Supersessionism is Not Biblical

Supersessionism is Not Biblical May 7, 2012

I have had a long history of discussing this topic with friends and, while I consider the issue necessary to be nuanced (e.g., do Jews have to believe in Jesus as Messiah? And why is that not at some level superssionistic?), here is a good set of arguments to consider when one discusses this topic:

Supersessionism is the view that the New Testament Church supersedes, replaces, or fulfills the nation Israel’s place and role in the plan of God. I am convinced that supersessionism / replacement theology is an unbiblical doctrine that violates clear statements in both the Old and New testaments that teach and affirm a national salvation and restoration of Israel. Below are twelve reasons why supersessionism violates the biblical witness:

1. The Old Testament explicitly teaches the restoration of the nation Israel.

2. The Old Testament explicitly promises the perpetuity of the nation Israel (see Jer. 31:35-37).

3. The New Testament reaffirms the Old Testament expectation of a salvation and restoration of Israel.

4. The New Testament explicitly states that the Old Testament promises and covenants to Israel are still the possession of Israel even during this church age and even while the nation is currently in a state of unbelief (see Romans 9:3b-4).

5. The New Testament indicates that God is faithful to Israel because of His promises to the patriarchs of Israel (Romans 11:28).

6. The New Testament indicates that Israel’s election/calling is irrevocable (Romans 11:29; see also Deuteronomy 7:6-8).

7. The New Testament never uses the term “Israel” for those who are not ethnic Jews. Thus, the church is never called “Israel.”

8. Supersessionists have failed to show that the New Testament identifies the church as “Israel.”

9. Supersessionists have failed to show that the New Testament reinterprets or alters the original OT prophecies in regard to Israel. The alleged “NT Priority” approach of Supersessionism is really ‘structural supersessionism’—a hermeneutic that does not allow the OT passages to speak to the issues they address.

10. Supersessionists have failed to show that unity between Jews and Gentiles in the church rules out a future restoration of the nation Israel.

11. Israelite language applied to believing Gentiles does not mean the church is Israel.

12. New Testament prophecy refers to Israel, thus indicating that God’s plan for Israel is alive.


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  • Jerry

    OK, I’m agreeing so far. Some questions:
    –Is the current political nation-state of Israel the same as the Israel referred to in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures? If not, where is this “Israel” that will be renewed? If yes, how so?
    –If the church is not a continuation or “new/renewed Israel,” what is it?
    –How does this fit with Wright’s new book and your King Jesus Gospel. In what sense is Jesus King of the church/nations?

  • I think #4, 7 and 8 are wrong. And what does #11 mean if not that Gentiles who are in Messiah are now part of Israel?

    Supercessionism is wrong because it posits “the church” as the New Israel. The NT makes it clear, I would argue, that “JESUS” is the New Israel. I think Chris Wright has demonstrated this (as has N.T. Wright) pretty well.

  • Will Varner

    Thanks. This bucks a present trend. I appreciate your not backing off.

  • Percival

    A few more questions. I’d like to see some thoughtful comments here. I don’t even know if I qualify as a 100% supersessionist or not, but I am open to persuasion. I am definitely NOT a Christian Zionist. In the past, when this subject has come up, I have felt that some people with strong convictions in this area have reacted with, “Shame on you for being a supersessionist!” But I can’t remember reading anything that had me thinking I should change my mind on anything.

    How do we understand the idea of branches being grafted in? Into what?

    Also, the whole idea of promises to Israel is ambiguous in light of the promise that someone would always sit on David’s throne, and the place of New Jerusalem, and the appropriation of OT images for NT purposes. Do we need to be consistent in our interpretation of Messianic fulfillment or should we just say that it is both/and?

    Hasn’t Israel always been a community of faith and not an ethnic group?

