Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call with T. A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could join us. In today’s program, Tom begins a two-part series with guest Randall Price. Here’s TBC executive director, Tom McMahon.
Tom: Our guest for today and next week is Randall Price. He’s the founder and president of World of the Bible Ministries. He’s also a research professor and the executive director of the Center for Judaic Studies at Liberty University. He has a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin, with a concentration in Jewish studies and biblical archaeology. His books include Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls; The Stones Cry Out: What Archaeology Reveals about the Truth of the Bible; The Temple in Bible Prophecy; In Search of the Ark of the Covenant, and is co-author of the forthcoming Zondervan Handbook on Biblical Archaeology.
And I’m going to have Randy mention something that they’re working on now.
Randy, welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Randy: Thank you, Tom! Always a pleasure to be with you!
Tom: Now, what I alluded to before we went on, you were mentioning a project and a product that you’re coming up with called The Virtual Tour of the Temple, is that right?
Randy: Yeah! Let me explain that. Many people who go to Israel visit the Temple Mount. But what they find when they arrive there is that because of the Islamic denial of the Temple’s existence, there is a hostility toward carrying a Bible there, speaking about the ancient temple, or anything concerning anything other than Islam on that site. And so we, over a three-year period, went to the Temple Mount; I put on a hidden microphone, we had secret cameras. I went to every site on the Temple Mount that’s related to the Bible and explained from an archaeological position where these things were. And it took three years because we’d constantly be thrown off the site, and get back on. And this is really interesting footage.
This was shot with a special 360-degree camera so that you can sit at your computer, put this DVD in, and you can navigate all around the Temple Mount on your own. You can go forward, you can go backward, you can zoom in, zoom out, look at anything you want to. You can hit “data points” and up comes a video of me up on those locations speaking about this. We also have some of the other significant sites in Jerusalem and then the tabernacle modeled in Timna Park near the Red Sea. There’s a lot of other interactive things here. It’s available in four languages: English, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. And there’s also an online version that a person has access to when they get the DVD.
We designed this for people to do their own personal study without the danger or the difficulty of actually going to the Temple Mount.
Tom: Wow! That really sounds exciting, Randy. Now, for those who want to get even more up close and personal, Randy leads tours – yearly tours – but now you’re doing more than one a year, aren’t you?
Randy: We have. This year I’m doing one to Turkey as well as to Israel, and we’ll go to Jordan as well. Last year we were in Greece. And though we have an annual tour of Israel, it’s usually in June, and it’s usually for two weeks. Our website, which I know you’ll talk about, will feature the information on those tours.
Tom: Right. And, Randy, obviously, you know, we’ve talked about this – one of the reasons I wanted to get you on – you do go to Israel so often; you’ve been involved with digs there. You mentioned your archaeology, certainly your degree there, but also the work that you’ve been doing over there. So, folks, if you want to…I don’t know if you’re still doing digs over there, but anyway, going with Randy would really be, I think, a wonderful experience.
Randy: We do have digs planned. By law, when you finish an excavation, you’re required to publish. And I spent ten years at Qumran, which is the site of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and now I’m in the process of publishing that. It’s like a major book, so it’s a very technical book; it’s designed for an archaeological audience, but when I get further enough ahead on that, I’m able to go ahead and take a permit for another site. We’re actually looking at one for January of 2016, which will be a cave down by the Dead Sea. So if that…if I get my work done, and we are able to get the permit, we’re planning on doing that.
Tom: Yeah, and if the Lord tarries, although…we know what our priorities are, don’t we, Randy?
Randy: We do!
Tom: What I want to discuss is, really, what’s going on in Israel. And I want to start with the frame of mind of those that you’ve interacted with – you mentioned that you have an assistant who’s Israeli, so you’ve gotten some insights from her.
Randy: I was there just a few weeks ago – actually, a couple weeks ago – and was able to interact on a lot of things since the Israeli elections, since the Iranian treaty that the United States brokered, and just got some feelings and understandings of things.
