The Character and Qualities of Mashiach:
“The spirit of G-d will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and might, a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of G-d. He shall be inspired with fear of G-d, and he shall not judge with the sight of his eyes nor decide according to the hearing of his ears. He shall judge the poor with righteousness and decide with equity for the humble of the earth; he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth and slay the wicked with the breath of his lips. Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faith the girdle of his reins.” (Isaiah 11:2-5)
Response: It isn’t a huge challenge to relate this messianic expectation with the ministry of Jesus. For example:
“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.”
” And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”
A similar theme is seen in the synagogue at Nazareth, when Jesus reads from Isaiah 61: “the Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” ( Luke 4:18-19 ). So according to Jesus, the prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus’ own ministry ( 4:21 ) since He has come to free the physically infirm, such as the blind ( 4:18 ) and the leprous ( 4:27 ; cf. 7:21 ; 9:6 ).
The article says:
“Through his knowledge My servant shall justify the righteous to the many…” (Isaiah 53:11)
“Behold, My servant shall be wise, he shall be exalted and lofty, and shall be very high.” (Isaiah 52:13). His wisdom shall exceed even that of King Solomon;15 he shall be greater than the patriarchs, greater than all the prophets after Moses, and in many respects even more exalted than Moses.16 His stature and honor shall exceed that of all kings before him.17 He will be an extraordinary prophet, second only to Moses,18 with all the spiritual and mental qualities that are prerequisites to be endowed with the gift of prophecy.
Response: This is very interesting. Schochet says the following about one of the expectations of the Messiah. He says: “His wisdom shall exceed even that of King Solomon; he shall be greater than all the patriarchs, greater than all the prophets after Moses, and in may respects even more exalted than Moses. His stature and honor shall exceed that of all the kings before him. He will be an extraordinary prophet, second only to Moses, with all the spiritual and mental qualities that are prerequisites to be endowed with the gift of prophecy.” Jesus spoke about this messianic qualification 2,000 years ago. As it says in Matt. 12:42; Lk. 11:31: “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.”
As Oskar Skarsaune says:
“Jesus appears in roles and functions that burst all previously known categories in Judaism. He was a prophet, but more than a prophet. He was a teacher but taught with a power and authority completely unknown to the rabbis. He could set his authority alongside of, yes, even “over” God’s authority in the Law. He could utter words with creative power. In a Jewish environment zealous for the law, only one category was “large enough” to contain the description of Jesus: the category of Wisdom. ” — Skarsaune, O. Incarnation: Myth or Fact? St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House: 1991, 37.
Also, Rabbi Schochet departs from the common Jewish apologetic that Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is about Israel. He ended up criticizing historian of Jewish-Christian polemics David Berger. Schochet’s words are most fascinating. He wrote of David Berger in the following piece here:
“Dr. Berger relies heavily on arguments in mediaeval polemics. It is of major concern to him that “one of the defining characteristics of Judaism in a Christian world will have been erased” by the possibility of a resurrected messiah (p. 31, and see also p. 35). In truth, of course, the Jewish faith is defined by its own tradition and not by its differences from Christianity. Polemical debates, regardless of its participants, are neither definitive nor authoritative. The Talmudic rabbis engaged in such debates as well. Oftentimes they conceded that they rebuffed their opponents with “straw” or “broken reeds,” i.e., that their responses were no more than polemical tactics and not their true positions.
A typical example would be the Jewish responses about “the suffering servant” of Isaiah 53. The polemicists follow the majority opinion of mediaeval Jewish exegetes that it speaks of the Jewish people, as opposed to the Christian claim that it speaks of the messiah. This view is found also among some Talmudic rabbis. It does not negate, however,”
Note he says: “ A typical example would be the Jewish responses about “the suffering servant” of Isaiah 53. The polemicists follow the majority opinion of mediaeval Jewish exegetes that it speaks of the Jewish people, as opposed to the Christian claim that it speaks of the messiah. This view is found also among some Talmudic rabbis. It does not negate, however, the validity of the pervasive Talmudic-Midrashic-Zoharic interpretation that the subject of that chapter is indeed Mashiach.”
