John Hagee, In Defense of Israel: The Bible’s Mandate for Supporting the Jewish State (Lake Mary, Flo.: FrontLine, 2007).
This book was written by New York Times best-selling author John Hagee, pastor of a 19,000 member megachurch in San Antonio. It presents the argument that the Christian Church is biblically obligated to support the political state of Israel on the basis of its fulfillment of biblical prophecy (pp. 84-85) and for the well-being of America (p. 84) It is virtually a hagiography for the Jews which borders on Judeolatry. Hagee almost implies that the Jews and Israel can do no wrong, for he does (as we shall see) call upon Christians to support them as we do God himself: unconditionally.
As I begin this review I have two confessions to make: (1) I had never read a Hagee book before, and (2) I never will again. This work presents dispensationalism gone to seed. The fact that he is a widely popular, multi-million selling, and influential Christian writer demonstrates the tragedy that “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6).
Hagee presents his argument so vigorously that he effectively demands that we as Christians and America as a nation are obligated by Scripture itself to support the modern political state of Israel in anything it does. For instance, on the back cover he boasts of his “twenty-six years of unconditional support of Israel and the Jewish people.” He demands that “every Christian in America has a biblical mandate to stand in absolute solidarity with Israel” (p. 84, emph. mine) because “we are commanded to love [the Jews] unconditionally” (p. 92). These levels of obligation should be reserved only for obedience to God himself. As Hagee admits regarding his first trip to Israel: “We went as tourists and came home as Zionists” (p. 12).
In extolling Israel Hagee virtually proclaims the superiority of the Jewish race over all other races: “The entire world and especially the United States, owes a debt to the Jewish people. The contributions of the Jewish people are staggering” (p. 99). And he does this while repeatedly rebuking Christianity for creating anti-Semitism: “anti-Semitism has its origin and its complete root structure in Christianity, dating from the early days of the Christian church” (p. 17; cp. pp. 74, 121, 125, 145). He laments: “It is not Jews and Judaism who have lost credibility; it is a loveless Christianity that has lost credibility” (p. 149). He never rebukes Israel for anything, even deflecting its role in Christ’s crucifixion by blaming it on just a few corrupt leaders.
He rebukes Christianity while extolling the religion of Judaism — even worshiping with Jews (p. 144), receiving their religious benediction (p. 45), declaring Jerusalem “my spiritual home” (p. 12), speaking of them as his “spiritual brothers” (pp. 36, 173), and stating that they are “quite literally God’s children” (p. 51, emph. his — what in the world does this mean?) and the “family of our Lord” (p. 92).
Hagee even implies that the Jews do not need to convert to Christ, because “the message of the gospel was from Israel, not to Israel” (p. 134). Though not expressly stated by Hagee, this seems to be implied in his book, for he never calls upon the Jews to accept Christ, and sympathetically explains that we should not expect them to do so because of our treatment of them through the ages: “But the idea that the Jews of the world are going to convert and storm the doors of Christian churches is a myth…. After two thousand years of anti-Semitic replacement theology that says ‘the church is the real Israel,’ thus denying the Jews their rightful place in the economy of God, they are not about to convert” (148). He also sponsors joint, public meetings with them that have “as an unbendable ground rule” that the meetings would be “nonconversionary” (p. 46).
In this work Hagee beautifully weaves strands of incompetence with cords of error to create a tapestry of Judeolatry. This book contains almost as many errors as it does pages. Due to space limitations I will only briefly list some of them. It is necessary, however, to survey evidence of his biblical and historical incompetence to demonstrate how his theological error is simply the conclusion of that incompetence. This will show how dangerous he is as an influence in the Church.
Hagee’s Historical and Biblical Incompetence
He declares that Christianity began to be anti-Semitic in the first century (p. 145) and has been so for 2000 years (p. 118). But elsewhere he states that it became so three hundred years after Christ (p. 18) or has been so for only 1000 years (p. 34). Which is it?
