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 Gary M Burge & "Christ at the Checkpoint"

Gary Burge: Not Sent by Heaven
by Malcolm Lowe
November 9, 2012 at 4:45 am

One wonders whether Wheaton College believes that such programs befit a respectable teaching institution…. Burge's comparison of himself with Jesus is preposterous and absurd.

While most Evangelical Protestants are generally friendly to the Jewish people and the State of Israel, there is a small band of Evangelical pastors and professors who want to line up all Evangelicals unilaterally on the Palestinian side. The most egregious example may be Anglican vicar Stephen Sizer, whose has chummed up with the likes of Naturei Karta and Iranian President Ahmadinejad. But Gary Burge probably wields the greater influence.

As "Professor of New Testament" at Wheaton College, where he has taught since 1992, Burge has taken whole generations of Evangelical students to such places as the Bethlehem Bible College for one-sided indoctrination in the Palestinian "narrative." That is, the students are bombarded with typical Palestinian complaints about Israel. Encouragement to investigate the veracity of those complaints is lacking, let alone the history of Palestinian aggression against Israelis and the corruption and misrule of the Palestinian Authority.

Will those unfortunate students be able to cause Israel much harm? Maybe not. The harm done to impressionable young minds is another question. One wonders whether Wheaton College believes that such programs befit a respectable Christian teaching institution.

In March 2012, Burge was back at the Bethlehem Bible College to lecture at the so-called "Christ at the Checkpoint" conference. The very title of the conference betrays its misleading agenda. The idea was to underline that today if Mary and Joseph tried to visit Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus, Israeli security would stop them at a checkpoint. All this ignores, of course, the fact that they were a family of Jews committed to observance of the Jewish religion.

Today, indeed, if a young couple called Miriam and Yosef from Upper Nazareth tried to go to Bethlehem for the birth of Miriam's child, they would be turned back at the checkpoint. This is because Israel forbids its Jewish citizens from entering Area A of the Palestinian authority, lest they be killed or kidnapped.

But let us suppose that the Jewish couple managed to pass or evade the checkpoint. They would certainly be given "no room at the inn" by the Palestinians, while all the world's foreign ministries would denounce those "Jewish settlers" for their attempt to set up residence in Bethlehem. Such elementary verities, of course, surpass the mental capacity of the partisans of "Christ at the Checkpoint."

Burge's lecture is available on Internet as a video; there is also an excellent written summary by one of the participants in the conference. The official title was "Theology of the Land in the New Testament," but about a third of it was chit-chat about Burge's encounters with Jews in Israel. Recalling those encounters, Burge emphasized time and again the "fun" that he got from subjecting his Jewish counterparts to ridicule. At the end of the presentation, Burge whipped himself into a fervor about how, the next time he goes to Jerusalem, he could preach his version of Christianity in the Jewish quarter of the Old City.

Now, one might sympathize with Burge when he meets Jews who want to transfer the Dome of the Rock to some other site in order to rebuild the Temple. That is, if he has reported them correctly. There is, for instance, a Jewish group that has used ancient Jewish sources to reconstruct the implements used in Temple worship. Generally, however, such groups maintain that building the Temple itself must await the coming of the Messiah; in the meantime, one can only make such preparations for that event.

But let us consider an example that shows Burge's failure to understand either Judaism or the New Testament accounts themselves. Burge was in the Western Wall plaza and intent on taking photographs on a Sabbath, when some Jews warned him that it was forbidden.

"So I had my camera in my hand and they thought it was a good moment to come over and teach me a lesson about why you shouldn't take photos on the Sabbath. This sounded like fun, so after their sermon I asked them, well, what is really wrong theologically with using a camera on Sabbath? Honestly, debating details of Sabbath observance on the Sabbath sounded very biblical, especially one hundred yards from the Temple. So they argued that pushing the button on the shutter release was doing work. I told them climbing all these stairs all over Jerusalem was more work and on it went for about a half hour. This could have been a scene right out of the Gospel. I said I was celebrating the beauty of God's creation by taking a picture, they said I was breaking the Law. I was having a great time."