    Please, I’m just asking. Don’t go all meschuge on me! 🙂

  • David

    #7 is wrong. 1 Peter 2:9 lavishes all the titles of Israel on a GENTILE community

  • Robert A

    I too have been doing a lot of talking about the nature of supersessionism versus (what I call) restorationism. I am an economic supersessionist akin to NT Wright and Barth. One of the challenges in evangelicalism is that with the (en masse) acceptance of dispensational pre-trib/pre-mil eschatology there is a high level of acceptance of a restorationist perspective. My replies are:

    – The Abrahamic covenant seems to only apply selectively to his descedents and specifically only to the faithful descendents. Thus it is not absolute and universal. (Sucks if your Ishmael or Esau.)
    – Israel has been restored, and then proceeded to fall away into rebellion and several tribes were condemned and sent out of the promise after their final apostasy.
    – Paul’s larger argument in Romans 9-12 concerns how faithful Israel has been saved proleptically.
    – There has always been a necessary act of faith for salvation in OT and NT, not an ethnic salvation. Just because someone is born an Israelite or Jew doesn’t entail their default salvation.
    – With the inauguration of the New Covenant the terms of faithfulness contiue as specifically located in the salvation of Christ.
    – As the NT often speaks about the salvation of Israel they reference faithful beleivers in the past and faithful believers in the present/future.
    – Given the propensity of pagan Israelites who received final judgment (according to the OT) for their deeds there is a clear understanding that one’s ultimate salvation is attached spiritually and not ethnically. (This is a bit of redux of a previous point.)
    – Israel is not consumated eschatologically, there is nothing in the NT to suggest this beyond inference. Most every major biblical scholar sees the role of Israel (specifically in Revelation) as a metaphor for the Church.

  • I don’t consider myself a “supersessionist” but I’m sure some would.

    In fact, I don’t consider myself a ________-ist but I’m sure some would say I am and others would say I’m not ;-).

    My response to many of these is “in Christ”

    In many ways, though not all, Israel’s fulfilled in Jesus. He is Israel. He is the seed of Abraham.

    But it’s a chronological progression. Just as the itenerate/local/family priests honored God in the time before Abraham and such practices are an abomination today, Jewish cultic practice is also in light of the ministry of Jesus.

    In Christ, Israel is restored. In Christ, Israel receives the promise of rest and land.

    There is no ethnic Israel today. Not even the two southern tribes can be genetically reconstructed. Ethnicity is not the basis for covenant.

    All Israel will be saved, but not all Israel are Israel… the old men of “circumcised” and “uncircumcised” have been made into one new man.

    The church doesn’t t replace Israel, Believing Israel and Believing Gentiles make up the one people of God.

  • I’m somewhat confused. What are we if we’re not part of the people of God? What are we if we’re not grafted in? What are we if we’re not the Temple? What are we if we’re not a kingdom of priests? Have we been saved to something different? is our destiny different or separate from the Israel of the Bible? What about the right to become “children of God”? The circumsion? Aren’t they synomous with ‘Israel’?

    And what of the secular State of Israel? Isn’t it somewhat departed from the Israel of the OT and 1st century?

    Scot, you might need to give us a bit more here.

  • Percival

    As I was rereading the 12 points above, I couldn’t help but notice that quite a few of them are examples of circular reasoning. For example, #12 says, “New Testament prophecy refers to Israel, thus indicating that God’s plan for Israel is alive.” A supersessionist could say that any of the prophecies that refers to Israel indicates that God is continuing his plan through the his people, the church.

  • Phil Miller

    It seems that this list almost ignores the actual fulfillment of Jesus’ mission while He was on earth. I can’t deny that there’s still a “not yet” aspect of that fulfillment, but in the sense of the promises made to the patriarchs, Jesus was the fulfillment of those. That covenant is complete, or as the writer of Hebrews puts it, obsolete.

    I agree with the earlier comment that Jesus is the new Israel. Insofar as the church identifies with Israel, it’s only because we are in Christ.

  • Interesting. Until today, I’d never heard the term ‘Supersessionism’ before. My first though was, ‘Is this a humorous post against long conference meetings? (ie super-sessions)’

    But I digress.

    I’ve been a supersessionist since I learned that the only way to escape a blood covenant was the death of either party. Didn’t Israel fulfill its covenant when they crucified Christ? Isn’t it Gods grace and mercy that we are offered salvation at all?

