THE INCALCULABLE VALUE OF A BIBLE COLLEGE EDUCATION
David R. Nicholas, M.S., Th.D.
President, Shasta Bible College & Graduate School
Money is often a key factor in a student’s decision to pursue a Biblical college education. But in reality, the value of such an education is incalculable because if our college-age Christians fail to understand why they believe what they believe, they are sitting ducks for satanic deception. Today the winds of religious, theological and ecclesiological change are sweeping across our nation and the world.
One has only to log on to YouTube under the topic of Islam to find detailed testimonies like that of Joshua Evans, who claims to have grown up in a Greenville, SC Methodist church and even applied to Bob Jones University but now has converted to Islam based on his perception of Biblical inconsistencies and moral failures in the lives of Biblical heroes. His deluded and deficient understanding of Scripture and the Godhead, not to mention his hermeneutical ineptitude, has been viewed over 58,547 times and is available to gullible, Biblically illiterate young people who may be curious about the difference between Islam and Christianity.
Another YouTube video attempts to portray the Koran as inerrant on the basis of its supposed scientific foreknowledge that the sex of a baby is determined by the man. This video has had 1,054,168 views and is said to have convinced a self described Christian to convert to Islam after just one week. Islam’s campaign for converts has obviously descended upon America.
And then there is what I call the “theology of uncertainty” being propagated by the Emergent Church. Over the past 20 years, as Dr. Albert Mohler puts it, “Emerging or Emergent Christianity has done its best to avoid speaking with specificity. . . . they have accused evangelical Christianity, variously, of being excessively concerned with doctrine, culturally tone-deaf, overly propositional, unnecessarily offensive, aesthetically malnourished and basically uncool.”
While some of these criticisms may be justified relative to cultural concerns, their endeavors to transform orthodox Christian theology is dangerous and reflective of last century’s theological liberalism in its avoidance of clear doctrinal assertions. Emergent leader, Brian McClaren, isn’t sure we’ve got the Gospel right yet, and Rob Bell, in his recent book, Love Wins, has a problem with the doctrine of hell. The idea that eternal torment is the fate of those who reject Christ, according to Bell, is keeping people from coming to Jesus, even though Jesus, Himself, warned that such is the case (Matt. 10:28). Bell laments the idea that the doctrine of hell has been so identified as a central truth of the Christian faith that to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. He argues that the gates that never shut in New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:25) mean that the opportunity for salvation is never closed. In so doing, however, he avoids dealing with the previous chapter in which God’s judgment on the unsaved is carried out (Rev. 20:15) and misses the fact that only then are the gates of New Jerusalem eternally open. In 1 Tim. 4:1 Paul warns that “in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,” In 2 Tim. 4:3 he warns “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” What is our defense against such deception? Paul tells us in Eph. 6. He says take up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. But to wield it, we must know it! SBC & GS exists to help students do just that! Yes, a Biblical education costs money, but Biblical ignorance is far more expensive.
2 Thessalonians 2:13, A Rapture Passage?
George Gunn (Shasta Bible College, Redding, CA)
Ἡμεῖς δὲ ὀφείλομεν εὐχαριστεῖν τῷ θεῷ πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοὶ ἠγαπημένοι ὑπὸ κυρίου, ὅτι εἵλατο ὑμᾶς ὁ θεὸς ἀπαρχὴν εἰς σωτηρίαν ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος καὶ πίστει ἀληθείας,
“But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you, a firstfruit, for deliverance by the sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”
2 Thessalonians 2:13, though frequently cited in theological works as a proof text for the soteriological doctrine of election, is probably best understood eschatologically as descriptive of God’s promise to deliver the church from the persecution and worldwide judgments of the Day of the Lord by means of a pretribulational rapture.
Years ago as a college student, I, like many Christian college students, wrestled with the issue of God’s sovereign election vs. man’s free will. A study of the relevant Bible verses eventually led me to a strong conviction that God sovereignly and unconditionally elects to salvation. One of the verses that was very influential for me was 2 Thessalonians 2:13. Not only did this verse teach that God “chose” (aorist indicative), but that the object of this choosing was to “salvation” (contrary to the position of some Arminians that God’s election is of the believer either to sanctification or to glorification). Then, a few years ago, as I was preparing to teach a class in the exegesis of the Thessalonian epistles, I was stricken by the fact that this verse occurs in a context that is dealing with the Day of the Lord. The Apostle Paul had just referred to the followers of the man of lawlessness who will be subject to the judgment of God associated with that time of tribulation. In such a context, might it not be that Paul was actually expressing his thanks that, in contrast to the followers of the man of lawlessness, God had chosen to deliver the church from the judgments of the Day of the Lord? If such were the case, then 2 Thessalonians 2:13 was actually another verse supportive of a Pretribulational Rapture position.
Semantics and Theological Understanding
As 21st century Christians, what goes through our minds when we read the words, “God has chosen you for salvation”? The term “salvation” is a fairly heavily loaded term in the semantics of modern conservative theology. At least from the time of the Reformation, the term has carried with it the connotation of quite a few distinct, though related, theological concepts, including: justification, forgiveness, regeneration, redemption, propitiation, reconciliation, etc. For example, the term “salvation” occurs over 400 times in Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion and is used quite broadly to refer to all that Christ has accomplished through His death and resurrection on behalf of the believer.[i] Similarly, in most Reformation and Post-Reformation conservative Christian writings, the term “salvation” carries with it this broad semantic weight. But are we safe in assuming that in the early days of the Christian church, when the Apostle Paul penned his two epistles to the Thessalonian believers, the term σωτηρία (soteria) carried the same semantic weight? A consideration of semantics, discourse structure and immediate context will show that Paul’s use of the term σωτηρία (soteria) was indeed a reference to the pretribulational rapture of the church.
We have alluded to the semantic weight carried by the English term “salvation” in modern times, but what of the semantic weight borne by the Greek term σωτηρία that Paul employed in 2 Thessalonians 2:13? Can we in the 21st century come to an understanding of what this term meant to Paul and his Thessalonian disciples? In the following paragraphs diachronic considerations, conceptual considerations and synchronic considerations will be brought to bear on the answer to this question.
1. Diachronic Considerations. An overview of how the word σωτηρία was used throughout the history of literary Greek may be of some help. The term appears in Classical Greek as early as Herodotus (V BC), and means consistently throughout the Classical era either, (1) deliverance from some peril, (2) preservation in a state of safety or security, (3) a way or means of safety, (4) a safe return from a voyage, (5) safe keeping or preservation of a thing, (6) a guarantee or security for the safe keeping of a thing (7) security against anxiety, or (8) bodily health or well-being.[ii] TDNT summarizes some of the kinds of peril from which deliverance is wrought by use of the word σωτηρία in the classical era:
[In Classical Greek] σῴζω and σωτηρία mean first “to save” and “salvation” in the sense of an acutely dynamic act in which gods or men snatch others by force from serious peril. In this use, found from Hom. to the latest period, σῴζω corresponds to Hbr. ישׁע …. Among the dangers war … and sea-voyages … always play a special part. Things are similar with σωτηρία… σῴζω also denotes “deliverance” from judicial condemnation, …. The sense “to save from an illness,” hence “to cure,” occurs… In relation to the gen. perils of battle and sailing σῴζω may have more of the sense “to keep” or “to protect.”[iii]
More relevant to New Testament studies may be the use of σωτηρία in the Septuagint. Here we find that the vast majority of uses refer to deliverance from some sort of temporal peril, not too different from its use in Classical Greek. The Hebrew word יְשׁוּעָה (yeshu‘ah) most frequently lies behind the Septuagint’s use of σωτηρία. Of the 78 occurrences of יְשׁוּעָה in the Old Testament, the following kinds of deliverance are typical:
TDNT sums up the Septuagint’s use of σωτηρία as follows:
Deliverance, help and salvation come in favour of persons in situations which are often brought about by the hostile intent of other persons.… Human acts of deliverance are expected from military heroes, judges, and Nazirites (Ju 13:5)… Deliverance is also sought from the protecting power; this is for vassals the positive aspect of suzerainty, cf. 2 K. 16:7, Hos. 14:4. Above all, giving help and dispensing justice is one of the tasks of the king (cf. 2 S. 14:4; 2 K. 6:26) which is regarded as laid on him by God and whose discharge secures a happy and prosperous life for the people (Ps. 72:2 f., 12).[iv]
In the prophets, especially Isaiah, salvation is frequently seen in the context of the eschatological reign of the Messiah. This salvation is often presented simply in terms of Israel’s experiencing deliverance from her enemies (Ps. 89:26; Is 12:2-3; 25:9; 52:7, 10; 60:18). But at times, this eschatological salvation involves redemptive elements related to the righteousness and regeneration associated with the new covenant (Is. 49:6, 8; 51:6, 8; 56:1; 59:11; 62:1). In several of the references to spiritual salvation, there is still reference to deliverance from physical enemies (Is. 59:11, 17).
