defined by a friend at Harvard Divinity School upon request
my comments in brackets]
mention that I will be able to give only the briefest history
of the development of what you call "replacement"
theology (which some see as having origins in the NT itself).
First, I will give a brief history, making a few side comments
here and there. Second, I will offer what some see as the
central Scriptures that support this argument. Finally, I
will try to make a few concluding comments that put all of
this in perspective.
Here it goes:
get some terms straight. There is one term that is used very
commonly in scholarly discussions of how early Christians
thought Christianity replaced Judaism as God's vehicle of
salvation and God's new way of dealing with his people (and
through them, the rest of the world). It is called "supersessionism."
Let me quote from James Carroll's "Constantine's Sword"
(he himself is summarizing the work of someone else). Supersessionism
has eight main tenets or theses: 1) revelation in Jesus Christ
supersedes the revelation to Israel; [The
whole Word of God is all the revelation of Jesus Christ, the
Logos, so OT revelation and NT revelation cannot contradict
each other or supersede each other-- so point 1 is faulty
logic, and I'm basing this on Peter's statement about the
Word of God being totally inspired (II Pe. 1:20-21).]
2) the NT fulfills the OT [again,
faulty logic, since obviously some prophecies are yet to be
fulfilled, i.e. Jesus Christ's 2nd coming.];
3) the church replaces the Jews as God's people [again,
somewhat faulty logic, concerning promises of salvation Christians
are God's people, but concerning promises yet to be fulfilled
in Judah and Israel, the Jews are still God's people racially.]
4) Judaism is obsolete, its covenant abrogated or cancelled;
Jeremiah 31, entire chapter. While the first covenant has
been superceded by the new covenant, which right now applies
to Christians, understand that God never made
a covenant with Judaism--a religious system. God made
a covenant with a nation, which over time became two nations,
the nation or kingdom of Israel and the nation or kingdom
of Judah--a nation or kingdom is composed of a people with
a ruling government over it. When God made the 1st
covenant with Israel through Moses, it was made with a people
that had just become a nation--composed of over three million
people. In Jeremiah 31, God explicitly says he will make a
new covenant, yet again with these two whole nations, and
by extension the whole world as well. So again we see Judah
and Israel aren't out of the picture.]
5) post-exilic (that is, after the Babylonian exile until
the time of Jesus) Judaism was legalistic [true];
6) the Jews did not heed the warning of the prophets [true];
7) the Jews did not understand the prophecies about Jesus
true, they understood the 2nd coming prophecies,
but not the 1st coming prophecies.]
8) the Jews were Christ killers [we
all bear equal responsibility for Jesus Christ's death, and
technically the Romans, the Italians, killed Christ, if you
want to get really technical about it. This particular tenet
of "replacement theology" really made rich soil
for anti-Semitism to take root in, which it did].
There you have in succinct fashion what many early Christians
believed and what many Christians have believed for much of
the last 2000 years. [True,
from the time of Origen, who set the tone for these beliefs
that were handed to the Greco-Roman churches, which superceded
and squashed the Judeo-Christian churches in Asia Minor. Log
to read some good historic articles which show that the early
Judeo-Christian church was squashed by the Greco-Roman church
which held these "replacement theology" beliefs.
Amazingly enough, these "replacement theology" beliefs
weren't a part of the early apostolic church at all. Read
the evidence for yourself.]
That is really the essence of "replacement theology."
The basic idea is that the Christian church effectively replaced
the Jews as the chosen people of God. "Replacement"
became the central idea. Christianity thus took the place
of Judaism by claiming to be the "true Israel."
Jews were thus regarded as the "false Israel" and
told that the NT replaced and transcended the OT [a
very false premise, for the Word of God is intended to be
taken as a whole package, both Testaments having been inspired
by the Living Word of God, the Logos, who is none other
than Jesus Christ himself].
This theology had clearly developed by the 2nd
century (AD). Thus Justin Martyr (who died in AD 156) stated
that all the prophecies and types of the OT are fulfilled
in Jesus Christ and his church [that's
totally false, the types have been fulfilled, but many of
the prophecies are yet to be fulfilled--you can see how truth
is being mixed with error here in this "replacement theology"].
