Churchianity’s Support for Israeli Genocide and “Cheers for the Talmud”
Analyzing Douglas Wilson’s new book, “Antisemitism, the Promise of Deuteronomy, and the True Israel of God”
American Milk and Honey: Antisemitism, the Promise of Deuteronomy, and the True Israel of God
By Douglas Wilson
Canon Press, 2023, 236 pages
Reviewed by Michael Hoffman
Douglas Wilson, the prominent pastor of Christ Church, is almost always by turns provocative, brilliant, infuriating, dead wrong and plain right. This influential Calvinist (“Reformed”) theologian writes, lectures and broadcasts in a Geneva-like citadel in the north Idaho town of Moscow, where Christian conservative institutes and families have arisen like fields of sunflowers. He writes a lively blog at https://dougwils.com/
His Canon Press this month published American Milk and Honey, provocatively subtitled “Antisemitism, the Promise of Deuteronomy, and the True Israel of God.” It contains facts which radically undercut some of the reigning orthodoxies of evangelical and conservative Protestantism; and Wilson being Wilson, makes other assertions which radically undercut his radical undercutting.
In the early pages of the book he writes, “I am a supercessionist, a doctrine which holds that the promises given to Israel in the Old Testament have been fulfilled in the New Israel, which is the Christian church. The Greek word Iudaios can be rendered either as ‘Jew’ (as opposed to Gentiles), or as ‘Judean,’ as opposed to Galilean…
“… because there is no salvation apart from Christ, modern Jews, who reject Christ as their Messiah, are rejecting their only possible hope of salvation. I am not a Zionist, Christian, or otherwise, which means I don't believe there was a theological case to be made for the establishment of Israel and Palestine in 1948… I believe that the Holocaust was a horrific evil, but I don't believe it sui generis—the human race has it been every bit as wicked as that before, and on numerous occasions.”
The preceding two paragraphs are, in our post-modernist 21st century, burn-‘em-at-the-stake heresies, and if that form of capital punishment were still around Rev. Mr. Wilson would be consigned to the flames, which tells us that his book is not for the mainstream or the Establishment. It is for a minority in America, though a substantial—and in the Republican party—significant one; this minority being Right-wing Protestant Christendom.
Let’s call the author’s paragraphs the “Three Theses.” He has nailed them to the door of the Church. They contain points which, as Elvis stated in one of his hit songs, are “guaranteed to blow your mind,” or at least the minds of Franklin Graham, Mike Pence, Ron DeSantis, Jonathan Greenblatt and their minions: 1. The Church is Israel Now. 2. God did not establish “the State of Israel” in Palestine. 3. There were many holocausts in history, not just one.
Having asserted these chili pepper-hot dissents, none of which would have been particularly controversial in Christianity a century ago, Douglas Wilson is hereafter unlikely to be invited to lecture at the Pontifical Academy in Rome, the Israeli Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, or the numerous Scofield Dispensationalist mega-churches that dot the map of America.
Israeli Propaganda 101
Then tragedy strikes. After he affirms the preceding courageous truths, Dr. Jekyll morphs into Mr. Hyde. It pains me to say this, given my esteem (as I wrote at length in our review of his book Mere Christendom, “Christian Nationalism: Blessing or Menace?”).
In view of the datum that he is emerging on the national scene as the pre-eminent theologian of a muscular, masculine faith that harkens to the roots of our nation at Plymouth Rock and Lexington and Concord, we ignore his serious misdirection in American Milk and Honey at our peril.
I’m distressed and confounded by that fact that a man of Wilson’s luminous vision and intellect would sketch a history of Palestine which is a gullible regurgitation of Israeli Propaganda 101, exhibiting no healthy skepticism of Zionist axioms, and little or no familiarity with indispensable histories by eminent Judaic scholars such as Ilan Pappé, Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk, Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, Norman Finkelstein and Alfred Lilienthal. We get a reference to militant Zionist Dennis Prager and zero reference to a little incident known as the Nakba, when 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their ancestral lands and thousands were murdered by terrorists commanded by future Israeli Prime Ministers Begin and Shamir.
Pastor Wilson accepts without question the Israeli hasbara endlessly parroted in the U.S. that the Palestinians were offered a viable, independent state of their own and those “terrorists” rejected this Zionist munificence. Wilson writes: “In the year 2000, they (Israel) offered the Palestinians their own state, including Gaza, and 95% of the West Bank. But the Palestinian leadership rejected the offer, and sent waves of terrorists into Israel.”