Tom: So, Randy, how would you describe the kind of frame of mind in general? Is it good? Is it bad? Or is it just the kind of feeling that “Well, you know, life goes on, regardless of the problems.” They’re there and are committed to being there. What would you say?
Randy: Well, I think it is. Life goes on because it has to. I think Israelis take a great deal of security in their army, the plans their army has – not that they know them, but they trust them – and day by day, because they’ve lived in a secure environment (you have everything from shopping malls to schools, almost every place, any bag, any article you have is looked through); the average Israelis are very much aware of security. It’s a heightened thing that we have not yet experienced. And so they feel that they can just go on with life.
They do think the same way we do. They see what’s going on in the world in general; they know they’re in a conflicted neighborhood. They have enemies on every side that call for their destruction. Nothing has changed. Most people would not be living there if they were not able to adjust to that reality. They, because of the recent election and putting Netanyahu back into the prime minister’s office, it’s obvious that people feel that they want to have a strong Israel, they want to have a secure Israel, and so there’s that feeling.
But you know, in general, people just like in anyplace, they go to work…they get up, they go through their life, and while they know these things are out there, it’s not something that affects them, I think, greater than other people.
Tom: Now, based on what you’ve just been saying, would you say that some have been motivated to leave? And what about immigration? Has…when I say, “What’s going on there?” I mean, you could go from week to week. There are drastic things that can take place from week to week. So how has that affected immigration or those who say, “No, I’ve had enough of this. I’m out”?
Randy: Well, I think that even though Israel experiences a robust economy, the problem is that there are a lot of Israelis who find it much harder to get a job and to get a job that pays well. They still eye the United States and certain European cities as having far greater opportunities. So if people leave Israel, it’s not because of terrorism or issues like this. It’s generally the economic hardship. They feel like they can have a better life somewhere else. The cost of living’s high. It’s almost impossible to buy a flat in Israel. They find that gas is extremely high. Other things are very hard to afford. And they just feel, I think, for one reason or another, that they can make a better life elsewhere.
But most Israelis, especially those who consider themselves Zionists, want to tough that out. That’s why they either came to Israel in the first place, and, in fact, what we’re finding, because of the anti-Semitism that is increasing in the world, is that Israel is the only safe haven for Jewish people. So the real statistics now, is that there’s a potentially huge wave of aliyah, Jewish immigration, probably the greatest Israel’s seen in its existence because of problems in Europe. You remember that Netanyahu called for the Jews of France to come home to Israel after the problems there with Charlie Hebdo and other issues. Whenever there has been an experience of this, and maybe the thought that it’s getting to be midnight for the Jews – the things that they saw in Europe before, the things they’re seeing in other countries, certainly the rise of ISIS - many other things that threaten, would say, “We’ve got to get out of the countries we’re in. We’ve got to go to Israel. It’s the only place where we can be Jews and we can be safe.”
And that kind of, shall we say, forecasts a larger Jewish immigration in the near future. So, you have, especially from Russian and the Ukraine, the same thing from Argentina, and other countries like this; even Great Britain, where there’s been increased…and in Germany, too…increased acts of anti-Semitism, so there’s a lot of people thinking this way. I think the only reason some continue to live in those settings is because they have a better or higher standard of living, and they’re helping support people who are in Israel today, family members or others.
Tom: Randy, not too long ago, Israel celebrated its 67th birthday as a modern state. Now, that is amazing, considering all it’s been through. So what are your thoughts about that?
Randy: Well, I just want to say, “Is it only 67?” I mean, when we think back, wasn’t Israel a nation 3,000 years ago? So there’s a sense in which people forget that there is unbroken continuity in Jewish habitation in the land from the time of the settlement with Joshua’s conquest, and then with David’s conquest of Jerusalem. There has never been a time when there has not been Jews in the land. Now, independence is another issue. And so we talk about Israel’s rebirth in 1948, we talk about, in 1967, Jerusalem being again, at least the eastern section, made part of Israel, coming out from under the Jordanians, unified in 1980. So the thought is that this is all recent. But in one sense, Israel has always been Israel. It’s never been something else. It’s always been looked at, and the prayers of the Jewish people have always been toward Jerusalem for the last 3,000 years. So there’s a sense in which we talk about 67 years since 1948, but that was only the Jewish return to independence – but not the Jewish return to Israel. Maybe en masse, but certainly not as a possession.