Basically, Rabbi Schochet notes that the Talmud, Midrash and Zohar speaks of Isa. 52:13- Isa. 53: 12 as being about a personal Messiah. For example:
The Shottenstein Talmud, a comprehensive Orthodox Jewish commentary states the following about Isaiah 53:
They [namely, those sitting with Messiah] were afflicted with tzaraas- as disease whose symptoms include discolored patches on the skin (see Leviticus ch. 13). The Messiah himself is likewise afflicted, as stated in Isaiah (53:4). Indeed, it was our diseases that he bore and our pains that he endured, whereas we considered him plagued (i.e. suffering tzaraas [see 98b, note 39], smitten by God and afflicted. This verse teaches that the diseases that the people ought to have suffered because of their sins are borne instead by the Messiah [with reference to the leading Rabbinic commentaries]. –Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 2. (Grand Rapids MI: Baker Books. 2000),157.
In the Zohar, which is the foundational book of Jewish mysticism, we see a text about the relationship between Isaiah 53 and atonement:
The children of the world are members of one another, and when the Holy One desires to give healing to the world, He smites one just man amongst them, and for his sakes heals the rest of the rest. Whence do we learn this? For the saying, ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities’ [Isa. 53:5].i.e., by letting of his blood- as when a man bleeds his arm- there was healing for us-for all the members of the body. In general a just person is only smitten in order to procure healing and atonement for a whole generation.” –Driver and Neubauer, Zohar, Numbers, Pinchus 2181 (English Translation), 15
Messiah of Justice [Meshiah Tsidenu], though we are Thy forebears. Thou are greater than we because Thou didst bear the burden of our children’s sins and our great opresssions have fallen upon Thee….Among the peoples of the world Thou didst bring only derision and mockery to Israel…Thy skin did shrink, and thy body did become dry as wood; Thine eyes were hollowed by fasting, and thy strength became like fragmented pottery –all that came to pass because of the sins of the children-Pesiqta Rabbati, Pisqa 37 –Jacques Doukham, One The Way to Emmaus: Five Major Messianic Prophecies Explained (Clarksville, MD: Lederer Books, 2012), 136-137.
The Messiah King …will offer is heart to implore mercy and longsuffering for Israel, weeping and suffering for Israel, weeping and suffering as it is written in Isaiah 53:5 “He was wounded for our transgressions,” etc: when the Israelites sin, he invokes upon them mercy,as it is written: “Upon him was that chastisement that made us whole, and likewise the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And this is what the Holy One—let him be blessed forever!—decreed in order to save Israel and rejoice with Israel on the day of the resurrection. (Bereshit Rabbati on Genesis 24:67) –Jacques Doukham, One The Way to Emmaus: Five Major Messianic Prophecies Explained (Clarksville, MD: Lederer Books, 2012), 136-137.
To see our full article on the topic, click here.
We will wrap up this series with Part Four this weekend.