He attempts to show that we must side with the Jews by arguing that Jesus uses a Greek word for “brothers” in Matthew 25:40 that means “relatives according to the flesh” (p. 7), which means it must refer to “the Jewish people.” This verse reads: “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” Yet the word is constantly used of spiritual brothers in the New Testament (e.g., Rom 12:10; 14:10, 15; 1 Cor 6:6; 7:12; 8:11; Jms 4:11), even in Matthew itself (e.g., Matt 12:46-50; 18:15-20; 23:88-11). It obviously means spiritual brothers in Christ here in Matthew 25:40, for in Matthew Jesus frequently speaks of the Jews persecuting his followers (Matt 10:17-19; 23:32-36). Acts shows Jews casting Christians into prison, as per Matthew 25:36, 39 (Acts 5:17ff; 8:3).
Regarding an historical matter, Hagee states that “Titus marched from Rome in A.D. 70” to lay “siege to the city of Jerusalem” (p. 18). Actually Titus began his movement toward Jerusalem from Alexandria, Egypt (Josephus, Wars 3:1:3; 3:4:2).
In one place Hagee speaks of Hitler in a contradictory fashion. He notes on p. 35 regarding “Christian” / “Catholic” Hitler that had Jesus “lived in Europe in 1940” he “would have slowly choked to death on the poisonous gas” of the Nazi gas chambers. But in the very next paragraph he provides a quote from Hitler as an illustration of a “Christian” anti-Semite: “Christ was the greatest early fighter in the battle against the world enemy, the Jews.” If Hitler thought he was following Christ in battling the Jews, why would he kill Christ whom he claimed to emulate as a “Christian”?
Hagee argues that Romans 9-11 has “no connection to the preceding or succeeding” text in the book and “stand alone, completely unique in their theme” (pp. 51-52). Yet this passage fits very nicely in his argumentative flow throughout Romans. Paul writes this passage in order to demonstrate that despite Israel’s rebellion against God, salvation is still for the Jews (Rom 1:16; 2:10; 3:1-4, 29; 4:13) and God’s sovereignty (Rom. 8:26-39) has not failed, though the Jews seem to provide evidence that it has (Rom 9:6; 10:1; 11:1). Thus, immediately after the last verse of Romans 11 Paul write: “Therefore I urge you…” (Rom 12:1). “Therefore” never follows an unconnected passages; this codicil is well placed in its larger context. It is not an intrusion bearing “no connection to the preceding or succeeding” text.
In one astonishing gaffe Hagee confuses the virgin birth with the immaculate conception of Mary! “Because of Mary’s immaculate conception, Jesus had just one Jewish parent” (p. 93). On that same page he also states that Acts 11:26 occurred “forty years after the crucifixion,” which would be around AD 70. However, Acts 11 transpires in the early AD 40s during “the reign of Claudius” (Acts 11:28). Claudius was emperor from AD 41-54. It is impossible to date the event forty years after Christ’s crucifixion which occurred in AD 30.
On p. 95 Hagee states that Jesus went to his first Passover “at the end of his twelfth year, which would have been his thirteenth birthday.” Yet Luke 2:42 reports that he did so “when He became twelve,” that is, near or shortly after his twelfth birthday. Hagee speaks of “the apostle Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament” (p. 98). Yet Paul only wrote thirteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, and most of these epistles were rather short (only three contain more than six chapters). Luke’s large books (Luke and Acts) comprise the greatest quantitative proportion of the New Testament, 25% of its volume. In the Greek text Luke/Acts contains 37,932 words, whereas Paul’s writings contain 32,407 words.
Incredibly Hagee declares that as a child Jesus studied the Mishnah and the Talmud (p. 96). This is impossible! The Mishnah was compiled around 200 AD, and there are two Talmuds, with the earliest one compiled over 200 years later than the Mishnah. On that same page he also contradicts himself by declaring that in Jesus’ day Judaism was the only monotheistic religion with a Supreme Being (p. 96). Yet on p. 61 he had already correctly noted that Zoroastrianism was a monotheistic faith with one transcendent creator God. It was established more than 500 years before Christ.