Pastor Wilson is referring to the Oslo Accords. The documentary record is as follows: the Israeli government issued a diktat that the Palestinians were “to accept unconditionally its peace program: the creation of a demilitarized Bantustan without independent foreign or economic policy, and without the huge settlement blocks in Gaza, the greater Jerusalem area, the Hebron mountains, or the Jordan Valley.”
In return for this radically reduced concept of “Palestine,” the Palestinian leadership “was asked to declare the end of the conflict and the end of all its previous demands, including the right of the (hundreds of thousands of displaced) Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. Needless to say, the future of the Palestinians in Israel was not part of the program.” (Cf. Pappé, The Forgotten Palestinians: A History [Yale University Press, 2011], pp. 221-222).
The founding human rights principle of the Israeli state is The Right of Return of the Jews to their Biblical Homeland. But “the right of return” is also sacred to Palestinians. At this point we enter the realm of Talmudic supremacism’s race dogma, where rights claimed by Arabs are diminished and denied due to their status as “lesser souled” beings (BT Sanhedrin 57a; Bava Kamma 113, Bava Metzia 24A).
In the Tanya of Shneur Zalman of Lyady we encounter the doctrine that the souls of the gentiles contain no good whatsoever, as it is written in the Etz Chayim, which teaches that…all the good which the gentiles do is from self-serving, egotistical motives and as such this apparent good is actually a type of sin.”
Tanya Likutei Amarim I: ‘This law is taught: in the case of Israel, this soul of the kelipah is derived from kelipat nogah, which also contains good, as it originates in the esoteric ‘Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.’ The souls of the nations of the world (gentiles) however, emanate from the other, unclean kelipot which contain no good whatever, as is written in Etz Chayim, 49: 3, that all the good that the nations do, is done from selfish motives. So the Gemara comments on the verse, ‘The kindness of the nations is sin,’— all the charity and kindness done by the nations of the world is only for their own self-glorification.”
It is important to place this ghastly dogma in context. First, the majority of Jews in the world have no idea that these teachings exist and if they did they would repudiate them. Anyone who would use the facts in the preceding paragraph to negatively stereotype a majority of the Judaic people of the world would be guilty of propagating a type of collective hatred without exception, which is what we see aimed at the people of Gaza by the Zionists. Researchers and activists of integrity should make precise distinctions and eschew generalizations.
Second, the contempt for gentiles in the Talmud of Babylon and successive sacred halachic volumes was, in general, not often acted upon, and did not constitute a praxis until it was weaponized by Zionism.
It is Zionist-Talmudism that now predominates in the Knesset (Israeli legislature). We elucidated the perimeters of Talmudism before and after Zionism in our study, “The Disaster of Israeli Zionism: The Cryptocracy’s Covert Stratagem for the Destruction of the Jewish People.”
In light of the fact that the Palestinians are subjugated by a Zionism which has reanimated once dormant Talmudic injunctions, how likely is it that the Palestinians will receive fair treatment at the hands of the Israeli government?
Any peace treaty, the Palestinians insist, must include a Law of Return for Palestinian refugees: “It has remained their fundamental objective since 1948. Their determination on the return issue has endured despite warfare, suffering, an enormous, social, and political changes.” (Ibid., Pappé).
Wilson, relying on the paint-by number “history” served up by Dennis Prager and other polemicists posing as historians, expects the Palestinians to forfeit that which Israelis hold sacred. This is the Talmudic double-standard which the Palestinians were right to reject. They too seek a Right of Return. Why not?
I cringe at Right-wing Christendom’s implicit naiveté, which holds that the Israelis made an honest, good faith offer to the Palestinians which the Israelis firmly intended to uphold; that claim is a sinister joke.
Every government of any nation lies and breaks its word on occasion; it’s a given. Yet, for the Israelis, deceiving and breaking agreements is the default method of conducting relations with the subjugated Palestinians. Does Wilson factor this reality into the history at hand? He discredits his thesis by failing to do so.