The intertestamental period sees a usage very similar to that of the Old Testament prophets. For example, in 1 Enoch, “… the idea of being saved occurs in reference to the flood. But the idea occurs most frequently in statements to the effect that the ungodly have no salvation or hope of salvation.”[v] And in the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, “salvation is applied to the individual in both temporal deliverance … and eternal salvation.”[vi] When salvation is seen as eschatological in the intertestamental literature, it is typically a salvation that involves the deliverance of God’s people from threat of warfare and hatred on the earth. However, on occasion, salvation is viewed as “the eternal salvation” which stands opposed to “eternal punishment, in which the wicked are cast into the fire. The godly individual attains salvation by his prayers and piety and by God's help.”[vii]
In the literature of Qumran, personal salvation is frequently seen in terms of God’s deliverance of the godly man either from ungodly men or from the perils and distresses of this life:
The Hymns testify to the experiences enjoyed by the one who trusts in the help of God: "Thou hast saved me from the zeal of lying interpreters, and from the congregation of those who seek smooth things" (1QH 2:32). "I will praise Him when distress is unleashed and will magnify Him also because of His salvation" (1QS 10:17; cf.; 1QH 5:11 f.; 11:23 f.).[viii]
When salvation is spoken of eschatologically in the Qumranic literature, it is in terms of national salvation for Israel and is coupled with the destruction of the nations of wickedness.[ix]
Coming a bit closer to the New Testament era, Moulton and Milligan’s review of the papyri reveals that “σωτηρία is common … in the general sense of ‘bodily health,’ ‘well-being,’ ‘safety.’”[x] This usage in the papyri is seen to be reflected in only a limited number of New Testament verses (e.g., Ac. 27:34; Heb. 11:7). Moulton and Milligan note that the sense of σωτηρία in the papyri forms a marked contrast with its normal use in the New Testament: “As a rule, however, σωτηρία in the NT, following its OT application … came to denote Messianic and spiritual salvation, either as a present possession (Lk 1:77 al.), or as to be realized fully hereafter (Rom 13:11 al.).”[xi]
In the New Testament itself σωτηρία is used in two ways: [xii] (1) deliverance from danger or impending death (Ac. 7: 25; 27:34; Heb. 11:7; Lk. 1:71), or (2) spiritual salvation of the soul by virtue of the atonement of Christ (Phil. 1:28, 2 Cor. 7:10; 1 Pe. 1:9; 2:2; Eph. 1:13; Ac. 13:26; 16:17). “σωτηρία is plainly expected to be fully culminated w. the second coming of the Lord Ro 13:11; Hb 9:28; 1 Pt 1:5.”[xiii]
2. Conceptual Considerations. As has been shown from the preceding survey of the historical usage, σωτηρία can bear the meaning of “deliverance” in two distinct senses: (1) deliverance from temporal danger (enemies, sickness, poverty, physical danger, war, etc.) and (2) deliverance from spiritual danger (deliverance of one’s soul from hell, deliverance from the present dark age into the eschatological age of Messiah’s rule, deliverance into the new covenant and a state involving God’s righteousness, etc.). Though it may run the risk of being overly simplistic, let us refer to these two senses as: temporal salvation and spiritual salvation. In the Old Testament, clearly the vast majority of occurrences of σωτηρία are in reference to temporal salvation, with relatively few references to spiritual salvation. In the New Testament we find just the opposite – the majority of references are to spiritual salvation, with relatively few references to temporal salvation.[xiv] In both Testaments there are some references that combine both concepts; i.e., the spiritual salvation involves some form of deliverance from either enemies or some form of physical/temporal danger. An example of this combination can be seen in descriptions of Israel’s salvation in the Millennium where she experiences both God’s righteousness and a state of peace and freedom from her enemies. A pretribulational rapture, likewise, would involve such a combination “salvation” in which the culmination of our salvation at the rapture would also result in our being delivered from the persecution and worldwide judgments of the Day of the Lord. As such, there would be nothing inconsistent about σωτηρία in 2 Thessalonian 2:13 referring to a pretribulational rapture, neither would this rule out a partial reference to spiritual salvation.[xv]
3. Synchronic Considerations. The New Testament was written over a period of almost 60 years and at the hands of at least eight different human authors. The precise sense of a given word can vary significantly over the span of such a time and from author to author.[xvi] Those who are over 60 years of age can doubtless think of a good many English words that bear a different sense today than they did 50 or 60 years ago. All languages undergo such changes, and there is no reason to believe that ancient Greek was any different. Thus it is incumbent upon us to focus our attention on the use of σωτηρία during the time in which Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians. Furthermore, one author may tend to use a word with a certain emphasis or shade of meaning that another author will not use. Thus, our focus needs to be not only on the time of the writing of 2 Thessalonians, but on the usage of this term by Paul. The apostle Paul wrote his New Testament epistles over a period of roughly 20 years. Even 20 years is long enough a period of time not only for the meaning of a word to change (Think of how some English words were used 20 years ago as contrasted with today!) but for that meaning to change even as used by the same author. Not all words will undergo such a change in meaning or emphasis, but some will. I believe that the word σωτηρία underwent just such a change in emphasis within the vocabulary of Paul over the 20 year span of his New Testament writings.
2 Thessalonians falls into a group of epistles sometimes referred to as the “early Pauline epistles”: Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians. Galatians was likely written shortly after Paul’s first missionary journey (ca. AD 48), 1 & 2 Thessalonians were written from Corinth during his second missionary journey (ca. AD 51). In his early epistles Paul does not appear to use the noun σωτηρία to express the concept of spiritual “salvation” -- i.e. the positional work of God that takes place in a believer at the point of belief in Jesus. He probably uses the cognate verb σώζω once in this sense (1 Thess. 2:16), and once likely in reference to deliverance from the wrath of the Day of the Lord (2 Thess. 2:10). [N.B. There are also no occurrences of σωτηρία in the book of James, the only other New Testament book likely written in the same era as the early Pauline epistles.] Rather, to express the concept of spiritual salvation in his early epistles, Paul uses the following 24 terms and expressions:
1. καλέω (kaleo) call, Gal. 1:6, 15; 1 Thess. 2:12; 4:7; 5:24; 2 Thess. 2:14
2. δικαιόω (dikaio-oe) justify, Gal. 2:16, 17; 3:8, 11, 24; 5:4
3. δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosune) righteousness, Gal. 2:21; 3:21; 5:5
4. ἐξαγοράζω (exagorazo) redeem, Gal. 3:13; 4:5
5. γνῶναι θεόν (gnonai theon) to know God, Gal. 4:9; 2 Thess. 1:8
6. γνωσθῆναι ὑπὸ θεοῦ (gnosthenai hupo Theou) to be known by God, Gal. 4:9
7. ἐξαιρέω (exaire-oe) rescue, Gal. 1:4
8. λαβεῖν τὸ Πνεῦμα (labein to Pneuma) to receive the Spirit, Gal. 3:2
9. λογίσασθαι εἰς δικαιοσύνην (logisasthai eis dikaiosune) to be reckoned unto righteousness, Gal. 3:6
10. εἶναι υἱὸς Ἀβραάμ (einai huios Abra-am) to be a son of Abraham, Gal. 3:7
11. [ἔχειν τὸ] κληρονομίαν (echein to kleronomian) [to have the] inheritance, Gal. 3:18
12. ζῳοποιῆσαι (zoe-opoiesai) to give life, Gal. 3:21
13. εἶναι υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ (einai huion tou Theou) to be a son of God, Gal. 3:26
14. βαπτισθήναι εἰς Χριστὸν (baptisthenai eis Christon) to be baptized into Christ, Gal. 3:27
15. ἀπολαβεῖν τὴν υἱοθεσίαν (apolabein ten huithesian) to receive the adoption, Gal. 4:5
16. εἶναι τέκνον ἐπαγγελίας (einai teknon epangelias) to be a child of promise, Gal. 4:28
17. ἐλευθερόω (eleuthero-oe) to set free, Gal. 5:1
18. κληρονομήσαι βασιλείαν θεοῦ (kleronomesai basileian Theou) to inherit [the] kingdom of God, Gal. 5:21
19. ζῆν (zen) to live, Gal. 5:25
20. ἐκλογή (ekloge) election, 1 Thess. 1:4
21. ἐξεστρέψας πρὸς τὸν θεόν (exestrepsas pros ton Theon) to turn to God, 1 Thess. 1:9
22. σωθῆναι (sothenai) to be saved, 1 Thess. 2:16
23. δέξασθαι λόγον θεοῦ (dexasthai logon Theou) to receive the Word of God, 1 Thess. 2:13
24. πιστεύσαι τῇ ἀληθείᾳ (pisteusai te aletheia) to believe the truth, 2 Thess. 2:12
σωτηρία does not occur even once in the book of Galatians, and occurs only twice in 1 Thessalonians. Both occurrences in 1 Thessalonians (5:8, 9) probably refer to the temporal salvation that results from a pretribulational rapture, i.e., deliverance from the wrath of the Day of the Lord. The only occurrence of σωτηρία in 2 Thessalonians is in the verse we are examining. The similarity of language between 1 Thessalonians 5:9 and 2 Thessalonians 2:13 is somewhat striking:
1 Thessalonians 5:9
ἔθετο ἡμᾶς ὁ θεὸς … εἰς περιποίησιν σωτηρίας
God appointed us … unto an obtaining of deliverance [from the Day of the Lord]
2 Thessalonians 2:13
εἵλατο ὑμᾶς ὁ θεὸς … εἰς σωτηρίαν
God chose you … unto deliverance [from the Day of the Lord]
Thus, in view of the history of Paul’s usage of σωτηρία up to this point in his extant letters, it would not seem likely that he is referring to the soteriological ideas of justification, forgiveness, etc.
Of the three early Pauline epistles (Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians), the one that has a distinctive soteriological theme is the very one that does not use the term σωτηρία! The Thessalonian epistles, on the other hand, clearly have a different theme. Almost all expositors agree that the primary theme of the Thessalonian epistles is eschatological.[xvii] Every chapter in both 1 and 2 Thessalonians has at least one reference to the return of Christ, and both books have extended discourses on eschatological themes (the Rapture in 1 Thess. 4:13-18, the Day of the Lord in 1 Thess. 5 and 2 Thess. 2). So, when we encounter the term σωτηρία in 2 Thessalonians, we would expect to understand it in a way that corresponds with the prevailing eschatological theme of the epistle, rather than presuming a soteriological theme.
The next extant letter of Paul’s written after 2 Thessalonians was probably 1 Corinthians, written 3-4 years later. During this intervening period Paul had stopped briefly in Ephesus, gone to Jerusalem, then begun his 3rd missionary journey and was making an extended stay in Ephesus while he wrote his first epistle to Corinth. The term σωτηρία does not occur at all in 1 Corinthians.
2 Corinthians, written shortly after 1 Corinthians, uses the term σωτηρία three times (1:6; 6:2; 7:10). It is here that we probably find Paul’s first use of the noun σωτηρία in the sense of spiritual salvation. It is possible that it was during Paul’s extended teaching ministry at Ephesus that the term σωτηρία began to take on added semantic weight in the vocabulary of Paul. In Romans, written in about AD 57-58, σωτηρία is used five times (1:16; 10:1, 10; 11:11; 13:11), each time as a reference to spiritual salvation.
Thus it appears that in the early Pauline epistles, we should expect σωτηρία to reflect the kind of “salvation” that is more akin to the Old Testament sense of deliverance from some temporal peril than to a later Christian understanding of broader redemptive themes.
Discourse Structure of 2 Thessalonians 2
Up to this point, we have been considering the meaning of a single term, σωτηρία. We have seen that it is both possible and likely that when Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians, he would have used the term with a greater emphasis on temporal salvation than on spiritual salvation. However, this is by no means a necessary conclusion based on semantics alone. Words have genuine meaning only in a context. Crucial to the question of whether σωτηρία in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 is a reference to the rapture is the related question of whether verses 13-17 are a continuation of verses 1-12 or the beginning of a new topic.
Some commentators have taken the words: Ἡμεῖς δὲ ὀφείλομεν εὐχαριστεῖν τῷ θεῷ πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοὶ ἠγαπημένοι ὑπὸ κυρίου, ὅτι … (“But we ought to give thanks to God always for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because …”) in 2:13 to introduce a new discourse, i.e., a significant change in topic. Two discourse features could suggest a shift in topic: (1) the conjunction δὲ (“now” or “but”), and (2) the insertion of the vocative ἀδελφοὶ (“brothers”). There are two compelling reasons, however, to see verses 1-17 as one entire discourse without a major division: (1) Paul’s use of an inclusio in verses 2 and 15, and (2) the chiastic structure of the discourse.
1. Paul’s Inclusio, verses 2 & 15
We find in verse 15 what appears to be the second half of an inclusio that ties the last verses of chapter 2 with the earlier portion of the chapter.
2:2 μήτε διὰ πνεύματος μήτε διὰ λόγου μήτε δι᾽ ἐπιστολῆς ὡς δι᾽ ἡμῶν
“whether by spirit or by word or by letter as from us”
2:15 εἴτε διὰ λόγου εἴτε δι᾽ ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν
“whether by word or by our letter”
Thus, 2:15 is still a part of the discourse that was begun in 2:1. The δέ and ἀδελφοὶ of 2:13 do not indicate that Paul has moved on to a new subject. 2:15-17, introduced by ἄρα οὖν (“therefore,” the only occurrence of οὖν in 2 Thess), makes a fitting conclusion to this discussion of the troubling times of the Day of the Lord.
