Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Christian Perspective On The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

The global community was rudely shocked by the stark reality of jihad on 11th September 2001 when hijacked planes crashed into iconic buildings that symbolize American economic and military power. In response to the specter of religiously-inspired violence, the subsequent ‘war on terror’ would loom large over the early years of the 21st century.

At the center of this worldwide unrest is the long-standing Palestine-Israeli conflict that continues to be a source of its political and religious impetus. Orthodox Jews honor Jerusalem as the city of peace that once housed the temple of Yahweh. Christians make pilgrimage to the Promised Land where Jesus Christ once lived, was crucified and resurrected. Muslims treasure the city as the third holiest site in Islamic history. With the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1949, many adherents from these three major faiths have staked a claim in supporting or opposing it in the name of God or Allah.

However, the idea of ‘holy war’ is not unique to Islam. In the book of Joshua, a scriptural text embraced by both Jews and Christians, we would find the concept of Yahweh as a warrior waging battle against Canaanite deities and nations through His covenant people Israel in the conquest of the Promised Land. In some military campaigns, the Israelites were divinely decreed to utterly destroy an entire population of men, women and children (Joshua 6:18-19).

This raises difficult moral dilemma for sensitive believers as well as concerns that such warfare narratives may be used to justify violence and genocide today.

In this paper I would attempt to answer three questions: “What is Old Testament teaching and justification for ‘Yahweh war’ in the conquest of Canaan? How should Christians perceive the continuity and discontinuity of these Old Testament concepts in light of New Testament revelation of Jesus Christ? Finally, what are the resulting theological implications for how we understand the establishment of the modern state of Israel?”

Yahweh War and Modern Israel

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