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“Living in a Land of Prophets”: James T. Barclay and an Early Disciples of Christ Mission to Jews in the Holy Land

  • Paul M. Blowers (a1)
Extract

In the nineteenth century the West truly rediscovered Palestine. A land many western observers had long considered fallen from its former glory was roused amid its Ottoman occupation to abide the hopes, dreams, and designs not only of aspiring Jewish nationalists but of British and American diplomats, explorers, archaeologists, adventurers, Christian pilgrims, missionaries, and others in that great entourage which Naomi Shepherd has dubbed the “zealous intruders.” Protestant missionaries in the Levant, to the extent that they established an early and enduring physical presence in the Holy Land and a living link with evangelical churches in Europe, Britain, and America, played a memorable, if limited, role in this modern reopening of Palestine to the West.

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1. Shepherd, Naomi, The Zealous Intruders: The Western Rediscovery of Palestine (San Francisco, 1987).

2. Ibid., pp. 37–38, 229–257; See also Ben-Arieh, Yehoshua, Jerusalem in the Nineteenth Century: The Old City (Jerusalem, 1984), pp. 250264.

3. A British consulate was not established in Palestine until 1839, and then other European governments followed suit. The American consulate commenced a turbulent and unstable tenure in Jerusalem in 1844, yet was not fully functional until 1857.See Shepherd, , The Zealous Intruders, pp. 107–131, 132–136;Lipman, Vivian, “Britain and the Holy Land: 1830–1914,” in With Eyes Toward Zion eds. Davis, Moshe and Ben-Arieh, Yehoshua, 3 vols., Vol. 3, Western Societies and the Holy Land (New York, 1991), 3: 195207.

4. Healey, Robert, “Protestant American Mission to the Jews in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: From Conversion to Dialogue,” Miscellanea historiae ecclesiasticae 7 (1985): 301302;Conway, John, “Protestant Missions to the Jews 1810–1980: Ecclesiastical Imperialism or Theological Aberration?,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 1 (1986): 128.

5. Parsons, Levi, The Dereliction and Restoration of the Jews” (sermon preached in Park Street Church, Boston, 31 October 1819) (Boston, 1819), reprinted in Holy Land Missions and Missionaries, ed. Davis, Moshe (New York, 1977), pp. 17–18.On the Parsons-Fisk mission in its millenarian context, see Silberman, Neil Asher, Digging for God and Country: Exploration, Archaeology, and Secret Struggle for the Holy Land, 1799–1917 (New York, 1982), pp. 2836.

6. Fisk, Pliny, “The Holy Land an Interesting Field of Missionary Enterprise” (sermon delivered in the Old South Church in Boston, 31 October 1819) (Boston, 1819), reprinted in Holy Land Missions and Missionaries, pp. 2430.

7. Ibid., p. 28.

8. Ibid., p. 31.

9. Parsons, , “The Dereliction and Restoration of the Jews,” pp. 10–14.On the broader context of early nineteenth-century Christian millenarian interest in the restoration of the Jews in the Holy Land, see Sandeen, Ernest R., The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism 1800–1930 (Chicago, 1970), pp. 912, 20–22.

10. See Lipman, Vivian, “America-Holy Land Material in British Archives, 1820–1930,” in With Eyes Toward Zion: Themes and Sources in the Archives of the United States, Great Britain, Turkey and Israel, ed. Davis, Moshe (New York, 1986), 2: 2629;Shepherd, , The Zealous Intruders, p. 231.

11. Davis, Moshe, “The Holy Land Idea in American Spiritual History,” in With Eyes Toward Zion: Scholars Colloquium on America-Holy Land Studies, ed. Davis, Moshe (New York, 1977), 1:20.

12. See, for example, Handy, Robert T., ed., The Holy Land in American Protestant Life, 1800–1948: A Documentary History, (New York, 1981), pp. 8389.Barclay unfortunately receives no mention in the important studies of Silberman, Digging for God and Country, and Shepherd, The Zealous Intruders.