“Since all data needs to be interpreted, science doesn’t say anything, scientists do. As we saw with the different conclusions drawn from the same evidence in the O. J. Simpson trial, a person’s worldview can dramatically affect how he or she interprets the evidence. Is it any wonder then why those with a materialistic worldview conclude that an unguided evolutionary process is responsible for life, regardless of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Worldview differences between atheists and theists don’t affect operation questions much—there is vast agreement there—but they do affect origin (historical) questions. That’s where all the controversy exists. When investigating historical questions (the origin of the universe, life, and new life-forms), scientists should look for the best explanation by using the principle of uniformity—that causes in the past were like those in the present. Scientists open to intelligent causes do that, while most atheistic scientists do not. Although there is no consensus on the definition of science, most agree at a minimum that science is a search for causes. There are two types of efficient causes: natural and intelligent.While theists are open to both natural and intelligent causes, atheists tend to rule out intelligent causes on account of their materialistic worldview. When they do, as atheist Richard Lewontin admitted, they often arrive at “counterintuitive” conclusions that are “against common sense.” Science is built on philosophy, as are all fields of study. Science is just one method of discovering truth and is limited in scope. Like a metal detector, science can only help us detect certain cause-and-effect relationships. God and science are not competing explanations for the universe and life, any more than Henry Ford and the laws of internal combustion are competing explanations for the Model T. Both are necessary. Learning more about how a car works will never disprove the existence of the carmaker. Likewise, learning more about how the natural world works (which enables us to make technological advances) will never disprove the existence of the Creator or Sustainer of the natural world. God is not a “God of the gaps.” He isn’t an imaginary being that we invent to explain gaps in our knowledge about nature. God is required to explain why nature—with its consistent natural laws and goal-directed processes—continues to exist at all, and why our minds can discover and measure this rationally intelligible universe. In other words, God is necessary to make science itself possible. Atheists can do science only by stealing several immaterial realities from God.These include orderly natural laws, the laws of logic, the laws of mathematics, the laws of morality, our ability to reason, etc. The general public doesn’t often recognize that operation science—the science that most often brings us technological advances—is not the same as origin or historical science. Therefore, when atheistic scientists speak on matters of history, the public tends to believe them due to the prestige of “science.” Unfortunately, the “scientific” conclusions offered are often materialistic philosophy flown under the banner of science. Intelligent design is not a “science stopper.” Materialism and Darwinism are. While ID scientists predicted function for the noncoding regions of DNA, many Darwinists stopped science because they erroneously predicted it was just “junk” left over from evolutionary trial and error. Moreover, many atheists committed to the ideology of materialism are politicizing science, harassing scientists, stifling research, and hurting progress. Progress is never served when ideologues rule all counterevidence inadmissible.” – Frank Turek, Science, Science Doesn’t Say Anything, Scientists Do!, from Stealing From God, Why Atheists Need To Make Their Case.
Here is a lengthy article By John Horgan at Scientific American.
I watched a debate this week between journalist Robert Wright and physicist Lawrence Krauss on “the origins of the universe, quantum weirdness and the limits of scientific knowledge,” as an announcement from Union Theological Seminary, which hosted the event, put it.
Although the event featured lots of witty banter, it ended up being more frustrating than fun. Wright (an old friend, with whom I have sparred on his internet showBloggingheads.tv) asked Krauss to clarify his positions on religion, philosophy and science, and Krauss kept demanding that Wright define his terms. What does he mean by “New Atheism”? “Scientism”? “Proselytize”? “Imponderable”?
This is part two of our series on Does Jesus Meet the Messianic Requirements? To see Part One, click here.
If we look here at the article, it says:
“Mashiach is a human being, born in normal fashion of human parents.The only qualification about his origins is that he is a descendant of King David,4 through the lineage of his son Solomon. From his birth onwards his righteousness will increase continually, and by virtue of his deeds he will merit sublime levels of spiritual perfection”
Response: We can agree the Messiah will be human being. And we can agree that he will be a descendant of King David. But as far as the Messiah will be a descendant of King David through his son Solomon, that is questionable.
