The Library Basement
Reading under ground

Does land matter in the church?

In the context of the Helen Thomas blowup I've been participating in a discussion about the theological status of the Hebrew people being the "owners" of the land of Israel in the context of the New Covenant. I've examined the matter before, and an important passage for establishing the status of Israel in the New covenant is Romans 9-11, where Paul affirms that "it is not as though God's word had failed." Indeed,

For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

Notice the absence of any mention of land. Paul goes on in this section to emphasize the importance of righteousness and salvation for Israel, but land never comes up.

So what? At the very least, I think it is safe to conclude that the land is not very important in the context of the New Covenant. If it were, it seems Paul would have bothered mentioning it in this passage. I wouldn't bet the farm on an inductive argument like this one. But neither am I willing to put too much weight on the idea that Israel are still divinely entitled to the land. I do feel comfortable saying that belief in Jesus is more important for Israel than possession of the land for Israel.

The theological question is of course separate from the practical, geopolitical question of the nation of Israel and any solution to the ongoing violence in that country. But the theological question still bears on the practical one, insofar as people's theological beliefs can affect the practical situation. So it is not a purely academic question.

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