Did you know Jesus was a Palestinian? Neither did he. That hasn’t stopped the enemies of the Christians’ Prince of Peace from attempting to use him for diabolical political purposes.
What began as a clever propaganda ploy by Yasser Arafat—as part of his lifelong attempt to erase Jewish history—has been picked up by American evangelicals.
What began as a clever propaganda ploy by Yasser Arafat—as part of his lifelong attempt to erase Jewish history—has been picked up by American evangelicals. That Jesus of Nazareth was born and lived as a Jew is an obvious historical fact, just as, for example, Robert E. Lee commanding the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War. The background of Jesus Christ, however, inarguably the most famous person in history, is of great importance. His life as a Jew is increasingly being called into question by Muslims, who are working overtime to open “interfaith dialogue” channels with American Christian leaders.
The revisionists originally were the usual suspects: Arafat, mainline church scholars, media types. But now this revisionist history has burrowed-into the American evangelical community.
In February, 2000, popular author Philip Yancey referred to Jesus as a “Palestinian rabbi” in the pages of Christianity Today.
Ed Stetzer, president of research at LifeWay—the resource arm of the Southern Baptist Convention—referred to Jesus as a “Palestinian Jew” in a September 12, 2011 blog post entitled “Monday is for Missiology: Some Thoughts on Contextualization.”
In a banner above his May 9, 2012 blog post, “Solidarity Fast With Palestinians?” Assemblies of God minister and Palmer Theological Seminary Professor Paul Alexander referred to Jesus as “the Palestinian Jew.” Alexander, professor of Christian Ethics and Public Policy at Palmer (the seminary of Eastern University) has long advocated for the Palestinians.
Knowingly or unknowingly, some evangelical leaders are advancing a false narrative concocted by the likes of Arafat and the PLO.
According to Palestinian Media Watch:
“Rewriting the history of the Land of Israel in order to deny Israel’s right to exist is central to Palestinian Authority (PA) policy. Long before it started the PA terror campaign (the ‘Intifada,’ 2000-2005), the PA was fighting a history war – erasing Jewish history and replacing it with a fabricated Palestinian history.
“Erasing Jewish history in the land of Israel is followed by the PA’s invention of ancient and modern histories that support its political ideology and claim to the land of Israel. The Holocaust and other aspects of Jewish history are alternately denied, downplayed or distorted. Another distortion is to hide from Palestinians that Jesus was a Jew who lived in the Land of Judea/Israel. PA leaders repeatedly define Jesus as a Palestinian who preached Islam, thus denying not only Jewish history, but also the history and legitimacy of Christianity.”
In an op-ed (titled “The Resurrection of Jesus, the Resurrection of the State”) for Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, dated May 6, 2013, writer Adel Abd Al-Rahman stated:
“Easter… is not a holiday for Christian Palestinians only but a holiday for Palestinian nationalism, because Jesus, may he rest in peace, is a Canaanite Palestinian. His resurrection, three days after being crucified and killed by the Jews – as reported in the New Testament – reflects the Palestinian narrative, which struggles against the descendants of modern Zionist Judaism, in its new colonialist form, that conspires with the Western capitalists who claim to belong to Christianity.
“Jesus, may he rest in peace, the virtuous patriotic Palestinian forefather, who renewed the Old Testament, split away from its followers, brought forth his New Testament and spread it among mankind – which led the Jews to persecute him until they caught him, crucified him and murdered him. Afterwards, he rose from the dead like the phoenix and set out to spread his teachings that still exist and will exist as long as mankind exists.
“Jesus’ story is his [Palestinian] people’s story; the Zionist movement – tool of the capitalist West – wanted to falsify historical facts, to exile and crucify the Palestinian Arab nation and then murder it by means of ethnic cleansing… But the Palestinians, Jesus’ descendants, rose from the ashes, like the phoenix, from the ruins of the Nakba (i.e., ‘the catastrophe,’ the Palestinian term for the establishment of the State of Israel) and the Naksa (i.e., ‘the setback,’ Palestinian term for Israel’s victory in the Six Day War.) They dressed their wounds and raised the flag of nationality again by founding parties and factions…
“Easter is a distinct [Palestinian] national holiday which doesn’t concern only Christians but rather all Palestinians believing in the different religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism.”
