While listening to the evening news yesterday it was interesting to note the differences between people speaking about the “Holy Land.” It seems that persons who regard the Hebrew people as interlopers and illegitimate “occupiers” most often refer to the Land of Israel as “Palestine”, while those who mainly recognize the Jewish homeland’s” right to exist” speak of the Land as “Israel”. Obviously there was and still is an ongoing debate over that hotly contested piece of real estate. People refuse to agree on what to even call it! However, as Christians, I believe that it is good, even necessary perhaps, for us to decide in which camp we place ourselves. Is the Land given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the land where the prophets and the Messiah walked and the place where He will return… Israel or Palestine?Biblically speaking, the Scriptures reveal that the name Israel was initially given by God as a “new name” to Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. From that time on, Jacob’s offspring were referred to as “the children of Israel”. The land given by the Almighty to the children of Israel (Jacob) became identified throughout the known “world” at that time as “Israel” around 1200 BC according to archaeological data, and remained so for more than 1000 years.The fly entered the ointment in 135 A.D when the Roman Emperor Hadrian changed the name of Israel to Palestine after crushing a second revolt by the Jews against his empire. In an effort to punish the people and erase the memory of their land from off the face of the earth he renamed Israel “Palestine”…after the ancient foes of Israel… the Philistines.The Philistines are thought to have been sea-faring peoples driven from Aegean islands around 1300 BC. who settled along the maritime plain in what was southern Canaan (Israel) between 1100 and 1200 BC. Ultimately, they occupied the five cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath and fought with the Hebrew people up through the days of King David. Remember Goliath... of Gath?The name “Palestine” is simply the Latinized version of Philistine. Hadrian, a dyed-in-the-wool enemy of the Jews, began a campaign of misinformation that remains alive and well unto this day! By using the name “Palestine” for the land west of the Jordan River, the legitimacy of the modern state of Israel was and is continually being questioned. Speaking of legitimacy, “Palestine” is now used by all nations of the Middle East… in their media, on their maps and in their classroom for the Sacred Land. Is there any doubt as to where they stand? Last time I heard it was something about the Jews needing to be driven into the Mediterranean.As a Christian I am repulsed by the term Palestine. However we are not without blame. “Our” community also adopted the name as a substitute for Israel as early as 300 AD. The church father and historian, Eusebius, chose to use “Palestine” rather than Israel in all of his works. Ignorantly, though a resident of Caesarea (of New Testament renown no less), he referred to himself as the “Bishop of Palestine”! Perhaps he believed he was being wise in unstable times.However, as a result, the term Palestine is still used in our “church” writings and on our Biblical maps! In fact, the “Study Bible” I bought just last year has a map entitled “Palestine in Christ’s Time” as well as footnotes throughout which refer to “Palestine”. This should simply not be the case! Shouldn’t scholars know better?As the “world” around us juggles with the “hot potato” of the Middle East crisis, trying all the while to be politically correct, we Christians need to gently… but correctly… continue to use the Biblical name “Israel” when speaking of the Sacred Land. In these last days of apostasy, we have an opportunity to send a clear message that we believe the entire Word of God from cover-to-cover.If we search through the four Gospels, we will discover that the Sacred Land is only referred to as Israel, not Palestine. Israel is the land where the Lord was born, was crucified and where He rose from the dead. From Israel’s soil He ascended into Heaven and on Israel’s Mount of Olives He will walk again!In those very Gospels, the voice of Jesus the Jewish Messiah speaks aloud. With His own mouth He calls the Sacred Land “Israel”… How can we… as the sheep who hear His voice … do any differently?
LAURIE BARNETT is the founder of Shadows of the Messiah, a Bible teaching ministry that shares the richness of the Hebraic foundations of Scripture with women in the Body of Christ. Laurie began examining the Jewish background of the teachings of Jesus and of the New Testament more than 25 years ago.