I can say from experience that this issue comes up quite regularly in discussions with Jewish people. Given the complexity of the topic, I don’t have any desire to oversimplify it. So I will put mostly to a response that has been put forward by Dr. Michael Brown in his excellent series, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. In his Vol, 4, New Testament Objections, he says:
“The fact is, Solomon’s throne was not established forever, David’s throne was! And while it is true that descendants of Solomon continued to sit on David’s throne—it was only logical that the son of a king would be the next king—this was because of the unconditional promises given to David (in contrast with Saul), not the conditional promises given to Solomon, which he violated. And, following the exile of the Davidic monarchy in 586 B.C.E., there was not a hint that future kings would have to trace their lineage through Solomon. He flagrantly sinned against the requirements of the Lord! The Hebrew Scriptures are absolutely clear on this. Thus, there is not one single reference in the Bible to “the throne of Solomon” but many references to “the throne of David.” See 2 Samuel 3:10; 1 Kings 2:12, 24, 45; Isaiah 9:7, in a decidedly Messianic context; Jeremiah 17:25; 22:2, 30; 29:16; 36:30. Why? Because Solomon’s throne was not established forever, David’s was! All subsequent Judean kings sat on David’s throne, not Solomon’s. Similarly, there is not a single biblical reference to a future king who will be from the line of Solomon or will be called a son of Solomon or come from the seed of Solomon. –See Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 4, pgs 83-97
He goes onto say:
It is therefore highly significant for a traditional Jew that Moses Maimonides, one of the leading voices in Rabbinic Judaism, omitted any reference to the Messiah’s supposed need to be of Solomonic descent in his authoritative law code called the Mishneh Torah, speaking of it in his Book of Commandments, which is less authoritative than his Mishneh Torah.207 In his oft-quoted section dealing with the Messiah, he simply stated, “If a king will arise from the House of David . . .” (Hilchot Melachim 11:4). As one ultra-Orthodox rabbi pointed out to me, “The fact that he did not mention Solomonic descent in his law code meant that it was not that important a concept to him.” This statement, which is in keeping with the scriptural evidence (which is really enough in itself), is reinforced by the fact that the Talmud refers to the Messiah as the son of David but never the son of Solomon, while not a single authoritative statement in traditional Judaism makes the claim that the Messiah must be a descendant of Solomon. – See Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections, Vol 4, pgs 83-97.
Also, the Jewish objection that comes up quite regularly is the following: “There is no Biblical basis for the idea of a father passing on his tribal line by adoption.” Before, I pass on what Brown says about the issue of a divine Messiah and a virgin birth, I wanted to clarify the following:
Rabbinic Judaism doesn’t view original sin the same way that both Christians and Messianic believers do. While they do believe in a good and evil inclination, that is a far cry from being identified in Adam. When Adam fell into sin, the result was every one of his descendants also being “infected” with sin. Therefore, for Christians and Messianic believers, no earthly Messiah can reverse the curse of the sin of Adam.
But as Brown says:
“ In Sanhedrin 98a, the Talmud asks an important question: Will the Messiah, the son of David, come with the clouds of heaven, as indicated in Daniel 7:13–14, or will he come riding on a donkey, as written in Zechariah 9:9? The Talmud says if we are worthy, he will come in the clouds, but if we are unworthy, he will come riding on a donkey. The problem is that the Hebrew Scriptures do not present these two events as either-or options. Rather, they are both explicit prophecies that must be fulfilled (see also the discussion in vol. 1, 2.1). How then can these two opposing statements be reconciled? The New Covenant Scriptures provide us with the solution. The virgin birth is the key! The Gospels make two things perfectly clear: The Messiah is the son of David and the Messiah is greater than David, both earthly and heavenly. These facts are also seen through a careful reading of the Tanakh. First, there are prophecies that are universally recognized as Messianic which indicate that the Messiah was to be “the son of David” (see, e.g., Isa. 11:1–16; sometimes the Messiah is actually called “David”; cf. Ezek. 34:23). Second, the Tanakh indicates that the Messiah would be highly exalted and greater than David, as recognized also by certain Rabbinic traditions (see vol. 2, 3.22). Daniel 7:13–14, cited above by the Talmud, teaches that the Messiah will be a heavenly figure who will be served and worshiped words, “YHWH said to my lord, ‘Sit at My right hand . . .’ ” (NJPSV). Although some Rabbinic commentaries dispute that David wrote this about the Messiah, other Rabbinic sources (e.g., Midrash Tehillim 2:9; 18:29) follow the Messianic interpretation, indicating that they had no trouble with David calling the Messiah “lord” or “master” (this interpretation was so common that it is presupposed by the New Testament; see further vol. 3, 4.29). There are also Rabbinic traditions that speak of the Messiah’s preexistence and his heavenly dialogues with God, indicating that he was not your everyday, run-of-the-mill, physical descendant of David (see vol. 2, 3.22).184 Note also the midrash to Isaiah 52:13, which states that the Messiah, who will come forth out of David, will be higher than Abraham, lifted up above Moses, and loftier than the ministering angels (see Yalqut Shim‘oni 2:571). How then could the Messiah be David’s son and yet in some sense be preexistent and greater than David? It is only through his virgin birth. His earthly father Joseph was a descendant of David and in the royal line, while it appears from the New Testament record that his mother, Miriam (Mary), was also a descendant of David.