He argued that all the outlines of gospel history are predicted
in the OT. He also claimed that the destruction of Jerusalem
(AD 70) meant that Judaism was condemned by God and that Christianity
was vindicated. He and other Christians claimed that because
the Jews had rejected Christ they suffered such a terrible
true, but this doesn't stop them from being God's "chosen
people", who are awaiting the coming of the Messiah,
as well as we Christians are. They're still his physical chosen
people, whereas we Christians are his spiritual chosen people.].
Melito, Bishop of Sardis (died around the
late 2nd century) was the first "poet of deicide"
(that is, the first Christian to accuse the Jews of killing
God--Christ), wrote a work called "On the Passover"
around AD 170. He stated: "What strange crimes, Israel
(he means the Jews), have you committed? You dishonored him
that honoured you; you disgraced him that glorified you; you
denied him that acknowledged you; you disclaimed him that
proclaimed you; you killed him that made you live." Regarding
the relationship between Christians and Jews he wrote: The
people then was a model by way of preliminary sketch, and
the law was the writing of a parable; the gospel is the recounting
and fulfillment of the law, and the church is the repository
of the reality. The model then was precious before the reality,
and the parable was marvelous before the interpretation; that
is, the people precious before the church arose, and the law
was marvelous before the gospel elucidated. But when the church
arose and the gospel took precedence, the model was made void,
conceding its power to the reality, and the law was fulfilled,
conceding its power to the gospel.just so also the law was
fulfilled when the gospel was elucidated, and the people were
made void when the church arose." What then would become
of Israel? Was there any future for the Jews?
in general did not deny that there was a future for the Jews.
For example, the great Augustine believed that the Jews would
be converted in mass numbers before the end of the age. Christians
generally believed that Jews had suffered and would continue
to suffer because they had broken God's covenant with Israel
(hence the Babylonian exile) and because they had rejected
Christ (and thus the Roman destruction of the temple). The
dominant idea was that this meant that there was a general
expectation that the Jews would accept Christ as the Messiah.
Of course, there was all kinds of speculative ideas about
a Jewish Anti-Christ or some Antichrist figure who would deceive
the Jews and lead them astray. Some felt that Christ would
come and destroy the antichrist and by doing so he would win
the Jews over and they would convert in large numbers [evidently
some of these early Greco-Roman Christians were reading and
believing the OT prophecies in Zechariah 12-14].
Most of Catholic Christianity did not believe that the prophecies
of the OT would be literally fulfilled in the Holy Land. Beginning
with Origen (died around AD 254), there was a turn away from
belief in a literal Millennium on earth for Christians. So
it was highly unlikely that Christians would continue to believe
that a literal restoration of a Jewish kingdom in Palestine
(with Temple worship and sacrifices) would occur sometime
in the future. One general trend was that a literal rendering
of Scripture and the OT land promises was seen as Jewish and
what if a literal rendering of Scripture and OT land promises
(and yes, prophecy) is the right way to read the Bible?]
The NT church
was seen as hoping for something better than a crass form
of materialism (as many Greek influenced Christians held).
the Greco-Roman churches essentially threw away the Old Testament,
which Peter is quoted as saying about "Knowing this first,
that no prophesy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,
for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of
God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (II
Peter 1:20-21), for when Peter wrote this, the NT cannon hadn't
been put together yet, this letter being written in 67 AD.]
theology made some alterations during the Reformation period.
Luther, for example, emphasized that Jesus was a Jew. He began
as a stout defender of the Jews (who had suffered enormous
persecution at the hands of "Christians"). He rejected
a lot of negative stereotypes and harmful characterizations
of the Jews. He condemned the way that preachers during Easter
week "do nothing else but enormously exaggerate the Jews'
misdeeds against Christ and thus embitter the hearts of the
faithful against them." He once wrote "If I had
been a Jew, I should rather have turned into a pig than become
a Christian" (a very graphic view of his conception of
Christianity at the time [Greco-Roman
Christianity, that is, which is all there was with the exception
of some scattered small groups of Sabbatarians (Peter de Waldo
and the Waldensians were going full force right now with their
translation of the Bible into the vernacular or common language),
and somewhat later, the fledgling Reform churches which would
spring up from Luther's leadership and teaching]).
He preached on the Five Books of Moses, expecting that Jesus,
seen fully as a Jew, could finally be embraced by the Jews
as the Messiah. When the Jews rejected Luther's preaching
and his claim that Christ was the Messiah, he wrote a nasty
pamphlet entitled "On the Jews and Their Lies."
