More on Malina

Robert Myles, who has a pretty good series going on reviewing Crossley’s ‘Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism’, has another post along the same lines- this time focusing on the views of Bruce Malina.

I’d just add two observations (and I am not a ‘fan’ of Malina’s work, but when someone is telling the truth, well, he’s telling the truth).

1- Malina is simply following Shlomo Sands and other researchers when he points out that there is no connection between modern Israelis and ancient Israelites.

2- There is in fact something amiss in our labeling of Israeli’s as ‘settlers’ when they take Palestinian land.  And it is in fact the case that Christian Zionism is tremendously problematic as both something Christian and as Zionism.

Indeed, Myles’ quote from Malina isn’t at all evidence of Malina’s ‘wrongness’ on the subject.  Quite the contrary, Malina is right when he says-

Consider the language used in the United States relative to contemporary Israel. Israeli squatters are called ‘settlers’; Israel’s army of occupation is called a ‘defense force’; Israel’s theft of Palestinian property is called a ‘return’; Israel’s racist anti-Gentilism is called ‘Zionism’; and any and all criticism of Israel’s chosen people’s behavior is labeled ‘anti-Semitism’!… Dissidence, as my statements indicate, is in essence a semiotic phenomenon employing meaningful signs that result in cognitive disorientation of true believers. Israelis and Christian fundamentalists in the United States find my statements quite disorienting; as a matter of fact, they are sufficient to label me ‘an enemy of Israel,’ or, more derogatorily, ‘an anti-Semite.’

There’s nothing untrue in that paragraph.

As to Myles’ other points they are of less interest to me (sorry).  But Myles’ criticism of Malina on the above two points seems inappropriate.

About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.
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6 Responses to More on Malina

  1. Joe Zias says:

    I believe the term Christian Zionism may be inappropriate as it does not represent the Christian community I’ve known and worked with for decades here in Israel. It should be replaced by Evangelical or Pentecostal Zionism which is more appropriate as it is based purely on theological reasons and not humanitarian issues.


  2. Robert says:

    With all due respect, you misrepresent my criticism of Malina. In fact, directly following that quote, I write “I’m not suggesting that what Malina outlines here is necessarily untrue or even overblown, but when read with a hermeneutics of suspicion it certainly does comes across as if he has a particular axe to grind.” In other words, taken in the context of all the other quotes I provide in my post, there might be more going on here than meets the eye.


    • Jim says:

      yes i saw your followup paragraph. that, though, doesn’t change the fact that you’re critiquing malina on these two points- and indeed, you imply as much when you write “but when read with a hermeneutics of suspicion it certainly does comes across as if he has a particular axe to grind” seems to prove my point: i.e., that you are in fact criticizing his views on those points.


  3. Deane Galbraith says:

    Reading through Myles’s post, it is apparent that his point is not “Malina is wrong” on these points, Jim. Rather, it’s that Malina – who has relied on strange 19thC race-based theories to deny the Jewishness of modern Israelis, has denied that modern Israelis have any “Semitic” origins, and has circulated a joke about the holocaust – takes every opportunity in his work to make these comments.

    Now, I can certainly agree with the points that the state of modern Israel has abused Palestinians or that criticism of the state of modern Israel is too frequently confused with anti-Semitism. And Myles may well too. But his post did not concern the truth or otherwise of these things. Rather, what Myles has shown is that in one particular case, that of Malina’s, his unusual views concerning race and Jewishness have evidently fueled what he writes in his scholarship. While I oppose much of what the modern state of Israel does in respect of the people within its ever-expanding borders, I also would firmly oppose the particular manner in which a scholar such as Malina has expressed his opposition.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right.


    • Jim says:

      I dont think we are far apart here which is why i made a point of only addressing the two points i did. The danger, it seems to me, is the notion that because Malina is wrong elsewhere he is automatically wrong here. That is certainly the impression Myles post leaves in general.


  4. Deane Galbraith says:



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