Hagee continues his stumbling, for on p. 97 he speaks of “the creation of the world in seven days,” whereas the Bible presents its creation in six days (Gen 1; Exo 20:11; 31:17). On that page he also writes that “Judaism … gave us the patriarchs,” whereas it was the descendants of the patriarchs who established Judaism hundreds of years later in the time of Moses (see: Jacob Neusner, Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period, 346).
Hagee suggests that a Jew named “Haym Salomon, may have been the true author of the first draft of the U.S. Constitution” rather than James Madison (p. 105). This despite the fact Salomon died two years before it was written. On p. 122 he defines the term “deicide” as meaning “killers of Christ,” though etymologically it means “killers of God” (Latin: deus).
On p. 126 he states that “the high priest Caiaphas … did not in any way represent the Jewish people” because “he was a political appointment of Herod.” But at least in that one way he represented the Jewish people! More significantly though, Matthew speaks of “the chief priests and the elders of the people” (Matt 26:3).
Furthermore, after Paul rebukes the high priest without realizing who he was, we read an interesting interchange in Acts 23:4-5. Paul speaks of the Rome-appointed high priest as protected by biblical law: “But the bystanders said, ‘Do you revile God’s high priest?’ And Paul said, ‘I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, “You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.”’” Paul did not protest his illegitimacy as “God’s high priest.” In addition, the Mishnah and Talmuds (which Hagee extolls) recognize the high priests as representatives of Israel (e.g., m. Hor. 3:4; b. Yoma 1:1), as does Josephus (Wars 2:14:8; 4:5:2; 5:5:7; Life 1:2 ).
In another historical blunder, on p. 127 Hagee comments that Caiaphas “was appointed by Herod.” Actually he was appointed by the Roman prefect Valerius Gratus over twenty years after Herod died.
Hagee argues that the Jewish people were not responsible for Christ’s death, only their leaders who were few in number. Then he states “the justice of God would never permit judgment for the sins of a handful of people to be passed to an entire civilization of people” (p. 131). This leaves him with no theological explanation for the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 and the 2000 years of Jewish oppression. Though Jesus sees the Temple and Jerusalem’s destruction as resulting from God’s judgment (Matt 23:32-24:2, 16-17).
Hagee makes the incredible assertion that “the Pharisees in the school of Hillel were as mad as hornets because Jesus would not endorse Shammai’s teaching on ‘divorce for every cause’” (p. 129). This is a bizarre analysis of their differences with Christ on divorce. But as a matter of historical fact these two schools warred against each another, the one school would not have been upset with Christ for discounting the view of the other school, especially since he would be siding with one of the schools!
Regarding the antagonism between Hillel and Shammai, Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner writes: “According to the Talmud, the tendency of Hillel’s academy towards moderation was shaped by the personality of Hillel himself…. By contrast, members of the House of Shammai took on the characteristics of their teacher, Shammai, who is know [sp.] for intemperance and severity,” so that “the disputes of the Houses of Hillel and Shammai comprise the largest corpus of materials cited in the names of authorities active prior to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 C.E.” (Neusner, Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period, 293).
In an strange analysis of the Great Commission, on p. 134 (and 145) Hagee argues that the Commission was to be preached to every “creature,” which shows that “Gentiles were considered creatures” like “dogs”! He obviously does not know Greek, for the Greek word ktisis means “creation,” like when we are made a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). We are not made “new dogs.”
In another odd maneuver on p. 147 Hagee points to the plural “My people” in Isaiah 40:1 and argues that this shows there are “two groups of people in this verse,” by which he means Israel and the Church. But the fact is that “My people” in the plural is used scores of times in referring to the one people Israel (e.g., Exo 3:10; 5:1; Isa 5:13; 10:24).
On p. 154 Hagee writes that Jesus “gave us three sermons” that “are prophetic in nature”: Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. But these are one sermon recorded by three different Gospel writers. And now all of this leads us to consider his leading and most astounding theological errors.
