“The best friends that Israel has are the Bible-believing Christians,” claims Ed McAteer of the Christian “right” think tank the Religious Roundtable. [1] While the New York Times and much of the secular press have characterized the alliance of the Christian “right” with such pro-Israel lobby organizations as AIPAC as a “new development,” a casual review reveals that this marriage has been in the making for well over 30 years. Ed McAteer was a major player in campaigns that brought the Moral Majority and leading Christian televangelists like Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart and Jerry Falwell into an alliance with AIPAC in the 1970s. However, in order to understand these so-called “strange bedfellows,” it is important to look back at the theological and political components of what is best called Christian Zionism, a movement within fundamentalist Christian theology that has grown into a formidable support base for pro-Israel interests in the United States. Interestingly, Christian Zionism actually predates Jewish political Zionism and has at times played a significant role in preparing the ground for the growth and impact of Jewish Zionism.

Britain and Zion

The British have a long-term fascination with the idea of “Israel” and the concept of God’s “Chosen People.” As far back as the seventh century, one of the first known British literary works, the Epistle of Gildas, saw the British people as the new Israel. The early English historian, the Venerable Bede (673-735), saw Britain as the new promised land and interpreted the attacks by the Danes and Norsemen with imagery borrowed from the prophetic texts of the Hebrew Bible. Through succeeding centuries, the fascination with Israel, prophecy and the chosen people would resurface in such literary giants as Chaucer, Milton, Bunyan, Coleridge and many others.

As early as 1585, there was discussion of England supporting the return of the Jews to Palestine in order to fulfill Biblical prophecy. [2] But an early nineteenth-century figure, the Anglican Rev. Louis Way, might be considered the founder of what is today called the Christian Zionist movement. In 1809 he assumed leadership of the struggling missionary group, the London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews, and dedicated his efforts to gain mainstream acceptance for the project. Within a short time he gained a wide readership of his journal, The Jewish Expositor, and counted many clergy, academics and such literary figures as Samuel Taylor Coleridge among his subscribers.

Three major components marked Way’s missionary society and his journal. First, he believed that Jewish “restoration” in Palestine would be necessary as a historical and political process in order to fulfill the prophetic texts. Second, Christians must be educated to interpret the prophetic signs that pointed to the end of history so they could benefit from the analysis but also be enlisted in the cause of Jewish “restoration.” Way taught that once the Jews were restored to Palestine a series of prophetic events would be set in motion, or as some put it, “the clock of Biblical prophecy would be ticking again.” Third, the restoration of the Jews in Palestine would be one of the final steps necessary for the return of Jesus to earth. With the Jews “back in the Holy Land,” Way believed they would convert to Christianity during the difficult days prior to the Second Coming of Christ, or be converted immediately after his return. Way believed all English people, including the political elite, clergy, and academics, must bring their resources together in order to facilitate these goals.

The most influential of the Christian Zionists would come in the generation that followed Way. The Rev. John Nelson Darby, a renegade Irish Anglican priest, mobilized international support behind the views articulated by Rev. Way, and added several of his own features, including the doctrine of the “Rapture” whereby “born-again Christians” would be literally removed from history and translated instantly to heaven prior to Jesus’ return to earth. Darby also placed a restored Israel at the center of his theology, claiming that an actual nation of Israel would become the central instrument of God to fulfill the last days of history as we know it. Prior to Darby’s articulation of these views, they had remained on the fringe of Christian doctrine and had no place in Christian orthodoxy, be it Roman Catholic, Protestant or Eastern Orthodox. During his 60-year career, Darby spread the views that today form the central tenets of Christian Zionism and the premillennialist dispensational theology. [3]

“A Country with No People”

One of the significant British social reformers to be influenced by the theology of Way and Darby was Lord Shaftesbury. A conservative evangelical Christian, Shaftesbury was credited with changing England’s child labor laws and advocated several concerns of London’s poorer classes. He was also an advocate of premillennial dispensationalism, including Jewish restoration in Palestine, arguing in the distinguished literary journal the Quarterly Review that “the Jews must be encouraged to return (to Palestine) in yet greater numbers and become once more the husbandman of Judea and Galilee.” On November 4, 1840, Shaftesbury took out a paid advertisement in the Times that gave broad visibility to his project to recover Palestine for the “descendants of Abraham,” a category in which the Palestinian majority, both Christian and Muslim, did not fall. Shaftesbury was the first to articulate the Zionist theme “a land without a people for a people without a land.” [4] The phrase appeared in the Quarterly Review article mentioned above in the following form: “a people with no country for a country with no people.” It has yet to be demonstrated convincingly that Max Nordau and Theodor Herzl took their famous “land of no people” phrase from Shaftesbury but the coincidence is striking indeed.