Note also, if we see the passage as extending all the way through verse 17, the similarity between how Paul ends his rapture passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 with how he ends this eschatological passage:
1 Thessalonians 4:18
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Ὥστε παρακαλεῖτε ἀλλήλους ἐν τοῖς λόγοις τούτοις.
Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς καὶ [ὁ] θεὸς ὁ πατὴρ ἡμῶν … 17 παρακαλέσαι ὑμῶν τὰς καρδίας … ἐν παντὶ … λόγῳ ἀγαθῷ..
So then, comfort one another with these words.
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father … comfort your hearts … in every good word.
2. Chiastic Structure:
Charles Powell has written about the chiastic structure of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-15.[xviii] According to Powell, the section can be analyzed as follows:
A Warning (vv. 1-3a)
B The apostasy (v. 3b)
C The revelation of the man of lawlessness (vv. 3c-5)
D The restrainer (vv. 5-7)
C′ The revelation and annihilation of the lawless one (vv. 8-9)
B′ The leading astray of unbelievers (vv. 10-12)
A′ Thanksgiving and exhortation (vv. 13-15)
If Powell’s chiasm is correct, it suggests two observations relevant to our discussion: (1) Verse 13 does not begin a new discourse, but continues the discussion begun in verse 1; thus, the “salvation” of verse 13 should be understood in the context of 2:1-12. This corresponds with what we have been saying about the inclusio διὰ λόγου εἴτε δι᾽ ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν (“through word or through our letter”). (2) More specifically, the language of verses 13-15 should find some explicit parallel to the language of verses 1-3a. A comparison of these two sections demonstrates that such is indeed the case:
2 Thess 2:1-3a
2 Thess 2:13-15
Immediate Context of 2 Thessalonians 2:13
The preceding section on “Discourse Structure” considered the context of the entire chapter. Now I would like to focus on the more immediate context of the wording of verses 13 and 14. In particular, two expressions occurring in this immediate context help us to determine the sense of the term σωτηρία: (1) the word εἵλατο (“chosen”), and (2) the phrase εἰς περιποίησιν δόξης τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (“unto the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ”). A third item from the immediate context also needs some explanation, (3) the expression ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος καὶ πίστει ἀληθείας (“by sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”).
1. εἵλατο (“chosen”), v. 13. This word may in fact be the biggest stumbling block for many to see σωτηρία as a reference to the rapture. Particularly for someone from a Calvinistic persuasion, the word “chosen” suggests a theme of spiritual salvation. “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14); “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you” (Jn. 15:16); “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4); “He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Rev. 17:14); “Knowing, brothers beloved by God, His choice of you” (1Thess. 1:4).
However, we should not be too hasty in basing our decision on the English translation. In fact, apart from 2 Thessalonians 2:13, every verse in the New Testament that refers to God’s sovereign choice of believers to spiritual salvation uses a different Greek word than the one used in this verse. The Greek words used elsewhere of God’s choice to spiritual salvation are κλητός (kletos, Matt. 22:14), ἐκλέγομαι (eklegomai, Jn. 15:16; Eph 1:4); ἐκλεκτός (eklektos, Rev. 17:14); and ἐκλογή (ekloge, 1Thess. 1:4). Of the words in this list, perhaps the most significant is that which occurs in 1 Thessalonians 1:4. If Paul were to refer to God’s choice to spiritual salvation in 2 Thessalonians, we might expect him to use the same word he had used in 1 Thessalonians. But the term εἵλατο from 2 Thessalonians 2:13 (aor. midd. of αἱρέω) is not in any way cognate to the term ἐκλογή in 1 Thessalonians 1:4. In fact, the only other New Testament occurrences of this word (only two other times in the NT) have nothing to do with election to spiritual salvation:
Philippians 1:22 “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.”
Hebrews 11:25 “[Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter] choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.”
So, instead of the word “chosen” leading us to think of God’s sovereign election to spiritual salvation, we find that the very Greek word used by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 is not the word we would have expected him to use in reference to spiritual salvation. If, on the other hand, Paul had meant to refer to God’s choice to deliver the Thessalonians from the Day of the Lord, it would make sense for him to use a different word than the one he had used in 1 Thessalonians 1:4, and that, in fact, is just what he did.
2. εἰς περιποίησιν δόξης τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (“unto the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ ”), v. 14. The end of this deliverance (σωτηρία) is explicitly stated to be “The obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This appears prima face not to be a reference to our positional justification, but to our future glorification, which will occur at the rapture. It is at the rapture that Paul says, “We will be changed … corruption must put on incorruption … mortality must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:51, 53). It is at the rapture that Paul says, “He will transform the body of our humility conformed to the body of His glory” (Phil 3:21). If this phrase in verse 14 is not a reference to the rapture, then I don’t know to what it does refer![xix] And if it is a reference to the rapture, then I should not be surprised to find that the deliverance to which Paul refers in verse 13 should also be a reference to the rapture.
3. ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος καὶ πίστει ἀληθείας (“by sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”). This expression might also lead one to the conclusion that this verse has a soteriological theme, and that, therefore, the term σωτηρία ought to be understood in terms of spiritual salvation. This would come from seeing “sanctification of the Spirit” as referring to positional sanctification, and “belief of the truth” as referring to faith in the message of the Gospel. Let us consider the two parts of this expression separately:
a) Sanctification of the Spirit. The preposition ἐν most likely relates this phrase as an expression of means to εἵλατο (“chosen”).[xx] So the expositor must explain how the sanctification of the spirit brings about salvation. In soteriological terms, it is more usual to see things the other way around – to understand salvation being the means of sanctification. But it all depends on whether it is positional sanctification or experiential sanctification that is in view. If one understands the choosing in this verse to be God’s election to spiritual salvation in eternity past, then one is forced to the same conclusion as Ryrie, “On God’s part, being saved involves the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying or setting apart the believer. This is a reference to that sanctification of the position which every Christian has the moment he believes (1 Cor. 6:11, ASV).”[xxi]
However, if the choosing is for deliverance from the judgments of the Tribulation Period, there are two possible explanations: (1) The sanctification of the Spirit might refer to a setting apart of the believer from the Day of the Lord. This would be a nice explanation in keeping with the position taken in this paper. Unfortunately, the meaning of ἁγιασμός probably cannot be pressed into referring to a physical separation. Despite the fact that this noun is cognate to a word that means “to set apart, to separate,” (ἁγιάζω) in both classical and Hellenistic Greek the term exclusively means “holiness, consecration, sanctification.”[xxii] (2) The other explanation is to see simply an example of the combination type of salvation that was seen earlier in our survey of the OT prophets. In other words, spiritual salvation includes a deliverance from earthly disasters. In this sense, the sanctification of the Spirit could still refer to positional sanctification. Paul would simply be saying, “Those who will be delivered from the Tribulation Period are only those who have been sanctified (positionally) by the Spirit.”
b) Belief of the truth. This expression may in fact mean “belief in the gospel,”[xxiii] but in this context, it also includes something more. As Lightfoot notes, the acceptance of the truth here is “in contrast to οἱ μὴ πιστεύσαντες τῇ ἀληθείᾳ [‘those who did not believe the truth’] ver. 12.”[xxiv] Eadie makes essentially the same observation, “… there being an implied contrast to the previous πιστεῦσαι τῷ ψεύδει [‘to believe the lie’ verse 11]”[xxv]
2:11 And because of this, God sends them a working of deception so that they believe the lie,
2:12 In order that they might all be judged who did not believe the truth but took pleasure in wickedness.
In other words, the belief Paul is describing in verse 13 is in contrast to what the followers of the man of lawlessness believe in verses 11 and 12. Belief in the lie results in suffering the judgments of the Tribulation Period; whereas, belief in the truth results in salvation from the judgments of the Tribulation Period. One cannot believe the gospel and also accept the lie of the antichrist. The gospel offers Jesus as the Savior; the lie offers the antichrist as the savior.
In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul had just concluded his prophetic description of the career of the man of lawlessness during the Day of the Lord. This included not only a description of the activities of this wicked man (vv. 4-10), but a pronouncement of God’s judgment on his followers (vv. 11-12). It is at this point that Paul expresses his thanks to God for God’s having chosen the Thessalonian believers to σωτηρία (“salvation/deliverance”). A study of 2 Thessalonians 2:13 in the light of semantics, discourse structure and the immediate context has demonstrated that σωτηρία here refers to the promise of deliverance from the persecution and worldwide judgments of the Day of the Lord that is implicit in the doctrine of a pretribulational rapture of the church. Such a view is consistent with what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, also dealing with the Day of the Lord, and is consistent with what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 regarding the comfort offered by the doctrine of the rapture.
In light of these findings, 2 Thessalonians 2:13 may be paraphrased as follows:
“We ought to thank God always for you, brothers, beloved by the Lord, because God chose you, a firstfruit of the European mission, for deliverance by means of the rapture from the judgments that shall befall those who follow the man of lawlessness in the Tribulation Period. God made this choice by setting you who believe the truth apart from those who will believe the antichrist’s lie.”
[i] As, for example, in his “Prefatory Address to the King of France,” Calvin states: “Before God there remains nothing of which we can glory save only his mercy, by which, without any merit of our own, we are admitted to the hope of eternal salvation (lat. salvi).” By way of contrast, the Institutes refers to “justification” about 200 times, “forgiveness” 188 times, “redemption” 91 times, “propitiation” 76 times and “reconciliation” 43 times.
[ii] Liddell, Scott, Jones, Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1940) s.v. σωτηρία.
[iii]Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-c1976). 7:966. Emphasis mine.
[iv]Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 7:973-974.
[v] The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. Colin Brown (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978) Vol. III:209-210.
[vi] NIDNTT, 210.
[vii] NIDNTT, 210.
[viii] NIDNTT, 210.
[ix] NIDNTT, 210-11.
[x] J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1930), 622.
[xi] Moulton and Milligan, 622.
[xii]W. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich, F. W. Danker, & W. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979). 801.
[xiii] Arndt, Gingrich, Danker, Bauer, 801.
[xiv] Arndt, Gingrich, Danker, Bauer, 801. “quite predom[inantly] salvation, which the true religion bestows.”
[xv] Such a conception may also lie behind the otherwise difficult passage in 2 Thess 1:5-10. This passage is taken by posttribulational rapturists as supportive of their position, but it need not be seen that way. The rapture delivers the godly over to rest, but delivers the ungodly over to a period of judgment that will culminate in the personal return of Christ.
[xvi] P. Cotterell and Max Turner, Linguistics & Biblical Interpretation (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989) 26.
[xvii] Mal Couch, The Hope of Christ’s Return (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2001) 17-18; John Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians (London: Mac Millan & Co., 1877) 53-54; J. B. Lightfoot, Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul (Hendrickson Publishers, 3rd printing 1995) 16-17; Leon Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians NICNT rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991) 11; Charles C. Ryrie, First and Second Thessalonians (Chicago: Moody Press, 1959) 7; Robert L. Thomas, 1, 2 Thessalonians, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus EBC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 7-8.
[xviii] Charles E. Powell, “The Identity of the ‘Restrainer’ in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7,” Bibliotheca Sacra (Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1997) 154:615, pp. 322-28.
[xix] For an example of the kind of confusion that results from eisegesis by those whose theology predisposes them to a soteriological view, rather than an eschatological view, see Eadie’s comment on this expression in v. 14, “The clause is … perhaps not a mere exact specification of εἰς σωτηρίαν, or a giving of the final aspect and consummation of σωτηρία.” Eadie, 205.