Here Burge shows a fundamental ignorance that might be forgiven the average Christian layperson, but is inexcusable in anyone who purports to be a professor of Bible. The meaning of "doing no work" in regard to the Sabbath has nothing whatever to do with physical effort. Doing no work means refraining from creation, just as God spent the seventh day without creating anything. Making a photograph, of course, is an act of creation. So the proper way to "celebrate the beauty of God's creation" on the Sabbath is precisely not to take a picture of it. Or, if Burge had been more inventive, he could have sung the hymn "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation."

Had he put away his camera and sung that well-known verse, he might have given his Jewish interlocutors an unexpected favorable impression of Christianity. Instead, he wilfully confirmed any prejudices that they had about Christian stupidity. That, for Burge, is "having a great time."

As for calling this episode "a scene right out of the Gospel," Burge showed his incomprehension in the field that he teaches. The reference is to various incidents in which Jesus was criticized for healing on the Sabbath. There has been a great deal of insightful scholarship on this topic. That includes an article of mine with David Flusser in New Testament Studies, a journal that all "professors of the New Testament" are assumed to read, as long ago as 1983. The main conclusions are the following:

First of all, both Jesus and his critics were agreed that the Sabbath should be observed scrupulously, but that it could be violated in cases of dire need. Rather, they differed on what counted as dire need. The later Jewish consensus was that only the need to save a human life could justify – and would indeed require – violating the Sabbath, if that life would be lost by not acting before the end of the Sabbath. But earlier on there were less stringent views, such as that of Jesus: his healings concerned lifelong severe handicaps, such as blindness or paralysis.

Moreover, some of the reported healings on the Sabbath do not truly violate it. For instance, when Jesus told a man to stretch out his paralysed hand and the man was able to do it, the hand was found to be healed, but neither Jesus nor the man had done anything that violated the Sabbath.

Both Jesus and his critics would have been astounded to hear of Burge's "dire need" to take a snapshot on the Sabbath, as if it ranked with healing the blind. Burge's comparison of himself with Jesus is preposterous and absurd.

For the sake of Burge's students, I shall relate a different Christian-Jewish encounter. Many Christians in Israel could tell a similar story, but this just happened to me. It took place not far from the scenes of Burge's exploits and only a few weeks later. His students might ask themselves whether this was not a more Christian form of behavior toward Jews. Perhaps it will save them from marching down the "broad way" (Matthew 7.13) behind him.

One Friday evening, just around the beginning of the Sabbath, during a walk around a Jewish neighborhood in the dimming light, I sat down for a while in the deserted street. It was at this point that an elderly lady approached from the other side of the road and interrogated me about "Filipinas." There are many women, and some men, from the Philippines who work as carers for the aged and infirm in Israel, where they are greatly appreciated. The following conversation ensued (in Hebrew).

"Do you know a Filipina?"she asked. "There are many Filipinas," I responded.

"I need a Filipina to do something." Immediately, I understood. Observant Jews are forbidden to turn electricity on or off during the Sabbath. Some have an automatic timer that switches the whole electric system on in the evening, including lights and heating, then switches it off for the night. Maybe her whole flat was in darkness.

"I can do it," I said. "Are you not a Jew?" "I am not a Jew." "A hundred percent not?" she insisted. "A hundred percent." "Are you a Christian?" "Yes."

"Perhaps you were sent by Heaven!" she exclaimed. Reassured, she led me back across the street and up some flights of stairs. In her modest flat there was one light on, in the kitchen, where an older man – presumably her husband – was sitting.

Here was the problem. She had laid a row of little dishes of food on a hotplate, but it was unplugged. All her careful plans for the Sabbath were faced with ruin. I took up the plug and inserted it into a socket. Mission accomplished.

That single light also had to illuminate their sitting room and, more dimly, further rooms down a corridor. I asked if I could do anything else, but no.

At this point a second woman emerged from the corridor. "That's mother," said the first woman, "she's a hundred years old!" "To a hundred and twenty," I responded, wishing her a life as long as Moses. There was nothing more needed, so I retraced my steps down the stairs and left them to their simple Sabbath celebration.

Now let us imagine that she had come across Gary Burge, sitting there in the street. Sent by Heaven? Hardly. It would be another chance to have "fun" at the expense of pious Jews. "Walking up those stairs is much more work than inserting a plug," he would have admonished her. "Do it yourself." "Free yourself from the Law, learn from the Gospel." And he would have walked off, treasuring a new exploit to recount at the next "Christ at the Checkpoint." Burge playing (his understanding of) Jesus again.