Later, it was the politician Lord Arthur Balfour who would advance the cause of Zionism in negotiations with Chaim Weizmann and others. Balfour was a thoroughgoing evangelical Christian who was influenced by the Christian Zionist doctrines. His openness to the Zionist agenda of Herzl was prepared by his Sunday School faith which crystallized his predisposition to the Zionist’s arguments, a case put forth by Balfour’s biographer and niece, Blanche Dugdale.

Even more grounded in Christian Zionist doctrines was the prime minister during the critical World War I years, David Lloyd George, who admitted that he knew the biblical map of ancient Israel better than he knew the map of England. Lloyd George was so wedded to the prophetic Biblical views of Zion that his political advisors became frustrated in briefing him prior to negotiating the Treaty of Versailles following World War I. Both Balfour and Lloyd George were wedded to creating a land bridge from the Mediterranean to India for the British Empire. Nevertheless, their commitment to the Zionist project played a significant role in their unquestioning support of Herzl and Weizmann’s project. Balfour’s famous speech of 1919 makes the point:

For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country…. The four great powers are committed to Zionism, and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land. [5]

Balfour’s phrases: “rooted in age-long traditions” and “future hopes” are perhaps grounded in his British imperial vision but they were also buttressed by his understanding of Bible prophecy, which undergirded his manifest destiny.

Falwell’s Forefathers

In the US, the views of John Nelson Darby had become the dominant method of interpreting the Bible in conservative Christian circles. Among those directly influenced by Darby were the popular Chicago-based evangelist Dwight Moody (founder of the Moody Bible Institute, which still advances a Christian Zionist theology), C. I. Scofield and William Blackstone. Scofield had the biggest influence, through a version of the Bible whose footnotes and outline interpreted major texts according to a Christian Zionist theology. Blackstone was a lay evangelist from the Chicago area who published Jesus Is Coming in 1878, arguing that people should convert to Christianity prior to the imminent return of Jesus. The volume was translated into 42 languages and is considered the first bestseller in the premillennial dispensationalist school of thought.

A little-known fact is that Blackstone is credited with organizing the first pro-Zionist lobby effort in the US. It occurred six years before Herzl convened the first World Zionist Congress in 1897, when Blackstone enlisted major newspapers from the Atlantic to the Mississippi to run editorials urging President Benjamin Harrison to support the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. Blackstone secured 413 prominent signatures in his campaign including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, financiers John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan, and publisher Charles Scribner, as well as several members of Congress. [6] While the dream was not realized, it planted a seed in the broad evangelical Protestant movement that would bear fruit some 50 years later.

Rewinding the Biblical Prophecy Clock

For most evangelical Christians in the US, the birth of modern Israel in 1948 was viewed as a fulfillment of certain prophetic Biblical texts. The previously small and marginal school of Biblical interpretation called “premillennialism” suddenly began to assert itself within the larger evangelical community. Two political developments in the late 1940s combined to galvanize both fundamentalist Christians and the conservative political forces in the US. The first was the establishment of Israel in 1948, but the second was the perceived Communist threat and the Cold War. Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians understood that near the end of history, an evil world empire under the “Anti-Christ” would emerge according to key texts in the books of Daniel and Revelation. Additionally, the Old Testament prophetic chapters found in Ezekiel 37-38 were interpreted so as to predicate a Soviet attack on Israel in alliance with a world empire led by the Anti-Christ. Again, Israel was at the center of this future prophetic scenario, thus providing both political and theological rationale for Western Christians to give maximal support to the Jewish state.

When Israel captured Jerusalem and the West Bank (along with the Gaza Strip, Sinai and the Golan Heights) in 1967, fundamentalists sensed confirmation that history had entered the latter days. L. Nelson Bell, father-in-law of evangelist Billy Graham and editor of the most influential evangelical journal Christianity Today, wrote in a July 1967 editorial: “That for the first time in more than 2,000 years Jerusalem is now in the hands of the Jews gives the students of the Bible a thrill and a renewed faith in the accuracy and validity of the Bible.” The premillennialist approach grew and gained further respect as a flurry of books and radio evangelists, Billy Graham included, advanced these interpretations to a larger audience.