  • #7 doesn’t appear to take into account the part in Romans 2 where Paul writes that circumcision is of the heart, not the flesh, and that a person is a Jew inwardly, not outwardly.

  • CGC

    Hi Scot and all,
    I hope people will read Vlach’s book. I think non-supersessionist readings of Scripture are better than the supersessionist ones (how is that for irony 🙂 I sometimes think most Christians need a new set of glasses when it comes to reading the Bible? After saying that, there are fulfillment themes by Christ in Scripture that has to appear supersessionist to Orthodox Jews no matter who much we claim we are not supersessionist—-some of our fulfillment understandings are more or less supersessionist at some level. Certainly some of the Jews during Jesus day rejected him because they did not believe Jesus was superior to Moses or as the book of Hebrews says, Jesus sacrifice was “better” than the animal sacrifices they had been doing for so long!

    And here is my problem with David’s and other readings of the New Testament (the same problem in some of our readings of the book of Genesis). David says I Peter 2:9 (and I will add v. 10) refers to the Gentile community (are you sure?) and titles given to Israel to the church means that the church is a kind of new Israel or again, replaces or fulfills Israel (really?).

    1. If Peter is commonly referred to as “the Apostle to the Jews” then why can’t it be he is addressing a Jewish audience? The majority of the early Christians were Jewish Christians.

    2. Israel imagery is applied to non-Israelites in Isaiah 19:24-25 without these non-Israelites becoming Israel. Egypt will someday be called “my people” so even when imagery used primarily for Israel is given to someone else, it does not mean they are identified as Israel.

    There certainly is a divine pattern or order between Israel and the church (as the people of God). There are typological connections but that does not have to translate into the church supercedes Israel.

  • CGC

    Two more thoughts after reading others comments (1) If Israel can be replaced or superceded or whatever, and they were the people of God, can’t the same be said of the church? and (2) Phil makes an interesting comment about Jesus as the new Israel or the vine or possibly the tree we all need grafted in (Jews or Gentiles). Jesus is the cornerstone or foundation, not something else . . .

  • Its not replacement but fulfillment, and your arguments are not that good. Not once in any of the 12 arguments did you mention Jesus, that is a shame because he alone is at the root of the issue, not Israel. This is so easy, I understood this back in 85.

  • Phil Miller

    The most pertinent question in this discussion from my perspective is whether or not God’s plan to save Israel is any different than His plan to save Gentiles. I would say that it isn’t. It’s all part of the same plan. In Romans 11, Paul says that actually the Gentiles were brought into the family of God in order that it would spark envy in the Jews. They would see Gentiles partaking in the salvation that was rightfully theirs first and want to partake in it as well. But in the end, their ethnicity doesn’t make them “more saved” than Gentiles. Israel was made elect originally to be the vehicle which God would bless all nations.

  • Jeremy

    Michael – I’m not entirely sure what that adds to the conversation. Do you have something to add or are you just grandstanding?

    I tend to agree with John Goldingay in that while the NT uses a lot of the same terminology, it does not ever use supplanting language. We are never called the New or True Israel or even “Israel” for that matter. That said, it’s not entirely clear how we should deal with modern Israel, but unlike some of my rabidly Zionist friends, I don’t think they get a blank check.

  • A significant portion of the Church venerates a woman delivered of Child just like the Roman Catholics venerate a woman delivered of Child.

    Furthermore somebody should read Jesus’ thoughts in Revelation 2-3 about the subject.

  • Where does the NT affirm a restoration of the *nation* of Israel? Rom. 11 says all Israel will be saved. It doesn’t say she will be saved *as a nation*.

    I can affirm most of those statement and still affirm that the church fulfills God’s promises to Israel. In my mind, saying the church replaces Israel is a rather different thing than saying the church is the place where the promises to Israel are fulfilled.

  • Scot
    I come from a background here in Sweden, Europe were the alternatives were either christian Zionism or supersession. If those two are the only chooses today I have to side with supersession. But I believe there are other options as well.

