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Christian Zionism is the theoretical support of Christians for the return of Jews to Israel, as well as practical support for Israel. For the Jews, see Zionism

The movement was theoretical and theological until recent decades, when it became the basis for widespread support for Israel among American Fundamentalists.


Since the Reformation an interest in "the Restoration of the Jews to their Land" has been a constant theme in many Protestant denominations. This concern did not always translate into support for a specific Return to Zion. Between 1600 and the 1880s, scores of Christians advanced plans for settlement in Palestine. In a striking parallel, Jewish thinkers, beginning in the seventeenth century, advocated similar ideas and some embarked on small-scale settlement in Palestine. Among both Jews and Christians these settlement attempts increased at times of intense messianic speculation, especially around the year 1840. British, Dutch and American Protestants were involved. One specific Christian restoration plan was Laurence Oliphant's 1882 "Gilead Plan" for a large Jewish colony under British auspices in eastern Palestine. The Christian proposals seem to have had little coordination with or influence on the Jewish plans.

From the early 1940s to the late 1960s American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr was the most eloquent of American Christian Zionists.


Zionism is a central element in Dispensationalism, especially the Plymouth Brethren version promoted by John Nelson Darby in the mid 19th century. Darby's ideas were spread by Cyrus Scofield in his Scofield Reference Bible (1909 and many later edition). It was most significant premillennialist book. In recent decades the popular expression of Dispensationalist ideas is to be found in Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth (1970) and especially in the ''Left Behind books by Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins published in the 1990s and early 2000s. The series sold over sixty-five million copies. In each of the twelve "Left Behind" novels, Israel and Israeli Jews play a pivotal role.

The Dispensationalists argue from the Bible that before the Second Coming Christ is possible, the Antichrist must first set up a one world government and command himself to be worshiped as God in the reconstructed Temple in Jerusalem. The Antichrist will persecute Jews but they will recognize Christ as their savior and repent. Believing Christians will be "raptured" before the global strife (Tribulation) begins. After Christ returns he will set up a millennial kingdom in Israel as the Jewish Messiah in literal fulfillment of such prophecies found in Ezekiel and Revelation. Until the 1940s Dispensationalists ignored the Middle East. The founding of Israel and, especially, the Six Day War in 1967 changed them radically, and they focused enormous attention on the region. In the 1970s they became politicized and started voting along foreign policy lines, with a strong preference for Ronald Reagan and his followers. The liberal notion that Palestinians rightfully should own the West Bank and Gaza (Judea and Samaria) is anathema to Christian Zionists.


In 1981, the Israeli air force destroyed Osirak, Baathist Iraq's nuclear installation. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin called Reverend Jerry Falwell and asked for political support. Falwell replied, "I support Israel with all my heart." Falwell systematically rounded up evangelical support for Israel's military actions. The evangelicals from that point on increased their pressure on Congress to support Israel. Reverend John Hagee in Dallas was as enthusiastic as Falwell, and pressured Congressman Tom DeLay to join the cause, which DeLay did with enthusiasm. By 2001, DeLay was the most powerful member of Congress, and his message resonated with the Bush White House.

Christian promoters

  • Francis Kett (1547–1589) [1]
  • Thomas Brightman (1552-1607) [1]
  • Sir Henry Finch (1558-1625) [2]
  • Isaac de la Peyrere (1594-1676) [1]
  • Lewis Way (1772-1840) [3]
  • George Bush (1796-1859) [4]
  • John Nelson Darby (1800 - 1882)
  • Anthony Ashley Cooper (1801 - 1885) [5]
  • James H. Brookes (1830 – 1897)[6]
  • William Eugene Blackstone (1841–1935)[7]
  • Reinhold Niebuhr (1892—1971) [1]
  • John C. Hagee (b. 1940)

Further reading

  • Brog, David. Standing With Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State (2006) 285 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Merkley, Paul Charles. Christian Attitudes towards the State of Israel (2001) 266 pp. scholarly study by a supporter Christian Zionism
  • Merkley, Paul Charles. 'The Politics of Christian Zionism, 1891–1948' (1998)
  • Weber, Timothy P. On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel's Best Friend (2004). 336 pp. excerpt and text search, somewhat hostile