All through the Christian era, the theologians have amazingly overlooked, or disregarded as insignificant, a striking fact: the total absence of the words Palestine and Palestinians from the Gospels and even from all the New Testament! And paradoxically, almost all of the Biblical atlases grouping the Old and the New Testaments contain a map entitled Palestine at the time of Jesus Christ!

We have consulted eminent theologians and scholars on this subject and, receiving no answer, we set about ourselves to examine this problem or rather ask pertinent questions to which we tried to find answers:

Why did Christ never pronounce the words Palestine and Palestinians – or if He ever did, why did He not allow them to enter, via the Gospels and His posterity, the Church – whereas He spoke of Israel whom He considered as His own people? Indeed – and we in Lebanon are well placed to know it – the rituals, while using whenever necessary the word Israel, to designate the Chosen People, never use the word Palestine.

Moreover, assuming that Palestine existed in the days of Jesus, are we not justified in wondering how come not a single Palestinian presented to Jesus his sick son or possessed daughter, his old blind father… to be cured, whereas people came from everywhere: Galilee, Tyre, Sidon, Judaea, Jerusalem, even Samaria, the Decapolis and Transjordan… to hear Him and be cured?

Moreover, on Pentecost day, when the Holy Spirit came to the Holy Virgin and the Apostles, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak different languages as the Spirit gave them power to express themselves.

Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, and each was bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language. They were amazed and astonished. "Surely," they said, "all these men speaking are Galileans? How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphilia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; residents of Rome – Jews and proselytes alike – Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God." Everyone was amazed and perplexed; they asked one another what this all meant.

It is clear that the Palestinians do not figure among the people mentioned by Saint Luke in the Acts of the Apostles.

Wherefore then this eagerness to tie up everywhere and anyhow the word Palestine to Jesus Christ?

It is well known that the Advent of Jesus Christ happened when His country was, since about half a century, under Roman domination. In this respect, and because this question has always puzzled us, we allowed ourselves this digression:

We have often wondered how come He, the Son of God, decided and accepted to be born in a country invaded by foreigners that have scoffed its national particulars and, to better subdue it, attached it to a region they called Syria? (A wide region being given the name of Tyre since it was the hinterland of that city, as specified by Saint Jerome and many others, a matter we shall explain in a separate article.) Then we remembered that this perfect Poor, Who chose to be born in a manger, Who never had anywhere to lay His head (Mt 8:20), and left this world nailed to a Cross, willed to be deprived even of the pride – which is a bounty – of being born in a free and proudly independent country!

Having said this, let us signal that it was the Greeks, inspired by Herodotus, (I, 105; VII, 89) who were the first to give the names of Syria and Palestine to the eastern and southern parts of Canaan-Phoenicia, that was first called Land of El.

The Romans, imitating the Greeks did everything to deprive the people of these regions, the Jews in particular, of their autonomy and their national identity in order to thwart their revolts. They tried hard to substitute the name Palestine to all the biblical names… But the Jews and Canaan-Phoenicians did not comply, and Galilee, Judaea, Samaria and all the rest retained their ancestral names. A glance at the map in the days of Herod the "Great" will prove our point.

But let us return to our subject: how are we to explain the complete absence of the words Palestine and Palestinians in the New Testament? Could Christ have excluded them from among the peoples to whom He wished to address His Message because they were always the enemies of His people Israel, in particular His illustrious ancestor David.

No, Christ cannot hate or ostracize; He came for all men. He prayed His Father to forgive even those who nailed Him to the Cross, because they know not what they are doing (Lk 23:34)… Hence the only plausible explanation for the silence of the New Testament and the liturgy is that there was no State called Palestine on the land that Palestinians of today claim as their own!

Imagine the bitterness of the Lebanese, the Christians in particular – well acquainted with the horrible atrocities inflicted on their compatriots by Arafat’s thugs, while the rulers of the West were coldly indifferent –, when Arafat, sitting besides His Holiness Pope John Paul II – on a pilgrimage to Bethlehem, the hometown first of David, then of Jesus, now ceded to the Palestinians – proclaimed, with a "smile" – that never fails to terrify us –, on his face: "Christ is a Palestinian!"

