Dennis Prager and others have done an excellent job of highlighting the genuinely anti-Semitic content of a recent Church of Scotland publication entitled “The Inheritance of Abraham? A Report on the ‘Promised Land,’” and Prager has even called it “ugliest depiction of Jews since medieval times.” What has not been mentioned, however, is the great tradition of philo-Semitism in recent Scottish Church history, making the contrast all the more extreme.
Some of the great Scottish Presbyterian leaders of the 19th century built on the heritage of English Puritan theologians like John Owen (1616-1683), who wrote, “The Jews shall be gathered from all parts of the earth they are scattered, and brought home into their homeland.”
Robert Leighton (1611-1684), a contemporary of Owen, stated, “Undoubtedly, that people of the Jews shall once more be commanded to arise and shine [with reference to Isaiah 60:1], and their return shall be the riches of the Gentiles (Romans 11:12 [meaning, bringing spiritual revival to the nations]), and that shall be a more glorious time than ever the Church of God did yet behold.”
In stark contrast, the recent report states, “There has been a widespread assumption by many Christians as well as many Jewish people that the Bible supports an essentially Jewish state of Israel. This raises an increasing number of difficulties. . . .”
So, what these 17th century theologians viewed with great longing, these 21st century theologians view with great loathing, even claiming that, “There is a direct conflict of interest between wanting human rights and justice for all and retaining the right to the land.”
Another contemporary of Owen was Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661), a Scottish Presbyterian leader known for his passionate spirituality. But for him, the greatest dream of all was seeing the day when the Jewish people and Jesus would be reconciled, referring to Israel as Christ’s “last-married bride” and his “last marriage love on earth.”
For Rutherford, the Jewish people had a unique role to play in the world, and their embrace of Jesus as their long-forsaken King would literally be “life from the dead” (see Romans 11:15) for the world. He even wrote, “O to see the sight, next to Christ’s Coming in the clouds, the most joyful! Our elder brethren the Jews and Christ fall upon one another’s neck and kiss each other! They have been long asunder; they will be kind to one another when they meet.”