As a representative example of the long history of institutionalized mendacity and deception, let’s examine the outrageous lie told by Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion (born David Grün in Russian Poland), a founding father of the Israeli state, concerning a 1953 massacre by the Israeli military. On August 5, 1953 Ariel Sharon was placed in command of military Unit 101, tasked with terrorizing Arab civilians into fleeing Palestine. On October 14 troops from Sharon’s Unit 101 bombed and shot up the Palestinian village of Qibya. At least sixty Palestinian men, women and children were massacred. There were no Israeli casualties.
Israeli historian Benny Morris writes: “Sharon and the IDF (Israeli armed forces) subsequently claimed the villagers had hidden in sellers and attics, and the troops have been unaware of this when they blew up the buildings. But in truth, the troops had moved from house to house, firing through windows and doorways, and Jordanian pathologists reported that most of the dead had been killed by bullets and shrapnel rather than by falling masonry or explosions. In any event, the operational orders from (Israeli) CO central command to the units involved, dated October 13, had explicitly ordered ‘destruction and maximum killing.’
“…On October 19 Ben Gurion went on the air with a wholly fictitious account of what had happened… ‘we have carried out a searching investigation, and it is clear beyond doubt that not a single army unit was absent from its base on the night of the attack on Qibya.’ But everyone understood that the military was responsible, and that the operation had been authorized by the government.” (Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab conflict, 1881–1999 [New York, 1999, pp. 278-279; italics added).
“Systematic Israeli prevarication”
“The Palestinian claim that Israel refuses to implement signed agreements and violates its commitments in various other ways is beyond dispute. A simple comparison of the September 1993 declaration of principles (“Oslo”), the September 1995 Interim Agreement, (Oslo II), the January 1997 Hebron Protocol, the October 1998 Wye River Memorandum, and the September 1999 Sharm el Sheikh agreement, reveals a clear pattern in which Israel first refuses to implement its own commitments, seeks and obtains their dilution in a new agreement, subsequently engages in systematic prevarication, and finally demands additional negotiations, leading to a yet further diluted agreement. (Cf. Mouin Rabbani, The New Intifada , pp. 72-78).
Despite the cynical realpolitik involved, Wilson swallows whole the Israeli line with the utopian credulity of a grammar school choir boy: “the Palestinian leadership…could have a Palestinian state tomorrow (not counting Jordan, which already is a Palestinian state), if they would simply acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, and agree to live in peace.”
Zionist deceit and denial related to the Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty
Douglas Wilson is a Navy veteran who, with no qualms or doubts, asserts his complete faith in the Israeli allegation that they offered a genuine and generous peace deal to the Palestinians. He doesn’t ask how a government that massacred American sailors and then lied and deceived for decades concerning the atrocity, would prove an honest broker for peace with the Palestinians.
The Israeli account of their deliberate bombing and strafing of the US Navy ship Liberty in 1967, killing 34 American sailors and wounding 173, consists of outrageous lies and disinformation. According to the testimony of Admiral Thomas Moorer, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “the Israeli air attack lasted approximately 25 minutes, during which time unmarked Israeli aircraft dropped napalm canisters on USS Liberty's bridge, and fired 30mm cannons and rockets into our ship, causing 821 holes, more than 100 of which were rocket-size; survivors estimate 30 or more sorties were flown over the ship by a minimum of 12 attacking Israeli planes which were jamming all five American emergency radio channels.
“…the torpedo boat attack involved not only the firing of torpedoes, but the machine-gunning of Liberty's firefighters and stretcher-bearers as they struggled to save their ship and crew; the Israeli torpedo boats later returned to machine-gun at close range three of the Liberty’s life rafts that had been lowered into the water by survivors to rescue the most seriously wounded…there is compelling evidence that Israel's attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew…That in attacking USS Liberty, Israel committed acts of murder against American servicemen and an act of war against the United States.”
What chance does Rev. Wilson think the Palestinians have in finding an honest partner for peace, when Israelis committed an act of war against their own American “ally” and have attempted to fool the world about it for 56 years?
Dissimulation and prevarication are permitted by Talmudic halacha (BT Yevamot 65b, Bava Kamma 113a, Sanhedrin 11a; also cf. Judaism Discovered, pp. 595-608).
In studying the texts at length one discovers a process of legitimating the expansion of grounds for prevarication and duplicity. The permission to lie creates an ever larger body of precedent for ever more situations under which falsehoods are sanctioned. The Tosafot on Baba Metvia 23b states that “all permitted lies are really subsets of one sweeping permission found in Yevamot 65b.”