 2016/9/6 11:37

 Re: Gary M Burge & "Christ at the Checkpoint"

Honestly Greg,
I think this issue should be OPENLY & HONESTLY (& HUMBLY) discussed once and for all instead of the continual underlying, slide in a little here and a little there approach that's been going on for quite awhile now. I think I can engage in this subject humbly & honestly & am well aware of the agenda propaganda approach of much of the Christ at the Checkpoint crowd. Michael Brown has done extensive debates & Q&A's and shown the CLEAR twisting & misrepresentation of facts by this crew in well documented FACTS. I'm trying to tell you that I am 100% certain there is a pre-thought AGENDA to push these things on SI at whatever pace the moderators & people will bare it. So why not just get it out in the open in truth & get it over with so those who really want this to be their agenda can move on to something else? I'm not trying to be hard, arrogant, or any other accusation that will likely get slung at me. I'm being honest. There is a track record that shows this to be true & I actually have solid concrete straight from the source proof of this agenda, & the Lord has confirmed it prophetically too. So why not just have the discussion openly, respectfully, & FACT based & then the forums can move on hopefully to other spiritual topics concerning everyone's individual growth in Christ?
God Bless,

 2016/9/6 11:45


How do you propose to keep people out of the thread that cannot talk about Christian Zionism in a reasonable way, Jeff?

I would not go there, Jeff. It can't be done. Just drop it.

 2016/9/6 12:20


The truth is, you "go there" from your side all the time, though through subtle, repetitive, stretched out & slid in there, ways CONSTANTLY. Why not just have the conversation in an honest, forthright, open, FACT & SCRIPTURE based way (with no cunning, guile, deceit, slander, etc.)? That's the Biblical way to discuss & debate a subject. Interesting you want to keep up the "underlying agenda" and keep sliding in and promoting these teachers, but want to shut me down in an open, honest, humble attempt to deal with it squarely? And you jump on to tell me to "just drop it"? Really? Why? So you can keep weeding it into the normal Flow of thread after thread in your way of promoting your side of the issue? Why not just discuss & debate it openly & honestly like men, respectfully & truthfully?
God Bless,

 2016/9/6 12:32



You made a good point to me on the other locked thread but why post under 3 or 4 names anyway? And always whats with the the underlying Jewish bashing agenda using religion as the basis to make his ant-semitic posts . This is continual and has alienated some believers here who are of Jewish persuasion. It is a bad, bad witness when allowed to go on and on and on and on and on and on.................

 2016/9/6 12:33


And by the way, I'm fully prepared to deal with what you have to say & quote on Christion Zionism friend, from a Biblical, & probably somewhat surprising to you way. Just like Art Katz did regularly as is expressed on many of his sermons here on SI. But I will call out the propaganda & the straw men with FACTS & with SCRIPTURE Julius. I'm Fully prepared to do that for the sake of truth & to stop the constant skirting of the agenda with head on truth.
God Bless,

 2016/9/6 12:36



Can a leopard change his spots? it's not the Holy Spirit operating through him.
and yet he is allowed to post this anti-semitic garbage here veiled in religion for many months now unabated. It is rather astonishing that the the Holy Spirit is supposed to moderate this forum and yet this goes on and on and on

 2016/9/6 12:40


And I would be ok with "asking" others to just let our conversation go back and forth uninterrupted (though I have no authority or control over anyone, nor would it be my intent to lord it over others) to just respectfully debate this issue once and for all so it doesn't keep getting injected into every other thread on every other thread, be it ever so slyly, or be it after enough time has passed for it to go undetected & unconnected (the dots) by everyone here on SI. Let's just deal with it, share our sides from Facts & Scripture respectfully & get it over with so these anti-Jewish teachers & teachings can quit being interposed in threads on EVERY OTHER subject/thread on SI Continuously. I am glad to do that for the sake of moving on in truth & openess, without guile, deceit or manipulation. To get past the agendas.
God Bless,

 2016/9/6 12:41


Please, I'm asking you respectfully, if Julius was willing to debate this subject here publically with me so we can share and get on with it, would you be willing to step aside & not post within it if others agreed to do likewise?

 2016/9/6 12:43



No offence to you but maybe you can debate him endlessly somewhere else rather than giving him a public forum here to spew forth his anti -Israel agenda .

 2016/9/6 12:45

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