13. For a brief biographical sketch of Barclay, see Garrison, J. H., The Reformation of the Nineteenth Century (St. Louis, 1901), pp. 134139;also Grey, Norman Q., “Pioneering in Missions: Being a Biography of James Turner Barclay” (unpublished B.D. thesis, The School of Religion, Butler University, 1944).

14. Barclay, James T., Letter to the Corresponding Secretary of the American Christian Bible Society (5 October 1849);Letter to the Board of Managers of the ACMS (30 October 1849), compiled in Burnet, D. S., ed., The Jerusalem Mission under the Direction of the American Christian Missionary Society, (Cincinatti, 1853; reprinted New York, 1977). pp. 59.

15. Barclay, , proposal for the Jewish mission, in Burnet, ed., Jerusalem Mission, pp. 12–14.

16. Ibid., p. 22.

17. See Parsons, , “The Dereliction and Restoration of the Jews,” pp. 14–16;Fisk, , “The Holy Land an Interesting Field,” p. 32.On this broader millenarian interest in the “signs of the times” in early American Protestant missions, see Chaney, Charles L., The Birth of Missions in America (Pasadena, 1976), pp. 274278.

18. Barclay, , proposal for the Jewish mission, in Burnet, ed., Jerusalem Mission, pp. 15–16.

19. See Campbell, Alexander, “Converted Jews,” Millennial Harbinger 5 (12 1834): 616619;See also Pendleton, W. K., Book Notice on Henry Luria, or the Little Jewish Convert; or, Memoirs of Mrs. S.J. Cohen, Millennial Harbinger 5th ser., 3 (12 1860): 715.

20. Barclay, , proposal for the Jewish mission, in Burnet, ed., Jerusalem Mission, pp. 16–17.

21. Ibid., pp. 16, 17–18, 23–24.

22. Early Disciple journals are full of excerpted periodical material from publications relating information about the current dispositions of the Jews, often with comments by the Disciple editors: see Campbell, Alexander, “Notices of the Jews—Their Land and Destiny,” 3 parts, Millennial Harbinger 3rd ser., 6 (02 1849): 8588;(Mar. 1849): 146–149;(May 1849): 257–261;The Israelite Indeed,” Millennial Harbinger 5th ser., 2 (01 1859): 42;Number of Jews,” Millennial Harbinger 5th ser., 4 (12 1861): 687689;State of the Jewish Mind in the East,” Millennial Harbinger 5th ser., 5 (10 1862): 452454;The Present Condition and Aspirations of the Jews,” Millennial Harbinger 5th ser., 6 (03 1863): 132134;Stone, Barton, “Restoration of the jews,” Christian Messenger 14 (12 1844): 272274;features on the Jews entered in the Christian Messenger 4 (03 1830): 127128;(Oct. 1833): 319;Scott, Walter, “Return of the jews,” The Evangelist New Series, 7 (11 1839): 249252;also “The Conversion of the jews in Palestine,” The Evangelist New Ser., 8 (04 1840): 8487;Prospects of the Jews,” The Evangelist New Ser., 8 (05 1840): 112.

23. See Campbell, Alexander, “The Christian Missionary Society,” no. 2, Millennial Harbinger 3rd ser., 7 (02 1850): 87;Letter to Barclay, J. (16 Jan. 1854),Millennial Harbinger 4th ser., 4 (02 1854): 9094;Missionary Address,” Millennial Harbinger 5th Ser., 1 (11 1858): 610611;An Address Delivered to the American Christian Missionary Society,” Millennial Harbinger 5th ser., 3 (11 1860): 607608.

24. Stone, Barton, “The Future Restoration of Israel,” Christian Messenger 14 (07 1844): 8487.

25. Noah, Mordecai, “The Restoration of the Jews,” reprinted in The Evangelist New Ser., 8 (09 1840): 209211;Noah, , “Discourse on the Restoration of the Jews” (delivered at the Tabernacle, 28 Oct. and 2 Dec. 1844) (New York, 1845; reprint 1977), pp. 25, 28–33.Noah urged the Christian societies evangelizing Jews instead “to promote the restoration of the Jews in their unconverted state, relying on the fulfilment of the prophecies and the will of God for attaining the objects they have in view after that great advent shall have arrived.” He broached Hebrew and even Christian prophecies (including Romans 11:26; John 4:22) to the effect that the restoration of the Jews was a plain fact of scripture. In turn Protestants were to be good Protestants and heed scripture at its word (“Discourse,” pp. 25, 29–33).