As Keener observes, There is little doubt that Jesus’ family historically stemmed from Davidic lineage: all clear early Christian sources attest it (e.g., Rom 1:3); Hegesippus reports a Palestinian tradition in which Roman authorities interrogated Jesus’ brother’s grandsons for Davidic descent (Euseb. H.E. 3.20); Julius Africanus attests Jesus’ relatives claiming Davidic descent (Letter to Aristides); and, probably more significantly, non-Christian Jewish polemicists never bothered to try to refute it (Jeremias 1969: 291). The same authors who speak clearly of the virgin birth of Yeshua speak just as clearly of his being a son of David (cf., e.g., Matt. 1:1, 17–25; 9:27, 21:9, etc.; note that Matthew breaks his genealogy down to three groups of fourteen, which is also the numeric equivalent of the name David in Hebrew). They found no contradiction here. And this leads to an important question for consideration: Given the unique nature of the Messiah—the son of David and yet greater than David—could you present a more scriptural scenario than the one offered in the Gospels? His mother’s husband—they were espoused before Jesus was conceived—and the man who in all respects outside of literal begetting functioned as his earthly father, was in the line of legal heirs to the throne, going back to David. His mother Miriam, whose bloodline he continued, was a descendant of David. Once you see God’s hand in all this, it becomes awe-inspiring, the kind of thing the human mind would never invent. The Messiah is David’s son and David’s lord, descended from the earthly king and yet descended from the heavenly throne, earthly and yet transcendent, able to fully identify with us in our humanity and weakness yet bearing the divine nature and able to save us fully from our sins.-See Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections, Vol 4, pgs 83-97.
Brown goes onto say:
“Of course, the Jews for Judaism has an answer for this as well: “Even if Mary can trace herself back to David, that doesn’t help Jesus, since tribal affiliation goes only through the father, not mother. Cf. Num. 1:18; Ezra 2:59. Once more, this statement only tells part of the story, since the Hebrew Bible actually provides us with two examples that offer relevant parallels to the Messiah’s bloodline being traced through his mother. First, in terms of inheritance, the Torah teaches that if a man dies, leaving no sons but only daughters, the inheritance is passed on through the daughters and their husbands, provided that they marry within the tribe (see Num. 27:1–11; 36:1–12).192 Thus, the daughter’s inheritance is joined with her husband’s. While this does not deal with genealogy, it does deal with the passing on of family inheritance through a daughter. This is further confirmed by Ezra 2:61 (= Neh. 7:63), which makes reference to “Barzillai (a man who had married a daughter of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by that name).” In the case of Jesus, Miriam also married within the same tribal family, since Joseph was a Judahite and, more specifically, a descendant of David. In fact, according to U. Holzmeister, this is how Luke’s genealogy should actually be understood as that of Miriam, but in connection with Joseph. As explained by John Nolland, who favors this proposal, Holzmeister argues that Mary was an heiress (i.e., had no brothers) whose father Eli, in line with a biblical tradition concerned with the maintenance of the family line in cases where there was no male heir (Ezra 2:61 = Neh 7:63; Num 32:41 cf. 1 Chr 2:21–22, 34–35; Num 27:3–8), on the marriage of his daughter to Joseph, adopted Joseph as his own son. Matthew gives Joseph’s ancestry by birth, Luke that by adoption. – See Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections, Vol 4, pgs 83-97.
