The Armageddon Mosaic And Israel’s Relationship With Evangelical Christians
By Rachel O Donoghue/Israel 365 NewsAugust 21, 2023
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An ancient Christian mosaic that bears one of the earliest references to Jesus as God is currently at the heart of a dispute involving archeologists, evangelical Christians and Israeli officials.
Discovered in 2005 by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) during rescue excavations at Israel's Megiddo prison, the Megiddo Mosaic is part of what is thought to be the world's earliest Christian prayer hall. Significantly, it is close to what believers say will be the site of a prophesized Armageddon.
A public spat erupted this week after several prominent archeologists and academics criticized the IAA over a proposal to loan the tiled treasure to the Museum of the Bible in Washington, which, according to the Associated Press, has been "criticized for past acquisition practices."
And while critics have accused the museum of "promoting an evangelical Christian political agenda," according to AP, several leading archeologists have disputed its characterization as right-wing evangelical, arguing the institute is a global scholarly educational institution with many international partnerships.
Coverage of the developing controversy has inevitably focused on the "deepening ties" between America's evangelical Christian community and the Jewish state, with the AP observing that Israel has come to "count on evangelicals for political support, tourism dollars and other benefits."
However, the context the wire service neglected to include is that the bond between Israel and Christians who consider themselves Zionists is not a new phenomenon.
In fact, Christian Zionism has its roots among the pietistic Protestants of the 16th century and the English Puritans of the 17th Century. Historical records show a man called Francis Kett was burned alive in 1587 for voicing his belief that the Bible had prophesized that the Jewish people would return to their land.
Known as the Restoration Movement by the 18th Century, Christian Zionism had grown in just a couple of hundred years to include leading writers, theologians and politicians.
The movement continued to gather steam throughout the 19th Century and by the 20th Century, was supported by some of the most distinguished individuals in society, including Conservative British politician Lord Arthur James Balfour.
In early November 1917, Balfour as foreign secretary of the United Kingdom set into motion the British commitment to work toward the establishment of "a national home for the Jewish people" when he wrote the declaration of his government in a letter to the British Zionist Federation president Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild at his home in London.
In the United States, mainstream Christian Zionism can be mostly traced to William Hechler, who formed a committee of Christian Zionists that was behind a mission to move Russian Jewish refugees to the land that is now Israel after a series of pogroms.
In the 1880s, Hechler befriended Theodor Herzl, who is considered the founder of modern political Zionism, and who started the World Zionist Organization, which brought together leading Zionists to work towards the founding of a Jewish state in Israel. Hechler worked with Herzl over the years to drum up support for Zionism.
Today -- 75 years after Israel was officially founded -- the Christian Zionism movement contains tens of millions of believers, most of whom live in the United States.
While some Jews feel uncomfortable with Christian Zionist support for Israel, particularly over issues such as proselytizing and their belief that Jews will convert to Christianity during a predicted Armageddon, Christian Zionists remain an integral part of foreign support for the Jewish state.
For example, their steadfast support for Israel has come during times of crisis, including when Israel's tourism industry took a huge hit during the years of the Second Intifada. The number of Christian tourists to the country eclipsed Jewish tourists when prominent televangelists used their platforms to encourage their supporters to visit.
In addition, Christian Zionist organizations have donated huge sums of money to Israeli causes, such as to charities that pay to bring in Jews from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia.
The question of whether or not the ancient Megiddo Mosaic should be pried up and loaned to an American Christian museum is debatable.
That which is not debatable and has been missed in the mosaic coverage is that there is nothing new about evangelical support for Israel.