Porous Borders and Textual Ambiguity Why Old Testament Israel is No Model for Modern Nationalism

Main Article Content

Helen Paynter


The phenomenon of ethnic nationalism might appear to be endorsed by the Bible. How are local churches to counter narratives of hate and othering if they feel that their own sacred text might be lending support to the ideology? This paper will identify elements of nationalistic ideology which may appear to have some consonance with the Bible. These focus around the particular theme of the ethnic purity and exceptionalism of Israel. It then offers a biblical-theological reading of this theme. The study concludes that the potentially nationalistic themes of Israel’s bloodline, land, and vocation all operate in highly ambiguous ways in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament are revealed to be symbols and shadows of the great work that is begun in Christ. There is nothing in these themes which offers genuine support for ethnic nationalism.

Article Details

Author Biography

Helen Paynter

Helen Paynter is a Baptist minister in Bristol, England, and founding director of the Centre for the Study of Bible and Violence at Bristol Baptist College.