And I say that only because today, despite all the hardships Israel’s had in its 67 years, thinking of its leaders – I read this recently, Yoram Ettinger, who is the retired ambassador to Israel – but he said, “Look, when you take an olive, and you squeeze it, pressurize it, you make olive oil, and that’s good, and it’s pure.” He said, “When you take the olive plant that’s Israel, and you pressurize it as it has been pressurized for the last 67 years, the result is something very great. It’s stronger and purer.” And their thought is that Israel today is at a better place than it ever has been. You have, certainly now, the replacement of Jewish citizens in Israel for the number lost in the Holocaust. You have the economy of Israel – more robust, stronger, more recognized throughout the world than it ever has been. Democracy flourishes in Israel. Certainly, I think, people feel better about being Israelis, despite the fact that the world may hate them, they feel that their accomplishments and what they’ve done in that 67 years has put them at a very strategic place in history.
So I think that in general Israel is stronger, better, and more poised for whatever future God has for it. Of course, we know that future that God has for it is some very difficult times, but even through that, that brings about the national repentance of Israel and brings Israel onto the world’s stage to be the center of God’s blessing for all the world.
Tom: Right. You mentioned Yoram Ettinger – I’ve been reading some of his blogs, and one of the things that I learned from him, because I guess I fell into a trap – maybe some of us who are listening have as well – when you hear about what’s going on in Europe, the growth and the development of anti-Semitism, and in this country when you have major denominations trying to thwart Israel through not buying products or…yet, as that’s going on, and you’ve mentioned it a couple of times, Randy, it has a robust economy. It has countries that you wouldn’t expect investing in Israel. And that was a stunner for me. So you see both things going on. Yes, the growth of anti-Semitism, yet God is still prospering His chosen people in their place. And they’re not believers. They’re still walking in disobedience, but according to His perspective, through His promises, we see this taking place. It’s stunning, isn’t it?
Randy: I think some of this goes along with God’s divine intention to preserve Israel.
Randy: So, down through history, they were marginalized, they were segregated, and the only thing they could do, because they couldn’t hold jobs with Gentiles, was to specialize. And education was extremely important, especially higher education: the sciences, other types of areas of technology, and the banking industry, and other things like this, they capitalized on. The result was there’s a higher percentage, I think, of people in these fields with this expertise than there are, perhaps, among other nationalities. And so, when Israel comes together, and these people come together there, you have a little higher ratio of professionals and experts, which is why you see Israel so much involved with technology; they still credit the cell phone to Israel. A lot happens in the area of computer improvements and technical issues, medical advances, certainly things related to technology of aircraft and other types of things. Like the Iron Dome project and things like this. Quite amazing. Out of proportion to other countries with that small a population.
I think that’s part of God saying, “I’m keeping my people together and I’m keeping them also in a place of prominence and recognition that My hand of blessing is on them even in their disobedience.”
Tom: Sure! Because it’s for His sake. This is God’s promise. It confirms God being God. It’s amazing.
Now, with regard…you know, we mentioned anti-Semitism. I’m not sure I want to put what I’m going to say next in this category, but maybe so. What do the Israelis think about our State Department, and especially our president’s attitude toward Israel? Has anything changed about Israel’s attitude toward the US based on that?
