Tourists visiting Israel are sometimes amazed at how small the country is. As Mark Twain wrote in 1869 of his visit to the Holy Land, "I could not conceive of a small country having so large a history"; (The Innocents Abroad, 1984, p. 385). A good number of tourists are surprised because people normally equate size with significance.
The modern nation of Israel occupies less than 8,000 square miles, in comparison to about 160,000 square miles—more than 20 times as much—in the state of California alone. How could a country so prominent on television news be so insignificant on the world map?
The answer ultimately lies in Israel's spiritual, historical and literary legacy. As noted Israeli author Amos Elon put it: "Even more extraordinary is the fact that the [Hebrew] Bible, as was written in Jerusalem, unlike the books of other ancient peoples, was not the literature of a major or regional power nor even of a ruling elite, but the literature of a minor remote people [by comparison]"; (Jerusalem: City of Mirrors, 1991, p. 19).
The New Testament itself addresses Israel's outsized historic contribution to mankind. The apostle Paul asked: "What advantage then has the Jew . . . ? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God"; (Romans 3:1-2). The word "oracles"; here is translated from the Greek logion, meaning "words"; or "sayings,"; which then encompassed the entire Old Testament.
Much of the New Testament was likewise composed in or describes events in the Holy Land, which stands as the geography from which the Scriptures sprang. Truly Israel is the land of "the Book,"; populated by the peoples God used to author and preserve, under His divine inspiration, the Hebrew Bible plus a large portion of the New Testament. GN