Hebraic Heritage: By the power of God

The critics and attackers of Israel are legion. We make a mistake today if we frame the Arab war against the Jews in purely political terms.

Jim Fletcher 88 224 (photo credit: )
Jim Fletcher 88 224
(photo credit: )
One of the "forgotten" greats of the Christian world is Dr. Robert Dick Wilson. Born in Indiana in 1856, Wilson dedicated his life to defending the validity of the Bible, particulary the Hebrew Scriptures. He taught at Princeton almost 30 years, finally leaving in 1929 when he decided liberalism had become permanently entrenched. He then began teaching at the new Westminster Theological Seminary, where he remained until his death 18 months later. Wilson knew dozens of ancient languages and also had a firm grasp on the arguments of the Bible's critics, such as those found in Europe (the "Higher Critics"). His defense of the Bible is legendary, yet he is not widely remembered. Those who do remember appreciate his shining a spotlight on the Jewish origins of the Bible. Quite apart from the critics who came up with ludicrous theories about multiple authors for the various books of the prophets, Wilson believed Scripture to be what it appears to be: history written in an orderly fashion, featuring real people in real eras. In 1902, Wilson answered (in a paper) the claims of German scholar Friedrich Delitzsch, who had on January 26 given a lecture in Berlin. Entitled "Babylon and the Bible," Delitzsch maintained that the Old Testament was a mish-mash of myth and heavy editing. In other words, given to exaggeration and mistakes. In the audience was the Kaiser, and one wonders what he was thinking, since he had previously visited the Holy Land. One of the features of this attack (as with those before and after) was the desire to remove the "Jewish-ness" of the Bible, which is surely one of the most absurd propositions of all time. Wilson, however, knew its weaknesses and as aggressively as a gentleman scholar could, he began defending the Bible. In particular, his beautiful spotlight on Israel - in his response to Delitzsch - still shines through, after one hundred years: "And when the children of Israel had been carried away to the rich plains of Babylon, so beautiful, so vast, was it as a Greek patriot to the Athens of his dreams, or a Scotsman to his 'ain countrie?' Not thus. But they wept when 'they remembered Zion.' Not thus does the Catholic pilgrim sing when he treads the streets of papal Rome and stands in awe beneath the dome of St. Peter's. Not thus does the Arab Hadji pray when he bows within the sacred precincts of the Kaaba. But thus has every Jew throughout the ages, the record of whose thoughts and feelings has been preserved to us; and thus does every child of Abraham, according to the promise, feel - that not to Babylon, the golden city, the mother of science and arts and commerce and of idolatry and harlotries and sorceries, do we look for the springs of our religion and the hope of our salvation, but to Jerusalem, the golden, the city of the great King." The critics and attackers of Israel are legion. We make a mistake today if we frame the Arab war against the Jews in purely political terms. This is what Wilson understood. It is the attack on the Bible and the origins of the Jews that has brought us to this precarious moment in history. If only we were able to place as much emphasis on defending Scripture as we do with regard to petitions, rallies, and solidarity based on shared strategic goals…perhaps Israel wouldn't be so isolated. But at the end of the day, I suppose that contradicts the very premise of this commentary: God, who is sovereign, has determined the end of history, and we know this because of the marvelous fulfilled prophecies. So perhaps at the end of days, we should learn that not through our own power will Israel be saved, but by the power of her God. Thanks be to God for a scholar like Robert Dick Wilson, who used his considerable intellect to give us an intellectual defense of Scripture. That will surely help us love our Jewish brothers and sisters even more, while also helping each one of us build our faith on our individual faith journeys as we travel together to the city of the great King. Jim Fletcher is a member of the executive committee of the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel (NCLCI). He can be reached at [email protected] Previous Entries Religion and academia Not enough good teaching material Our Jewish Roots - Educate, educate, educate