Rebranding Jesus: The First Islamic Martyr?

The Last Supper, depicted by Juan de Juanes, c. 1562. (Wikipedia)

As an amateur political observer, the Palestinians’ attempts to rewrite history to make their case among the international community doesn’t surprise me anymore, but as a Bible-believing Christian Zionist, I’m stunned to see how the Bible – a book very dear to hundreds of millions of believers – is being distorted.

But when I read the latest claim that Jesus was the first Palestinian and the first Islamic martyr, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. According to the Palestine Media Watch, Tawfiq Tirawi, a senior Palestinian leader and Fatah Central Committee member posted the following on his personal Facebook page on Christmas eve:

“This is blessed Christmas, The birthday of our lord Jesus the Messiah, the first Palestinian and the first Shahid (Islamic Martyr).”

Really? Jesus? Yeshua?

For this wave of lies and disinformation I don’t blame only Palestinian leaders but also – and even more – the mainstream churches which haven’t corrected the Palestinians’ flawed interpretation of the Christian and Jewish history. The inter-church organizations, such as the Lutheran World Federation or the World Council of Churches, have stayed silent for years each time the history of the Bible has been grossly modified in accordance with the Palestinian political agenda.

The World Council of Churches makes it very clear on their website which side of history they are on, and Biblically speaking, they are on the wrong side. According to their website The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures.

According to the Scriptures?

The Gospel according to Matthew, the first book of the New Testament, or Brit Chadashah, begins with the following: This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham…

In several passages, Jesus is described as a Jew. He was circumcised, he went to synagogue and attended Jewish feasts. And he read and pointed out the Jewish scriptures, identifying Himself as the One the prophet wrote about in Isaiah 61. This is what the Gospel according to Luke (4:15-22) says about him:

He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

And this man was a Muslim?

Just a little reminder that most historians believe that Islam originated in Mecca and Medina at the start of the 7th century CE, about 600 years after Jesus gave his speech in a synagogue in Nazareth.

The Palestinian narrative about Jesus reminds me about Houston Stewart Chamberlain, an author born in Britain who later moved to Germany and became one of the most influential theorists of pan-Germanistic and anti-Semitic movements.

In his book The Foundations of the 19th Century, first published asDie Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts in 1899 in Germany, he denies Jesus’ Jewishness multiple times:

Even if Jesus Christ, as is extremely probable, was not descended from the Jewish people, nothing but the most superficial partisanship can deny the fact that this great and divine figure is inseparably bound up with the historical development of that people.

Only one assertion can therefore be made on a sound historical basis: in that whole region there was only one single pure race, a race which by painfully scrupulous measures protected itself from all mingling with other nations — the Jewish; that Jesus Christ did not belong to it can be regarded as certain. Every further statement is hypothetical.

The probability that Christ was no Jew, that He had not a drop of genuinely Jewish blood in his veins, is so great that it is almost equivalent to a certainty.

Chamberlain, who was married to the daughter of the famous German composer Richard Wagner, had, in the 1920s, already come into contact with the new leader of the Nazi Party, Adolf Hitler, whom he thought to be the great promise of Germany. Inspired by Hitler, Chamberlain joined the Nazi Party which in turn lauded his book as the party’s gospel.

I urge the World Council of Churches and the Federation of Lutheran Churches to respect the Scriptures and educate their Palestinian friends concerning Christianity and its Jewish founder Jesus Christ. Also the European Union, the largest donor of the Palestinian Authority, could easily teach them the basics of how to write the history, and UNESCO could give them a few history lessons in return for their support. But no, they don’t care!

A friend and a Finnish parliamentarian told me about an encounter with a senior left-wing politician who saw an Israeli flag lapel pin on his jacket and scornfully asked my friend “Why on earth are you wearing it?”

“Because my King is Jewish,” he replied.

I also wear a similar lapel pin.

About the Author
Risto Huvila, a public speaker, pianist and writer from Finland, observes European and American Middle East policies and antisemitism through evangelical lenses. As chairman of the Federation of Finland-Israel Associations and vice-chair of the Finnish Holocaust Remembrance Association, he is an active advocate for Israel. Risto has authored the book The Miracle of Israel and President Truman and he appears frequently in media.
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