Hagee’s Theological Errors
Again space constraints forbid my fully engaging his many theological errors, but I must present those that form the very purpose of his book. His exegetical stumblings and historical confusions lead inexorably to these serious theological errors. Six keys errors I will highlight are Hagee’s claims that:
1. Jesus did not present himself as the Messiah.
Hagee writes: “Not one verse of Scripture in the New Testament … says Jesus came to be the Messiah” (p. 136). “The Jews were not rejecting Jesus as Messiah; it was Jesus who was refusing to be the Messiah to the Jews” (p. 140; cp. 145). In fact, he wrongly argues that “if God intended for Jesus to be the Messiah of Israel, why didn’t he authorize Jesus to use supernatural signs to prove he was God’s Messiah”? (p. 137).
These incredible assertions absolutely contradict the New Testament and historic Christian teaching. Jesus is called “Christ” in over 385 passages of the New Testament. “Christ” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew term “Messiah.” When Jesus asks his disciples “Who do you say that I am,” Peter answers: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:15-16). To this Jesus responds: “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17). Jesus actually blesses Peter for declaring his Messiahship, even noting that God in heaven revealed this to Peter. He then “warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ” (Matt. 16:20). In similar terms faithful Martha also declares Jesus to be the Christ (John 11:27).
Note only so, but contrary to Hagee, Christ did prove this through supernatural signs. In John 10:24-25 the Jews demand of him: “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answers them: “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these bear witness of Me.” Note his clear affirmation and his pointing to his “works” (miracles) as witness to the fact. God did authorize Jesus to use signs to confirm his Messiahship. In fact, the Jews see his signs as proof of his Messiahship: “many of the multitude believed in Him; and they were saying, ‘When the Christ shall come, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?’” (John 7:31).
Christ’s messianic signs represent the very purpose for John’s writing his Gospel. The Gospel closes with these words: “Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31; emph. mine).
Before his crucifixion, in his High Priestly Prayer he speaks to the Father: “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). In Matthew 26:63-64 Jesus is on trial for his life. The high priest formally demanded of him: “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God” (Matt. 26:63). Matthew records his answer: “You have said it yourself” (Matt. 26:64). Thus, under oath he affirms that he is the Messiah.
Later at Pentecost in Jerusalem Peter preaches from the Psalms: “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know … [David] looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay…. Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:22, 31, 36). This is the apostolic message throughout Acts (Acts 4:26; 5:42; 8:5, 12; 10:36, 48; 17:2-3; 18:5, 28; 20:21; 26:23; 28:31). Indeed, Paul was “confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 9:22).
2. The Jews did not reject Jesus as the Messiah.
Hagee states that: “The Jews did not reject Jesus as Messiah” (p. 132, 135), for “how can the Jews be blamed for rejecting what was never offered? (p. 136, emph. his). “Had Jesus permitted himself to become the reigning Messiah to the Jews, he would have missed the sovereign will of God for his life” (p. 134) because “Jesus had to live to be the Messiah” (p. 135). He explains that those who reject Jesus and seek his crucifixion “could not have numbered more than a few hundred” (p. 129). The plot against Jesus “had nothing to do with the Jewish people as a civilization,” for “three out of four Jews did not live in what the Romans called Palestine” and “nine out of ten of the Jews in Palestine at that time lived outside of Jerusalem” (p. 131).
In the first place, the Jews did reject Christ. Early on in John’s Gospel we read that “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). John is not limiting the rejection to leadership of Israel. And in the following context we read that John the Baptist denied being the Christ though affirming he was Christ’s forerunner (1:19-29) and Andrew told Peter “‘we have found the Messiah’ (which translated means Christ)” (John 1:41). In fact, he wrote the Gospel to urge belief in Jesus as the Christ” (John 20:31), though his own did not receive him as such.