The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation (New Studies in Biblical Theology) by Graham Cole, IVP Publishers, 2013, 202 pp.
The incarnation is a central tenant of the Christian faith. For myself, having been involved Jewish- Christian theological discussions for several years now, the issue of the incarnation has come up on more than one occasion.
I read Graham Cole’s book with eager expectations in that I wanted to see if he had any new insights on the mystery of the incarnation in the Old Testament and how it relates to the New Testament. In other words, “Are there any explicit texts in the Old Testament that show the deity of Messiah?” Or, is the incarnation something that is totally foreign to the Old Testament?
Over the years Christian apologists have attempted to demonstrate that theophanies and messianic prophecies reveal a full blown deity of Jesus in the Old Testament. I have always been on the cautious side on this issue. I appreciated this book because Cole thinks that the Old Testament doesn’t reveal an explicit case for the incarnation. He elaborates on this by saying there are certainly “patterns”or “hints” of the incarnation. These patterns are seen in Old Testament themes of preparation, theophanies and messianic texts. But we can never arrive to the conclusion that the Old Testament demands or requires an explicit case for the incarnation.
“Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that,if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:He appeared in the flesh,was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory” (1Tim. 3:16).
Note that Paul speaks of a “mystery” here. This means Paul speaks of something that wasn’t previously revealed in the Old Testament. If the incarnation was already explicit in the Old Testament, why does Paul speak of it as a mystery here.
After years of debating this topic with Jewish people, I concur with Cole that while patterns and hints of the deity of Jesus are in the Old Testament, as with most progressive revelation, things become much clearer in the New Testament. It is for this reason, that I highly recommend this book. Keep in mind that this book is not a full blown apologetic for the deity of Jesus. If that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend the book Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ by J. Ed Komoszewski and Robert Bowman. For a current treatment of the theophanies topic, see Andrew Malone’s Knowing Jesus in the Old Testament?
Israel and the Church: The Origins and Effects of Replacement Theology, by Ronald Diprose, IVP Publishers, 2012, 276 pp.
Over the years, I have done my share of reading on the topic of Israel and the Church. While I am not Jewish, I have had years of experience with talking to Jewish people about the claims of Jesus. I also grew up in a predominantly Jewish community. I have also thought long and hard about the issue of replacement theology. At this point, I have grown a bit tired of the “dispensationalist vs covenantal theology” debates.
It is for this reason, I found Israel and the Church: The Origins and Effects of Replacement Theology, by Ronald Diprose to be quite refreshing. If you are new to this discussion, Replacement Theology is a theological view that says the promises and covenants that were made with the nation Israel are no longer in the possession of national Israel. Thus, Israel’s promises and covenants now allegedly belong to another group which happens to be the Church. The ever popular N.T Wright (whom I actually agree with on many things) has provided a nice summary here. He says:
“Israel’s purpose had come to its head in Jesus’ work.”As a result, “those who now belonged to Jesus’ people claimed to be the continuation of Israel in a new situation.” Wright also argues that “Jesus intended those who responded to him to see themselves as the true, restored Israel.- N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 316.
Hence, there is no present purpose nor future restoration of Israel. I should note that some theologians like Wayne Grudhem, John Piper and others do affirm a national salvation of Israel (as mentioned in Romans 11). However, they do not think there will be a restoration of Israel in the sense of Israel playing a prominent role in the future.