26. Scott, Walter, “The Restoration of the Jews,” 4 parts, The Evangelist 1 (07 1832): 150153;(Aug. 1832): 176–181;(Oct. 1832): 223–230;2 (Jan. 1833): 13–15.

27. On Levi's religious zionism, see Sokolow, Nahum, History of Zionism 1600–1918, 2 vols. (1919; reprint New York, 1969), 1: 9394;also Popkin, R. H., “The Age of Reason versus The Age of Revelation. Two Critics of Tom Paine: David Levi and Elias Boudinot,” in Deism, Masonry, and the Enlightenment: Essays Honoring Alfred Owen Aldridge, ed. Lemay, J. (Newark, Del. 1987), pp. 158164.

28. Scott, , “The Restoration of the Jews,” no. 4, The Evangelist 2 (01 1833): 14;idem, “New Government and New Society,” no. 7, The Evangelist New Ser., 9 (12 1841): 169170.See Sandeen (The Roots of Fundamentalism, p. 8–58) on George Stanley Faber and the upswing of prophetic studies among nineteenth-century millenarians.Scott, Walter had apparently used Faber's work Dissertation on the Prophecies, That Have Been Fulfilled, Are Now Fulfilling, or Will Hereafter Be Fulfilled, Relative to the Great Period of 1260 Years (London, 1804).

29. Scott, , “The Restoration of the Jews,” no. 1 The Evangelist 1 (07 1832): 150153;no. 3 (10. 1832): 223–230;no. 4, The Evangelist 2 (01, 1833): 1315.For him the “gospel facts” were clear enough: the prophetic witnesses of Jewish restoration (Balaam in Num. 23–25; Moses in Deut. 4, 28–30, 32) were not fulfilled after the Babylonian exile, but attested a future consummation in which the Jews would again return to the Holy Land; and Isaiah's prophecy of the ingathering of the Gentiles (Isa. 2) pointed to an orderly finale in which the converted Jews would join the Gentile Church under Christ's millennial reign.Scott anticipates 1833 as the date of the millennium's arrival in “The Restoration of the Jews,” no. 4, The Evangelist 2 (01 1833): 13.

30. Scott, , “New Government and New Society,” no. 9, The Evangelist New Ser., 9 (11 1841): 245246;Ibid., no. 10 (Dec. 1841): 265–266.

31. See Barclay, , “The Welfare of the World Bound Up in the Destiny of Israel,” no. 1, Millennial Harbinger 5th ser., 3 (12 1860): 665.

32. On Campbell's millenarianism in context, see Hughes, Richard T., “From Primitive Church to Protestant Nation: The Millennial Odyssey of Alexander Campbell,” in Illusions of Innocence: Protestant Primitivism in America, 1630–1875, eds. Hughes, R. T. and Allen, C. L. (Chicago, 1988), pp. 170187;see also Sandeen, , The Roots of Fundamentalism, pp. 45–46.

33. A Debate on the Evidences of Christianity; A Debate between Robert Owen, of New Lanarcic, Scotland, and Alexander Campbell, President of Bethany College, Virginia, Containing an Examination of the “Social System” and All the Systems of Skepticism of Ancient and Modern Times (St. Louis, 1852), pp. 328329;compare Barclay, , “The Welfare of the World,” no. 1, Millennial Harbinger 5th ser., 3 (12 1860): 663.

34. Campbell, Alexander, “Notices of the Jews—Their Land and Destiny,” no. 1, Millennial Harbinger 3rd ser., 6 (02 1849): 85.