Stephen declares this in his sermon: “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become” (Acts 7:51-52). According to Scripture we learn even that “Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him… ‘I know that you are Abraham’s offspring; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you” (John 8:31). The Lord even warned his disciples of the prophesied outcome: “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this in order that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause’” (John 15:24-25). He frequently noted that even ancient, evil pagans would more readily believe that the Jews: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you” (Matt 11:21-22; cp. Matt 10:15; 11:23-24). And Stephen’s denunciation (Acts 7:51-52) was given before a broad Jewish audience (Acts 6:9, 12-13; 7:57-58; 8:1).
At the end of his ministry Jesus weeps over Jerusalem (not over the Sanhedrin or the high priestly aristocracy): “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37).
In the second place, Christ did come to die. Peter declares to the Jews that “the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled” (Acts 3:18). Paul busied himself among the Jews in Thessalonica “explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ’” (Acts 17:3). In his defense before Festus regarding the Jewish accusations against him, Paul asserted “that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:23).
3. The Old Covenant remains in effect.
Hagee argues that “the Old Covenant is not dead” (p. 158). In fact, “Scripture plainly indicates that the church (spiritual Israel) and national Israel exist side by side, and neither replaces the other — ever!” (p. 146, emph. his). “Replacement theology advances the concept that the Old Covenant, or Old Testament, has been replaced by the New Testament” (p. 158).
These assertions require us to believe that Jews are saved today without express faith in Christ — in that they are under the God-ordained, continuing old covenant standards. But not even this helps the Jews much since they do not have a temple in order to carry out the requirements of the old covenant!
Besides, Jeremiah’s revelation of the new covenant states that the new covenant will supplant the old (or else there would be no purpose in it): “‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord” (Jer 31:31-32). Can the Jews ignore the new covenant God has made? The new covenant which is established by the blood of Christ and is pictured in the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25)?
Paul declares that if one keeps the sign of the old covenant (circumcision) as a religious obligation “Christ will be of no benefit to you” (Gal 5:3). This is because “in Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything” (Gal 5:6). He writes that the old covenant’s glory was fading even when given by Moses (2 Cor 3:7, 13). Therefore, the old covenant “has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it” in the new covenant (2 Cor 3:10). Thus, “when He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear” (Heb 8:13).
Indeed, Christ came to save us and to unite Jew and Gentile in one body “by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man” (Eph 2:15). To teach that the old covenant commandments remains in effect and are acceptable to God is to put asunder what God has joined together in Christ. And this directly contradicts Jesus’ statement that “an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father…. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” (John 4:21, 23). Jerusalem will no longer be central; the temple system will no longer be in effect.
4. The Jews are not responsible for Jesus’ death.
Hagee vigorously argues that “one of those deadly New Testament myths is that the Jews killed Jesus, yet no justification can be found in the New Testament to support this lie” (p. 125). He defines Anti-Semitism as “a poisonous stream of venom” wherein “Christian leaders [labeled] the Jews as ‘Christ killers” (p. 20). He announces that “the Jews are not Christ killers” (p. 122).
This is not only a mistaken belief on his part, but effectively calls the Apostles and writers of the New Testament liars filled with poisonous venom. Though it is true the Romans physically accomplished the crucifixion of Christ, the Gospel record clearly and repeatedly emphasizes that it was because of the Jews. Pilate even washed his hands of the death of the innocent Christ forced on him by the Jews (Matt 27:24; cp. John 18:28-31; 19:12, 15).
Jesus prophesied that the Jews would kill him: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death” (Matt 20:18; cp. Matt. 27:11-25; Mark 15:1). The Emmaus Road disciples even recognized this fact when they described “how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death, and crucified Him” (Luke 24:20).
While recognizing the obvious physical role of the Romans in Christ’s death, Peter, Stephen, and Paul repeatedly blame the Jews for his death. Speaking to a general religious gathering of Jews (Acts 2:5-11), Peter states: “Men of Israel, listen to these words: … this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:22-23). Stephen denounces the Jewish crowd gathered at his trial, declaring that they were the “betrayers and murderers” of “the Righteous One” (Acts 7:52). Paul charges that “the Jews … both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets” (1 Thess 2:15). See also: Acts 2:36; 3:13-15a; 4:10; 5:28, 30; 10:39; 13:27-29; 26:10.