    It is also a question of eschatology. In my background “Blessing Israel” (meaning supporting the secular state of Israel no matter what it did) where the only option. And it was closely connected to teachings of the rapture etc. (Think of preachers like your John Haage)

    Than I found the teaching of Tom Wright about this:

    And John Stott

    and I even agree with John Piper here (I usually disagree with him):

    A couple of years ago I visited Palestine and met the Christians and so there tough situation and I cant believe in any teaching claiming to be christian that means that one people have a God given right to oppress others. I just cant.

    All of this make me a superssionist? I don’t know?

    So what do you do with the modern, secular state of Israel?

    Scot I look forward to hear your answers to my questions and the other questions here.

  • Greg C

    I’d be happy if we could agree that the U.S.A. has not replaced Israel as God’s chosen people.

  • For what it’s worth, here is a video response I gave in which the errors of BOTH Supercessionism and Dispensationalism are addressed briefly (in case anyone is interested in a proposed middle way): (It’s the first video entitled “Do Christians keep the Ten Commandments?”)

  • Wyatt

    Aside from some of the anti-Jewish statements made here by some well-meaning people (at least I think they are well-meaning) very few if any of you have made any mention of some of the activity of some Jewish believers and thinkers in the church. None has mentioned the work of Mark Kinzer, Dan Juster and others specifically Jewish. You all seem to be stuck reading the Gentiles. Trying studying this from a Jewish perspective and stop ignoring or putting down the Jews among us. The Gentiles were grafted in, not the Jews. Jesus was a Jew. Most, if not all Scripture is written by Jews.

    And it also seems to me the mere presence of Jews in the church who are following Jesus (Yeshua) as their Rabbi, should say something about the foolishness of the idea of supercessionism. This poor excuse for doctrine leads to all kinds of crankiness and indifference toward Jews in the church. We should jettison this bad idea. Maybe it’s a bit too late since the creeds of the church we all love so dearly have, with intention, excluded any mention of Jesus being a Jew like “Son of David”.

    Thank you so much Constantine and others for your wilful neglect and ignorance.

  • These are more like 12 assertions than 12 arguments … ?

    I think that the Spirit and the new covenant community is important in this discussion. It seems to me there is a continuity in terms of the people of God from OT to NT. Different terms applied to Israel are all taken up and applied to the new community of the Spirit – laos, hagioi, the elect, the Israel of God, ekklesia lined to qᾱhᾱl the congregation of Israel.

    Gordon Fee “‘This abundant use of Old Testament ”people” language makes it clear that Paul saw the church not only as in continuity with the old covenant people of God, but as in the true succession of that people’. (God’s Empowering Presence, 871)

  • Phil Miller

    I’m curious to what statements here come off as anti-Jewish to you. It’s mainly for the sake my own learning because as I read the comments, nothing sticks out to me. I’m interested in your perspective, though.

  • I honestly can’t say I’ve given this a lot of thought, but one thing that stuck out to me:

    1 Peter is written to the church yet uses as the term of address: “God’s chosen strangers in the diaspora.” Perhaps Peter is writing to Jewish Christians (although that doesn’t seem probable from the language of the text in 1:14 and elsewhere), but that’s irrelevant because as Christians they are members of *the church*. The question is not whether the church Peter addresses is gentile; the question is whether Peter is addressing the church (which would almost undoubtedly be mixed, regardless of whom the author had specifically in mind). The answer is clearly the latter, in which case he is reappropriating traditionally Israelite language (“chosen,” “diaspora”) for the Christian church, regardless of their background. As he says in 1 Pet 2:10, “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.”

  • TEK

    @Phil Miller above-

    Here are a few of the passages that I have caught with anti-Judaic trend:

    “There is no ethnic Israel today. Not even the two southern tribes can be genetically reconstructed. Ethnicity is not the basis for covenant.”

    “I’ve been a supersessionist since I learned that the only way to escape a blood covenant was the death of either party. Didn’t Israel fulfill its covenant when they crucified Christ?”

    “Hasn’t Israel always been a community of faith and not an ethnic group?”