35. See Milligan, Robert, “Prophecy,” no. 12 (The Conversion of the Jews), Millennial Harbinger ser. 4, 6 (11 1856): 601607.Milligan argued emphatically from Ezekiel and from Romans 11 for the repatriation of the Jews and the conversion of all fleshly Israel. Milligan even presumed to date the final conversion of the Jews for the year 1922.For Campbell's approval of such efforts at a scientific eschatology see “Articles on Prophecy,” Millennial Harbinger ser. 5, 3 (12 1860): 715716;Campbell, Alexander, “Prophecy,” no. 1, Millennial Harbinger Ser. 5, 3 (03 1860): 126127;For Campbell's criticism of exaggerated speculations, see “Millennium,” Millennial Harbinger Ser. 4, 6 (12 1856): 697700;idem, “The Throne of David,” Millennial Harbinger Ser. 3, 6 (05 1849): 289.

36. Barclay, , “The Welfare of the World,” no. 1, Millennial Harbinger 5th ser., 3 (12 1860): 663665.

37. Barclay, , Journal (25 06. 1851), in Burnet, , ed. Jerusalem Mission, p. 112.

38. Such first impressions of the wretchedness of Jerusalem were not uncommon with Western pilgrims and travelers to the Holy Land in this period, including the likes of Mark Twain and Herman Melville.See Shepherd, , The Zealous Intruders, 174–175;Davis, , “The Holy Land Idea,” pp. 13–14;Ben-Arieh, Yehoshua, “Perceptions and Images of the Holy Land,” in The Land That Became Israel: Studies in Historical Geography, ed. Kark, Ruth (Jerusalem, 1990), p. 42.

39. Barclay, , Letter to the Secretary of the ACMS (28 02. 1851), Millennial Harbinger 4th ser., 1 (06 1851): pp. 344345.

40. Ben-Arieh, Yehoshua, “Patterns of Christian Activity and Dispersion in Nineteenth-Century Jerusalem,” Journal of Historical Geography 2 (1976): 51;idem, Jerusalem in the Nineteenth Century, pp. 274–275.

41. See Shepherd, , The Zealous Intruders, p. 231.

42. See Barclay, , Letter to Brother Crane (1 May 1851), in Burnet, , ed., Jerusalem Mission, p. 168; Report to ACMS Board (13 Oct. 1851), Ibid., pp. 206–209.

43. Barclay, , Letter to Brother Crane (1 May 1851), in Burnet, , ed., Jerusalem Mission, pp. 168–169.On the charitable activities of various Christian groups in Jerusalem in this period, see Ben-Arieh, , “Patterns of Christian Activity,” pp. 49–69.On Protestant activities in particular, see idem, Jerusalem in the Nineteenth Century, pp. 250–264.

44. Barclay, , Letter to Brother Crane (1 May 1851), in Burnet, , ed., Jerusalem Mission, pp. 174–175.

45. Barclay, , Letter to D. S. Burnet (29 Dec. 1852), in Burnet, , ed., Jerusalem Mission, pp. 279–283.

46. Barclay, , Letter to Alexander Campbell (27 Aug. 1853), Millennial Harbinger 4th ser., 4 (01 1854): pp. 89.

47. Ibid., p. 7.

48. Barclay, , Letter to eastern Virginia supporters (7 Oct. 1851), in Burnet, , ed., Jerusalem Mission, p. 198; Letter to Brother Crane (13 Oct. 1851), Ibid., pp. 200–202.

49. Barclay, , Letter to Brother Crane (1 May 1851), in Burnet, , ed., Jerusalem Mission, p. 172; Letter to D. S. Burnet (1 April 1853), Ibid., p. 317.

50. On the proposed asylum, see Barclay's reports in Burnet, , ed., Jerusalem Mission, pp. 227–234, 263–264, 305–310, 314–316.See also Lipman, , “America—Holy Land Material,” pp. 28–29.

51. Barclay, , Report to ACMS Board, in Burnet, , ed., Jerusalem Mission, p. 206.

52. Barclay, James Turner, The City of the Great King, or Jerusalem As It Was, As It Is, and As It Is To Be (Philadelphia, 1858).See also Lewis, Jack, “James Turner Barclay: Explorer of Nineteenth-Century Jerusalem,” Biblical Archaeologist 51: 3 (09 1988): 163170;and Ben-Arieh, , Jerusalem in the Nineteenth Century.

