Gary M. Burge is a professor of New Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI., and author of several books, including Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to "Holy Land" Theology.

Posts By This Author

An Appeal to the Center

by Gary M. Burge 01-25-2018
A Land Full of God: Christian Perspectives on the Holy Land, edited by Mae Elise Cannon. Wipf & Stock.

IMAGINE A gathering of thoughtful American Christians, of diverse backgrounds—from Greek Orthodox to Pentecostal—and each with some experience of the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. If you could record their conversations, it might be the beginning of the book that is here before us.

A Land Full of God is an essay collection compiled by Mae Elise Cannon, executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace, to show a range of opinions about the Israel-Palestine conflict in the American church. The writers share a general understanding that peacemaking is the only way forward. Some admit they are exhausted by this conflict. Many express despair over the extremist voices that seem to push the U.S. church around. And a few have suggestions for what might make a difference.

In one of the book’s liveliest essays, Paul Alexander sums up key points: 1) Israel must end its military occupation of the Palestinians and be less violent. 2) Palestinians need to recognize the state of Israel and stop vilifying Jews. 3) Christians need to give a rest to appeals to eschatology in this entire mess. Alexander sounds exasperated and pragmatic, feelings many of us share.

If you’ve had much contact with this topic, it is impossible to read such a book with any neutrality.

Is Iran the New Iraq?

by Gary M. Burge 01-18-2012
Iraq/Iran. Image via Wylio

Iraq/Iran. Image via Wylio

It’s hard to remember the warm-up to the Iraq war now almost 10 years old. Following the devastating experience of 9/11 (Sept. 11, 2001), the United States experienced enormous national feelings of anger and sought a means to identify and punish those who were guilty of this horrendous act of terror. We now know that within days, the White House (in particular, the vice president’s office) was pointing a finger at Iraq and within 12 months, any observer could tell that we were on our way to war.

On March 19, 2003, when the invasion began I remember telling a class of students that they ought to remember this day well. It might be a war the U.S. would regret and it might lead to an involvement in the Middle East we don’t know how to end. Now ten years later we’re still mired over there.

What were the reasons for the war? Let’s make a list:


Newt Gingrich’s Middle East Blunder (Expect More)

by Gary M. Burge 12-12-2011

Ridiculous. Ignorant. Racist. Dangerous. 

These are just a few of the terms that flew out of the Middle East this weekend following Newt Gingrich’s unwelcome remarks about Israel and the Palestinians on Friday.

As the Republican front-runner, Gingrich was speaking to the cable TV Jewish Channel and hoping to curry favor with its conservative pro-Israel constituency. 

What did he do? He described the Palestinians as an “invented people” and lumped every Palestinian under the terrorist umbrella. There is no difference between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, he said.

On Saturday night during the ABC Republican debate, Gingrich doubled-down: “They [the Palestinians] are all terrorists.”

A few of the other candidates looked, well, alarmed.


Les Mis

by Gary M. Burge 08-02-2011

I prefer my revolutions to be simple: A corrupt dictator/tyrant, an oppressed population, inspired reformers who risk their lives, calls for democracy, waves of marchers in the streets, background music from Les Misérables. The stories from Tunis and Cairo were epochal. The Arab spring was in full bloom as calls for participatory government could be heard from every corner of the Middle East.

Then there was Syria. The Assad government has been infamous in its intolerance to dissent. It is a military regime whose 30-year leadership under Hafez al-Assad (1930-2000) established it as one of the most severe in the region. In 2,000, after the death of Hafez, the world was intrigued to see his second son -- Bashar al-Assad -- ascend the throne. Bashar was an ophthalmologist who had studied in London, but because of his older brother's death in a car accident in 1994, he was called to follow his father. Bashar speaks English and French fluently and has been as critical of the U.S. as he has been of Israel.

A Gun, a Pause, and Innocence Lost in the West Bank

by Gary M. Burge 06-27-2011
I send many of my students to the Middle East as interns. In fact, Wheaton College has an entire program devoted to student short-term placement.

On Palestinians: Whose Narrative Wins?

by Gary M. Burge 05-10-2011
Once again last week the pages of the New York Times was graced with an ad published by David Horowitz's Freedom Center, one of

Terry Jones, Burning a Quran, and Evangelicalism

by Gary M. Burge 04-05-2011

It isn't as if the Middle East needed another complication. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen -- now Terry Jones? Rev. Jones is a fringe pastor in Gainesville, Florida, who spent about 30 years as a missionary in Europe.

Five Frustrations When You Debate Israel and the Palestinians

by Gary M. Burge 03-01-2011

I've been fascinated watching an earlier blog hunker down into a strong debate about Israel and the Palestinians (February 22, "

When Will 3.5 Million Palestinians Get Their Chance For Freedom?

by Gary M. Burge 02-22-2011

I must confess I was dumbfounded. It was bad enough this winter when Israel refused to call a moratorium on settlements in the West Bank, even after the United States urged it to do so (and sent our latest $3 billion check).

Egypt's Power Vacuum

by Gary M. Burge 02-02-2011

For an entire week now we've watched tens of thousands of Egyptians march demanding a change in government. The police force has collapsed. The army is out in force. Residents are policing their own neighborhoods. President Mubarak is weighing his options. And the West is wondering what will happen next.

Middle East Martyr-Christians

by Gary M. Burge 12-10-2010
One of the most precious artifacts I have in my office isn't an ancient coin or oil lamp. It is a business card. From northern Iraq.

When is an Incentive a Bribe? Israel, Settlements, and Fighter Jets

by Gary M. Burge 12-01-2010
Imagine a parent with two recalcitrant teenagers.

Dialogue at the Demonstration: Risking Conversation with the Face of Occupation

by Gary M. Burge 04-26-2010

Bethlehem, West Bank. Evangelicals have never been keen on political protests. Especially the sort that includes rifles and grenades -- in the hands of your opponents.