In the early 1970s, these views were popularized by the publication of Hal Lindsay’s The Late, Great Planet Earth, which has sold over 25 million copies, making it one of the best-selling books in history. Lindsay’s message was a jazzed-up version of the pre-millennialist scenario, predicting that the world would end by the late 1980s. Lindsay developed a consulting business that included several members of Congress, the CIA, Israeli generals, the Pentagon and a rising Republican governor of California named Ronald Reagan.

Coming Out

With the arrival of the bicentennial in 1976 there were five trends converging in the US religious and political landscape. All were pointing toward increased US support of Israel and a higher profile for the newly influential religious right. First, the fundamentalist wing of the broader evangelical Christian movement had become the fastest-growing sector of American Christianity. Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic branches were caught in a steady decline of members, budgets and missions that would last for more than two decades. Second, an evangelical from the Bible Belt was elected president. Time named 1976 as “the year of the evangelical.”

The third development concerned Israel and the growth of its support networks in the US. Following the 1967 war, Israel gained an increased portion of the US foreign and military assistance packages, becoming the “western pillar” of the US strategic alliance against Soviet incursion into the Middle East, with Iran under the Shah holding up the eastern pillar. Soon the Khomeini revolution and the hostage crisis would move Israel into the dominant role as the major US strategic ally. It was during this period that AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobbies began to increase their power and influence on US foreign and domestic policy. These organizations took note of the natural affinity that fundamentalist Christians had with Israel. With Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant denominations showing some limited support for Palestinian human rights and supporting UN Resolutions 242 and 338 as a basis for a political settlement, the pro-Israel groups began to forge deeper alliances with the conservative Christians. Marc Tannenbaum of the American Jewish Committee stated it< well: “The evangelical community is the largest and fastest growing block of pro-Jewish sentiment in this country.” [7] AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League hired staff to court the Christian right and expand and influence the new alliance. The Israel Tourism Bureau discovered a literal gold mine as the Bible Belt and fundamentalist churches became prime markets for Christian tours of Israel, whose participants seldom met any indigenous Palestinian Christians.

One of the most significant political components in the emerging alliance was the fourth development, the unseating of the dominant Labor Party in Israel and the election of the Likud Party and Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1977. Begin’s maximalist vision of accelerating exclusively Jewish settlements (begun by Labor in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights) but using Biblical categories for the process and the occupied West Bank (Judea and Samaria) found ready support among the newly politicized Moral Majority and US televangelists. Additionally, Begin defended the significant increase of settlements and Israel’s aggression against Palestinians by employing religious arguments like “God gave this land to the Jews.”

A fifth development occurred when the newly elected evangelical Southern Baptist president, Jimmy Carter, showed some limited interest in Palestinian human rights. While giving a speech in March 1977, Carter inserted into his text the phrase that Palestinians deserve “a right to their homeland.” The Israeli lobby and the Christian right shifted into a series of highly visible actions. Within weeks a series of full-page advertisements appeared in major US newspapers. The text stated in part: “The time has come for evangelical Christians to affirm their belief in biblical prophecy and Israel’s divine right to the land.” Then the theme shifted to include Cold War fears and opposition to Soviet involvement in the UN, including the call for an international conference on the question of Palestine: “We are particularly troubled by the erosion of American support for Israel evident in the joint US-USSR statement.” Then came a line that took direct aim at Carter’s statement: “We affirm as evangelicals our belief in the Promised Land to the Jewish people…. We would view with grave concern any effort to carve out of the Jewish homeland another nation or political entity.” [8] The advertisement was one of the first signs of the Likud and pro-Israel lobby’s alliance with the evangelical Christian “right,” which would prove to be an effective strategy to redirect conservative Christian support away from Carter and move them toward the Republican “right.” Jerry Strober, a former employee of the American Jewish Committee, coordinated the campaign and told Newsweek: “[The evangelicals] are Carter’s constituency and he [had] better listen to them…. The real source of strength the Jews have in this country is from the evangelicals.” [9]

Reagan and Begin

By the time the 1980 elections rolled around, the political landscape had shifted in the Middle East and in the United States. With the fall of the Shah of Iran the US lost its eastern pillar. Jimmy Carter’s support of the Shah had a domestic political price, as the US hostages were not released by their Iranian captors until after voters cast their ballots, which resulted in the election of Ronald Reagan. Carter’s inability to deliver the hostages was not the only factor in his defeat. It was estimated that over 20 million evangelical Christians voted for Reagan, many having opposed Carter’s brand of evangelical Christianity, which lacked unconditional support for Israel.