What inspired Diprose to tackle this topic? He says:
“I have always been aware that Israel is important for Christian theology. However, for a long time it had seemed to me that the question of Israel had become some kind of theological football that two opposing teams of theologians kicked about in accordance with their particular agendas. For dispensationalists it was apparently important that ethnic Israel be given a high profile while for reformed theologians it was apparently important to show that, with the advent of the Church, ethnic Israel’s significance had been irrevocably eclipsed. The result was that to affirm that there are institutional distinctions between Israel and the Church was tantamount to declaring oneself to be a dispensationalist while denial of such distinctions was a sign of reformed orthodoxy. A few years ago I decided to consider Israel as a question in its own right and not as an adjunct to a given theological position. Following that decision, I made some interesting discoveries. For example, I discovered that two very different views concerning Israel have held sway in Christendom. During the early centuries, Israel was thought to be a renegade nation that should be treated with contempt. However, after the Shoah1and the birth of the modern State of Israel in 1948, a new view developed xiii according to which Israel’s status as a visible, elect nation exonerated its members from the need to exercise faith in Jesus Christ in order to be saved. The antithetical nature of these two views puzzled me and suggested that factors other than the clear biblical message had determined their development. This was confirmed as I read many of the Church Fathers and then the literature pertaining to the current Jewish Christian dialogue. I also noticed that the neglect of the biblical message concerning Israel had repercussions on Christian theology in general. While both views have important implications for hermeneutics, the effects of the earlier view were particularly evident in ecclesiology and eschatology, whereas the new view is having serious repercussions in soteriology and missiology.”
It should be noted that many theologians/scholars now prefer to be called advocates of “fulfillment theology.” Hence, they’re not favorable to the “replacement theology” category. Nor do they like to be called “superesssionists.” In my view, whatever label you give it, the end result is the same.
Replacement Theology in the New Testament
Of course, it should be noted that there is no text in the NT that says the Church is Israel, nor are there any texts that say the Church is called “Spiritual Israel.” As we see below, Justin Matyr was the first Christian writer to explicitly identify the Church as “Israel.”This is why Diprose spends a good deal of time focusing on the supposed texts in the NT that are sometimes used by supersessionists to lend support to their view that the Church is the “New Israel.” Diprose discusses texts such as Matt. 21:43, Ephesians 2:11–22, 1 Peter 2:4–10, Galatians 6:16, and others. Exegetically speaking, none of these texts can be used to make a case that the Church is Israel. Dirpose also spends an extensive amount of time on Romans 9-11 which when looked at as a whole, makes a strong case against supersessionism. For example Dipose says:
“[Paul] denies that Jewish rejection of Christ implies God’s rejection of the Jews (Romans 11:1, 11). Although their rejection of Christ shows their current disobedience, the Jews remain included within God’s promises because God is faithful” (Romans 11:28–31). Romans 9–11 contains the only extended discussion of the problem posed by unbelieving Israel and the implications of such unbelief for the continuance of Israel as God’s elect people. However, there are other elements in the New Testament which appear to imply the permanence of Israel as God’s special, covenant people. Paul’s own apostolic ministry reflected his conviction that Israel continued to be unique among the nations. Despite the obstinate unbelief of many of his own nation, he continued to go to the Jew first (Acts 13:14, 46; 17:1–2; 18:4, 19–20; 28:16–17). That this custom was not only dictated by good missionary strategy is clear from the following passages of Romans: 1:16; 2:9–10; 3:1–4; 15:25–32. These passages demonstrate that Paul was fully prepared to make the supreme sacrifice in order to facilitate the conversion of his own race (Romans 9:1–5; 10:1). Furthermore, he described the Gentile Mission as an “offering” which he hoped would provoke envy amongst his own people in order to save some of them (Romans 15:16; cf. 11:13–14). There are other New Testament passages which seem to envisage a distinctive future for physical Israel as well, thus excluding the logic of replacement theology.”-Pg 64-65.
Dirpose devotes a good deal of space of the development of replacement theology/supersessionism, in post Apostolic thought. Of course, reading the anti-Israel quotes by Christian thinkers/apologists is never a faith building experience. Let me show a few of them:
Justin Martyr (100 – 165 AD), was an early Christian apologist).
1. He was the first Christian writer to explicitly identify the church as “Israel.”
2. Justin declared, “For the true spiritual Israel, and descendants of Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham are we who have been led to God through this crucified Christ.”