Moreover, what seems also paradoxical and difficult to understand is the total absence of the words Palestine and Palestinians in the Koran, whereas Israel is mentioned 52 times – one of the people upon whom God bestowed his favors, guided and chosen –, and the Sons of Israel, preferred to all others (II, 47), with whom God established a pact, promising to abide by it (II, 40).

We read in the Surat of the Cow:

Children of Israel! Call to mind
The special favor which I bestowed
Upon you, and fulfil your Covenant
With me, as I fulfil my Covenant
With you, and fear none but Me.

And believe in what I reveal,
Confirming the revelation
Which is with you,
And be not the first to reject
Faith therein, nor sell My Signs
For a small price; and fear Me
And Me alone.

And cover not Truth
With falsehood, nor conceal
The Truth when you know what it is.

And be steadfast in prayer;
Practice regular charity;
And bow down your heads
With those who bow down in worship.

Do ye enjoin right conduct
On the people and forget
To practice it yourselves.
And yet ye study the Scripture?

Will ye not understand?

Nay seek God’s help
With patient perseverance
And prayer;
It is indeed hard except
To those who bring a lowly spirit,
Who bear in mind the certainty
That they are to meet their Lord,
And that they are to return to Him.

Children of Israel! Call to mind
The special favor which I bestowed
Upon you and that I preferred you
To all others…

And remember, We delivered you
From the people of Pharaoh…

And remember, we appointed
Forty nights for Moses,
And in his absence ye took
The calf for worship,
And ye did grievous wrong.

Even then, We did forgive you;
There was a chance for you
To be grateful.
And remember, We gave
Moses the Scripture and the Criterion;
There was a chance for you to be guided aright.

Isn’t it therefore absurd to find Arafat now waging a "Jihad" (holy war) against Israel in the name of Islam, ignoring – or pretending to ignore – that, in attacking and defaming Israel, he is defaming the Prophet Mohammed and the Koran?

And how can we explain the belligerent attitude of the Arab and so-called Arab countries towards Israel? Is it due to the fact that the Cheikhs who teach religion deliberately skip the above-mentioned verses of the Koran and that the "Imams" in their prayers discard them?

And that is not all! The Koran praises almost all the biblical Prophets, and exalts particularly the Virgin Mary (mentioned 17 times) –

Behold! The angels said:

"O Mary! God hath chosen thee
And purified thee, chosen thee
Above the women of all nations!
(3: 42)

and her Son, Jesus-Issa (mentioned 81 times) –

Glad tidings of a Word
From Him: his name
Will be Christ Jesus,
The Son of Mary, held in honor
In this world and the Hereafter…

The Koran makes a complete and implacable blackout on Palestine and the Palestinians. How can we interpret that? Can we give the same answer to this question we gave to the silence of the New Testament? Should we say that also in the VIIth century AD there was not a Palestinian State, or at least it was so small as to be insignificant? At any rate, this State is not called in the Dictionaries of the Bible Philistine or Palestine, but Pentapolis, or confederation of 5 cities: Ashdod, Ashkelon, Aqron, Gat and Gaza, that occupied the south-western tip of the Holy Land, covering only the territory of these cities. The citizens of the Pentapolis were originally foreigners who came especially from Crete…

At the time of the Arab-Islamic occupation (732 AD) the Pentapolis was probably part of a completely Christian State, after Constantine decreed laws in favor of the Christians.

The ambitious designs of some leaders of the Pentapolis led the Philistines to extend their domination sometimes beyond their territory, whereas in other times they were almost completely annexed by the surrounding countries. Thus, at the time of Fakhr Eddin, the great monarch of our modern history (1572-1635), Palestine was part of his Kingdom: Greater Lebanon.

But now, we enter into a wider subject: Which Palestine and which Palestinians? This is a subject that merits to be discussed separately, since it is occupying the world’s attention and media.


in collaboration with

Alfred MURR.