[xx] Couch, The Hope of Christ’s Return, 233; Lightfoot, Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul, 120; Ryrie, First and Second Thessalonians, 116. On the other hand, Thomas explains ἐν as expressing “a locative instead of an instrumental force … because the clause names an act in eternity past…. ἐν indicates the spiritual state in which God chose them to salvation,” EBC, 103.
[xxi] Ryrie 116 emphasis mine.
[xxii] BAGD 9; Liddell, Scott, Jones 9.
[xxiii] Couch 233; Eadie 204; Ryrie 116.
[xxiv] Lightfoot 120.
[xxv] Eadie 204.
Prof. Tom Meyer
Shasta Bible College
I would like to discuss the religious and historical ties to Jerusalem from the perspectives of the Muslims, Jews, and Christians. In doing so I will discuss how the different major religions view its religious importance and whether their claims are historically valid or not and what is the technical legal status of the city.
Jerusalem has emerged as a major point of contention in Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians, and its other Arab neighbors. Claims of historic, religious and legal rights to the city have been asserted by the various parties to the conflict. In discussing Jerusalem, history matters. In weighing ostensibly competing claims to the city as the capital of Israel, or of a possible Palestinian state, it must be recalled that the Jewish people bases its claim to Jerusalem on a link which dates back millennia. Indeed, Jerusalem has served as the capital of independent Jewish state several times over the past 3,000 years, including since 1948; it has never served any Arab state, at any time in history in such a capacity.
The Jewish Claim to Jerusalem
Throughout history, the Jewish people have maintained a presence in Jerusalem, ever since King David established the city as his capital nearly 3,000 years ago. Except for a very few periods, when they were forcibly barred from living in the city by foreign conquers, Jews have always lived in Jerusalem. It is for this reason that Jews regard the city as their nation center. Indeed, it is the centrality of the connections with Jerusalem, Zion, which led the modern Jewish movement for national liberation to be called Zionism. Throughout millennia, and in the face of conquest, forced exile, violence and discrimination, Jews have maintained their direct link to Jerusalem, returning to live in their city again and again.
The Jewish national and religious ties to Jerusalem were first established by King David and Solomon, his son, who built the first Temple there. This First Commonwealth lasted over 400 years, until the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and exiled the Jewish inhabitants of the city in 586 B.C.E. Immediately following the Persian defeat of the Babylonians, the Jews returned to Jerusalem 70 years later, rebuilt their Temple and reestablished the Jewish character of the city.
For the next 500 years, the Jews further strengthened their presence in Jerusalem, surviving various attempts by foreign empires to destroy their national and religious identity. Greeks and Romans took turns in conquering the city, forbidding Jewish religious practices and encouraging the Jews to assimilate into the dominant culture. Several times, the Jews were forced to take up arms (the Maccabean Revolt) in order to preserve their liberty and heritage. Only after the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, and a subsequent Jewish revolt was crushed in 135, was the Jewish presence in the city temporarily suspended, following the killing or enslavement of the Jewish population by the Romans.
By the 4th century, some Jews had managed to make their way back to the city. In the 5th century, under early Christian rule, Jews were at various times either more or less free to practice their religion. At this time, few non-Christian communities remained in the country, apart from the Jews. Theodosius II (405-450) deprived the Jews of their relative autonomy and their right to hold public positions. Jewish courts were forbidden to sit in on mixed Jewish-Christian cases and the construction of new synagogues was prohibited. Jews were forbidden to enter Jerusalem except on one day a year, to mourn the destruction of the Temple on the 9th of Av.
At the beginning of the 7th century, the Jews looked to the Persians for salvation. Hoping to be permitted to worship freely once the Byzantine oppression had been removed, the Jews encouraged the Persians’ conquest of Acre and Jerusalem, and a Jewish community was subsequently allowed to settle and worship in Jerusalem (614-617), though it was later expelled. Under early Arab rule, a Jewish community was reestablished in Jerusalem and flourished in the 8th century. Jews were even among those who guarded the walls of the Dome of the Rock. In return, they were absolved from paying the poll tax imposed on all non-Muslims. In the 10th and 11th centuries, however, harsh measures were imposed against the Jews by the Fatimids, who seized power in 969. Though the Jewish Yeshiva of Jerusalem was compelled by Caliph Al-Hakim the mad, to reestablish itself in Ramle, entry to Jerusalem was revived by the “Mourners of Zion”, Diaspora Jews who did notecase to lament the destruction of the Temple. This movement, which held that ascent to the Land would hasten the resurrection of Israel, was at its peak in the 9th to 11th centuries. Many Jews came from Byzantium and Iraq and established communities.
The first wave of the Crusade’s conquered Jerusalem in 1099, massacring tens of thousands of its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants. Jerusalem was established as the capital of the Latin Kingdom in the Holy Land. This kingdom, however, collapsed some decades later. In 1187, Sultan Salah al-Din arrived from Egypt and besieged Jerusalem, ultimately gaining control of the city. Jews began to return to Jerusalem in 1210, ending the short and temporary exile from the city.
After the conquest of the country by Saladin late in the 12th century, the Jewish community in Jerusalem again grew considerably. In 1211, three hundred rabbis from France and England immigrated as a group, many settling in Jerusalem. After the Mamluks took power in 1250, the famous Nahmanides, traveled from Spain and settled in Jerusalem.
Jewish communities existed in Jerusalem through out the Middle Ages, though under economic stress, and religious and social discrimination. During this period, the Jews in the city were supported in large measure by the tourist trade, commerce and contributions from Jews aboard who did what they could to help maintain the center of the Jewish people. The Expulsion from Spain and Portugal in 1492, led to an influx of Jews into the Holy Land, including Jerusalem.
The 16th and 17th centuries were times of economic hardship for the Jews, during which the population of Jerusalem was somewhat reduced. By the end of the 17th century, Jerusalem again emerged as the largest, central community of the Jews in the Holy Land. Large numbers of Jews immigrated in the 18th century as a result of the messianic-Shabbatean movement, many coming from eastern and Central Europe. Even so, the majority of Jews in the Holy Land in the 17th and 18th centuries were Sephardic Jews, descendants of those expelled from Spain, and immigrants from Turkey and the Balkan countries.
During the 19th century, immigration increased and the establishment of the modern Zionist movement revitalized the Jewish community throughout Israel. Jerusalem, which in 1800 numbered around 2,000 Jews grew to 11,000 by 1870, and 40,000 by 1905.
In the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, Britain declared that:
“His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
Following the World War 1 victory of the Allies in the Middle East, Britain occupied Palestine, including what is now Jordan, which was separated from the rest of Palestine by Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill and given to the Hashemite Family of Arabia in 1921, assuming military and administrative control for the area. The situation was endorsed by the international community, and in 1922 Britain was awarded the Mandate for Palestine by the League of Nations, which entailed among other things, the fostering of a Jewish National Home in the territory, as proposed by the Balfour Declaration. During their Mandatory administration of Jerusalem, the British did demonstrate considerable concern for the special character and atmosphere of Jerusalem. The British did pursue policies which promoted conflict between the various populations of Jerusalem, such as always appointing Arab mayors, although the Jews had long constituted the city’s majority. Between 1920 and 1940, Arab hostility to Jewish immigration and toward the majority Jewish presence in Jerusalem was expressed in increasingly violent attacks against Jewish residents. In 1929, a mob of 2,000 Arabs attacked Jews at the Western Wall and through the city, killing six. Continual Arab rioting, mostly violent, led the British to issue its first White Paper of May 1939, which severely restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine. Meanwhile, the Arabs continued to reject all attempts to partition Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. All attempts to internationalize Jerusalem were also flatly rejected by the Arabs. This approach was best personified by Haj Amin al-Husseini, the British appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, who directed the violent suppression of Jewish religious and political rights. His views found their ultimate expression during WW2, in his active support for the Nazis.
Back on November 29, 1947 the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, and to make Jerusalem a separate body under a special international regime, with suitable guarantees for the protection of Holy Places.
The Jews accepted the resolution, but the Arabs both living inside and beyond the territory of the Mandate rejected the partition resolution and the plan to internationalize Jerusalem, thereby nullifying the proposal. Between November 1947 and April 1948, Arab bands attacked Jews in Jerusalem and on all roads into the city, killing almost 300. In 1948 following the UN decision, the Birtish Mandate ended and the State of Israel was born, Arab armies attacked the fledgling state, starting the first Arab Israeli war. Three Arab armies, those of Egypt, Iraq and the Arab Legion from Jordan, together with Syrian troops, surrounded Jerusalem, bombarded the city and tried to occupy it. In the ten months of fighting, many Jews and Arabs fled Jerusalem, and all Jewish residents of the Old City were driven from their homes by Jordanian forces. Following an armistice signed in April 1949 between Israel and Jordan, Jerusalem was divided for the first time in its millennia old history. The city was split along cease fire lines of the Israeli and Jordanian forces, with several no man’s land areas and two demilitarized zones separating the two sides. Still, in breach of the cease fire agreements, which called for Jewish access to the Jordanian held areas, the armistice liens ultimately functioned as a frontier dividing the two previously intermingled communities.
What had been intended as an interim period prior to the reunification of Jerusalem became for the next 19 years, a border of minefields and barbed wire traversing the city. The Jordanians systematically destroyed the synagogues in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, desecrated the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives and denied Jews the right to worship at the Kotel. While concentrating its efforts in the expansion of its capital, Amman, Jordan implemented policies which led to the stagnation of east Jerusalem. Its historical and holy sites became inaccessible to all Jews, as well as to many Israeli Christians and Muslims. Meanwhile, west Jerusalem, the declared capital of Israel thrived and developed.
In June 1967, King Hussein of Jordan ignored Israeli pleas to maintain the case fire, and joined other Arab counties in initiating a war against Israel. The Arabs heavily shelled Jewish neighborhoods and their ground forces occupied strategic positions in no mans land areas in preparation for further attacks. Israel gained control of the eastern part of Jerusalem by June 7, 1967. Jerusalem was reunited and Jews were once again able to pray at the Kotel. The current municipal borders were defined that June, and contemporary Jerusalem began to evolve. The city was now opened to all worshippers. Unprecedented development was achieved in the spheres of economic, health, education, art and culture, and the general welfare of it’s inhabits.
All foreign ambassadors present their credentials in Jerusalem, and visiting heads of state are officially received there by the President, PM, and the Knesset. Diplomatic contact with government officials takes place in Jerusalem. On July 30, 1980, the Knesset adopted the Basic Law: Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel, which states among other things:
The Christian Claim to Jerusalem
For Christians, Jerusalem is the witness of their faith. Besides the early church’s Jewish roots that have for the most part faded and there is no religious claim to Jerusalem in Christianity like there is in Judaism and Islam. Some of the central events in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, culminating in the crucifixion and the resurrection occurred there. In an effort to achieve control and preservation over these sites, the Christian powers entered Jerusalem in the 4th century during the reign of Constantine. They remained until the Arab conquest in 632, and again returned at the end of the 11th century with the advent of the Crusaders. In Christianity, in contrast to Judaism, there is no religious precept to live in Jerusalem. Christians were never enjoined to establish a residence in Jerusalem, apart from the clergy who were dispatched by their churches. In Christian tradition, it is the Heavenly Jerusalem in the book of Revelation chapters 21 and 22 that is emphasized.