12,000 Palestinian civilians murdered in a matter of weeks but Churchianity has it that Israel “is constrained by just war theory”
Wilson further discredits his argument by making the evidence-free, indeed completely bonkers observation that Israel “is constrained by just war theory.” As Jonathan Cook notes, “even when Israel commits crimes against humanity in broad daylight…Western establishments still refuse to acknowledge those crimes…”
I’m reading Pastor Wilson’s mind-boggling assertion in the wake of the 12,000 Palestinians murdered in October-November of this year, as collective punishment for what Hamas terrorists perpetrated on October 7:
“As of November 25, in less than two months, more than twice as many women and children have been reported killed in Gaza by Israeli forces than in Ukraine after two years of war.
“…the pace of death during Israel’s campaign has few precedents in this century. People are being killed in Gaza more quickly, they say, than in even the deadliest moments of U.S.-led attacks in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan…Israel’s liberal use of very large weapons in dense urban areas, including U.S.-made 2,000-pound bombs that can flatten an apartment tower, is surprising, some experts say…
“In one documented case, Israel used at least two 2,000-pound bombs during an Oct. 31 airstrike on Jabaliya, a densely populated area just north of Gaza City, flattening buildings and creating impact craters 40 feet wide, according to an analysis of satellite images, photos and videos by The New York Times. Airwars independently confirmed that at least 126 civilians were killed, more than half of them children…
“It’s beyond anything that I’ve seen in my career,’ said Marc Garlasco…a former senior intelligence analyst at the Pentagon. To find a historical comparison for so many large bombs in such a small area, he said, we may ‘have to go back to Vietnam, or the Second World War.’…More than twice as many women and children have already been reported killed in Gaza than in Ukraine after almost two years of Russian attacks, according to United Nations estimates….Women and children account for nearly 70 percent of all deaths reported in Gaza…More than 60,000 buildings have been damaged or destroyed in the Gaza Strip, satellite analysis indicates…
“Every day, local journalists in Gaza report strikes that hit private homes, some of which kill a dozen or more people as families shelter together in tight quarters. On Oct. 19, Israel struck a Greek Orthodox church where hundreds of Gaza’s small Christian community were sheltering at dinnertime, killing 18 civilians, according to an investigation by Amnesty International.” Source: “Gaza Civilians, Under Israeli Barrage, Are Being Killed at Historic Pace,” New York Times, Nov. 25. 2023.
If this is “just war theory” in action, I would hate to see what an unjust war would look like.
“We are fighting human animals, and we are acting accordingly,” said Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister. “You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible — we do remember,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, referring to the ancient enemy of the Israelites in scripture, representing a call to exterminate their “men and women, children and infants.”
Hate speech used to describe the Palestinian people by journalists, retired generals, celebrities, and social media influencers has proliferated. Calls for Gaza to be “flattened” or “destroyed” have been mentioned about 18,000 times since Oct. 7 in Hebrew posts on X, the site formerly known as Twitter. The cumulative effect has been to normalize genocide—talk of “erasing” the people of Gaza and the nuclear annihilation of the Arab people. In early November Amichay Eliyahu, an Israeli official, told an Israeli radio station that there is no such thing as noncombatants in Gaza. He advocated that the Israeli military drop a nuclear bomb on the territory.
Eyal Golan, a star of the Israeli pop music scene, stated in a TV interview with Israeli Channel 14, “Erase Gaza. Don’t leave a single person there.”
In a radio interview in October, Israel’s First Lady, Sara Netanyahu, said in regard to the Palestinians, “I don’t call them human animals because that would be insulting to animals.”
Israeli war crimes in Gaza justified by invoking the mass killing of Japanese and German civilians in World War II
Similar rhetorical points have been made by other Israeli leaders and influencers as justification for the Israeli bombing of civilians in Gaza, including references to the indiscriminate Allied firebombing of civilians in Tokyo and Dresden ordered by Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt during World War II.
“It became evident to U.S. officials that Israeli leaders believed mass civilian casualties were an acceptable price in the military campaign. In private conversations with American counterparts, Israeli officials referred to how the United States and other allied powers resorted to devastating bombings in Germany and Japan during World War II…” (New York Times, October 31, 2023, p. A1).