53. Barclay, , Letter to Alexander Campbell (27 Aug. 1853), Millennial Harbinger 4th ser., 4 (01 1854): 6.

54. Barclay, , Letter (addressee unnamed, 28 Aug. 1854), Millennial Harbinger 4th ser., 4 (11 1854): 613.

55. Campbell, Alexander, “The Missionary Cause,” Millennial Harbinger 4th ser., 4 (10 1854): 548.

56. On this schism, see Vandergrift, Eileen, “The Christian Missionary Society: A Study in the Influence of Slavery on the Disciples of Christ” (unpublished M.A. thesis, The School of Religion, Butler University, 1945), esp. pp. 1329.

57. Errett, Isaac, ACMS Report, Millennial Harbinger 5th ser., 1 (12 1858): 676.Also in support, see Franklin, Benjamin, “Dr. Barclay and the Jerusalem Mission,” American Christian Review 1 (11 1856): 347;idem, “A Letter from Jerusalem,” American Christian Review 2 (04 1857): 122123.

58. Barclay, , Letter to Isaac Errett (15 Jan. 1860), Millennial Harbinger 5th ser., 3 (05 1860): 260.

59. ACMS report, Oct. 1859, Millennial Harbinger 5th ser., 2 (12 1859): 696.The report continues: “As the eye of the Hebrew mother lingered about the spot where the infant Moses lay, amidst the perils of the Nile, so with the nurturing fondness of a true mother's heart, does the Church of Christ look to this tender child of hope, as the agent under God, in whom Israel shall yet find deliverance and the walls of Zion once more rise in the beauty of holiness.”

60. Barclay, , Letter to Isaac Errett (15 Jan. 1860), Millennial Harbinger 5th ser., 3 (05 1860): 261262, 264–265.

61. Barclay, , “The Welfare of the World,” no. 1, Millennial Harbinger 5th ser., 3 (12 1860): 662663.

62. Ibid., pp. 665–666.

63. Ibid., no. 2, Millennial Harbinger, 5th ser., 4 (Jan. 1861): 8–9; Ibid., no. 4 (Mar. 1861): 128.

64. Ibid., no. 2, Millennial Harbinger, 5th ser., 4 (Jan. 1861): 10–14; Ibid., no. 3 (Feb. 1861): 61–62, 65.

65. Ibid., no. 2, Millennial Harbinger, 5th ser., 4 (Jan. 1861): 13–14.

66. Ibid., no. 3, Millennial Harbinger, 5th ser., 4 (Feb. 1861): 65–69; Ibid., no. 5 Millenial Harbinger, 5th ser., 5 (May 1862): 241–243.

67. It is no great surprise to find postmillennialist and premillennialist viewpoints simultaneously in Barclay. Some historians point out in early American millenarian traditions a fluidity between broadly postmillennialist and premillennialist trends, between the vision of a gradual or progressive fulfillment of the millennium and the expectation of a decisive divine intervention needed to alter the course of history. The crucial link between Puritan premillennialism and later Edwardsean postmillennialism, for example, was the insistence that the drama of the millennium would play itself out according to the “signs of the times” in American experience, and that, whatever the exact timing of Christ's second coming, the millennial fulfillment would be a process integrating divine and human agency alike (see Bercovitch, Sacvan, “The Typology of America's Mission,” American Quarterly 30 [1978]: 137141). Only in the second half of the nineteenth century, especially after the Civil War, did the disparity between post- and premillennialist eschatologies truly harden in American Protestantism (a change later to be observed in Barclay's own thinking).

68. Barclay, , “The Welfare of the World,” no. 4, Millennial Harbinger, 5th ser., 4 (03 1861): 122128.

69. Ibid., no. 6, Millennial Harbinger, 5th ser., 4 (June 1861): 301–306; compare Noah, Mordecai, “Discourse on the Restoration of the Jews,” p. 46. By most accounts, Isaiah 18 is considered an oracle against Ethiopia that closes (vs. 7) on the hopeful note that someday the Ethiopians themselves will come to worship at Zion, bearing gifts for the Lord.

