3. The Reformation and the English Bible

"The notion of Democracy was a by-product of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century," Pragai wrote. He pointed out two ideas of the Refor-mation: free thinking which guaranteed the inalienable right of each man and woman to read and study the Bible. Before then such right did not exist, and the Bible was largely inaccessible to laymen. The second idea: the nobility of all believers.

"The milestone in the story of Britain's involvement with the Holy Land was the translation of the Bible into English."The most popular version became the King James of 1611". Generation after generation of Englishmen studied the Book." Great Christian states-men became pro-Zionists in Britain as they discovered" the "people and land of the Book".

Q. Would you please define the term "Zion" or "Zionism" or "Zionist?"

The word "Zion," historically, refers to the former Jebusite fortress in ancient Jerusalem, which later was called "the city of David" (2 Samuel 5:7,9). In the Maccabean period, Zion referred to the Temple Mount (I Maccabees 4:37-38). Old Testament Zion was equated with the Temple, and was the name for the religious centre of the Jews. (J.D. Douglas. The New Bible Dictionary, p. 617). The Hebrew Scriptures equate Zion with the Holy City, Jerusalem. Psalm 135:21 reads: Blessed be the LORD out of Zion, who dwelleth at Jerusalem. Isaiah 24:23 reads: The LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem.

"Zionism" is a term coined by Nathan Birnbaum in 1890 denoting that `movement' whose goal was the return of the Jewish people to Eretz Israel. From 1896 the term referred to the political movement founded by Theodor Herzl, aiming at the establishment of a Jewish State in the land of Israel. (Encyclopedic Dictionary of Judaica, p. 647).

As we have said earlier, great Christian statesmen became pro-Zionists in Britain as a result of the English Bible.

In the reign of King James I, in whose lifetime the Authorized or King James Version, was published under the title The Holy Bible Henry Finch (1558-1625), a Member of British Parliament, jurist and legal writer, Hebraist wrote in Hebrew for the sake of the Jewish people, and translated into English, encouraging them out of the Old and New Testaments to assert their claim to the "Promised Land." Some of his quotations were taken from the Prophet Isaiah, chapter 43, where the LORD God of Israel declares that He will bring back His people from the east, west, north, and south (vs. 5-6). Michael Pragai in his book says that Finch was "a true forerunner of a modern non-Jewish Zionist."

Some Gentile Christians interpreted certain texts of the Hebrew Scriptures as a `mandate' to help God in His declared cause with Israel. The Prophet Jeremiah in the 31st chapter gives the Word of God: Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations....declare it . . . and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him. . . . Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion (Jeremiah 31:10-12).

The Gentiles shall come to thy light, declared the Prophet Isaiah, and kings to the brightness of thy rising . . . the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to thee [Israel] . . .thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles . . . and thou shalt know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob . . . they [the Gentiles] shall call thee [Israel], The City of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah, chapter 60).

Q. Were there any pro-Zionist Gentiles, outside of Britain? EDB:
John Toland (1670-1722) from Ireland was an active participant in the theological and political debates of contemporary England. In 1714 he published his Reasons for Naturalising the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland on the Same Footing with all Other Nations. This champion of human rights spoke against the background of Jewish "ghettos" in Europe, and Jews had no official status in England until 1866 when the House of Commons admitted Lionel de Rothschild, first Jewish Member of Parliament. The most famous English Jew of the 19th century was Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) whom Queen Victoria ennobled as Lord Beaconsfield, who became the Prime Minister in 1868.

Holger Paulli (1644-1714), a Danist pietist, believed whole-heartedly in the Jewish Return to the "Promised Land" as a condition for the second coming of Christ. He would have been motivated by Jesus' own promise to return (John 14:1-3), and by the promise of angelic messengers who, at Jesus' ascension, declared this same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). The Apostle Paul also wrote that the Deliverer, meaning the Messiah, would come to Zion, and all Israel would be saved (Romans 11:26). Paulli published books and memoranda which he dispatched to the kings of France and England calling on them to help the Jews in their desire to return and regain their statehood.

The historian, Frederick M. Schweitzer, in his work entitled, A History of the Jews Since the First Century A.D., has a note about Scotland and the Jews: "Scots are very proud that unlike `the kingdom to the south' their homeland has never been desecrated by anti-Semitism, expulsions, confiscations, or ill-feeling of any kind toward Jews . . ." (page 295). This happy condition is due to their Calvinist heritage. John Calvin (1509-1564) was one of the foremost leaders in the Protestant Reformation in Europe. John Knox (1515-1572) perpetuated Calvin's teaching in Scotland. Hence, Calvin's principles of his theology are em-bodied in the creeds and practice of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. "To follow Calvin meant to live a high degree of holiness, seeking to know and follow the will of God." (Elgin S. Moyer. The Wycliffe Bio-graphical Dictionary of the Church, p. 73). May we return to England? Joseph Eyre in 1771 pub-lished a scholarly essay entitled, Observations upon Prophecies Relating to the Restoration of the Jews. He drew public attention to the ancient biblical promises from the Creator to Abraham, concerning the geogra-phical area which the descendants of Abraham would occupy known as the "Promised Land" (Genesis 15:18-21; 17:7-8).

Concerning the return of the Jews from the lands of their dispersion, Eyre quoted at length from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, in the Hebrew Scriptures, chapters 36 and 37. Here is pictured a major prophecy that the "whole House of Israel" would experience a resurrection from the `graves' of the Diaspora, and the tribes would come together "bone to his bone . . . into the land of Israel."

Q. What do Israeli leaders say about such a remarkable prophecy?

When this Old Testament prophecy became a fact in recent history, Yitzchak Ben-Zvi (1884-1963), the second President of the State of Israel, commented on Ezekiel chapter 37, on December 8th, 1952: "We are witnessing today the wondrous process of the joining of the tribes of Israel, `bone to bone,' and `flesh to flesh,' the merging of them into one nation. . . . I pray that the Rock and Redeemer of Israel may prosper our ways, and that in our days Judah may be saved and Israel dwell securely."

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