3.He also said, “Since then God blesses this people [i.e., Christians], and calls them Israel, and declares them to be His inheritance, how is it that you [Jews] repent not of the deception you practice on yourselves, as if you alone were the Israel?”
4. Justin also announced that “we, who have been quarried out from the bowels of Christ, are the true Israelite race.” (See Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 11, ANF 1:200. 17. Ibid., 1:261; 18. Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 135, ANF 1:267).
Irenaeus (130–200) wrote, “For inasmuch as the former [the Jews] have rejected the Son of God, and cast Him out of the vineyard when they slew Him, God has justly rejected them, and given to the Gentiles outside the vineyard the fruits of its cultivation.”-Irenaeus, Against Heresies 36.2, ANF 1:515.
Clement of Alexandria (c. 195) claimed that Israel “denied the Lord” and thus “forfeited the place of the true Israel.”-Clement, The Instructor 2.8, ANF 2:256.
Tertullian (c. 197) declared, “Israel has been divorced.”-Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews 1, ANF 3:152. 12.
Cyprian (c. 250), “I have endeavoured to show that the Jews, according to what had before been foretold, had departed from God, and had lost God’s favour, which had been given them in past time, and had been promised them for the future; while the Christians had succeeded to their place, deserving well of the Lord by faith, and coming out of all nations and from the whole world.”- Cyprian, Three Books of Testimonies Against the Jews, ANF 5:507.
There are many more than the ones mentioned here. But suffice, to say, one would think these so-called heroes of the faith never read Romans 9-11.
The Need to Link Israel and the Mission of Jesus
Another important outcome of supersessionism is the ignorance about the relationship with Jesus and and His mission to Israel.
“Whoever denies that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah is in fact denying the gospel which was announced to Abraham (Galatians 3:8–16; Romans 1:1–5, 16–17). Hans Joachim Krau makes a different but equally radical proposal for modifying the Church’s concept of Christ. Instead of the traditional concept of a distinct person with supernatural attributes who came to fulfill the promises made to Israel, Krau proposes a kind of mystical Christology. According to this concept the Messiah and the people of the Messiah are inseparable. I propose that, instead of avoiding Christology, Christian partners in the Jewish-Christian dialogue would do well to distinguish between the relevant biblical data and the “theological embroidery”dating from post– apostolic times. In particular they should disassociate themselves from the triumphalism of the Medieval Church. In its place they should underline the Jewishness of Jesus and make clear what both Jesus and the apostles taught concerning the fulfillment of the Old Testament Messianic hope.”-Page 182.
Why does this topic matter?
From what I have seen, it seems that within the social justice crowd (not that I am against social justice), Israel is not viewed in a positive light. Hence, Israel is demonized in the media as well as in the Christian crowds that tend to fall into the pro- Palestinian movement. Sadly, many Christians are theologically illiterate which means have no concept of the role of Israel in the Bible. When you are told all that matters is that Jesus has saved you from heaven or hell, it is no wonder that many Christians don’t even know the Biblical narrative. Furthermore, with the over- reaction to The Left Behind Series, any mention of Israel as having a present or future role is automatically labeled as “dumb dispensationalism” or something worse. Sadly, in my experience, many of the points leveled against Israel are almost always straw man arguments and don’t have any exegetical basis to them. So the way I see it, this topic is important for the following reasons:
1. It impacts how we read the Bible. Hence, do we read the Bible as one continuous story (from Genesis to Revelation), or do we just read the New Testament and skip the Scriptures that both Jesus and Paul read?
2. It impacts our view of the character of God.
3. It impacts our view of ecclesiology (the study of the ekklesia).
4. It impacts our missiology: the area of practical theology that investigates the mandate, message, and mission of the ekklesia.
5. It impacts our view of eschatology.
6. It impacts our view of Israel today and the Middle East situation.
If these issues are important to you, then I recommend you read this book.