The power of the pro-Israel Republicans formed a prominent part of the Reagan administration, with Reagan himself leading the way. On at least seven public occasions the former Hollywood actor expressed his belief in a final Battle of Armageddon. In a private conversation with Tom Dine, head of the leading Israeli lobby organization AIPAC, Reagan said: “You know, I turn back to your ancient prophets in the Old Testament and the signs foretelling Armageddon, and I find myself wondering if — if we’re the generation that is going to see that ome about. I don’t know if you’ve noted any of these prophecies lately, but believe me, they certainly describe the times we’re going through.” The conversation was leaked to the Jerusalem Post and then picked up across the US on the AP wire.

A little known feature of the Reagan White House was the series of seminars organized by the administration and the Christian “right” with assistance from the pro-Israel lobby. One example was the March 19, 1984 briefing by Reagan’s Middle East advisors in the State Department and AIPAC representatives. These sessions were designed to firm up the Republican Party’s support from the Christian “right” while AIPAC and others were able to advance their Likudnik agenda items in the same circles. The Christian participation, which averaged 150-200 in this series of gala dinner briefings in the White House, read like a “who’s who” of the Christian right, including author Hal Lindsay, televangelists Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Bakker, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, authors Tim and Bev LeHaye, and strategist Ed McAteer of the Religious Roundtable. Several briefings were led by State Department official “Bud” McFarlane, one of the coordinators of the Iran-contra scandal. Quietly working in the background was another Christian fundamentalist, Marine Colonel Oliver North.

Menachem Begin developed a close relationship with several of the leading fundamentalist clergy and paid particular attention to the televangelists. Christian tourism became a major industry in the 1970s-1990s, and the fundamentalists were known for their large pro-Israel groups. Begin and several Likud leaders maintained an open-door policy with several of the major televangelists and fundamentalist clergy, regularly granting political briefings and the ever popular photo-op. Jerry Falwell, head of the Moral Majority, was a favorite with Begin, receiving a Lear jet and the prestigious Jabotinsky Award from the Israeli government. When Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear plant in 1981, Begin did not make his first telephone call to either Reagan or Secretary of State Alexander Haig, both strong advocates for Israel. Instead he called Jerry Falwell and instructed him to “explain to the Christian public the reasons for the bombing.” [10]

Falwell was always a loyal disciple for successive Israeli governments. In March 1995, while speaking to a Conservative Rabbinical Assembly in Miami, he pledged to mobilize 70 million conservative Christians for Israel and lead them in the struggle against anti-Semitism. Falwell also takes credit for converting Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) from a critic of Israel to one of Israel’s staunchest allies.

Late in the Reagan era a number of sexual and financial improprieties within the fundamentalist Christian “right” began to erode its support. Among those who fell from grace were Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Bakker. Pat Robertson’s ineffective run for president in the 1988 election revealed a momentary decline in the political fortunes of the Christian fundamentalists. Resilient as ever, the pro-Israel lobby was able to reassert itself in new forms with the election of another Bible-toting Southern Baptist president, despite his more liberal social agenda.

Bibi’s Boys

With the Clinton era came a different approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although his background was Southern Baptist evangelicalism, Clinton was more oriented toward the secular Labor Party in Israel and found a close affinity with Yitzhak Rabin, particularly with the Oslo accords and the complex negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Many of the leaders of the fundamentalist-Christian “right” opposed the Oslo accords, lining up with their Likud mentors. Benjamin Netanyahu was a particular favorite with the Christian Zionists, a relationship that developed during his years as Israel’s representative at the UN. He was a regular speaker at various Christian Zionist functions around the US, such as the “Prayer Breakfast for Israel,” and major seminars and conferences.