The Islamic Claim to Jerusalem
During the first six hundred years of Islamic rule in Palestine the possession of Jerusalem was contested between Islam and Christianity and also between many different Islamic princes and religious factions. In early Islam the full name of Jerusalem was actually Aelia, “the City of the Temple.” In practice, Iliya, or more commonly, bayt al-makdis, were used. Iilya is the famous and ancient Roman Aelia, named so by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 130’s C.E. The common name of Jerusalem, al-Kuds was seemingly unknown to classical writers even in the 8th century, but Mutahhar, a native of Jerusalem, writing in 966 mentions the term only once. Al-Kuds is Aramaic, kudsha, which was understood as the “city of the temple”. This is likely borne out by the usage of the Jewish Karaite scholars writing in Jerusalem early in the 10th century, who called the city of Jerusalem bayt- al makdis, but the Temple area al-Kuds. Similarly, in a version of the tradition in which the Jewish convert Kab al-Abbar tries to induce the caliph Umar to pray north of the Holy Rock, he says to him: “Then the entire al-Kuds, that is, al-masdjid al-haram will be before you”. The early name of Jerusalem in the Arabic tongue was not al-Kuds but bay al-makdis which obviously is referencing the former Jewish Temple which most Arabs today believe never existed.
The Religious Importance of Jerusalem During the Early Period of Islam (622-640)
According to the Arabic literary sources, Muhammad in 622 fled his home town of Mecca for Medina, a city with a substantial Jewish population. On his arrival in Medina, the Koran adopted a number of practices friendly to Jews: a Yom Kippur like fast, a synagogue like place of prayer, permission to eat kosher food, and approval to marry Jewish women. The Koran repudiated the pre-Islamic practice of Meccans to pray toward the Kaba. Instead it adopted the Judaic practice of facing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during prayer. But when the Muslims were soon mocked by the Jews they changed the direction of prayer to Mecca as the final destination. After the Koran repudiated Jerusalem, so did the Muslims: the first description of the town under Muslim rule comes from the visiting Bishop Arculf in 680, who reported seeing “an oblong house of prayer, which the Muslims pieced together with upright planks and large beams over some ruined remains.” Not for the last time, safely under Muslim control, Jerusalem became a backwater. The episode set the mold that would be repeated many time over succeeding centuries: Muslims take interest religiously in Jerusalem because of pressing but temporary concerns. Then, when those concerns lapse, so does the focus on Jerusalem and the city’s standing greatly diminishes. Now I would like to briefly consider the first military penetration of the Muslims into Palestine. The battle of Adjnadayn in the summer of 632, two years after the death of Muhammad, opened the southern trade routes of Palestine to the conquering Muslims. Four long years passed from the initial Arab invasion of Palestine to the time they first visited and took Jerusalem. It came about early in the year 636, after the decisive battle at the port and trade city of Gaza on the coastal plain, and the battle of the Yarmuk, south of the Sea of Galilee. Gaza and the Negev were taken first in order to protect the southern flanks and trade routes coming into Palestine and to allow the Muslims to tax the trade routes and govern the imports and exports from the country at the main port city of Gaza. The Yarmuk canyon and its adjacent region were taken next in order to take and protect the routes coming into and out of the north and northwest, the regions from which most enemies would attack Palestine and to develop and maintain contacts with Damascus. The Arabs were not concerned with the religious connections of Jerusalem at first in any way. They were more concentrated on protecting the borders of Palestine. According to tradition the city was eventually taken with a visit to Jerusalem by the caliph Umar in 640 who was accompanied by Jews who showed him the true site of the Jewish Temple, which was concealed by rubble and dung. When the place was cleared and Kab al-Ahbar suggested to Umar to pray behind the Holy Rock so that the two kiblas should be in front of him, the caliph refused, since the Muslims should turn towards the Kaba alone.
It appears that the early Muslims settlers in Jerusalem were Arabs from Medina, such as the Aws, the nephew of Muhammad’s court poet. The Islamic conquest threw the Christian community of Jerusalem into complete disarray. The aged patriarch Sophronius died shortly afterwards and no new one was appointed until 706. The further history of the patriarchate of Jerusalem in early Islamic times is almost as obscure as that of the Jewish spiritual leadership in the country during that period. From the time of the birth of Islam to its later conquest of Jerusalem there is no indication of any spiritual significance of Jerusalem to Islamic thought and practice except for what is written in the Koran whose time of writing and editing is highly debatable and most likely not from the time of Muhammad.
The Religious Importance of Jerusalem during the Umayyad Period (640-750)
Sulayman took Ramala as his permanent residence and the town became the administrative and economic center of the whole country of Palestine, not Jerusalem. About two years after the fall of Jerusalem, the Umayyad Muawiya was appointed commander of the army operating in Palestine and Syria. He governed these countries for forty years, first as governor, and later as caliph from the first Muslim capital in the country, Ramlah. A Syrian source, giving the date of 660, reports that Muawiya prayed on this occasion at Golgotha, Gethsemane and the Tomb of Mary in the Kidron Valley. This was hardly mere politics but a manifestation of the euphoric state of mind of the time, Islam entering into its inheritance of the preceding monotheistic religions. During the rule of Muawiya, the Muslim place of religious worship on the Temple area started to really take shape. Later Abd al-Malik had good reasons to make efforts toward the completion of building the Dome of the Rock, which would show him as the great religious champion of Islam, but the early years of his caliphs were hardly suited for both conceding such an enormous undertaking and carrying it out to its very end. By building the Dome of the Rock, he possibly tried to divert the Pilgrimage from Mecca, then the capital of his rival Abd Allah b. Zubayr, to Jerusalem, and that the many traditions in the name of Muhammad in favor of the sanctity of Jerusalem come from this time period and reflect this particular political contest for the caliphate. It is also likely that the five pillars of Islam did not exist yet at this time so Abd al-Malik could not be accused of abolishing one of the five pillars of Islam, making the hajj to Mecca. The building of the Dome of the Rock was the greatest architectural achievement during this period but there were also other structures, new gates, and roads built to Jerusalem to encourage settlement and pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Muslims. Then again maybe al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock with the motive of religious competition with the pre-existing Jewish traditions and Christian churches that dominated the city. The fact that Jerusalem was already important to the two monotheistic faiths from earlier times, and the fact that Islam considered itself as the last of the revelations made it legitimate for Islam to absorb and identify with former beliefs obtaining there.
The tenth century historian of Jerusalem, al-Muqaddasi confirms this assessment: “Caliph Abd al-Malik, noting the greatness of the Dome of the Holy Sepulchre and its magnificence, was moved lest it should dazzle the minds of Muslims and so erected the Dome of the Rock. During the building of it they had for a rival and as a comparison the great Church of the Holy Sepulchre.” This act of supercessionism explains why the Dome of the Rock was built 60 years after the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem. Jerusalem could not be ignored in Islamic theology, hence the later designation as the third holiest site came at this time. The building of the Dome of the Rock was not only a declaration against Christianity and its monumental churches in Jerusalem. It was directed also against the Byzantine Empire, the bitter enemy of Islam. The “furthest mosque” which first came into use around 621 was a turn of phrase, not a place. Some early Muslims understood it as metaphorical or as a place in heaven. And if the furthest mosque did exist on earth, Palestine would seem an unlikely location for many reasons. Elsewhere in the Koran (30:1), Palestine is called “the closest land.” Palestine had not yet been conquered by the Muslims and contained not a single mosque! The furthest mosque was apparently indentified with places inside Arabia: either Medina or a town called Jirana, about ten miles from Mecca. The earliest Muslim accounts of Jerusalem, such as the description of Caliph Umar’s reported visit to the city just after the Muslim conquest in 638, nowhere identify the Temple Mount with the furthest mosque of the Koran. The Koranic inscriptions that make up a frieze inside the Dome of the Rock do not include the story of the Night Journey, suggesting that as late as 692 the idea of Jerusalem as the lift off for the Night Journey had not yet been established!
Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiya (638-700), a close relative of Muhammad, is quoted denigrating the notion that Muhammad ever set foot on the Rock in Jerusalem; “these damned Syrians,” by which he means the Umayyads, “pretend that Allah put his foot on the Rock in Jerusalem, though only one person ever put his foot on the rock, namely Abraham.” Then in 715, to build up the prestige of their dominions, the Umayyads did a most clever thing: they built a second mosque in Jerusalem, again on the Temple Mount, and called this one the Furthest Mosque. With this, the Umayyads retroactively gave the city a role in Muhammad’s life and made the city central in Islamic religious thought and practice. Yet, how can a mosque built nearly one hundred years after the Koran was received establish what the Koran meant? We have mixed theological reviews of the importance of Jerusalem during this time in the Arab world. During this period Jerusalem was possibly considered a cursed city by certain Muslim theologians and was a place for those who had unorthodox Muslim views to be sentenced.Thawr b. Yazid had to leave Damascus because of his Kadari views and died in Jerusalem and this tradition continued into the 10th century when Tekin, the Turkish governor of Egypt banished there the Sufi Abut Hasan al-Dinawari. This is likely the period when the sayings attributed to Muhammad concerning the religious importance of Jerusalem started to take form, which ultimately came to fruition because of a political conflict between the caliphs of Jerusalem and Mecca. This is also when the city first derived its presence as being “holy” because of the presence of their most sacred shrines, generations after Mohammed.
The Religious Importance of Jerusalem during the Abbasid Period (750-969)
With the Umayyad demise in 750 and the move of the caliph’s capital to Baghdad, Jerusalem fell into near obscurity. For the next 350 years, books praising this city lost favor, and the construction of glorious buildings not only came to an end but existing ones fell apart. Gold was stripped off the Dome of the Rock to pay for the Al Aqsa repair work. In the wake of a rebellion against the late Umayyad Marwan II, the walls of Jerusalem were pulled down and its inhabitants punished with the sword.
At the beginning of this period, the new dynasty apparently paid special tribute to the holy character of the city. This was manifested by the fist visit of al-Mansur, who set out for Jerusalem after returning to Baghdad from the pilgrimage to Mecca. A second visit of the Abbasid caliph, in 771 was made in connection with a great rising in the Maghrib; al-Mansur accompanied as far as Jerusalem the large army assembled by him for the quelling of the revolt. His son al-Mahdi also visited Jerusalem and prayed there, but Harun al-Rashid who made the hajj almost every second year and frequented Syria because of the Holy War against Byzantium, never came to Jerusalem. Nor did his son al-Mamun, although he sojourned in Syrian and even in Egypt, or any other later Abbasid caliph! This attitude reflects the trend that Jerusalem was not an important religious Islamic center at this time. Theophanes reports that al-Mansur, on the occasion of his visit to Jerusalem, ordered the Christians and Hebrews to tattoo their names on their hands so that they could not escape the pool tax. This adoption with regard to Jerusalem means that at that time the non-Muslim population was quite numerous.