Just war theory requires the Israelis to enter Gaza, overcome and apprehend Hamas fighters, take them as prisoners of war and try them according to the rules of war, rather than incinerating and flattening entire cities packed with women and children, acts which constitute state terrorism and war crimes.
In this regard Rev. Wilson appears to be clueless, along with millions of viewers of Fox News and CNN.
The Israelis killed 20,000 Arab civilians in indiscriminate bombings in Beirut, Lebanon throughout the summer of 1982, culminating in massive terror bombings in August. How can anyone reconcile that holocaust with “just war theory”?
We are entering a twilight zone of the surreal where facts have no impact on confirmation bias. Right wing Churchianity has a psychological need to “stand with Israel,” no matter the reality of the unconscionable Israeli slaughter of the innocent.
Corporate America boycotts Elon Musk’s “X” social media due to his alleged “antisemitism,” while their flagship Wall Street Journal publishes hate speech against civilians in Gaza, with no adverse consequences for the Journal. Major corporations continue to advertise heedless of the anti-Arab bigotry. In the November 17 Journal (p. A14), we were told that the people of Gaza as a whole are filled with “hatred” and “disinformation.”
In the same issue, Tony Badran, News editor of Tablet Magazine, wrote: The “proposal that America and other Western nations take in tens of thousands of refugees from Gaza is sheer lunacy…America cannot and should not accept more people from sick societies, never mind likely terror supporters and anti-Semites.” From these remarks we glimpse the insinuation that Palestinian civilians are collectively spiritually and psychologically “sick…anti-semites.” This hate speech has real world consequences, which is one reason we have taken Wilson to task at length. Conservative Christians continue to join the US military in higher numbers than the general population, often serving overseas. Pastor Wilson’s readership includes present and future members of the armed forces who are likely to be dutiful servants of war Zionism as a consequence.
In Pastor Wilson’s section on the Babylonian Talmud, he verifies— by either quoting from or alluding to—a few of the most heinous and despicable portions of the Talmud, whose existence for centuries has been denied. He omits some of the worst (the teaching that Jesus was a magician who deserved to be killed, and that the mother of Jesus was a harlot). Nonetheless, at first glance it looks as though it required considerable testicular fortitude for him to address these forbidden facts in print.
And yet, in retrospect, his revelations almost appear to be—I hope I’m wrong—a form of damage control. Is this a case of conceding as authentic what researchers such as this writer have documented about the contents of the Talmud, and then proceeding to muddy the waters? More harrowing, he gives qualified praise to the Talmud, and even makes a case for the Pharisees.
“Two Cheers for the Talmud”
In a section he titles, “Two Cheers for the Talmud,” he suggests it contains knowledge as valuable as “gold and silver.” Later he asks, “…what can we say in favor of the Talmud”? To which a Socratic interlocutor might reply, Why do you feel the need to say anything in its favor?
According to the denotation of the word “favor,” Wilson is asking what there is in the Talmud of which a Christian may approve. This writer has read thousands of pages of the Mishnah, Gemara, Midrash, Zohar, Mishneh Torah, Shulchan Aruch, Tanya, Mishnah Berurah, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, and other sacred volumes at the level of pshat, remez, derush and sod, cognizant of the exegetical tools of middot and gezera shava. These comprise a gigantic heap of self-perpetuating legal and textual arcana.
There would be entertainment value in the surfeit of crazed rules and minutiae were it not for the lamentable fact that they are employed to oppress the Judaic people who are in thrall to them: the countless laws micromanaging how to wash the dishes, sweep the floor, sleep, nap, urinate, the holy way to defecate, the demons that dwell in the outhouse and how to avoid them, the rabbis who successfully make a cow using magic, and myriad other trivialities and hooey which nonetheless have the force of law.
There is also horror, like the numerous statements of extreme misogyny—for instance, likening women sexually to “meat” (BT Nedarim 20a): “Whatever a man wishes to do with his wife he may do. He may engage in sexual intercourse with her in any manner that he wishes, and need not concern himself with restrictions. She is like meat that comes from the butcher.” Women are “sacks of excrement” (BT Shabbat 152b).
Let’s not overlook the halachos of Niddah which resulted in endless hours on Sigmund Freud’s psychiatric couch in Vienna, as women under the suzerainty of the Talmud attempted to free themselves of the curses applied to them if they violated its man-made laws on menstruation. Then there is the abrogation of God’s solemn command that all debts were to end in seven years, as well as the untold misery resulting from the Talmudic teaching that black people are forever destined to be hereditary slaves (BT Sanhedrin 108b), as result of Ham allegedly having sodomized Noah on board the ark (BT Sanhedrin 70a).