  • @Tek, how is this anti-Judaic? “Hasn’t Israel always been a community of faith and not an ethnic group?” Torah and the prophets both explicitly and implicitly teach this concept numerous times. I don’t see how one could read this as in any way anti-Judaic.

  • Wyatt

    @Phil Miller,

    I think TEK went where you wanted particularly where he quotes ““I’ve been a supersessionist since I learned that the only way to escape a blood covenant was the death of either party. Didn’t Israel fulfill its covenant when they crucified Christ?”

    I was not happy with that idea at all. It’s as anti-Jewish as it comes. This thinking is dangerous and biblically incorrect. Espousal of ideas like this stink pretty bad and ought to be rejected outright and called out for what they are; anti-Jewish. The trouble is supercessionism leads to conclusions like this.

    And I think Phil, you are being coy.

    Also what’s missing is an honest history of this doctrine.

    Thanks TEK.

  • As is often the case part of the issue here is how terms like “supercessionism” are defined. But I would definitely disagree with the 12 propositions stated above. The issue is not whether God has a plan for Israel, but rather who is “Israel”? Paul’s argument in Galatians 3 is that Israel is defined by Christ, and that all who are in Christ, Jew or Gentile, are Abraham’s offspring, Israel. It is not that the “church has replaced Israel,” but rather than Christ came to represent Israel, fulfill what Israel could not do, and expand Israel to include all families of the earth. This does not leave Israel out in the cold, but it does mean that Israel’s restoration hinges on Christ (at least this is what I gather form Paul’s interpretation of Deut. 30 in Rom. 10).

  • Scott Eaton

    Scot, I’d love to see you tease this out a bit more. Many of us (as has already been mentioned in the comments) have either been taught a dispensational/Christian zionist type view of Israel or the reformed/supersessionism view of Israel. We’ve not been exposed to a nuance non-supersessionist view.

    Could you recommend some books on the subject? Could you show us the “third way”?

  • Phil Miller

    No I was not being coy. I was being honest. I do see how that statement can come off as sounding very bad. I actually missed that while I was reading through the comments earlier.

    Personally, I can see how people feel sort of trapped in these issues. If someone sees the only options as Dispensationalism or Replacement Theology, well neither of those aren’t very good options.

  • EricMichaelSay

    I don’t see my comment as being anti-Jewish at all. Incorrect perhaps. Perhaps even awkwardly worded. Of course, if you aren’t going to correct my thinking or engage in dialog, I’m not sure how I am supposed to learn…

  • Roger

    Several NT verses that have helped shape my (flawed?) understanding that Jesus is fulfilling (and magnifying) the land promised to Israel in and through the church (which includes all believing Jews and Gentiles).

    Matthew 5:5 Jesus appears to expand the land promise to “the earth.”
    John 4:21f Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that true worshipers are not constrained to any particular holy mountain (expanding holy land to everywhere)
    Romans 4:13 Paul expands Abraham’s Promised Land to “the world.”

    Admittedly quoting scriptures out of context is risky! But I think the contexts support a Biblical view that Jesus dramatically expanded the promises and the recipients of those promises.

  • Patrick

    Jesus said to the sanheddrin leadership , “I am going to take the kingdom from you and give it to a nation who will bear the fruit thereof”.

    I don’t know all the terms of theology, I would say the Church did not replace or supersede ancient Israel as God’s nation.

    I would say the Church IS authentic Israel just as believing Jews of the ancient OT Israel era were authentic Israel as opposed to just ethnic Israel.

    Unbelieving Jews of the ancient era were inauthentic Jews just as Jeremiah 2:21-25 quotes Yahweh saying they were using the metaphor of the vine as Israel that Jesus picked up on in His John 15 “true vine” discourse.

    They had become “as a foreign vine” in verse 21. I bet “foreign” there in septuagint greek is ethne, which is Gentile in English. I don’t know that, but, I am guessing.

    Isaiah 25:6-9 details the promised restoration of authentic Israel/His people and it includes, guess what? Everybody! He will remove the reproach of HIS PEOPLE who are everybody under the sun that believes. Just like the feast of the lamb in Revelation.