Abmad b. Tulun, who had made himself lord of Egypt in 868, conquered Palestine in 878, but in the wars between the Tulunids and later the Ikshidids, the rulers of Egypt, and their overlords, the Abbasids never visited Jerusalem one time! In 891 with the devastating raids over the Levant, the Karmatians reached Palestine, but Jerusalem is not mentioned at that time in connection with any of their exploits. During 964 half of the outer court of the Holy Sepulcher was taken away and the mosque of Umar was erected on it.  According to some sources the sanctity of Jerusalem in Islamic theology was alive in the 10th century, Ibn-al-Fagth al-Hamadani says: “He who prays in Jerusalem, prays as if he were in heaven; all prayers are fulfilled there and he who prays there two rakas will be as free of his sins as on the day his mother bore him and God will unite him on the day of resurrection with the prophets.” During this period the city saw no religious buildings constructed or remolded and many of the Muslim rulers of the time did not take the time to reverence the city once! Though we do have historical sources stating the religious importance of the city, overall the city was likely mostly inhabited and revered by the dhimmis not the Muslims. In the first six hundred years of Muslim rule, Jerusalem mostly lived the life of an out of the way provincial town, delivered to the exactions of rapacious officials and notables, and tribulations at the hands of seditious peasants or nomads. Jerusalem certainly could not boast of religious excellence in any religious field.
The Religious Importance of Jerusalem during the Fatimids, Turkomans and Saldjuks Periods (969-1098)
Shortly after the conquest of Egypt by the Fatimids, Palestine and by default Jerusalem came under their domination around 970, but the city participated nothing in their economic efflorescence. In the first 100 years of their rule it participated little in religious significance. This was the time which the caliph al-Hakim the Mad ruled and destroyed the Holy Sepulchre in 1009. The persecution by al-Hakim was a prolonged process; that of the Jews began in 1012, at a time when the Christians of Jerusalem, tried to restore the Church of the Holy Sepluchre. His Madness left Jerusalem, which had consisted largely of Christian buildings in shambles. It wasn’t until the 11th century, that Jerusalem began to take the place of Ramla as the main city of Palestine for the Muslims, 500 years after their initial invasion of the country!
The Fatimides carried through a number of restorations at the Qubbat as-Sahkhara, the Aqsa Mosque and in the territory of Haram as-sha-rif, but they did not start on them before the year 1022 or after almost half a century’s rule over Jerusalem.
The Saldjuk invasions set into motion crowds of soldiers of fortune from many nations led by ruthless motives. One of these was the Turkoman Atsiz b. Uvak whom the Fatimid government called in against the Bedouins in Palestine. But Atsiz turned against the Fatimids and took Jerusalem in 1071. While Atsiz was returning from a failed invasion of Egypt the local population rose against the conquerors and Atsiz had to take Jerusalem a second time, putting the inhabitants to the sword, even those who had fled into the holy al-Aksa mosque were slaughtered by this Muslim ruler.
Atsiz was soon followed by the brother of the Saldjuk Sultan Malik Shah Tutush, who was governor of Damascus in 1078. Thus Jerusalem was incorporated into the great Saldjuk Empire. Tutush assigned Jerusalem to Artuk the founder of the Mesopotamian dynasty in 1086 and was given by him to two of his sons in 1091. In 1098 when the Crusaders were on their march towards Jerusalem, al-Afdal, the Fatimid viceroy of Egypt, took the city during forty days of fighting. During this period in Yakut’s Dictionary of Learned Men, the place name of Basra occurs 170 times, Damascus 100, but Jerusalem only once and in passing! In the k. Al-Aghani the city is not mentioned at all. Al-Mukaddasis’ complaint shows the lack of religious importance of Jerusalem to the Muslims at this time, “The mosque, that is the house of study, is empty; there are no scholars, and no savants, no disputations, and no instruction.”
The Religious Importance of Jerusalem during the Crusader and Ayyubid Periods (1099-1296)
The Crusaders laid siege to Jerusalem on June 6, 1099 and took it by assault on July 15 by a bloodbath. Jerusalem became a Christian city, where no Muslim or Jew was permitted and no non-Christian could take residence permanently. The mosques were turned into churches or used as secular buildings. Many new buildings were built, of which the enlarged Holy Sepulchre was the most conspicuous. The astounding fact that the conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders and its conversion into an exclusively Christian city did not arouse any strong Muslim reaction for decades also indicates that the veneration for the Holy City had not yet become a real Islamic universal spiritual force in any way up to the 12th century!
In about 1150 Muslim leaders sought to rouse jihad sentiments through the heightening of emotions about Jerusalem. Newly minted hadiths made Jerusalem evermore critical to the Islamic faith; one of them put words into the mouth of Muhammad saying that, after his own death, Jerusalem’s falling to the infidels is the second greatest catastrophe facing Islam. Whereas not a single “virtues of Jerusalem” volume appeared in the period 1200-1250, very many came out in the subsequent half century. This is when al-Quds propaganda blossomed, and when Saladin led the Muslims to victory over Jerusalem in 1187. After the decisive victory of Hattin, Saladin advanced toward Jerusalem and laid siege on the city, of which the Crusaders surrendered in 1187 and the city soon assumed the character of a predominantly Muslim city. The notions that Jerusalem was holy as the scene of Muhammad’s Miradj was mentioned in Saladin’s letter to Richard Coeur de Lion as the main proof for the Muslims claim on Jerusalem, “Jerusalem is to us as it is to you. It is even more important to us”. In his famous sermon delivered after the conquest of Jerusalem by Saladin, Muhyi ad-Din calls the Aqsa Mosque “the first of the two qiblas, the second of the two Mosques, the third of the two Harams.” After the time of the Crusaders and under the influence of Syrian local tradition, a pilgrimage to Jerusalem becomes an act equal to the dijhad and helps the faithful toward perfection in the fulfillment of the Laws. It is recommended to the pilgrims to stay for a while in Jerusalem, and it is considered meritorious to die and be buried there. “The people of Jerusalem,” says Hamadani, “are God’s neighbors.”
But life in Jerusalem was hard, and in the 12th century we already read about Arab newcomers who had left Jerusalem for the greener pastures of Egypt and the port cities on the coastal plain of Palestine. During the rule of the Ayyubid’s, Saladin’s nephew al-Muazzam, the Sultan of Damascus, much was done to adorn the Haram, but he was afraid of a new wave of Crusader attacks, and in 1219 ordered the destruction of the “holy city” with the exception of the Temple area, the Church of the Holy Sepluchre, and the citadel! His wished did not materialize, but his brother al-Kamil, the ruler of Egypt, concluded a treaty with the Emperor Frederick II, offering to trade Jerusalem to the Europeans if only the latter would Egypt! The holy city that had been regained by Saladin in 1187 was voluntarily traded away by his grandson just 42 years later. Again Muslims were not permitted access to the city with the exception of the Haram. The subsequent hostilities between the Ayyubids of Egypt and Syria resulted in an agreement between the latter and the Christians, which seemingly removed the Muslims even from the Temple area, so that the commander of the Templar’s could boast that the city was inhabited solely by Christians. The Egyptian Ayyubid al-Malik al-salih Nadjm al-Din enlisted the help of the wild Kharazmians, who overran Syrian and Palestine, and took Jerusalem in 1244. Consequently Jerusalem came under the domination of the rulers of Egypt, who returned it to the Sultan of Damascus, where it remained until the Ottoman conquest in 1517. That the Crusaders traveled from distant lands to make Jerusalem their capital made the city more valuable in Muslim eyes, too. It was a city strongly coveted by the enemies of the faith, and thus became, in a sort of mirror image syndrome, dear to Muslims hearts. And so fractured opinions coalesced into a powerful sensibility: Muslims ever after saw Jerusalem as the third most holy city of Islam.
The Second Six Hundred Years
The history of Jerusalem during the second period of Islamic control was influenced by the more enhanced religious struggle it had acquired through the long struggle between the Christians. The hadith ranking Jerusalem as the third central sanctuary of Islam after Mecca and Medina, was formulated to some small degree in the course of the first 600 years of Islam but obtained more of a general recognition during the second period.
It was at the beginning of this period that the legends by Muslims that Jerusalem would be the scene of resurrection and of the Last Judgment, were likely invented. As Ibn Kathir wrote in Biddaya: “The people of Jerusalem have depicted there the spectacles of the Sirat (the bridge suspended from the Mount of Olives to the Temple Mount, which will be thinner than a hair in the last days), of the gate of Paradise, of the footprints of Muhammad, and of the Valley of Ghenna.”
As mentioned earlier there was no strong reaction from Muslims for decades after the conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders, but this situation began to change with Imad al-din Zanki of the city of Edessa in 1144 who suggested to an ambitious ruler that territorial aspiration could be underpinned by religious propaganda. The court poets and writers of Zanki and his son took up the topic of the jihad for Jerusalem. Starting with Saladin this propaganda reached its apogee in the 12th century. The propaganda taught a connection of the great monotheistic religions from Abraham and Ishmael. It combined the sites holy to the monotheistic religions with one another and it as if Muhammad, the last of the “prophets”, declared by his wondrous night voyage that his message contains those of the prophets preceding him and is connected with them. Again this is likely only a local tradition; most Islamic scholar doubted the degree of sanctity attached to Jerusalem as evinced by the noted Arab geographer Yakkut, who wrote in 1225 that Jerusalem was “holy to Jews and Christians,” whereas Mecca was sacred to Muslims.
The Religious Importance of Jerusalem during the Mamluk Period (1260-1516)
The fact that the supreme Mamluk ruler of Palestine lived outside its borders should not be considered an innovation in Palestine’s history, for throughout the Middle Ages, when Palestine was under Muslim rule, its fate was determined in other centers located outside of Palestine and never from Jerusalem itself. The Muslim Mamluk leaders rarely visited the country and attached little or no importance to it and its inhabitants. Ruling over such a great expanse as they were, and preoccupied with the fear of a Mongol invasions in northern Syria, the Mamluks gave little thought to the religious or security needs of Jerusalem. The communication routes built by the Mamluk rulers were created solely to serve the ruler and his government and not for pilgrimage purposes. They reached Safed, Karak, Rahba on the Euphrates, and formally Ismailiyan forts in central Syria, but they did not come even close to Jerusalem. The absence of a wall surrounding the city completely, and the local governors’ failure to recognize the need for it, was not solely a result of the absence of a real military challenge or of the minimal strategic importance of the town; it was also a result of Jerusalem’s religious status and prestige at that time.
The unimportance of Jerusalem’s status is evident in that Mamluk emirs who had displeased the sultan were sometimes punished by exile to Jerusalem. In contrast to Mamluk Jerusalem’s limited political importance, its non-strategic location, and the minimal economic activity within its walls, it did begin to enjoy more prominence as a religious symbol having Islamic associations. A partial survey of some of the activities carried out by order of the Mamluk sultan in the “holy” area of the Temple Mount will show there was elevated interest of these rulers in outwardly emphasizing the Muslim religious character of Jerusalem. Baybars (1260-1277) renovated the outer mosaic around the eight sides of the Dome of the Rock, and built a prayer niche for the Dome of the Chain. Qalaun repaired the roof of the al-Aksa mosque. His son al-Nasir Mihrab Daud built the massive colonnade in the western part of the Haram, recovered the dome of the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock with gold, and built magnificent arches in the upper section of the top of the northern stairs which led from the lower level of the Haram to the elevated area on which the Dome of the Rock stands. Other examples of building projects that reflected Jerusalem’s importance in Islamic theology are the Madrasas. They were built to the north and west of the Temple Mount, and on the streets leading to the area of the al-Aqsa mosque. These dozens of Islamic schools and educational institutions were built to theologically impress the religion of Islam on the city after the period wherein it was absent during the Crusaders.