In 1996, Netanyahu defeated Shimon Peres and once again Likud ideology and policies found ready support among the Christian Zionists. Within a few months of his election, Netanyahu convened the Israel Christian Advocacy Council, bringing 17 American fundamentalist leaders to Israel for a largely political tour of the Holy Land and a conference that concluded with a statement reflecting Likud’s politics. The fundamentalist leaders signed a pledge stating: “America will never, never desert Israel.” Among the other pledges were a rejection of abandoning Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, and support of a united Jerusalem under Israeli control. The leaders returned home and launched a campaign with full-page advertisements in major US newspapers titled “Christians Call for a United Jerusalem.” [11] Utilizing many of the familiar themes of Christian Zionism and premillennial theology, the ad claimed: “Jerusalem has been the spiritual and political capital of only the Jewish people for 3,000 years.” Citing Genesis 12:17, Leviticus 26:44-45 and Deuteronomy 7:7-8, it spoke of “Israel’s biblical claim to the land” as an eternal covenant from God. Signed by Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Ralph Reed, then director of the Christian Coalition, Jerry Falwell, and Ed McAteer of the Religious Roundtable, the campaign was a direct challenge to the mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic campaign led by Churches for Middle East Peace calling for a “shared Jerusalem.”

Likud also turned to the Christian Zionists for help in offsetting the dramatic decline in contributions to Israel from the American Jewish establishment during the debate between the Orthodox and Reform-Conservative Rabbis. When the latter cut back on their generous contributions to the Jewish National Fund, several Christian Zionist-oriented churches and organizations picked up the difference. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, led by a former Anti-Defamation League employee and Orthodox Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, claimed to have raised more than $5 million from mostly fundamentalist Christian sources. [12] Rev. John Hagee, pastor of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, announced in February 1997 that his church was donating more than $1 million to Israel. Hagee claimed the funds would be used to help resettle Jews from the Soviet Union in the West Bank and Jerusalem. “We feel like the coming of Soviet Jews to Israel is a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy,” Hagee stated. When asked if he realized that support of Likud’s policies and increasing the settlements was at cross purposes with US policy, Hagee answered: “I am a Bible scholar and a theologian, and from my perspective the law of God transcends the laws of the United States government and the US State Department.”

The Netanyahu government utilized the American Christian Zionists in a separate strategy as they sought to undermine the already faltering Oslo negotiations. On October 22, 1997, an Israel Radio report claimed that the Palestinian Authority (PA) was persecuting Christians. Two days later, the Jerusalem Post published an article claiming that, according to classified information made known to the government of Israel, “Christian cemeteries have been destroyed, monasteries have had their telephone lines cut and there have been break-ins in convents.” The report went on to claim that the PA had “taken control of the churches and was pressuring Christian leaders to serve as mouthpieces for Yasser Arafat and opponents of Israel.” Within a month,  Rep. J. C. Watts (R-OK) reiterated these charges in a Washington Times op-ed piece, blaming Arafat for the Christian exodus from the Holy Land and calling for a review of the $307 million in US grants pledged to the PA. The campaign grew, largely in the editorials of A. M. Rosenthal of the New York Times and in pressure exerted on Capitol Hill by Michael Horowitz, a pro-Israel lobbyist. One of the goals of the campaign was to seek passage of the Anti-Persecution Bill, which would establish a permanent office in the State Department to evaluate foreign aid to nations according to their record on religious freedom. The bill seemed to target several majority Muslim nations and the PA.

Palestinian Christians were quick to denounce the charges. Mayor Hanna Nasser of Bethlehem, a Palestinian Christian, stated: “Our churches have complete freedom, and I’ve never heard that they’ve been under pressure.” In May 1998, international evangelical leader “Brother Andrew” and I led an investigation of the Israeli charges on behalf of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding. We interviewed more than 60 Muslim and Christian clergy, governmental leaders from the PA and Israel, ordinary Palestinian Christians and Christian Zionist leaders. We found no evidence of PA or Islamic persecution of Palestinian Christians, although there were cases of three Christian-Muslim family disputes over intermarriage. The most telling interview came from Uri Mor, director of the Department of Christian Communities in the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs, which oversees all Christian activities in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Mor noted that the charges were traceable to David Bar-Ilan, Netanyahu’s chief spokesman. Mor told our EMEU team that Bar-Ilan uses shreds of information as his “bread and butter” in the propaganda campaign against the Palestinians.