He advocated burning their synagogues and forbidding them
to pray, to give thanks, to praise God, or teach publicly.
Though I do not defend Luther, we must keep in mind that Luther
wrote this after some period of preaching and he was just
as unkind and uncharitable to every group whom he deemed an
enemy of the Gospel (whether Anabaptists, Catholics, etc.).
Martin Luther, because he let his emotions of anger get the
best of him, stopped short of reforming all the errors of
the Greco-Roman church, and went no further than reforming
soteriology, the knowledge of salvation. He never got into
a reformation in the area of eschatology, but apparently jumped
back into letting "replacement theology" remain
a part of the Reformation churches.]
this interesting idea that the OT was not that very different
from the NT, except in clarity of expression. He believed
that the Jews whom God "elected" under the OT were
saved by Christ [i.e.
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, David, to name a few] and
that the OT was not merely a book of legal practices required
to be obeyed (they too were saved by Christ). Calvin put a
positive emphasis on Law and the purpose of the law in bringing
us to salvation (though he felt that the law could not save
the law shows where the sin is, but it can't eliminate it
nor does law-keeping wipe away past sins. It is only a spiritual
mirror. Calvin seemed to understand this Biblical principle.]
I have not been able to find explicit or detailed descriptions
of Calvin's view of the Jews in his major work ("Institutes").
But I do know that Calvin had almost no interest in prophecy
(thus he rejected the idea of a literal millennium on earth,
and I presume that he felt that there was no separate place
for the Jews in God's plan (though I am open to correction
if someone has read Calvin's commentaries and other works).
Calvin's followers in the so-called Reformed position took
the following stance (though not all of them agreed on specific
details). The church is the new Israel (as one of my NT professors
at Gordon Conwell used to say. He is a Congregationalist minister).
The calling of saints into the church is continuation of God's
plan expressed throughout the OT to call a people to himself.
They believe (at least some of them) that the OT prophecies
concerning Israel will still be fulfilled in the Millennium
by ethnic Jewish people who will believe in Christ as the
Messiah and live in the land of Israel as a model nation for
all nations to see and learn from. [Obviously,
this group of Calvanists were believing the OT prophecies
in a literal sense, seeing Zechariah 12-14 for what it says,
about the Jews seeing Christ as the one whom they have pierced
and recognizing him as Messiah, along with all the other OT
prophecies about a restored nation of Israel as a model nation
to the world.] Others
believe that the church has actually "swallowed up"
Israel (or the Jews), and that the only way Jews can become
God's people again is simply by converting to Christ. [Partially
true, the Jews must come to recognize Jesus of Nazareth as
the Messiah, the Christ. But the error is in the belief that
the church has "swallowed up" Israel. Israel and
the Church are two separate entities, each having their own
set of promises, relationships and covenants with God. This
is something those who embrace "replacement theology"
do not understand. Paul in Romans 11 warns Gentiles who are
being grafted into the "domestic" olive tree not
to look down upon this "domestic" olive tree--which
represents the nation of Israel. Israel and the Church are
two separate entities. In the end, most of Israel will become
a part of the church, but so will most of the Gentiles.]
They believe that the only way Jews can become God's people
again is simply by converting to Christ. If they do not convert
to Christ, then they have no future any more than a non-converted
person from China or Africa or any other part of the world
has a special future in God's plan. They believe that the
only way for them to be grafted into the true Israel (the
church) is for them to be converted and accept Christ as the
Messiah and the Son of God [which
they will in the end--it's prophecied].
These people are mostly amillennialists who do not believe
in a literal millennium and who believe that the only major
event that awaits us is the return of Christ to judge the
wicked, send them to hell, and to grant full eternal life
in heaven to the righteous. Thus Christ's return for them
is the end of the story. Case closed. No future for Israel.
No second or first chance for those who have not heard the
gospel. Only the elect, a small remnant who God chose to save,
will be in heaven, and the rest will be burning and suffering
in hell for all eternity (because, these people argue, they
deserve it.). [Wow!
Does this sound like the plan a loving God has for the human
family he created--an estimated 50 billion who have lived
and died over the past 6000 years? Now you can see why I think
amillennialism is a very flawed interpretation of Bible prophecy,
which twists the very Word of God, and shows God as an unloving,
sadistic tyrant over mankind, leaving more to burn in some
ever-burning hell-fire forever than he ever manages to save.
