The Israel Story in the Bible

It is a recurring deficiency of many Protestant evangelical readings of the biblical narrative that it can be told without the inclusion of Israel at all! An over-individualistic concentration on the Fall… results in a stunted engagement with the biblical text which almost inevitably leads to an interpretation that individual salvation was the whole purpose of God’s creative act. Consequently, we quickly jump from the Fall episode to the coming of the Messiah whose death and resurrection fixes the personal sin question – and hey presto! we’re back on track!… To the contrary it is really only when we get into the Israel story that all our interlocking overtures sound forth with a new vitality and vibrancy, mainly because this story consumes so much of the overall narrative. (Metavista: Bible, Church and Mission in an Age of Imagination (Faith in an Emerging Culture) (Faith in an Emerging Culture) (p.122)

What do you make of this statement? I have to say that I recognise some of my own attitude to the Biblical narrative here; it is oh so easy to leap from the fall to the incarnation and to play down the bits in between. I’m having to rethink a number of my presentations on the nature of the Bible in the light of these thoughts – it’s challenging stuff.

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4 replies on “The Israel Story in the Bible”

Maybe it’s the crowd I’m in with, or just my love of the OT (Hebrew Bible) but honestly, this isn’t one of my blindspots.

What I struggle with is something worse: a far too liberal attitude to morality (possibly).

If the quote in the above post is anything to go by, I’m glad that ‘Bible, Church & Mission In An Age of Imagination’ has been written, though.

Anything that helps us recapture the Story of the Bible (with all the bits that aren’t always fashionable to talk about) has to be a good thing.

Similarly, it doesn’t relate to my experience of church – we get plenty of teaching of/from the Old Testament, and plenty of reminders of the parallels between Israel & us – some of which seem rather far fetched to me. My concern is the debate about the continued role or not of Israel in God’s current / future plans.

“To the contrary it is really only when we get into the Israel story that all our interlocking overtures sound forth with a new vitality and vibrancy, mainly because this story consumes so much of the overall narrative.”

I get that the Israel story is important for setting up the world situation that Jesus came into, plus the pictures of sacrifice and the nation’s failure against God’s standards… but am I missing something else?

I think the thing you are missing, Phil is that the story of Israel has value in and of itself, not just as a precursor to the New Testament. We have huge amounts to learn about how God works with communities and in dealing with societal injustice through the story of Israel: but those questions are off the radar for many Evangelicals.

I would agree with Peter that there is a huge issue about the current place of Israel in God’s plans, but I do fear that we don’t learn enough from the past.

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