The Yellow Pages
Note: “The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem” is a painting by Carl Friedrich Werner (1808-1894). The painting was done in 1863. Werner was a German watercolor painter. Notice that at the time of this painting, there was no division at the wall between men and woman, as there is today.
One of my spiritual mentors when I was in my 20s was a great man of God named Carl Ketcherside (1908-1989). I heard him in a question and answer session one time when he was asked, “What do you think is the greatest evidence that the Bible came from God?”
His answer: “The Yellow Pages of the phone book.” Needless to say, we were all stunned by this response.
When the questioner followed up by asking what he meant, Carl said, “Look at the names of the banks, the names of the department stores, the names of lawyers and doctors and accountants. You will see one Jewish name after another. God promised He would preserve the Jewish people, and He has.”
In like manner, over 300 years ago, King Louis XIV of France (1638-1715) asked Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), the great Christian philosopher, to give him proof of the existence of God. Pascal answered, “Why the Jews, your Majesty, the Jews!”1
Both Ketcherside and Pascal were referring to the fulfillment of Bible prophecies about the Jews, one of the most remarkable being that despite their worldwide dispersion and unparalleled persecution, they would keep their identity and be preserved as a recognizable nation of people.
A Great Miracle
The preservation of the Jews has to be one of the greatest miracles of history. It is so remarkable — so historically stunning — that its uniqueness has been noted and commented on by a great variety of people.
Consider, for example, the great historian Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975). He fully recognized the unusual nature of the Jewish experience. In his ten volume work, A Study of History (1934-1961), he traced the rise and fall of 26 civilizations, developing a scheme of history which the Jewish civilization did not fit.
Toynbee ended up classifying the Jews as “fossils of history” because they seemed to be frozen in time, refusing to assimilate into the soup of humanity.2
Thomas Newton (1704-1782), the renowned British cleric and Bible scholar who served as Bishop of Bristol, declared in one of his sermons:3
The preservation of the Jews is really one of the most single and illustrious acts of divine Providence…and what but a supernatural power could have preserved them in such a manner as none other nation upon earth hath been preserved.
Nor is the providence of God less remarkable in the destruction of their enemies, than in their preservation… We see that the great empires, which in their turn subdued and oppressed the people of God, are all come to ruin… And if such hath been the fatal end of the enemies and oppressors of the Jews, let it serve as a warning to all those, who at any time or upon any occasion are for raising a clamor and persecution against them.
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), the great Russian novelist, expressed his awe over the preservation of the Jews with these words:4
What is the Jew?… What kind of unique creature is this whom all the rulers of all the nations of the world have disgraced and crushed and expelled… persecuted, burned and drowned, and who, despite their anger and fury, continue to live and to flourish… The Jew is the symbol of eternity.
To get a feel for how preposterous the preservation of the Jews is from a human perspective, consider this illustration by Rabbi Dov Greenberg who is the Executive Director of Chabad (the Jewish Hasidic Movement) at Stanford University:5
Imagine we could travel back in time and say to the great Pharaoh [of Moses’ time], “There is good news and bad news. The good news is that one of the nations alive today will survive and change the moral landscape of the world. The bad news is: it won’t be yours. It will be that group of Hebrew slaves out there, building your glorious temples, the Children of Israel.”
Nothing would sound more outrageous. The Egypt of Pharaoh’s time was the greatest empire of the ancient world, brilliant in arts and sciences, formidable in war. The Israelites were a landless people, powerless slaves. Indeed, already in antiquity, those in power believed that the Israelites were on the verge of extinction.
Perhaps the most insightful commentary on the immortality of the Jewish people was written by the American novelist Mark Twain (1835-1910) who was an agnostic and a skeptic. His article appeared in Harper‘s magazine in 1897:6
If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one quarter of one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way.
Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of.
He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.
His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are very out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world in all ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself and be excused for it.
The Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor; then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greeks and the Romans followed and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.
The Jew saw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?
Twain’s question, “What is the secret of his immorality?” can be answered in only one way, and that answer was provided by David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973), the first Prime Minister of Israel: “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.”7
In the second segment of this series on the preservation of the Jewish people, we’ll look at the magnitude of the miracle and some theories as to what made the miracle possible.
1) Rabbi Kalman Packouz, “7 Wonders of Jewish History,” www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/7-wonders-of- jewish-history, page 1.
2) William Varner, “The Preservation of the Jewish People,” www.foi.org, page 2.
3) Anonymous, “9 Great Quotes About Jews by Non-Jews,” www.aish.com, page 1.
5) Dov Greenburg, “The Science of Jewish Survival,” www.chabad.org, page 1,
6) Mark Twain, “The Secret of Jewish Survival,” www.shomreitorah.org, page 2.
7) Virtual Jerusalem, “10 of the Greatest Quotes About Israel and the Jews,” www.virtualjerusalem.com/culture.php? Itemid=11334, page 1.
Christ in Prophecy