    That’s because Yahweh had a mystery He only revealed totally in Romans 11:25-26. All Israel will be saved alright, by the influx of Gentiles and Jews into the authentic commonwealth of eschatological Israel.. i.e. the Church. Paul called it “the Israel of God” in Galatians 6:16.

    Paul pointed out several times that ” a Jew is not one outwardly circumsized with hands, but, one whose heart has been circumsized by faith/ the spirit”. “We ARE the circumcision”! Paul insisted . That’s authentic Israel.

    Philippians 3 is about this very debate. Paul considered the unbelieving Jews to be “the mutilation” in verse 2 and believers “the authentic circumcision” in verse 3.

    The Church is Abraham’s heir by faith, not unbelieving Jews. Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, not sure where that term is. Paul identified the seed of Abraham in Genesis 15 as Christ. Only in Christ are we authentically Abraham’s seed.

    Why did Jesus respond when His enemies said, “We’re Abraham’s children” by insisting “you are his genetic seed, but, you are not his children or you would not desire to kill Me, he saw My day and rejoiced”( I’m probably conflating verses). Sounds like the Jeremiah stuff to me.

    Peter in Acts 3:22-23 warned Jews that the prophet Moses had prophesied to them in Deut. 18:15 , 18 was Jesus and in that warning “Yahweh would raise up a prophet like him from among the people and whoever failed to listen to him Yahweh will require it of him”, except Peter did a Hebrew midrash on the last sentence and explained that “Yahweh will require it of him” explicitly means “He will utterly remove you out from among the people”.
    Not even considered a real Jew? Is that what Peter meant? Might interpret it that way.

    Like Jesus said in Revelation 2:9 or Jeremiah or Isaiah or Paul?

    No, the Church has not replaced ethnic Israel as God’s nation. It is God’s nation. It always was only believers.

    Just like Peter said, “You are a chosen race race, a royal priesthood, that holy nation”. The one promised in Deuteronomy to Israel if they follow all of Yahweh’s requests? IMO, yes, because Christ fulfilled that for us and shares His benefits with His friends.

    How about Ephesians 2:11-17 . The Gentiles were far from “the promises” and the commonwealth of Israel ,BUT NOW…………………………………….

    The eschatological promises were to believing Israel, not unbelieving Israel. Which prophet is it that said something like this, “A place where you were called not My people, they will be called the children of God”? That’s us, not ethnic unbelieving Israel.

    The author here is right in each instance, except he misses who is authentic Israel and who is the shell of it, unbelieving national Israel. The promises to them were of judgment over and over and over. Eschatological promises were to believers.

    Goodness, why did Jesus place every murder of an innocent from Abel to 30 AD on the heads of those folks? He was the final prophet who spent their time warning ancient, unbelieving Israel of total judgment and destruction. It came in 70 AD and I think a lot of the American Protestant Church doesn’t get what that meant.

    It meant the times were a changing and Yahweh was finished with ethnic Israel as His agency and ready to move forward with eschatological restored Israel in Christ which the Church is and was in His era. We are the circumcision. Jews and Gentiles alike in a new humanity in Christ. Nothing less.

  • Amos Paul

    There is and only ever has been one TRUE Israel (in the spiritual sense), and that is God’s son Jesus Christ. The ancient people group of ‘Israel’ spiritually realized Jesus on Earth which came to a head as Jesus literally stepped on Earth as a man.

    The body of Christ is now the church. The spiritual identity of Israel is carried forward in and only in the identity of Christ Jesus. In Jesus, there here is no Jew or Gentile. We are all a part of ‘Israel’, the Son of God.

  • Cal

    Amos Paul:

    Right on, that’s exactly it. The Church is another way of saying The Congregation. We meet to express Israel. Before that was a flesh and blood lineage into a shadow of the True Israel, Lord Messiah Jesus. It is not anti-Jewish, Jews and Gentiles are both apart of Israel. One of my best friends is a Russian Jew who follows the Christ(Jesus) and I am an American Gentile who follows the Christ(Jesus). We’re both apart of Israel.