Though the above narrative is false, “Jesus as Palestinian” is gaining traction within American Evangelicalism. Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, has seen it before:
“Claims that Jesus was ‘Palestinian’ are common in anti-Israel circles but are not rooted in history. The area where Jesus lived was not named by the Romans as Palestine until the second century. Jesus was born and lived on earth as a Jew. He would not have known His land as ‘Palestine.’ Evangelicals should shun this effort to delegitimize the millennia-long Jewish history with the land called Israel.”
Some do not and in a December 22, 2011 article for Relevant magazine, Wheaton College student Andrew Haas revealed just how far classic PLO propaganda has infiltrated evangelicalism:
“Had Jesus been born in Bethlehem today, the nativity scenes that adorn the numerous American church and parish lawns would look quite different if genuinely politically correct. Mary and Joseph, probably too poor to pay local taxes on a vehicle, would be forced to ride Palestinian local transit. The bus would drop them off outside the West Bank at an Israeli checkpoint. From there they’d walk through a maze of turnstiles and security posts into Bethlehem. If their identity card read ‘Israeli citizen,’ there is some question whether the expectant couple would even be allowed into the sleepy hamlet based on current law. Replace the donkeys, sheep and mules with taxis, buses and heavily armed checkpoints.”
Haas went on to write:
“If God’s son had been born into the sleepy hamlet today, He’d be without citizenship. Palestine is still a territory, not a country. Considered to be a security threat from birth, He’d receive his green Palestinian ID at the age of 16. Without authorization granted only by the Israeli government, He would be prohibited from crossing the wall into Jerusalem only 15 minutes away. Permits are difficult to acquire, and often only last one to five months. His inability to travel past a wall four times the height of Shaquille O’Neal would prove a slight obstacle for a Gospel destined for the world.
“Inside Bethlehem, Jesus and His parents could still practice carpentry. Many men work in factories producing lovely carvings from the treasured olive tree. Yet, His olivewood carvings would collect dust in shops that tourists are often too afraid to enter.”
This attempt to compare the gospels with Palestinian liberation theology used to exist only in liberal seminaries. Now it is becoming mainstream within evangelicalism.
British writer Paul Wilkinson is also very familiar with this type of anti-Israel agenda:
“The portrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ as a Palestinian refugee who lived under military occupation has, in recent years, been used as a powerful propaganda weapon against Israel by an increasing number of pro-Palestinian Evangelicals. This blasphemous depiction of Jesus ominously echoes what Palestinian authors, clerics, and political leaders have been saying publicly of late in a brazen attempt to claim Christ as one of their own. By propagating their Islamicized version of ‘replacement theology’ (now rebranded ‘fulfillment theology’ or ‘messianic fulfillment’ by leading pro-Palestinian Evangelicals such as Stephen Sizer and Gary Burge), Islamic scholars have endeared themselves to many in the Church who have cast off the restraint of God’s Word and God’s Spirit. The forging of unholy Evangelical-Muslim alliances in the name of ‘dialogue’ and ‘bridge-building’ is reminiscent of the unholy alliance which suddenly developed between Herod and Pilate during the trial of Jesus – they were sworn enemies who united against a common enemy; today the common enemy is Israel. Like the false prophets of old who prophesied lies in God’s Name, pro-Palestinian Evangelicals, or ‘Christian Palestinianists’ as we might call them, are running with a message they believe is from God, but God has not sent them, for they have not stood in His council (Jeremiah 23:9-32).”
Vida Velasco, who serves as Central Region High School Program Coordinator for StandWithUs, also battles historical revisionism, and she has a ready answer:
“It is so clear all over the Word that God has a special place in His heart for His people [the Jews]. We should be grateful to the Jewish people for the Messiah, who is from House of David. He lived a Jewish life, a rabbi here on earth. All the disciples were Jewish!”