The Judea Christian Heritage

No, my title isn’t an error.

But first, the news and what’s ahead.

As reported, two top CUFI officials have met with officials of the JCRC of Greater Washington, one of the country’s most liberal Jewish communities. One reason, as Shari Dollinger explained, is

increased boldness of anti-Israel activity has drawn CUFI closer to pro-Israel groups. “The Jewish community in the United States needs the support of Christians to secure the U.S.-Israel relationship in a way it didn’t 10-15 years ago,” she said.

The way I see this is a new stage in the Judeo-Christian alignment. One that is need given the state of affairs amidst groups like the World Council of Churches.

The term “Judeo-Christian” with which we are all familiar goes back to at least 1821, being found in a letter which referred to a community of support for Jewish converts to Christianity. In 1831, the German theologian, Ferdinand Christian Baur, employed it to describe a stage in the growth of Christianity in that prior to becoming a universal religion, it was necessary that it struggle with the limitations of Judaism’s theological rejection and denial of Paulinism. For him, the Elkesaites fulfilled that mixed mode.

Friedrich Nietzsche, in his On the Genealogy of Morality, wrote of “two opposing values ‘good and bad’, ‘good and evil’” and posited that

“there is, today, perhaps no more distinguishing feature of the ‘higher nature’, the intellectual nature, than to be divided in this sense and really and truly a battle ground for these opposites. The symbol of this fight, written in a script which has hitherto remained legible throughout human history, is ‘Rome against Judea, Judea against Rome’”.

For Nietzsche, the concept of Judenchristlich was a negative one, indicating weakness of his desired morality through a surrendering to Jewish values.

In a parallel perception of the term, Stephen M. Feldman has written that

For Christians, the concept of a Judeo-Christian tradition comfortably suggests that Judaism progresses into Christianity — that Judaism is somehow completed in Christianity. The concept of a Judeo-Christian tradition flows from the Christian theology of supersession, whereby the Christian covenant (or Testament) with God supersedes the Jewish one. Christianity, according to this belief, reforms and replaces Judaism.

Whatever the term’s origin, I wish to introduce a new one: the Judea Christian heritage.

If Christianity grew out of Jesus, where did Jesus come from? Where was he born? What were his geographical horizons, his topographical views? If there are roots, where are they planted?

Was the land called “Palestine”? Did he meet any “Palestinians”? If he did, were they Arabs, from Arabia?

As for his birth, Matthew 2:1 is clear

“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea”.

Verses 5-6 of Matthew 2 describe how “chief priests and teachers of the law” who were asked by Herod to him he was born answered

“In Bethlehem in Judea”

That location is repeated in 2:1, “Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea”. And also in verses 5-6.

Four references of “Bethlehem, in Judea”.

The narrative has the family then fleeing to Egypt until after Herod dies, at which time, they return

“to the land of Israel…So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.” (2:20-21)

Where did John preach?

“in the wilderness of Judea” (3:1)

According to Matthew, from where did large crowds follow Jesus?

“From…Judea and the region across the Jordan” (4:25 and Mark 3:8)

After recounting the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, to where did Jesus go? He

“went into the region of Judea” (19:1 and Mark 10:1)

When Mary went to visit Elizabeth, to where did she hurry?

“to a town in the hill country of Judea” (Luke 1:39)

When John opened his mouth and he began to speak, in which area were the people talking about all this?

“throughout the hill country of Judea” (Luke 1:65)

Pontius Pilate was the governor of what country?

“Judea” (Luke 3:1)

When Pharisees and teachers of the law and the people came to listen to Jesus, from where did they come? They had come

“from all over Judea” and “throughout Judea” (Luke 5:17; 6:17; 7:17)

When he taught, where did he teach?

“he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan” (John 10:1)

When Jesus and his disciples came and he tarried with them, and baptized, where were they?

“the land of Judaea” (John 3:22)

When Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, he traveled

“along the border between Samaria and Galilee” (Luke 17:11)

When he went to a well and asked to drink thereof, to where did he come?

“to a city of Samaria” (John 4:5)

When the Apostles were told by Jesus that they will be his witnesses, in where would they be, among other places?

“in all Judea and Samaria” (Acts 1:8)

And after the death of Stephen, what happened to people? They

“were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1)

To where did Philip go to proclaim the Messiah?

“to a city in Samaria” (Acts 8:4)

After Paul and Barnabas were appointed to see the apostles and elders and ask about the need for circumcision, through which region did they travel?

“they traveled through…Samaria” (Acts 15:2-3)

In which areas did the church enjoy a time of peace and was strengthened?

“throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria” (Acts 9:31)

When Paul came out of the country Macedonia, to which country was he on his way?

“on my way toward Judaea” (2 Corinthians 1:16)

Where were the churches where people became followers of Jesus?

“in Judaea” (1 Thessalonians 2:14)

And so, was Jesus a “Palestinian” as Katherine Frisk suggests? Was he “a Palestinian refugee in Bethlehem”? Hanan Ashrawi said in a speech in Washington, D.C: “Jesus was a Palestinian.” (Washington Jewish Week, Feb. 22, 2001) but was he?

No, he was a Judean.

Moreover, in Galatians, we read of origins with geographical clarity, together with a framework of two covenants, just as there are two separate lands:

“Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Hagar. For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem” (Galatians 4:22-25)

As for the Arab claim that the Temple didn’t exist, we read that Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover when he was 12 years old and after briefly losing him,

“they found him in the temple courts” (Luke 2:41-46)

No Palestine. No West Bank. The land was Judea. It was Samaria. The Temple was in Jerusalem. It was the Land of Israel. It was the Jewish homeland.

The New Testament provides no testament to the claims of an Arab Palestine.

We can accept or dispute a Judeo-Christian heritage.

But we cannot deny the Judea Christian Heritage.

In fact, let’s make that the Judea and Samaria Christian Heritage. That heritage platform is the foundation for Jewish-Christian relations based not only on morality and ethics that can be shared and which serve as non-theological outreach instruments but foremost on a geographical-historical framework that was quite real and affords a cooperation based on the territories of Judea and Samaria, holy land.

About the Author
Yisrael Medad, currently is a Research Fellow at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem and Deputy Editor of the English Language Anthology of Jabotinsky's Writings. American-born, he and his wife made Aliyah in 1970. He resides in Shiloh since 1981. He was a member of the Betar Youth Movement World Executive and is a volunteer spokesperson for the Yesha Council. He holds a MA in Political Science from the Hebrew University and is active is many Zionist and Jewish projects and initiatives.