“Two cheers for the Talmud”? How about none?
In the midst of thousands of pages of spiritually dead detritus, Rev. Wilson minimizes it and announces that—get ready for it—thanks to Messiah ben Joseph, a book by David Mitchell, which we are “urged to consult,” we can indeed approve of the Talmud in a limited way:
“Mitchell’s book is a work of dense scholarship…it is rich. And an essential part of the richness is seen in how it displays the meticulous and detailed knowledge of the text of scripture displayed by the rabbis.”
So what? In Matthew 4:6, Satan himself quotes Psalm 91: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” In ages past it was common knowledge that “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose” (Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 3).
Most Christians who have been led to believe the Talmud offers wise insights into the Bible, have little familiarity with the actual contents of the Talmud. If they were aware that it teaches blasphemy against the holy name of Jesus, Christians would condemn it unequivocally. Douglas Wilson, who is not ignorant in this regard, likens portions of the Talmud to gold, silver and “treasure,” and suggests that we offer qualified cheers for it. The recklessness of his misdirection is breath-taking.
Jesus complimented the Pharisees — sort of
He does something similar on behalf of the Pharisees: he upholds the monotonous propaganda that is all too familiar to those who have for years been in this struggle with both papal and Protestant Churchianity. He writes that Jesus gave the Pharisees a “back-handed compliment” with Christ’s reference to the Pharisees being in the judgement seat of Moses—after which Jesus says, “Whatsoever they bid you, observe.” (Matthew 23: 2-3).
What exactly is complimentary about this statement of fact by Jesus? In the note on this passage in the English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible we read, “Jesus recognized the Pharisees’ official function as interpreters of the law of Moses, and in so far as they accurately interpreted scripture, they were to be obeyed. However, ‘so’ (Gr. oun) connects this verse with verse 2, and the mention of Moses, and therefore, ‘whatever they tell you’ should probably be limited to ‘whatever they tell you about the law of Moses,’ and does not include the Pharisees’ later extensive additions to Mosaic laws which rabbinic teachers made… Jesus is about to show that much of the Pharisees’ practice and their extra-biblical tradition is wrong.”
Rev. Wilson’s confusion is evident in his hair-splitting comment on this passage in Matthew 23: 2-3. He writes, “Christ was closer doctrinally to the Pharisees than he was to the Sadducees.” Yeah, and the earth is closer to the planet Uranus than galaxy GN-z11, but earth is still 1.7 billion miles from Uranus, and Jesus was a billion miles distant spiritually and theologically from the Pharisees, with whom He shared no doctrinal relationship, not even relatively. When the Pharisees spoke the doctrine of Moses from the seat of Moses, needless to say it was Mosaic, not Pharisaic.
The doctrine of the Pharisees, whether contrasted with the Sadducees or not, consisted of their own extra-biblical traditions. It is a serious error to assert that Jesus in some way, shape or form was “close” to traditions which comprised doctrines “which nullify the word of God” (Mark 7).
In Luke 12:1 our Lord describes those doctrines as the “leaven of the Pharisees.” What did He mean? How does leaven work? Silently; the smallest particle of it when spread to other dough, will ferment the whole of it. What then is Jesus warning of? He was exhorting us to beware of the smallest particle of the doctrine of the Pharisees, lest it infect the whole of the community of believers.
For some reason, Jesus’ famous “woes,” issued to the Pharisees, are reduced by Rev. Wilson solely to what he terms Christ’s “fierce denunciations of pietistic and scrupulous folly.” Pietism and scrupulosity were the main sins worth mentioning in regard to the Pharisees?
Wilson’s creampuff distillation belies one of the most serious charges which Jesus famously laid against them in Matthew 23:15: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”
Charging them with being the children of hell would seem to be a trifle more exigent than assessing them as overly-scrupulous pietists. It is a momentous warning concerning what the Pharisees represent in the essence of their theology. Why did Rev. Wilson omit it?
St. Paul was honored to have been a Pharisee — sort of
As if his pro-Pharisee rationalization about Jesus was not enough, Pastor Wilson’s vague connection between the views of Jesus and those of the Pharisees leads on toward his suggestion of St. Paul’s alleged lingering esteem for his past association with them. Wilson’s hint is just nebulous enough to have us attempting to nail jello to the wall in trying to determine what exactly Wilson is denoting.
