When home life was very different
What was Oliver Cromwell’s view of the Jews?
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For countless centuries Christians viewed Jews as parasites, devils, pariahs and whatever lowly insult prejudiced minds could come up with. But there is some good news; they haven't all wanted to wipe Jews out. It has been said that, in 1589, an English Christian, Francis Kett, was burned alive, his only crime having been to insist that the Jews would some day return to their land, an idea he got from reading the Bible. Things were soon to improve. The improvement came with the Puritans in the 17th Century, who were so thoroughly Hebraic in their worldview that the Old Testament made something of a comeback in the Christian landscape. Concern for the Jewish people was not exactly an unconditional love, but rather on the basis of their end-time expectations. Their reading of Scripture indicated to them that Jesus would only return to this Earth once the Jewish people were restored to their Messiah and to their land. In fact two English Puritans, Joanna and Ebenezer Cartwright, petitioned the British and Dutch governments in the mid 1600s to become "the first and the readiest to transport Izraell's sons and daughters in their ships to the Land promised by their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for an everlasting Inheritance."
Oliver Cromwell was even urged to accept the Jews back into England, a country seemingly devoid of Jews at that time, as it was thought that first the Jews needed to be dispersed to all nations for God’s end-time plans to unfold. To the Puritans, the Jews (as well as themselves) were God’s chosen people and so began the first reversal of Jewish fortune in the Christian world since the Pope stopped being Jewish.
There seem to be three possible motivations for this swing in attitude towards the Jewish people. The first is a common humanity, idealised at the time of the Enlightenment, when the idea went around that all men were created equal and should be treated as such. These people would accept Jews for the people they are as individuals, rather than tainted by the negative images circulated by the medieval “Christian” world. Although this is actually a Biblical and a Christian (as well as Jewish) ideal, you don't need to be religious to follow it. These people would say Jews are my friends and actually mean it, rather than saying, my best friends are Jewish and not mean it for one minute!
The second motivation is a humanitarian response to the various injustices handed out to the Jews, a sort of 'protective' impulse to compensate for the default 'destructive' impulses held by society as a whole. Again this is a Biblical principal and again you don't need to be religious to hold it. These people would say you may hate them but I am proud to have them as friends. A common view of some people, such as Winston Churchill, in this category is undisguised admiration for the achievements of the Jewish people.
The third motivation is strictly a Biblical, Christian one. This one identifies Jews as the ‘chosen people’ of God, still chosen after all these years, despite what the Church may say. These people see Jews as central to God's plan for mankind and their destiny a key issue. These people are responsible for the movement known as Christian Zionism. These people would say, we must be friendly to the Jews; they are special people.
Zionism is a word to describe the yearning in the Jewish heart to return to the Land of Israel. It became a Jewish political movement in the mid to late 1800s. Yet British Christians had beaten them to it. As Christian Zionists, they had been advocating the restoration of a Jewish state in the land for the previous 200 years. As we read earlier, it started with the Puritans, but it didn’t end there; it seems that a spark had been ignited in the British Christian soul.
In 1733 the brilliant scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, in his “Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St John” suggested that the end-time scenario necessitated that another nation assist the Jews to return to their promised land. Later that century another British scientist, Joseph Priestly, wrote, "The land is uncultivated and ready to receive you, but the Turks control it. Their power must first fall. Therefore, I earnestly pray for its dissolution. But it may not happen for some time." Books by other Christians followed, expressing the same sentiment.
The 19th Century in Britain brought the birth of Christian Zionism. It came out of an explosion of interest in Biblical prophecy, particularly that which majored on the Second Coming of Jesus. The Jews were at the centre of it all. Without their role in the matter there could be no Second Coming! The theology of these Christians demanded a return of the Jews to their promised land and it expected their complete spiritual restoration. An early pioneer of this thinking was Charles Simeon, who regarded the conversion of the Jews ‘as perhaps the warmest interest of his life.’
Here are some quotes from influential Christians of that time (and one or two from an earlier time):
CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON
"I think we do not attach sufficient importance to the restoration of the Jews. We do not think enough of it. But certainly, if there is anything promised in the Bible, it is this."
”When the Gentiles shall come in, the Jews also shall return from their defection to the obedience of faith; and thus shall be completed the salvation, . . . which must be gathered from both; and yet in such a way that the Jews shall obtain the first place, being as it were the first born in God's family, as Jews are the first born…"
". . . When they shall be called, that ancient people, who alone were so long God's people for so long a time, shall be his people again, never to be rejected more. They shall be gathered together into one fold, together with the Gentiles..."
"Now two things he exhorts the Gentiles to, with reference to the rejected Jews: - to have a respect for the Jews, notwithstanding, and to desire their conversion. This is intimated in the prospect he gives them of the advantage that would accrue to the church by their conversion.”
A. W. TOZER
"Every time a Christian picks up his Bible he is reminded of his debt to the Jews. It is an astonishing thing that multitudes of Bible students and lovers of the truth should calmly overlook their obligation to Israel."