70. Ibid., p. 306. Great Britain also was to have an assisting role in the restoration of the Jews. In Barclay's interpretation of Isa. 60:9 (“Surely the isles wait for me and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from afar, their silver and gold with them, unto the name of the Lord”), the “isles” are Britain, and the “ships of Tarshish” the British navy. A little more than a century earlier Jonathan Edwards had insisted that America herself with her ships and her unique mission, not Britain, was the referent of this text:See his Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion (1742), as excerpted in God's New Israel: Religious Interpretations of America's Destiny, ed. Cherry, Conrad (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1971), pp. 5556.

71. The stories of millenarian entrepreneurs in the Holy Land are extensive. See Shepherd, , The Zealous Intruders, pp. 228–257;Kark, Ruth, “Millenarism and Agricultural Settlement in the Holy Land in the Nineteenth Century,” Journal of Historical Geography 9 (1983): 4762;and Klatzker, David, “American Christian Travelers to the Holy Land, 1821–1939,” in With Eyes Toward Zion: Western Societies and the Holy Land, esp. 3: 6768.

72. See Barclay, , “Prophecy,” no. 2, Millennial Harbinger 38 (02 1867): 7072.

73. See Ibid., no. 4, Millennial Harbinger 38 (May 1867): 222.

74. See Ibid., pp. 217–222 (Barclay offers here a wholly revised outline of the millennial events, commencing with the descent of Jesus as a thief in the night). On the theory that despondent postmillennialists sometimes turned into devout premillennialists because of the crushing circumstances of the Civil War, social change, etc. (or in Barclay's case, frustrations on the mission field), see Dayton, Donald, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1987), pp. 158163.

75. See Errett, Isaac, “The Study of Prophecy,” Millennial Harbinger, 5th ser., 4 (07 1861): 410412.

76. See Barclay, , “Prophecy,” no. 1, Millennial Harbinger 38 (01 1867): 3035;Ibid., no. 2 (Feb. 1867): 64–69; Ibid., no. 6 (July 1867): 337–342.

77. Ibid., no. 6, Millennial Harbinger 38 (July 1867): 342.

78. Ibid., no. 1, Millennial Harbinger 38 (Jan. 1867): 34–35.

79. Lard, Moses, “O. [E. E. Orvis] on the Editor's Theory of the Millennium,” Lard's Quarterly 4 (07 1867): 306, 307–308;compare idem, “The State of the World at the Coming of Christ,” Lards Quarterly 5 (04 1868): 151156.David Lipscomb, Lard's younger contemporary, also a premillennialist, confessed a similar pious ignorance about the destiny of the Jews: “We do not know when their condition will change, or whether it ever will in this world. Some passages seem to indicate that it will change and that they will bear a prominent and efficient part in the conversion of the world. But then we do not know but that these passages refer to spiritual Israel instead of fleshly Israel. Other passages seem to indicate they will not be converted. We do not know when the fulness of the Gentiles will come, or what it is or will be. We have but little faith in our own interpretation of prophecy, and cannot help our brother any on these subjects” (“The Condition of the Jews,” Gospel Advocate [1874]: 202).

80. Lard, Moses, Commentary on Romans (Lexington, 1876), p. 359. Compare Ibid., p. 371: “the future salvation of Israel does not imply their restoration to their ancient homeland in Palestine. The former is a great necessity, the latter is none. When converted, the Jews can be just as happy, dispersed as they now are, as though they were all crowded back intojudea; and certainly they can be far more useful. The gospel is not designed to prepare men for an earthly Canaan, but for a heavenly.”

81. Ibid., p. 371.

82. Lard, , “The State of the World at the Coming of Christ,“ p. 153.Lard was at last willing to claim, even without express scriptural support, that “all expectations…that the condition of the world is to be greatly altered for the better by the Jews may be dismissed. It will never be realized. We are hence still left to the conclusion that at the second coming of Christ the world will be about as it is at present, no better, no worse” (Ibid., p. 156).

83. McGarvey, J. W., “Why Are the Jews Yet With Us?,” Christian Standard 39 (05 1903): 660, 696.

84. Ibid., p. 696. On the larger shifts of eschatological thinking that induced protofundamentalists to invest their hopes in “political Zionism,” see Rausch, David, Zionism within Early American Fundamentalism (New York, 1979), esp. pp. 53146.

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