What he’s connoting however, is visible. Rev. Wilson endeavors to find something favorable to the Pharisees in St. Paul’s declaration in Acts 23:6, about which Pastor Wilson states, “… the apostle Paul was trained as a Pharisee under Gamaliel, and even after his conversion, was willing to still identify himself in that way: before the Sanhedrin he cried out that he was a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees, and that he was on trial, because of his belief in the resurrection of the dead.”
As a bald restatement of a scripture verse, Wilson’s reference to Acts 23:6 is of course not objectionable. But within the context of his over-arching notion of Jesus paying a compliment to the Pharisees, it lends itself to the fantasy that Paul did so as well. In Churchianity this is a favorite bit of what Mencken would have termed buncombe. For example, in Pope John Paul II’s 1985 document, “Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews,” we read, “Paul…always considered his membership of the Pharisees as a title of honor.”
In Acts 21-23 Paul is facing a violent Jewish mob and a Sanhedrin that seeks to kill him. He identifies himself as a Pharisee as a divide-and-conquer tactic in order to sow discord between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The passage, when taken in context (Acts 23:6-7) reveals this: “Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, ‘Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.’ And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.”
Nowhere does Scripture denote, suggest or imply that Paul considers the title of Pharisee to be in any way benevolent. Reading from Acts 21:17 through to Acts 23:35 we see that St. Paul is not relaxing on a seaside veranda teaching disciples while at his ease. He is in peril of his life. Nonetheless, no matter what duress he is under, Paul’s intention is not to deceive anyone by his statement. Rather, he is humbly informing the threatening, violence-prone Pharisees that, as you are now, I once was. In his public confession in Acts 22:3-5, he convicts himself of Pharisaic crimes: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness.”
Does Rev. Wilson expect us to believe that the Apostle Paul regards it as some kind of recommendation that as a Pharisee he “persecuted to death” those of the “Way” (of Christ)? St. Paul’s statement in Acts 23:6 that, “I am a Pharisee” must be read in the context of his statement that precedes it in Acts 22:20: “And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.” Where is Paul indicating there is anything good about a Pharisee?
In these passages the apostle is addressing the Judaizers in the Church, attempting to persuade them of the errors of their ways. He is making his statement not on the basis of the proposition that he was showing forth the merit of being a Pharisee, but to demonstrate that in opposing the Pharisaic Judaizing of the ecclesia of Christ, he himself did not lack a Pharisee pedigree.
Ashkenazic Jews are really gentiles—no, wait—they’re “natural branches”—no, wait—they’re the covenant people—unless their covenant is with Ishmael, no, wait…
The author of American Milk and Honey descends into incoherence when he raises the issue of Jews and racial lineage. He mentions in a footnote, “It is often said that Ashkenazi Jews are not Jews at all, and that there is not a drop of Abraham’s blood in their veins. And so it is maintained that this is all a lot of fuss and bother over a bunch of nothing. ‘A gift is not irrevocable if it was never given.”
In other words Ashekenazic Jews are gentiles. He does not say that he believes this, only that it’s a common assertion. He then proceeds to drop the following bombshell: “This overlooks the fact that being a Jew was always about covenant and not about DNA.”
What happens to the statement that “God loves the Jews for the sake of their fathers” if they are actually not Jews?
There are no more race-obsessed books on planet earth than the volumes of the Talmud, and no more assiduous genealogy-trackers than many Talmudists, who have made one’s yichus a key to rabbinic position and claims to authority. Moreover, marriage to a highly desirable spouse in orthodox Judaism is predicated on one’s lineage, as almost any shidduch knows.
This Talmudic obsession is also a consuming passion of Dispensational Protestantism, which has built its theology upon the belief that the Ashkenazic and Khazar European-descended Judaics are indeed the direct genetic descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Wilson, en passant, suggests (sort of) that maybe they are not. In which case, no problem. He opines, “It will be a piece of cake for God to graft them into the olive tree again.”
He adds as an afterthought, “He can graft in anybody—especially the natural branches (Romans 11:24, italics added).”
So the Ashkenzai are genetically (naturally) Jews after all? Go figure.
