The Untold Story (Part One)

The Role of Christian Zionists in the Establishment of Modern‐day Israel

The church is rightly criticized for centuries of Christian anti‐Semitism, but what is overlooked is the pivotal role British Christian Zionists played in the establishment of modern‐day Israel. Almost all books written about the Zionist movement focus on the early Jewish leaders, their creativity and courage in making the impossible a reality, i.e., the restoration of a Jewish state in the land. But Jewish involvement in modern Zionism did not begin until the mid to late 1800ʹs, whereas British Christian leaders were advocating the restoration of a Jewish state in the land for the prior 200 years.

The theology of British Puritans with regard to Godʹs plan for the Jewish people so influenced British public opinion that governmental leaders in the 19th century began maneuvering international events towards the re‐establishment of a Jewish Israel, culminating, of course, in the issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 establishing Palestine as the homeland for the Jews.

Jews lived in England as early as the 11th century. But the perpetuation of medieval anti‐Semitic myths caused the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. Following King Henry VIIIʹs decision to sever ties with the Roman church and the increasing availability of the Scriptures, the Puritan movement took hold in England. The Puritans were known to take the Scripture literally, but also believed that civil government should be based on the Biblical model, largely that of ancient Israelʹs. As they scoured the Scriptures, beginning in the 1580ʹs the Puritans authored various treatises on Jewish salvation and Godʹs plan to restore the Jews back to their land. The height of Puritan involvement in government came during the Cromwell Republic of the mid‐1600ʹs. The Puritans had overthrown the monarchy and attempted to establish a Puritan state in England.

This same period coincided with the horrible slaughters of Jews in Eastern Europe following the end of the Thirty Yearsʹ War. The chief Rabbi of Amsterdam, Holland, Manasseh Ben Israel, concluded that Jews were not safe in Eastern Europe, but rather safety lie with the West, and particularly with the Puritans. He discovered in the Scriptures that the coming of the Messiah was linked to the Jews being scattered to the ends of the earth, and in Hebrew the word for ʺendʺ was the same as that for ʺEngland.ʺ Consequently, he wrote a pamphlet called, ʺHope of Israel,ʺ proposing that the Jews be invited into England in fulfillment of prophecy. Ben Israel knew that the Puritans were very interested in Biblical prophecy and the plight of the Jews, so he successfully made an appointment with Cromwell and convinced him to support the immigration of Jews into his country. Thus, the banishment of Jews from England ended and with it began a series of articles and books from renowned British, including John Milton and John Locke, supporting a Jewish state.

In 1733 Sir Isaac Newton suggested an interpretation of the prophet Daniel necessitated another nation assist the Jews to return to their land. By the late 1700ʹs Englandʹs major papers began discussing the issue. In 1799 Joseph Priestly, a well‐known British scientist wrote a book addressing the Jews and said, referring to Israel, ʺthe land is uncultivated and ready to receive you, but the Turks control it. Their power must first fall. Therefore, I earnestly pray for its dissolution. But it may not happen for sometime.ʺ This was followed by another book, The Restoration of the Jews ‐ the Crisis of All Nations, by Thomas Witherby
who proposed England would be ʺa new Cyrusʺ and be Godʹs instrument to restore the land to the Jews. In 1819 another book, Call to the Christians and the Hebrews, by Theaetetus, proposed Jews and Christians combine efforts for reestablishment of the nation of Israel.

By now the proliferation of both theological and philosophical works proposing the return of land to the Jews was so widespread that politics was effected. In 1838 at the urging of a Christian Zionist, Lord Shaftesbury, Britain established a consulate in Jerusalem, the first diplomatic appointment in the land of Israel. This was followed by the appointment of Michael Solomon Alexander as Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, the first Jewish bishop of Jerusalem since 135 C.E.
In 1853 the Crimean War erupted between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. The British and the French both sided with the Turks, assisting them in the defeat of the Russians. The Paris Treaty of 1858, concluding the war, granted Jews and Christians the right to settle in Palestine, forced upon the Ottoman Turks by the British for their assistance in the war effort. This decision opened the doors for Jewish immigration to Palestine.

Click here to read Part Two.