Randy: You know, the basic thing I hear is disappointment. They still believe that America is Israel’s greatest ally, and I mean, there’s probably more Israelis holding American citizenship than there are holding any other kind of citizenship in Israel. The cold relations between Obama and Netanyahu have certainly been part of that disappointment. The idea that the State Department holds the position that there must be a withdrawal of Israel to the pre-’67 date war lines, which almost everybody believes is indefensible and would mean the lack of Israel’s survival. The fact that they want to freeze and demand freezing of settlements, which includes Jerusalem - even in the capital city, building cannot go on. These kind of things…plus sanctions. Calling for sanctions against Israel while removing sanctions for Iran. That causes a great deal of confusion, disillusion.
At the same time, they still recognize American support for Israel, and they also recognize as they see in their streets, with marches and conferences and things, of American Christians who support Israel. You really don’t see that too much from many of the nations. You do see it from Canada – from the Canadians. And the Canadian prime minister’s been very open and supportive of Israel, perhaps more than any politician in recent days. You see it some from far-flung places like New Zealand and Australia, and from Koreans, and people… But really the Americans stand out in their unqualified support of Israel. So I think there’s still generally good feeling.
At the same time, there’s anti-Semitism everywhere in the news. And because it comes from Christian countries, there’s still this perception that Christians hate Jews; that they see the Jewish agenda in some despotic way as, you know, taking over the world, and they want to put the Jew down, blame all the world’s evils on them. And the result is, I think, it closes them up to the gospel, because obviously, you don’t want to in any way embrace your persecutors. You certainly wouldn’t want to convert to their religion. So, if anything, it has a negative effect on the culture. At the same time, they see real Christians, and Americans in general, supporting their country, even if their politicians do not.
Tom: I’m sure the conversation – I mean, I hear it all the time here, and we’re definitely removed from something as intense as the nation of Israel with regard to what they have to deal with, but I’m thinking about Iran and the increasing nuclear potential – long-range missiles.
Now, Randy, we have about five minutes left in this part of our program, but what I want to get to here is those Israelis – those who wouldn’t call themselves atheists, and we know, when growing up in Israel, you’re going to deal with the Tanakh, the Old Testament. You’re going to at least be familiar with the Scriptures. What I’m getting at, do you think many of them are aware of the verses in, for example, Jeremiah:31:35-36. I want to read it, because it has to do, I believe – it’s the guarantee of God for the survival of Israel as a nation. Starting with verse 35: “Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day and the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar. The Lord of Hosts is His name. If those ordinances depart from before Me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me forever.”
So, I don’t know what greater guarantee you could have: if the sun doesn’t rise, if, certainly, the ordinances of nature cease, that would be the only condition. Are they aware of that, Randy?
Randy: Well, let me tell you what they’re aware of. They, unlike our society, have the Bible taught to them in the public schools. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Now, it’s strictly from a historical, not a religious point of view, but they hear these things. They also know that from the founding of the State of Israel, someone, whether it’s Theodor Herzl in the past, or Ben-Gurion from ’48 on, say that Israel is fulfilling the vision of the prophets. And they would quote from the prophets like Jeremiah, not this specific passage, but certainly others, particularly some that are in Isaiah, and would see the modern state as either fulfilling that or as …this is part of its future destiny. Now, as you know, a majority of Israelis are not religious. They either consider themselves atheist or secular. But because they were steeped in the Bible in this sense, when this kind of question comes to them: Why are you Jewish? Why do you live in Israel? Something like this…even though in their personal lives they would not apply the Bible to themselves, they’ll use the Bible to give an answer.
So I think it’s interesting. They know the answers. They know the Bible says this. It may not affect their personal belief system or their practice, but deep down, they…this is the only answer they know will work, and so they’re aware of it.
Tom: My guest has been Randall Price, and we’ve been talking about Israel, and Randy, as we mentioned earlier, has tours that he takes to Israel, but he also is involved there as an archaeologist. So, Randy, I really appreciated your insights, and I look forward to next week. We’re going to pick up right where we left off.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 featuring T. A. McMahon. radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019 Bend, Oregon 97708. Call us at 800.937.6638. Or visit our website at the bereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for tuning in, and we invite you to tune in again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.