Then there’s this from chapter 8: “Although the ethnic Jews are descended from Abraham physically, covenantally speaking, they are Ishmaelites. Summed up, they are in a covenant of bondage.” What happened to the statement that “being a Jew was always about covenant”?
He puts the finishing touch on this farrago in his Glossary, where he quotes from the December 2022 statement of the Calvinist “Knox Presbytery” (Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches), of which the church he pastors is a member:
“A common assertion among antisemites is that the Ashkenazi Jews converted to Judaism a number of centuries after Christ, and thus, there is not a drop of Abraham’s blood in their veins.”
A common assertion among antisemites? There’s an alarming insinuation in that statement, which appears to have been lifted verbatim from ADL purple prose, that only antisemites believe that the Ashkenazi are not genetic descendants of the Old Testament patriarchs, and respectable scientists and ethnographers all reject the claim. Here we’re observing that which transforms an otherwise generally decent and intrepid Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches, into a pusillanimous outpost of Churchianity.
Do these churchmen actually believe it is usually “antisemitic” to offer a dissenting genetic or ethnographic opinion? If not, they should have said as much. Otherwise, it’s about as “woke” as it gets. Israeli genetic scientist Dr. Eran Elhaik, linguist Paul Wexler and Jewish man of letters Arthur Koestler are all suspect antisemites? Should these leaders in science, philology and literature who are motivated by a pursuit of the truth, be libeled in this fashion? It smacks of false witness and politically correct pandering to the delusions of the thought police.
Moreover, in his chapter on “American Exceptionalism” Wilson writes, “Britain used her military prowess at sea to suppress the slave trade, and so she was chosen for that.” He neglects to mention the fact that England’s Navy was among the first to put the trans-Atlantic slave trade on a firm basis, with Protestant heroine Queen Elizabeth I a heavy investor, and recipient of the wealth gained from the traffic in African flesh, which her pirates Hawkins and Drake obtained on her behalf. It looks as though “she was chosen for that” too.
There are welcome insights in Rev. Wilson’s American Milk and Honey, such as his review of the salvation of gentiles in the Old Testament (in the digital Kindle edition at 1026, 1043, 1061 1079, 1113, 1131, 1149). Unfortunately, at 1201 he makes reference to the “Shekinah glory” in Jerusalem. There’s no such word Shekinah in the Bible. It’s an allusion to a female Kabbalistic deity; it is unfortunate to see it employed by a sola Scriptura exegete.
Douglas Wilson has been in the past a man for all seasons: a tireless educator, school, church and college founder, sagacious marriage counselor, scholar, author, wit and thorn in the side of the COVID cops when he hosted a public psalm-singing in downtown Moscow without the singers being masked, in defiance of a local Idaho ordinance. Some of his congregants were arrested.
The town of Moscow is bursting at the seams with hopeful, conservative Christian families. Much of the thanks are due to Douglas Wilson and his associates. Many of his Biblical seminars and homilies are instructive and edifying, enlivened by his merry wit.
In the face of the contents of American Milk and Honey, we are led to wonder whether his fine accomplishments of the past have somehow become subordinate to a qualified rehabilitation of the Talmud, and support for Israeli war criminals in the face of overwhelming evidence of their atrocities. While we acknowledge Wilson’s tremendous achievements, we respect him enough to protest and call for a return to his high standards.
Writing this review has been more of a duty than a joy. It is offered in a spirit of assistance to Pastor Wilson—extending to him the benefit of the doubt that his cheers for the Talmud of Mystery Babylon and war Zionism, are not a matter of a hidden agenda. Personally, I doubt that they are. Whatever the case, I pray he will forthwith correct his errors for the benefit of the many souls in his care.
We have also penned this review to counter grotesque historical illiteracy about Palestine and the record of the ongoing extrusion and murder of the Palestinian and Lebanese people, as well to disseminate accurate knowledge of the Babylonian Talmud and the halacha derived from it, and we do so in service to all of God’s people, Jew and Gentile.
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Michael Hoffman manages the podcast, Revisionist History®. He is the author of the banned 2008 textbook Judaism Discovered (1,102 pages), and nine other volumes of history and literature, as well as 122 issues of the periodical, Revisionist History®. He is a former reporter for the New York bureau of the Associated Press and a former consultant to the news department of the New York Times. His books have been published in translation in Japan and France. He resides with his family in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
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