Israel as the Hermeneutical Crux in the Interpretation of Prophecy -- By: Willem A. Vangemeren

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 45:1 (Spring 1983)
Article: Israel as the Hermeneutical Crux in the Interpretation of Prophecy
Author: Willem A. Vangemeren


Israel as the Hermeneutical Crux
in the Interpretation of Prophecy*

Willem A. VanGemeren

The existence of the State of Israel as well as its prominence in the Middle East has provoked a mixed reaction from the Christian community. Some consider the reemergence of Israel and its subsequent life in the Middle East only as a political issue. From this perspective Israel is simply a nation striving to preserve its independence and to maintain internal harmony. However, for the Christian community, Israel is also a theological issue. The theological questions are many: Who are the Jews? What is the relationship of Church and Synagogue? Does the existence of the State of Israel mark the return of our Lord? A little over ten years ago (1971) evangelical Christians met to consider these issues at the Jerusalem Conference. Among the evangelical viewpoints, Edmund P. Clowney and H. N. Ridderbos represented the Reformed community. Professor Ridderbos expressed well the question which has recently risen in Reformed thought:

…the existence of Israel once again becomes a bone of contention, this time in a theoretical and theological sense. Do the misery and suffering of Israel in the past and in the present prove that God’s doom has rested and will rest upon her, as has been alleged time and again in so-called Christian theology? Or is Israel’s lasting existence and, in a way, her invincibility, God’s finger in history, that Israel is the object of His special providence (providentia specialissima) and the proof of her glorious future, the future that has been beheld and foretold by Israel’s own seers and prophets?1

Where does the Reformed community stand regarding the State of

* C. Graafland, Het Vaste Verbond. Israel en het Oude Testament bij Calvijn en het Gereformeerd Protestantisme (Amsterdam: Uitgevery Ton Boland, 1978).

Israel and the Jewish people? In vain one turns to the Reformed symbols for an answer. The Westminster Confession is silent on the future of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. One’s answer to the theological question of the Jews and Israel depends on how he reads the Scriptures. Essentially, it is also an exegetical issue. At this point the Westminster Confession gives “general” guidelines on the relationship between the testaments. If the Reformed community is going to respond to the modern questions, it must develop a hermeneutic which does not erode the confessional perimeters of the unity of the testaments to the exclusion of the OT or the NT. All Scripture should have a bearing on the questions at hand. Then and only then can Reformed theology develop a response....

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