  • I believe that believing Gentiles are wild branches grafted on to the root stock of Israel and are now part of Israel, along with believing Jews.

  • Scot, in light of point #7, what do you make of Romans 9:6? Echoing the main theme of chaps. 3-4, Paul here declares that God actually has remained faithful to His promise to Abraham, stunningly in spite of Israel’s widespread rejection of the gospel. But the real issue, Paul replies, is who Abraham’s “seed”, the children of promise, really are: “for they are not all Israel who are of Israel”. Now, as many have noted, standing alone it’s true that this phrase doesn’t necessarily imply that Gentiles are included in the true “Israel”; in and of itself it only insists negatively that not all Jews are included in that company. However, Paul doesn’t mean for that to be a stand-alone statement. He goes on to state positively: “But the children of the promise are counted as the seed”. The question is, Who are the ones that are counted as Abraham’s descendants? Considering the foundation he has laid already in chap. 4 and following the logic of the present passage to his own conclusion in vv. 23-33, it seems hard to deny that Paul includes Gentiles in the “children of promise”, the “seed”, and thus in the true eschatological “Israel” of v. 6. Thoughts?

  • Like debates over the biblical foundations of the divinity of Jesus, the trinity, or inaugurated eschatology, I think this discussion has to move beyond the concordance and the question of whether or not the church is explicitly referred to as “Israel” in the NT. According to my reading of Scripture, “Israel” didn’t merely refer to an ethnic people group or a nation abstractly, but referred also to the elect, the chosen family of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So if anyone was engaged in redefining who the covenant people of God really were—like John the Baptist, Jesus and Paul all did—then that person was essentially redefining who “Israel” was. “Not all are Israel who are of Israel,” Paul says, acknowledging the ethnic sense in which someone can be “of Israel” and yet claiming polemically that they do not thereby stand in the covenantal Israel, i.e. the children of promise who are counted as the “seed”.

    But aside from this or any other passage in the NT where the church is identified as Israel, I think there is a bigger problem with point #7 above, and that is the assumption that if a word is not present then the idea is not present either. If the NT writers don’t use the word “Israel” in reference to the Church, so this line of thought goes, then they must not have believed that the Church carried the calling and promises of Israel. But besides the now singularly controversial title of “Israel”, Paul and the other NT writers used many titles for the Church that in the first century carried the equivalent covenantal meaning, one that’s not commonly recognized actually being the term “church” itself, the Septuagint term for the “assembly” of Israel—or as Steven says it in Acts 7 when referring to the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai, the “congregation in the wilderness”.

    The term “saints” is another one that we don’t commonly think of as a synonym for Israel, but a quick brush through its occurrences in the OT should give us a clue. After Paul says that the Gentile Christians in Ephesus were “once aliens of the commonwealth of Israel”, he then goes on to say that they “are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints”. Notice that he doesn’t call the Ephesian Christians themselves “saints” here, but instead says that they’ve become “fellow citizens with the saints”. Of course, that’s not because he doesn’t think they are saints; in fact his point is exactly the opposite. But this does show how the designation “saints” was used in Paul’s day—as a synonym for the nation of Israel, Jews, the historic people of God, over and against the pagan Gentiles.

    This is why it was such a dramatic shift in thinking—a complete change of worldview—when the Lord commanded Peter to share the gospel with the household of the God-fearing centurion Cornelius, and when upon doing so that whole family was saved and filled with the Spirit. Luke notes that all the Christian Jews who saw this were astonished, because the Lord showed no partiality, made no distinction, and poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles also.

    But there are many other even more overt titles that deserve recognition: “Sons of God”, for one, or “kingdom of priests”, or “special people”, or “seed of Abraham”—or even “the Circumcision”. These were all synonyms for “Israel” in the first century, and they are all used by the NT writers to refer to the renewed Jew-plus-Gentile family of God in the Messiah. Using any one of those terms to refer to an uncircumcised Gentile would be absolutely offensive to the sensibilities of a Second-Temple Jew, and that’s precisely the point. So I don’t see how referring to that renewed family as “Israel” would be any more of a radical leap, either theologically, culturally or socially, than any other of the Jewish designations that were broadened by the early Church to include Gentiles.