5. Anti-Semitism had its origins in first century Christianity.
Hagee believes that “anti-Semitism has its origin and its complete root structure in Christianity” (p. 17). He even favorably cites James Parkes: “In our day … more than six million deliberate murders are the consequences of the teaching about Jews for which the Christian Church is ultimately responsible … which has its ultimate resting place in the teaching of the New Testament itself” (p. 125).
We must confess that Christianity often engaged in deplorable Anti-Semitism. But such was based on an abuse of the biblical record, not the fact of that record. The New Testament is no more Anti-Semitic in this than are the prophets who vigorously charged Israel with sin. Isaiah calls Israel’s rulers “rulers of Sodom” and the people “people of Gomorrah” (Isa 1:10) — while rejecting the legitimacy of their worship (1:11-15). He even says of rebellious Israel that her worship is equivalent to offering “swine’s blood” and burning incense to “an idol” (66:3).
Jeremiah declares the land “completely polluted” (Jer 3:1) and the people “a harlot” to be divorced by God (3:1-10). Ezekiel calls upon executioners to come and destroy Jerusalem (Eze 9:1ff), warns that God’s glory has left the temple (10:1ff), and compares Israel to a harlot (Eze 16). Is this not inflammatory, denunciatory language? Why are they not deemed “Anti-Semitic”? Could not their words be abusively taken to justify persecution of the Jews?
Furthermore, in Hagee’s adulation of Judaism and denunciation of Christianity, he totally overlooks the widespread persecution of Christianity by the Jews: “on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1). This appears repeatedly in the Apostolic record (Matt 10:17; 23:37ff.; Acts 4:1-3, 15-18; 5:17-18, 27-33, 40; 6:12-15; 7:54-60; 8:1; 9:1-4, 13, 21, 23, 29; 12:1-3; 13:45-50; 14:2-5, 19; 17:5-8, 13; 18:6, 12, 17; 20:3, 19; 21:11, 27-32; 22:3-5, 22-23; 23:12, 20-21; 24:5-9, 27; 25:2-15; 25:24; 26:21; 28:17-29; Rom 15:31; 2 Cor 11:24; Gal 6:12; Heb 10:33-34).
Nor does Hagee mention the famous role of Jews bringing firewood to burn Polycarp at the stake. Nor the birkath ha-minim, the benediction against the heretics (Jewish Christians), which was cited daily in the synagogues beginning in the late first century: “For the renegades let there be no hope, and may the arrogant kingdom soon be rooted out in our days, and the Nazarenes and the minim perish as in a moment and be blotted out from the book of life and with the righteous may they not be inscribed” (b. Berkhoth 28b). In the Jewish Tosefta (AD 300) we read of the Jewish treatment of Minim (Jewish Christians): “One does not sell to them or receive from them or take from them or give to them. One does not teach their sons a trade’” (t. Hullin 2:20); and “The Minim and the apostates and the betrayers are cast in [a pit] and not helped out” (t. B. Mezia 2:33).
6. Christianity and Judaism are spiritual brothers.
Hagee demands that “evangelicals” must recognize of the Jews that “we are spiritual brothers” (p. 173) and that he is seeking “reconciliation with my Jewish brothers” (p. 35).
Can we call someone a “brother” who rejects Christ (1John 4:2-3; 5:1)? Is not Christianity superior to Judaism? And are not Christ’s words against the Jews who reject him quite strong? “And I say to you, that many shall come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 8:11-12). How can we deem our Jewish friends to be our “spiritual brothers,” if we hold to the New Testament?
In conclusion, this book should have a label on it warning the readers: “Contains doctrine that is hazardous to your spiritual health.” He at least could have titled it “Leave Behind,” as a suggestion as to what we should do with it.
by Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry, Director