At the beginning of this period, Jerusalem was mostly in ruins and deserted. The Muslims who had settled there fled in 1260 before the onslaught of the Mongols. In 1376 the Jerusalem district was made a separate administrative unit, whose governor, styled naib, or deputy of the Sultan, was responsible to the government in Cairo.
Because of its relative isolation geographically, the absence of strong fortifications or of a garrison of any size, which might be used by potential insurgents, Jerusalem served as a place of compulsory sojourn for discharged, dismissed, or exiled members of the Mamluk military nobility. Jerusalem the “third holiest site” in Islam was the most commonly assigned place of exile in the entire Mamluk Empire! Jerusalem, the city of the poor and the pious, was the proper domicile for Sufis. There were about twenty Sufi convents represent most of the major orders. There were ambivalent relations prevailing in Jerusalem, between the two classes of Islamic divines, the scholars and the mystics. There were members of a zawiya studying at a madrasa and scholars adopting the Sufi way of life. The Christians, hard pressed in the intensely Islamic atmosphere of Mamluk Jerusalem, were strengthened by the establishment of a Franciscan monastery on Mt. Zion in 1330. Mt. Zion with its many religious associations, the tomb of David, the upper room, and the Dormition Abbey, were the scene of endless contests between Christians and Muslims and even Jews, involving the demolition, re-building and renewed destruction of religiously associated buildings down to the end of the Mamluk period. The impressive number of Muslims schools founded in Jerusalem in the course of this period should not be taken as an indication of economic prosperity but religious. The buildings were mostly limited in size and dwindled rapidly.
Jerusalem’s only important industry, the manufacturing of soap made from the oil was heavily damaged by the pernicious economic policy of the Mamluk government which monopolized production. The Mamluk government had no interest in protecting the routes southward from Jerusalem through the Negev to Arabia for Muslims to obey one of the five pillars of Islam, to make the hajj.
Gamal al-Din al-Isnawi an Egyptian scholar who died in the late 14th century composed a small treaties or an apologetic to a claim considering the holiness of Jerusalem to orthodox Muslims:
Question: “He who performs (continues) the pilgrimage (from Mecca to, or to Mecca from) Jerusalem in the very same year, by this they mean: he who visits Jerusalem (is guaranteed a place in Heaven): is all this correct?”
Answer: “This is worthless, and has no basis. What is true is that a visit to Jerusalem has some advantage, yet this advantage has no connection at all with the pilgrimage (to Mecca), so that if pilgrims do not do this (i.e. do not add a visit to Jerusalem to the pilgrimage to Mecca) it does not reduce their performance of the duty of pilgrimage.”
There were conflicting opinions concerning the sanctity of Jerusalem during this period. Yes, there were great religiously motivated building projects in Jerusalem such as repairs to the Temple Mount and the Madrassa but then again the city was considered a city of exile or punishment during this period by some, the walls of this holy city were dilapidated and there was no emphasis on including the site in the pilgrimage. During this period Jerusalem lapsed further into its usual obscurity, capital of no dynasty and a cultural backwater, though its new found prestige as an Islamic site remained intact.
The Religious Importance of Jerusalem during the Ottoman Period (1517-1917)
The exact date of the entry of the Turks into Jerusalem during the victorious campaign of Selim I against the Mamluks in 1516-17 is not known. His successor Sultan Sulayman Kanuni (The Magnificent) left the most enduring imprints on the city: the current wall built between 1537-42, the renovated Dome of the Rock and the four beautiful public fountains. The many wakfs made by him and his wife Khurrem further contributed to the religious welfare of the city during his reign.
Things got off to an excellent start with Sulayman but quickly reverted back to type. The population tripled during his reign from 4,000 to 12,000 persons. Most of the population was Muslim and Christian as the Jewish center was at Safad at this time. The most important revenue collected was the toll levied from the pilgrims at the Holy Sepulchre, which also tripled during his tenure. The tax was given by the Sultan to the readers of the Koran in the Aksa mosque. The second largest item was the poll tax paid by the Dhimmis (one gold piece per person, the total being about one half of the income derived the Holy Sepulchre entrance fee). All taxes derived from economic activities, such as licenses, sales taxes and tolls on export of soap to Egypt, brought far smaller amounts than religious taxes. Sulaymans’ wall, though a lasting monument to his magnificence, also reveals that the Ottoman government was not able, nor willing, to guarantee the safety of Jerusalem by administrative and military means. Jerusalem was not so much administered by Istanbul but given a source of income, albeit a very modest one compared to that of the governor of Damascus, or the port city of Sidon, or early in the period, to that of Egypt.
In 1649 a Muslim scholar from Nablus, Muhammad ibn Habib, composed a treaties indeed to prove that the religious sanctity of Damascus precede that of Jerusalem. The writer was urged to write this treaty by the Ottoman governor of Nalbus who hoped this initiative would curry favor with the governor of Damascus who was superior to the former in both rank and function. In fact, the governor of Nablus heard that the Damascene governor was inclined to support the idea of the sanctity of Damascus. The general geographical name al-Sam was to be understood not only as the Holy Land but also as everything north of the Arabian Peninsula, i.e., Syria (with Palestine) in general and finally also as the name of Damascus in particular. This vagueness gave the medieval Islamic theologians considerable flexibly, allowing them to interpret anything said about the Holy Land as being also about Damascus, or even exclusively about Damascus. The governor of Damascus, the governor of Nablus, and Muhammad ibn Habib understood al-Sam to mean Damascus. So Muhammad ibn Habib proved in his treaty that Damascus was superior to other cities in the Holy Land. The order of sanctity given in one place in his treaties is: Mecca, Medina, Damascus, and Jerusalem. On the other hand in the treatise the traditional order of Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, and Damascus is given.
In 1731 pilgrimage certificates were given to wealthy Damascenes who hired the services of professional pilgrims to perform the duty of pilgrimage to Mecca on their behalf. Such documents, or copies of them, were deposited in the Great Mosque of Damascus. Some have survived until today and are kept in Istanbul. These religious certificates do not usually mention anything about Jerusalem. Nevertheless the above spoken treatise shows a deviation from the theological norm and the pilgrimage certificates highlight the lack of importance of a visit to Jerusalem from Damascus to Mecca. Local traditions, each of which strived to increase the importance of the region it presumes to present, versus a quasi official stand, i.e., commonly accepted proportions of sanctity is the characterized legal opinion of the Muslims in Damascus in the 17th and 18th century.
By the 18th century the revenue from economic activities in Jerusalem had dwindled to next to nothing indicating the lack of importance of Jerusalem to the Ottoman Empire. The 19th century opened up in a blaze for Jerusalem. In 1808 a fire destroyed most of the western part of the Holy Sepulchre. Sultan Mahmud II granted the Greeks the right to restore the church, but the Janissaries who were angry that the citadel was garrisoned by other troops, incited the Muslims population to obstruct the repairs and a revolt ensued. The Muslim governor of Damascus sent an army which succeeded in penetrating into the city and overpowering the Muslim insurgents. Another Muslim governor of Damascus was the cause of a revolt of large dimensions and long duration against Jerusalem, for the townsmen refused to pay the heavy taxes imposed by him. He came to Jerusalem with a large army in 1825 and raised a fine from the city. As soon as he turned back to Damascus the population arose against the mutasallim of Jerusalem, who had been on an expedition to Bethlehem, and he was unable to re-enter Jerusalem and the city was in full revolt. Even when the Sultan sent a special army which had laid siege on the city, the inhabitants would not budge. Only when canons were deployed and fired into the city toward the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives was the resistance broken. There was not an overarching Islamic tradition considering the sanctity of Jerusalem!
The years between 1831-1917 produced a time of radical changes regarding the religious importance of Jerusalem. Before one half of this short period was over, Jerusalem had become preponderantly Christian and Jewish, while the Muslim population, too, had made visible progress. The expansions of the Christians were caused by the increasing dependence of Ottoman Turkey and development in Europe, with its rivaling states and churches, and by the upsurge of political, religious, humanitarian and scientific interest in the Holy Land manifested in many Christian countries. The steep increase in the number of Jews, who formed the majority of the population by the end of the 1870’s, was a corollary of the general improvement, they formed a modest community of devout and mostly poor people. This development was put into motion by the conquest of Palestine by Ibrahim Pasha, the stepson of Muhammad Ali, in 1831. His actions, of particular significance of Jerusalem, were inspired by his endeavor to create a strong government and to win the friendship of the Christian European powers. The Christians and Jews of Jerusalem were freed from many of the dhimmi taxes and permitted to repair and build religious buildings; hence a disarming of Muslim controlled Jerusalem. The trend of western penetration was strengthened by the Crimean War. France, Austria, Prussia, Russia, Sardinia, Spain, and the Unites States opened consulates in Jerusalem after 1839 and the flags of Christian powers were now raised in Jerusalem on Sundays and holidays, and the birthdays of their sovereigns were honored by twenty one canon salvoes, which were formerly an honor reserved in Jerusalem only for Muslim holidays and the birthday of Muhammad. The Latin patriarchate was revived in 1847 and became a powerful factor in the city after a hiatus of 550 years. The Greek Patriarch moved from Istanbul to Jerusalem. An Anglican bishopric was established in 1841 and in the same year the Jewish community of Jerusalem received by imperial orders a chief rabbi, who was sent from Istanbul and had access to the central government. The events of the Young Turkish revolution of 1908, the disappointment following it and of World War 1, with it sufferings all belong to the early part of the 20th century in Jerusalem. Yet the city was still a desolation, Mark Twain in 1867 wrote, “Jerusalem has lost all its ancient grandeur, and is become a pauper village.” The photograph showing the British general Allenby entering Jerusalem through Jaffa Gate on December 11, 1917 on foot displayed the shift from a Muslim controlled Jerusalem to the beginnings of an international religious city.
The Religious Importance of Jerusalem from 1917-2009
The military government of the British occupation army was replaced by civil administration on July 1, 1920. According to the census of 1931, the population of Jerusalem comprised of 90, 053 persons, of whom 51,222 were Jews, 19,894 Muslims, 19,335 Christians, and 52 others. During the Mandatory period, important non-Muslim public buildings were built, such as the Government House, the Hebrew University, the Hadassah Hospital, the Rockefeller Museum, and the YMCA. The clash of the national aspiration of Arabs and Jews affected the destinies of Jerusalem more than that of any other city in Palestine. The first bloody events occurred in Jerusalem in April 1920 with many Jews and Arabs killed. Al-Hadjdj Amin al-Husayni, who had been condemned to death by a military courts as main instigator of the disturbance and exempted from the amnesty granted by Herbert Samuel when he took office, was appointed by him soon afterwards as mufti of Jerusalem and then elected head of the Supreme Muslim Council created by the government in 1921. For the next seventeen years he strove for unrestricted leadership of the Palestine Arabs, which brought him into conflict with other leaders, especially the mayor of Jerusalem, Raghib al-Nashashibi and Abd Allah of Transjordan. The Western Wall-Burak affair in 1929 greatly enhanced al Hadjdj Amin’s and Jerusalem’s religious prestige in the Arab world, as well as his collections for repairs on the Haram. The burial in the same year of the Indian leader Muhammad Ali in the western portico of the Haram was another significant step in arousing the interest of Jerusalem in the Muslim world.