We later interviewed a staff member of the US consulate in Jerusalem who had previously investigated the problem. The consulate had received a report on the persecution of Christian Palestinians. Upon investigation, the consulate determined that the basis of the report came from four Palestinians that had converted to Islam. Two had criminal backgrounds and the others were suspected of collaboration with Israel. They were converted by a Messianic Jewish evangelist who lived on a nearby settlement. The PA had imprisoned the converts based on their criminal and collaboration activities. Apparently, Bar-Ilan’s office leaked the report to the International Christian Embassy-Jerusalem, a well-known Christian Zionist organization with a close relationship with Likud. The Christian Embassy published the stories and continued a campaign against the PA, accusing them of persecuting Christians. Like the Jerusalem Post, the Christian Embassy made no distinction between the criminal activity of the converts and the issue of religious persecution. EMEU issued a statement that clarified the issue, citing “disturbing indications of political motivations…behind the publicity about Christian persecution” in the Holy Land. [13] The debate over the issue became suddenly silent but it will undoubtedly resurface.

New and Old Faces

Following the election of George W. Bush, it was clear that the right wing of the Republican Party would exercise significant influence over domestic and foreign policy. The issue of Israel and the Palestinians would prove to be at the forefront of the right’s concerns. One of the interesting new alliances on the right was that of William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, and Gary Bauer, formerly head of the Christian Coalition. Support of Israel in the Bush administration following September 11 became a driving cause that brought the resources of Bauer and Kristol together. Kristol became a steady critic of early signs that Bush would support a Palestinian state and call for a shared Jerusalem. Taking dead aim at the PA and Yasser Arafat, Kristol triggered significant support from his Project for the American Century, a foreign policy group he chairs, claiming: “you can’t have a peace process in which one of the partners is a sponsor of terrorism.” Kristol’s neo-conservative movement finds itself in close affinity with the Christian right, with Bauer serving as one of the key leaders. Bauer claims: “As an evangelical, I do believe the Bible is pretty clear that the land is what is called covenant land, that God made a covenant with the Jews, that would be their land.” He sees Israel and the US as allies in the war against radical Islamic terrorism, which threatens Western democracies and their allies around the world. While Bauer and Kristol have much upon which to disagree — including Bauer’s theology that would have Jews convert to Christianity or face mass extermination in the final Battle of Armageddon — they and their networks constitute a formidable force in supporting Israeli policies on Capitol Hill.

Endnotes

[1] Christian Science Monitor, April 16, 2002.
[2] For a more detailed historical analysis, see my volume Anxious for Armageddon (Akron, PA: Herald Press, 1995) or “The Theopolitical Alliance of the Likud Party with the American Christian ‘Right,’” Arab Studies Quarterly 20/4 (Fall 1998).
[3] Premillennialism is a type of Christian theology that is as old as Christianity itself. It has roots in Jewish apocalyptic thought, and generally believes that Jesus will return to earth before he establishes a literal millennial kingdom under his sovereignty. Darby added the distinctive elements of the “rapture” of true, born-again Christians prior to the return of Jesus and he interpreted all major prophetic texts with a future predictive understanding. Darby also marked world history according to certain periods, or “Dispensations,” that served to guide believers’ conduct. In this regard, the fulfillment of prophetic signs (i.e., the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine) became one of the central tasks of Christian interpretation.
[4] Nahum Sokolow, History of Zionism, vol. I (London: Longman, Green, 1919), p. 127; Albert M. Hyamson, Palestine Under the Mandate (London: Methuen and Son., 1950), pp. 10, 12.
[5] Christopher Sykes, Two Studies in Virtue (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953), p. 253.
[6] Timothy Weber, “How Evangelicals Became Israel’s Best Friend,” Christianity Today, April 5, 1998.
[7] Washington Post, March 23, 1981.
[8] Advertisement, Christian Science Monitor, November 3, 1977.
[9] Washington Post, March 23, 1981.
[10] Grace Halsell, Prophecy and Politics (Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill, 1986), pp. 75-76.
[11] New York Times, April 10, 1997.
[12] Eckstein recently upped that figure to around $60 million. With the support of Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson, Eckstein hopes to launch a new campaign to capture evangelical support called “Stand with Israel.” The group has set September 8, 2002 as a Sunday of solidarity with Israel in evangelical churches across the country. Ha’aretz, May 29, 2002.
[13] For a complete analysis, see LAW, From Islam to Zion: The Myth of Christian Persecution (Jerusalem, May 1998).

How to cite this article:

Don Wagner "For Zion’s Sake," Middle East Report 223 (Summer 2002).
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