From the 60 Minutes report “Christians of the Holy Land” last Sunday night [April 22, 2012) moderated by CBS reporter Bob Simon, the viewer was fed the idea that Palestinians started Christianity and gave faith in Christ to the world.
Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian Christian and a Lutheran minister from Bethlehem accurately claimed, “Christianity started here.” Then Raheb adds, “The only thing that Palestine was able to export so successfully was Christianity.” Yet no where in the New Testament is name “Palestine” is ever used. The closest we come is in Matthew 15:22 where a Canaanite woman came to Jesus seeking healing for her daughter, “A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
According to Wikipedia, “The first clear use of the term Palestine to refer to the entire area between Phoenicia and Egypt was in 5th century BC Ancient Greece. Herodotus wrote of a ‘district of Syria, called Palaistinê” in The Histories, the first historical work clearly defining the region, which included the Judean mountains and the Jordan Rift Valley.”
In the Bible Palestine is never mentioned as another name for Israel or the original name of Israel prior to the Jewish exiles from Egypt entering the land under Joshua around 1400 B.C. We read, “The Hebrew name Peleshet (פלשת Pəlésheth)- usually translated as Philistia in English, is used in the Bible more than 250 times. The Greek word Palaistinē is generally accepted to be a translation of the Semitic name for Philistia; however another term – Land of Philistieim was used in the Septuagint, the second century BCE Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, to refer to Philistia. In the Torah / Pentateuch the term Philistia is used 10 times and its boundaries are undefined. The later Historical books include most of the biblical references, almost 200 of which are in the Book of Judges and the Books of Samuel, where the term is used to denote the southern coastal region to the west of the ancient Kingdom of Judah.”
Getting back to Mitri Raheb, he has the nerve to say, “Christianity has actually on the back a stamp saying, “Made in Palestine.” Raheb could not be more mistaken.
Given the tenor of the entire article, it appears that Arab Christians are the original followers of Jesus in the Holy Land. I find it odd that Bob Simon did not interview the other Christians living in the Holy Land – Jewish people who have embraced Jesus as the Messiah aka messianic Jews.
According to the the Baptist Press and other sources, there are 20,000 messianic Jews living in Israel with over 150 messianic houses of worship where they congregate.
Sadly, many statements by Arab Christians in the 60 Minutes piece remained unchallenged especially when it came to the Jewish roots of Christianity in the Holy Land. Rather, viewers were left with the false view the roots of Christianity lie with Palestinian Christians.
When one reads the entire New Testament it become obvious the roots of Christianity lie with Jews living in the Holy Land in the first century. This is just another example of the Arab attempt to disassociate the Jewish people from the land of Israel. Have Arab Christians forgotten Romans 1:16, where Paul writes, ” For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
It is common knowledge backed by the New Testament that the early followers of Jesus were all Jewish; the crowds who listened to Jesus’ sermons and responded in faith to Him were also sons and daughters of Israel; and the individuals brought to Jesus for healing or some form of supernatural ministry were Jews. The Book of Acts makes it clear that Jewish believers in Yeshua like Peter and Paul spread Christianity throughout the earth.
The only time Arabs are mentioned in the New Testament is in Acts 2 when the Jewish followers of Jesus were supernaturally speaking in other languages spoken by the people who were in attendance on Pentecost. Read the text in Acts 2:7-11:
Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
Yes, Arabs were in attendance on the Day of Pentecost to witness the pouring out of the Spirit of God on the followers of Jesus. But Arab Christians did not start Christianity.
As one continues to study the history of the early church after the Pentecost event, the church was ruled by Jewish leaders, expanded by Jews and the major New Testament letters written to first century churches were written by Jewish followers of Jesus.
Where do Arab Christians find evidence that Christianity was birthed among the Palestinians? In Acts 8:27 the Jewish follower of Yeshua Phillip shared the gospel message with an Ethiopian who took the gospel back to Ethiopia. However, other than two isolated incidents the birth of Christianity took place in Israel, not Palestine and was brought into being by Jewish men and women empwoered by the Spirit of God.
Let’s put a halt to this falsehood that Christianity was exported from Palestine and that our messianic faith has a stamp on the back saying, “Made in Palestine.” The stamp actually says, “Made in Israel and exported to the rest of the world by Jews.”