of Protestant Christianity to the Jewish people. The few who did speak up were the exception to the rule" (page 46).

On March 2nd, 1841, a memorandum was addressed to Lord Palmerston by a group of 320 Christians expressing beliefs that were widely shared by both Protestants and Catholics:

Your Memorialists beg leave . . . to remind your Lordship that the land of Palestine was bestowed by the Sovereign of the Universe upon the descendants of Abraham as a permanent and inalienable possession nearly 4000 years ago, and that neither conquests nor treaties among men can possibly affect their Title to it. He has also decreed that they shall again return to their country, and that the Gentiles shall be employed as a means of their RESTORATION.
Q. Very interesting, indeed! What Scripture texts would have so influenced them to declare such authority?

Undoubtedly, the promise of God to Abraham: Genesis 15:18-21; 17:7-8, and through the Prophet Isaiah:

Thus saith the LORD GOD: Behold, I will lift up My hand to the Gentiles, and set up My ensign to the people, and they shall bring thy sons [Israel] in their bosom, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy foster-fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers. . . Thou [Israel] shall know that I am the LORD . . . (49:22-23). And Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising . . . and aliens shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee (60:3,10).
King Cyrus of Persia certainly helped the Jews return from their 70-year captivity in the sixth century B.C. Surely that historic knowledge inspired those pro-Zionist Christians. Some Christians considered themselves included in the prophetic picture of Isaiah in chapter 62: I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem. They shall never hold their peace day nor night: Ye that are the LORD's remembrancers, take ye no rest, and give Him [the Sovereign of the Universe] no rest, till He establish Jerusalem a praise in the earth. (The Holy Scriptures. Masoretic Text. Jewish Publication Society of America).

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