David Lambourn

A review by Peter Sammons

Positioning

Sometimes when you receive a book, you know precisely where it will stand in your personal library’s bookshelf! David Lambourn’s valuable book is just such. It sits neatly between David Pawson’s “Israel in the New Testament” (dealing with the outworking of the theme of Israel within the New Testament, a subject that challenges the tenets of ‘Fulfillment Theology’) and Rob Richards’ “Has God Finished With Israel?” sub-titled, “a personal journey through biblical prophecy” (dealing with a personal epiphany of a C of E vicar on God’s ongoing purposes for, and in, Israel).

Lambourn’s “The Forgotten Bride – How the Church betrayed its Jewish Heritage” encompasses both these areas and overlaps themes to a certain extent, but it is a hugely powerful thesis in its own right, and deserves wide acknowledgment on that basis alone. Lambourn is Christian a writer of some stature. Other works include “But is He God?” (one of the best explorations of Trinity that I have read), which received a favourable endorsement from a previous Archbishop of Canterbury, and “Babel Versus Bible” which deals exhaustively with the Bible’s ever-relevant them of Babylon, which carries through from the Old Testament right to the end of the Bible in the book of Revelation. This latter is again a modern must-read for any serious Christian. “Babylon” is not going to go away!

Structure

“Forgotten Bride” – in twelve chapters Lambourn covers

  1. The Wrong Bride?
  2. Massacre of the Innocents
  3. Unbreakable promises
  4. The spoiler
  5. Reconsidering Matthew
  6. Reconsidering Luke
  7. Reconsidering John
  8. Reconsidering Paul
  9. Sharing the Blessing
  10. A Glorious Future
  11. Ishmael and Israel
  12. Whose Land?

To the eyes of someone reasonably well versed in this sometimes divisive subject of Israel, it is clear from the chapter contents (above), the sort of ground that Lambourn covers-off in his broad study.

Forensic

Plainly the author meets head-on the claims of ‘Fulfillment Theology’ (AKA ‘Replacement Theology’). Where some ‘theologians’ have claimed that Jesus fulfills all God’s promises as regards Israel (and will cite Biblical verses supposedly to support such a view), Lambourn examines forensically their claims and finds that all are built on sand. This ‘fulfillment’ hermeneutic simply does not withstand the full witness of scripture. Lambourn carefully explains why. So his four chapters beginning “Reconsidering”, delineate the scope of the author’s exploration.

Lambourn’s chapter on ‘a glorious future’ is exciting and uplifting in equal measure. “Ishmael and Israel” sets the scene on the troubled spiritual (and geo-political) history of damaging competitiveness amongst the Semitic peoples, which impacts us to this very day. (At time of writing this review in February 2024, there is a war ongoing between Eretz Israel and Hamas, the latter supported, we are told, by 76% of Gaza residents). The final chapter “Whose Land?” again meets head-on the debate from a decidedly biblical standpoint. That secular politicians and their cohort should seek to divide and refashion the Land as it were ‘in their own image’, is unsurprising. When Christians display strong views, especially that the Land is essentially not God’s to ‘own’ and to dispose of as He sees fit, is rather more surprising, and unsettling.

It is true, of course (and sadly) that many self-confessed “Christians” are biblically illiterate (including some clergy!). It is hugely difficult to change minds (or even discuss with closed minds) amongst those who hold the Scriptures in low esteem. Nevertheless it is essential to try to uphold and explain God’s Covenantal purposes anew for this late generation, and this Lambourn succeeds in doing – if only they will engage.

Counterviews

At 220pp this is not a light read, yet nor is it a tome. It sits in-between and is, I would say, thoroughly accessible to the average reader. That Lambourn bases his entire thesis on the authority of Scripture is evidenced by his ten pages (220-30) with supporting Scripture passages. Of these, there are simply hundreds! Excellent work, Mr Lambourn! At a practical level this reference tool enables the reader to consider and even to reconsider passages and individual verses sometimes bandied-about supposedly as ‘proving’ that the God’s Covenantal promises are ‘transferred’ from Israel to ‘the Church’. So where a ‘theologian’ opposed to Israel cites a verse which s/he thinks undermines the continuance of God’s Covenants, Lambourn’s readers can check-back to specific passages and see a counterview in Lambourn’s text. Whilst it is unlikely many readers will need to use supporting scripture references in this manner, it is great that the book provides this facility.

Big family

“The Forgotten Bride – How the Church betrayed its Jewish Heritage” is replete with quotable quotes. I will cite just one which summarizes much of the overall thrust of the book:

This New Testament understanding of ‘church’ in which Jew and Gentile could preserve their distinctive character is highlighted in Galatians 3:28, where Paul draws a parallel between Jew and Gentile on the one hand and male and female on the other, who preserve distinct but complementary roles. Such a parallel, when laid alongside the mysterious union which Paul alludes to in chapter 2 of Ephesians of ‘one new humanity’ in Christ, might suggest Jews and Gentiles are fundamentally incomplete without each other, just as Adam was incomplete without Eve, who was taken from his rib. Only bringing them together can God’s purpose for the human race be fully achieved” (p 147).

Elsewhere Lambourn displays a clear understanding of the concept (the reality) that God is building a big family, not of religions, but of those across planet Earth who are disciples of, and yielded to, our Lord Jesus.

Lambourn speaks of ‘enlargement’, rather than of ‘replacement’. In this he displays a parallel insight to that of Rev Alex Jacob (and possible direct influence by same) who’s seminal work “The Case for Enlargement Theology” (published in 2011) has been influential in charting a biblically faithful course between “Replacement Theology” and “Two-Covenant Theology”; what I have elsewhere called the “twin ugly sisters of hermeneutical exegesis”! So it is encouraging to see two modern biblically faithful theologians using the same ‘enlargement’ metaphor. To be very precise, this metaphor reflects the truth that God’s Covenantal promises to Israel and not abrogated by and through ‘the church’, but rather they are enlarged via what we call ‘the New Covenant’, so as to encompass all of those grafted-in to God’s family, and continuing to draw strength and life from the same Jewish root (Romans 11:17-21). 

In summary

This issues and questions that David Lambourn addresses in this valuable and highly relevant book are not going to go away, not until our Lord returns in Glory. In my own book, “Rebel Church” (2013), I expressed the view that ‘Israel’ will be a key defining issue amongst Christians as well as amongst the world at large, in the troublesome years that lie ahead. Lambourn’s “Forgotten Bride” reminds us of the matrimonial ambition of all God’s salvific purposes (God is married to Israel (Isaiah 54:5-8) and we are the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33, Revelation 21:2)). Too many Christians have forgotten this symbiotic relationship, or never understood it in the first place. Lambourn’s excellent book helps to redress the balance. Highly recommended.

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https://www.amazon.co.uk/Forgotten-Bride-Church-Betrayed-Heritage/dp/1098831144