Zion’s Christian Soldiers

The Bible, Israel and the Church, by Stephen Sizer. Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2007.172 pages.  Glossary to p. 175. Notes to p. 188. Recommended reading to p. 190.  Index of biblical references to p. 199. $18.00 paper.

Review in the Journal of Palestine Studies, 2009.


Jewish Zionists like David Ben-Gurion have propagated a selective reading of the Hebrew Bible that provided the Zionist project with ideological reinforcement.  But in the last thirty years with the rise to political and cultural power of Christian fundamentalists, Christian Zionists, particularly in the United States, have produced and disseminated their own reading of the Old Testament and New Testament to similar ends.  

For example, in 1996 Third International Christian Zionist Congress stated, “According to God’s distribution of nations, the Land of Israel has been given to the Jewish People by God as an everlasting possession by an eternal covenant. The Jewish People have the absolute right to possess and dwell in the Land, including Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan” (p. 76).

It is this interpretation of Scripture that Reverend Stephen Sizer that seeks to subvert in Zion’s Christian Soldiers, which is an appeal to his fellow evangelicals to resolutely oppose Christian Zionism on theological grounds.  Sizer writes as a proud evangelical who believes that the Christian Zionists have misread the Bible in fundamental ways.  

How scripture is interpreted, Sizer contends, is extremely important given the harmful effects of such interpretation in the political world:  “In its worst forms, Christian Zionism uses the Bible to justify racial superiority, land expropriation, home demolitions, population transfer, colonial settlements, the denial of international law and the dehumanization of the Arabs. It fuels not only Islamophobia but also anti-Semitism and Islamist retaliation against Christians” (p. 162).

Written in an informal, occasionally conversational, tone, as if he were addressing co-religionists in an adult Bible study class, Sizer is at pains to show the significant differences in biblical interpretation between a convenantalist position, such as his own, and a dispensationalist reading, which is embraced by Israel’s ardent Christian supporters.  For Sizer, “Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises made to Israel, there is ‘one chosen people’ called out from the nations” (p. 13).

In each of his chapters Sizer challenges the interpretation of the Christian Zionists on such issues as the relationship of Israel and the Church, the Promised Land, the nature of Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the Jewish temple, and the supposed “last days.” The essence of Sizer’s position is revealed in such passages as the following: “Christians who support the rebuilding of the temple in the belief that future sacrifices will be memorial offerings, or can even atone for sin, are committing apostasy. Why? Because they are trying to reverse the flow of revelation and go back to the shadows when we already have the light of Christ” (p.128)

While he makes occasional reference to the unjust facts on the ground in Palestine, Sizer’s primary effort is not that of a social or political critique; rather, his is an effort to speak directly and persuasively to his fellow evangelicals to steer clear of what he believes is to be the theologically disastrous project of Christian Zionism. 

Yet, there are other important Christian, non-evangelical theologies that significantly part ways with Sizer by addressing the difficulties of interpretation involving Scripture, ecclesial anti-Semitism, and Palestinian rights, such as the work over the last twenty years of Rosemary Radford Ruether and Naim Ateek, among others.

Sizer’s book may be of limited value and persuasive efficacy both to those Christians and other people of good will who do not share his ardent evangelical assumptions.  Nevertheless, for those who seek an alternative reading of Christian sources from the one that underscores a religiously inspired, apocalyptic catastrophe for the Middle East, Sizer’s book makes for eye-opening and, occasionally, chilling reading.

–Mark Chmiel is an adjunct professor of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, MO.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *