"The Holy Land" in the Time of Christ
"Palestine was to the Rabbis simply "the land," all other
countries being summed up under the designation of "outside
the land." In the Talmud, even the expression "Holy Land,"
so common among later Jews and Christians, does not once
occur. It needed not that addition, which might have
suggested a comparison with other countries; for to the
Rabbinist Palestine was not only holy, but the only holy
ground, to the utter exclusion of all other countries,
although they marked within its boundaries an ascending
scale of ten degrees of sanctity, rising from the bare soil
of Palestine to the most holy place in the Temple (Chel. i.
But "outside the land" everything was darkness and death.
The very dust of a heathen country was unclean, and it
defiled by contact. It was regarded like a grave, or like
the putrescence of death. If a spot of heathen dust had
touched an offering, it must at once be burnt. More than
that, if by mischance any heathen dust had been brought into
Palestine, it did not and could not mingle with that of "the
land," but remained to the end what it had been--unclean,
defiled, and defiling everything to which it adhered...
It was to the extreme boundary tracts of "the land," that
Jesus had withdrawn from the Pharisees, when they were
offended at His opposition to their "blind" traditionalism;
and there He healed by the word of His power the daughter of
the "woman of Canaan," the intensity of whose faith drew
from His lips words of precious commendation (Matt 15:28;
It was chiefly a heathen district where the Saviour spoke
the word of healing, and where the woman would not let the
Messiah of Israel go without an answer. She herself was a
Gentile. Indeed, not only that district, but all around, and
farther on, the territory of Philip, was almost entirely
heathen. More than that, strange as it may sound, all around
the districts inhabited by the Jews the country was, so to
speak, fringed by foreign nationalities and by heathen
worship, rites, and customs."
Edersheim. "Sketches of Jewish Social Life" (The
Vicarage, Loders, Bridport: November, 1876).