What's the aim of a universal plan of salvation for mankind
if only a few are saved? Didn't Jesus state "For God
did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world through him might be saved" (John
3:17), and Peter states (II Pe. 3:9) "The Lord is not
slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but
is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish
but that all should come to repentance."
Boy is this "replacement theology" skewed in the
wrong direction--totally un-Biblical.]
What are the
Scriptures used to "prove" that the church is the
New Israel? I can't quote them all, so I will just cite most
of them. Rom. 2:28-29: "For he is not a real Jew who
is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something external and
physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision
is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal."
Rom. 4:11-12, 16, 18 (Abraham is not only to be considered
the father of the Jewish people in a physical sense, but he
is also "the father of all who believe without being
circumcised"--implying that a descendant of Abraham is
now a spiritual privilege. See also, Rom 9:6-8: "it is
not the children of the flesh who are the children of God,
but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants").
See also, Gal. 3:29; Phil. 3:3; Hebrews 8, and Gal. 6:16 (which
speaks of God's peace upon the "Israel of God"--the
church over against the Judaizers and those who want to keep
the law). I could go on, but the basic argument is that God
is now working through the church, and the church has inherited
the promises made to Abraham's descendants. [The
concept here that "replacement theologists" can't
seem to grasp, is that God's promise of descendants numbering
as the sands of the seashore for Abraham, would also mean
that God would bring those descendants into the church at
some time, and not leave them outside the plan of salvation
through Christ and him alone. This is what Paul points out
in Romans 11. And Zechariah 12-14 shows this literally happening
at Jesus' return in glory and power.] The church should no
longer look merely to physical blessings because they shall
inherit eternity and all that entails in God's great universe,
and not just some land in a small corner of the globe. [True,
good principle here. But to those who want to believe that
God isn't interested in that "small corner of the globe",
where, might I ask, does God the Father bring his very throne,
the New Jerusalem? If you don't know the answer to that question
(many Christians don't), read the New Testament chapter of
of Jewish-Christian relations is so vast today that one is
at a loss to know where to begin. Let me say briefly that
some claim that anti-Semitism is rooted in the NT (the author
I quoted above, James Carroll, makes this claim). [I
would amend this to say that anti-Semitism is rooted in the
gross misinterpretation of the New Testament, and the Old
as well.] There are
numerous attempts to find Paul more favorably inclined towards
Judaism (so positively inclined that one wonders why he became
a Christian). Some have tried to reclaim Jesus' Jewishness
(the implicit critique is that Christians have not so recognized
this fact and this has lead to much anti-Jewish hostility
on the part of Christians [not
a bad way of looking at it, but not necessary either.]
Some claim that (both Jews and Christians) that a two-covenant
theory is possible: that both Christianity and Judaism together
prepare the way for the coming Messiah. Vatican II, in light
of the Holocaust and a consciousness of the Church's [the
Catholic Church's] part
in persecution of the Jews in Christian history, stated that
it "deplores the hatred, persecutions, and displays of
anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at any time and from
any source." It also said: "We are deeply saddened
by the behavior of those who in the course of history have
caused these children of yours [Jews] to suffer." More
recently there have been apologies for anti-Semitism in Christian
history by both Catholics and Protestants (in light of the
vast historical evidence revealing this sordid record of un-Christian
James Carroll "Constantine's Sword"
Wayne Grudem "Systematic Theology"
D.A. Carson "The Gagging of God"
As I stated
at the beginning of this article defining "replacement
theology", my comments are in brackets [
]. The author is Curtis
Evans, a student at Harvard Divinity School. His views and
mine are not quite the same, but he wrote a very unbiased
article defining "replacement theology". My comments
are biased, as you can plainly see. It is my strong belief
that "replacement theology" and the gross amillennial
misinterpretation of God's Word, both in the Old Testament
and New, have created the fertile ground from which anti-Semitism
grows. Multiple millions of innocent Jews have died unnecessarily
as a direct result of anti-Semitism having fertile soil in
which to grow. And "replacement theology" has proved
to be a very rich soil in which anti-Semitism has grown. 2000
years of sordid Greco-Roman church history lies there as the
evidence of this. While many in these denominations that hold
"replacement theology" beliefs have a proper understanding
of the gospel of salvation--and thus may actually be born-again
Christians--their proper understanding in the area of eschatology,
along with holding "replacement theology" beliefs
have created the fertile soil from which anti-Semitism can
yet even now take root and grow anew.