The mass immigration of Jewish refugees in 1933 and following to Jerusalem led to a general uprising of the Arab population and ferocious fighting. The Peel Royal Commission, sent out in 1936 to investigate the situation, for the first time recommended the creation of an Arab and a Jewish state and the conversion of Jerusalem, together with Bethlehem, into a separate unit remaining under British mandate. But neither this nor any other of the following attempts of the mandatory government to find a solution led to results.
On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Resolution 189 calling for the division of Palestine into two states. Jerusalem was to be “internationalized”. After this decision the country was in flames. Jerusalem in particular suffered great losses before May 15, 1948. An Egyptian detachment took position in the Bethlehem area, while the Transjordinian Arab Legions attacked the Jewish quarter in the old City. It was left by the Jewish population and subsequently demolished by the Muslims. The ceasefire divided Jerusalem by a line slightly west of the Temple Mount. This left a number of non Jewish quarters within the Israeli sector, while Mount Scopus and Hadassah Hospital formed an Israeli enclave. On December 13, 1948 the Transjordanian parliament resolved the annexation of the areas of Palestine occupied by the Arab Legions. Israel followed suit by transferring its parliament from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in February 1949 and proclaimed Jerusalem its capital on December 13, 1949. The ups and downs of inner Arab politics with regard to the legal and religious status of Jerusalem and Jordan’s right on it belong to history. The war of 1967, which lasted in Jerusalem only three days, caused loss of lives, but little damage. The Jordanians had occupied the U.N. headquarters and tried to encircle the city from the south, but this failed. The main fighting was in the north. After having taken the position on the north eastern hills, the Israeli forces entered Jerusalem from St. Stephen’s Gate finding little resistance and the barriers between the two sectors of the city were removed.
Under the leadership of Teddy Kollek, mayor of Jerusalem, the policy devised and implemented was one of non-intervention in the daily life and communal institutions of the Muslims of Jerusalem.
When Jerusalem was under Jordanian rule (1949-1967), the city was neglected and purposefully left impoverished. The then governor of Jerusalem, Abdullah al Tall, stated that Jordan’s King Abdullah was deliberately downgrading Jerusalem. Jordan’s Religious Court of Appeals was in Amman, and the Supreme Muslim Council was abolished. Jordan’s religious attitude toward Jerusalem during this time was reflected in the complaining by the Jerusalem based British counsel to its foreign office in London: “ we are not prepared to allow them (the Arabs) to treat the Old City of Jerusalem as though it were nothing more than a provincial townlet in Jordan, without history or importance.”
The post 1967 period provided Islamic movements in the region with an excellent opportunity to popularize the notion that political Islam was the only true path to victory in the struggle against the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem.
In recent years, Palestinian Arabs have made the battle for Jerusalem the most important religious issue in their conflict with Israel. Having gained dominance over the Muslim holy places in eastern Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority demands Jerusalem be recognized as the capital of their expected Palestinian state. The Al-Aqsa Intifada sought to provoke international intervention to force Israel to withdraw from East Jerusalem in compliance with UN Resolution 242. For this reason, the Palestinian Authority has focused its terrorist efforts on Jerusalem. In 2002, when Yasser Arafat was under siege by the Israeli army in Ramallah, he called for a million religious martyrs to march to Jerusalem and exhibit resistance to Israel. Just as riots and acts of terrorism in Jerusalem in the past forced the British to restrict Israel by issuing the White Papers, so the Palestinians today have forced the European Union and the United states, through Saudi and Jordanian pressure, to press Israel toward a resolution on Jerusalem with the Palestinians. The most conspicuous expression of this policy was to be found in the exclusive control which the Muslim religious institutions retained on the mosques of the Temple Mount and in the continued independent activities of the Muslim Wakf and religious courts.
The Religious Importance of Jerusalem to Muslims in the Last Day
According to Muslim eschatology Jerusalem’s greatest hour will come on the Day of Judgment, because it will then acquire the highest rank and even surpass Mecca: while the Mosque of Mecca was founded generations before that of Jerusalem, Jerusalem will survive Mecca and Medina by the same period of time. All mosques, even the Kaba, will journey to Jerusalem on the Day of Resurrection and “Paradise will be the bride of Jerusalem; the Kaba, too, will come there, so that the people will cry: Hail to you, who come as pilgrims and hail to her to whom the pilgrimage is made (Jerusalem)!” The Black Stone too, will be in the bridal procession to Jerusalem and it will be bigger than the Hill Abu Quabais. The resurrection of the dead is preceded by the fight between Dadjdjal, (the anti Christ) and the Mahdi, who will successfully defend Jerusalem against Dadjdjal. The Muslims thus become the executors of the Biblical prophecies and the fulfillers of Judaism. Jerusalem becomes the symbol of eschatological victory, both in internal Muslim struggles and in connection with the struggle against the infidels.
Jerusalem’s primary importance to Arabs is rooted in the Quaranic account of the Night Journey of Muhammad. According to the first verse of Sura 17 in the Koran, Muhammad was sleeping near the Kaaba stone in Mecca when the angel Gabriel brought to him a winged horse with a human head, named al-Buraq. This creature carried him from al-Masjid al-Haram (the mosque in Mecca) to al masjid al-Aqsa (the Farther Mosque), and from there to heaven. While the Farther Mosque has been interpreted to be the mosque in Medina or heaven, the later traditional interpretation places it in Jerusalem. Apart from this contested reference, Jerusalem is not mentioned by name in the Koran. Jerusalem is regarded as Islam’s third holiest religious shrine, but some Arab states, such as Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria, also claim to have Islam’s third holiest shrine on their soil! Despite these contested claims, all Muslims regard Jerusalem as al-Kuds (“the Holy”), which cannot be ruled by non-Muslims. Any such allowance would amount to a betrayal of Islam.
Historically, Arabs have not demonstrated their reverence for Jerusalem. Under Muslim rule, Jerusalem was never made a religious or political capital of a state or even a province. Most of the Islamic religious traditions about Jerusalem and its sanctity were only local and largely of foreign origin and had no foundation in old Muhammedian stock. The tradition whereby Jerusalem has been fixed as the third holiest city by Islam is a much later development of an original tradition that spoke of Mecca as the only holy Islamic sanctuary.
In Jerusalem, theological claims matter, they are the functional equivalent to the deed of the city, and have direct operational consequences. Jerusalem is not the place to which Muslims pray, is not once mentioned by names in prayers, and it is connected to no mundane events in Muhammad’s life. Muslims take interest religiously in Jerusalem because of pressing but temporary concerns. Then, when those concerns lapse, so does the focus on Jerusalem and the city’s standing greatly diminishes.
The Legal Status of Jerusalem
From a legal perspective, the departure of the British in May 1948 left Jerusalem’s status undetermined. The end of the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli war found the western part of the city in Israeli hands, and the eastern part including the Old City controlled by Jordan. In 1949, Israel and Jordan signed an armistice, dividing Jerusalem into two demarcated zones. These lines, however, were seen by both sides to be temporary, until a peace treaty could be concluded. As late as May 31, 1967, Ambassador Al-Farrah of Jordan told the UN Security Council: “There is an Armistice Agreement. The Agreement did not fix boundaries; it fixed the demarcation line. The Agreement did not pass judgment on rights-political, military or otherwise. Thus, I know of no boundary; I know of a situation frozen by an Armistice Agreement.” Under the agreement, Jordan promised to allow free access to the Holy Places and use of the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. It further guaranteed Israel free access to Hadassah Hospital and the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus. These rights were denied. The annexation of territory by an occupant, pending the conclusion of a peace treaty, is not permitted by international law. Thus the invasions of Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem by Jordan in 1948 did not bring with it the right to annex the conquered areas. Only two countries, Britain and Pakistan ever recognized Jordan’s annexation of Judea and Samaria.
In contrast, Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem came under the control of the IDF in June 1967, following Israel’s exercise of its right of self defense in the face of attacks along the then existing Israel-Jordan armistice demarcation lines. The Jordanian aggression of June 1967, constituted a material breach of the agreement, entitling Israel to regard it as no longer in force. The overall extension of Israeli law to eastern Jerusalem, and the governmental functions Israel performs there do not constitute a violation of international law. Israel’s position in eastern Jerusalem cannot be considered that of occupant or annexing stage, given the meaning of these terms under international law. Therefore there is no claim historically or politically for the Palestinian people to have Jerusalem restored to them.
 State of Israel Government Press Office, Jerusalem pg. 2
 State of Israel Government Press Office, Jerusalem pg. 3
 State of Israel Government Press Office, Jerusalem pg. 3
 State of Israel Government Press Office, Jerusalem pg. 4
 State of Israel Government Press Office, Jerusalem pg. 5
 State of Israel Government Press Office, Jerusalem pg. 6
 State of Israel Government Press Office, Jerusalem pg. 12
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 322
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 323
 Daniel Pipes, The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem pg. 51
 Daniel Pipes, The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem pg. 51
 Heribert Busse, The Sanctity of Jerusalem in Islam page 443
Heribert Busse, The Sanctity of Jerusalem in Islam page 451
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 324
 Randall Price, Facts on the Middle East page 128
 Ofer Livne-Kafri, On Muslim Jerusalem in the Period of its Formation pg. 210
 Daniel Pipes, The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem pg. 52
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 329
 Nur Massalha, A Comparative Study of Jewish, Christian and Islamic Fundamentalist Perspectives on Jerusalem pg. 100
 Daniel Pipes, The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem pg. 54
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 326
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 327
 Heribert Busse, The Sanctity of Jerusalem in Islam page 465
 Daniel Pipes, The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem pg. 54
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 327
 Heribert Busse, The Sanctity of Jerusalem in Islam page 461
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 328
 Daniel Pipes, The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem pg. 54
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 331
 Heribert Busse, The Sanctity of Jerusalem in Islam page 463
 Heribert Busse, The Sanctity of Jerusalem in Islam page 466
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 331
 Daniel Pipes, The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem pg. 55
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 331
 Daniel Pipes, The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem pg. 56
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 331
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 332
 Randall Price, Facts on the Middle East page 127
 Joseph Drory, Jerusalem Cathedra page 191
 Joseph Drory, Jerusalem Cathedra page 193
 Joseph Drory, Jerusalem Cathedra page 1998
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 332
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 332
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 333
 Daniel Pipes, The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem pg. 56
 Daniel Pipes, The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem pg. 56
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 334
 Joseph Sadan, A Legal Opinion of a Muslim Jurist Regarding the Sanctity of Jerusalem page 234
 Joseph Sadan, A Legal Opinion of a Muslim Jurist Regarding the sanctity of Jerusalem page 240
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 334
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 335
 Daniel Pipes, The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem pg. 57
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 336
 E.J. Brill, The Encyclopedia of Islam Volume V page 337
 Randall Price, Facts on the Middle East page 122
 Nur Masalha, A Comparative Study of Jewish, Christian and Islamic Fundamentalist Perspectives on Jerusalem pg. 103
 Heribert Busse, The Sanctity of Jerusalem in Islam page 468
 Ofer Livne-Kafri, On Muslim Jerusalem in the Period of its Formation pg. 215
 Daniel Pipes, The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem pg. 49
 State of Israel Government Press Office, Jerusalem pg. 9