A View Askew verses Right Interpretation
When taking the Old Testament prophecies
literally, and adding them to the New Testament Scriptures,
it appears that the surviving Jews in the Israeli nation will
be converted at the second coming of the Messiah (Christ),
as Zechariah 12 and 13 plainly show. As well, there will be
a model nation of Israel, set up by Jesus, with king David
as ruler over it, while Jesus is King of the world (Zechariah
14:9). Jesus also made a very New Testament promise that each
one of his 12 apostles would rule over one of the 12 tribes
of Israel in the restored nation of Israel in the Kingdom
of God. These aren't "spiritual" tribes, but racial
tribes Jesus was talking about. "Replacement Theology"
tries to negate a very promise of Jesus to his 12 apostles.
Hmm. Give you something to ponder here? A belief which many
who ascribe to "replacement theology" have is that
the sacrifices and a Temple could never be re-instituted because
Jesus fulfilled all their types by his supreme sacrifice.
That is one of their major premises as to why they apply all
those New Testament Scriptures in the bias that they do. If
Jesus, as the very Logos, or Word of God, inspired
the prophets to say he would set those sacrifices up again
and build a new Temple, then why in the world are people trying
to tell Jesus what he can and can't do? It's like saying,
"You can't do that Jesus. Your sacrifice did away with
the need." We're human, Jesus is God. Don't presume to
tell him what he can't and can do, which he has plainly spelled
out in prophecy. Just shut up and wait to see what his purpose
for doing all that is--which we'll find out when we meet him.
My feelings are that "replacement theology"
churches have fallen into a gross error and misinterpretation
of Scripture, both Old Testament and New, for reasons I will
explain. Those that believe and promote "replacement
theology" and "amillennialism" have let NT
Scripture be subtractive from OT Scripture--using
the NT set of Scriptures to "break" in a sense another
set of Scriptures, the OT Scriptures and their meanings. That
is an error many churches, theologians and denominations have
fallen into. We don't know all the details, say of a temple
and Levitical priesthood being set up under the Melchizedek
priesthood, but when the two sets of Scriptures are added
together (OT & NT) we get the true picture instead of
a skewed picture. If we can't understand the picture
perfectly, it is because Jesus hasn't spelled it all out yet,
and we have to patiently wait till his return to fill in the
details of how he intends to blend the two systems together.
Jesus didn't tell his apostles everything they wanted to know
about concerning the kingdom age. So are some of you theologians
more privileged than the apostles of Jesus?--that you think
you can fill in details he wouldn't reveal to his own apostles?
Well, you've done a horrible job in trying to guess. We must
remember that the Millennial Kingdom of God, as prophecied
in both Old and New Testaments, is a totally different dispensation--it's
not the Old Testament dispensation under Israel (which ended
in 31AD, and fully died in 70AD), it's not the church dispensation
which has existed from 31AD and will continue to the second
coming of Christ (when it too will end), the Millennial Kingdom
of God, ruling over earth and mankind will be a totally different
dispensation all on its own, where new rules and rulers will
be in place with Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords.
God hasn't told us exactly how this new dispensation will
all fit together, and we have made the huge mistake of trying
to fill in too many gaps in our understanding of what both
Old and New Testament Scriptures tell us--gaps purposely left
in Scripture. Read the whole chapter of Jeremiah 31 to see
what God said about abrogating his new covenant agreement
with the physical nations of Israel and Judah in the Millennial
Kingdom age. That whole chapter does not fit "replacement
theology" at all--as a matter of fact, it tears it apart.
God's Word cannot be broken, and one part of Scripture decidedly
cannot and should not be used to attempt to break another
part of Scripture. It is a highly unsound method of dividing
the Word of God to use any set of Scriptures to subtract
from the meaning of other Scriptures. Scripture does not abrogate
itself. It's not like algebra where, say, the NT Scriptures
are assigned positive values (+), and the OT Scriptures are
assigned negative values (-), so when the two are "added"
together algebraically, the NT Scriptures always cancel out
any meaning of the OT Scriptures that might "disagree"
with it. That's not sound interpretation at all. Sound interpretation
is more like simple addition, where all Scripture has a positive
additive value, and their total meaning is gained by adding
them together. One other thing to do. Ask God to help you
understand, through the Holy Spirit he has placed within you,
while using proper methods of interpretation.