    Why should that one term be the odd man out when the NT writers were so liberal with all of its synonyms? Why should it be so offensive, for instance, to call the multi-ethnic family of God “Israel” and yet not be offensive to call them “Abraham’s seed” or the “children of promise”? I submit that this is not because those terms were any less offensive in the world of first century Judaism, but that we in the twenty-first century West have lost touch with their essential Israel-meaning. This is thus a perfect example of a place where the Church needs (ironically in the words of David Pawson) to “deGreece” its thinking and reading of Scripture.

  • One question which I think lies at the heart of this debate, and yet is often overlooked, is this: What is the calling of Israel? And is God’s calling unique to Israel, as his special people of all the nations of the earth, or is it just one role among many roles dealt out to every tribe, tongue and nation? It’s practically a mantra in American Evangelical circles to say that Israel and the Church are the same with respect to salvation but separate with respect to function. Personally, I used to repeat this line regularly without giving it much thought. But eventually the question struck me: What exactly is the function, calling, or role of Israel? When I began to ask this question and seek a biblical answer, I slowly came to realize that my inherited dispensational categories didn’t really fit the evidence of Scripture.

    When I read the OT, it seems like the calling of Israel, quite simply, was to be the people of God for the world. The original calling which God gave to Abraham’s descendents in Genesis 12-17 was to be in some way the bearers of the solution to the problem of humanity’s fall in Genesis 1-3. His desire was that they would be a holy people, a special treasure, a kingdom of priests, a city on a hill, agents of his love and justice throughout the whole created order.

    And I don’t believe this has changed. God’s heart and plan for ethnic Israel remains the same as it always has—everything that the law and the prophets envisioned (e.g. Ex 19:5-6, Isa 42:1-9, Isa 49:3-7, Jer 31:31-37 or Ezek 36:26-27), and everything the NT insists is still open to them (Rom 9:4-5; 11:28-29).

    But here’s the thing: all the OT passages cited above—where Israel is called things like “a special treasure above all people”, “a kingdom of priests”, “a holy nation”, “the elect one”, “a light to the Gentiles” and “[the Lord’s] salvation to the ends of the earth”—all of these are applied to the renewed, Jew-plus-Gentile, family of God in Christ throughout the NT (e.g. Rom 4:13-16; Tit 2:14; 2 Pet 2:9-10; Rev 1:5-6).

    Now, I’ve often heard those who argue for a distinct role for Israel appeal to Paul’s analogy of “one body with many members” in 1 Corinthians 12. If Paul can say that individual’s in Christ’s body all have different roles and callings, so it is argued, then why would it be wrong to say that Jewish believers have a distinct role from Gentile believers?

    But this argument lacks definition. If what is meant by saying that Israel has a “distinct role” within the unity of the body of Christ is simply that they, as a particular ethnicity, have a gift mix that some other ethnicities don’t share to the same degree, 1 Corinthians 12 style—well in that case I would agree wholeheartedly. Jews have a knack for business, for instance, that most Hawaiians don’t share. That’s a gift we can track all the way back to the patriarchs in Genesis. But there’s a big difference between all of the various gifts that individuals, families, and whole ethnicities hold respectfully and the one great covenantal calling which incorporates each of those respective gifts, the call to be the people of God for the world. Distinction with regard to the former obviously stands true now as it ever has for ethnic Israel, but with regard to the latter it most emphatically does not.

    And here lies the problem, in my estimation, with saying that Israel still holds a different role from Gentiles in Christ. Most who make this statement are seeking to maintain Israel’s separateness and singular covenantal role as seen in the OT, which was precisely the one great calling to be the people of God for the world, under the false assumption that such a separateness is coherent with the NT, which consistently declares that through Christ God has opened the door of the covenant for the Gentiles to come in and carry the same calling right along side their Jewish brethren. In other words, they’re not simply saying that Jews have a distinct role from Chinese who have a distinct role from Russians who have a distinct role from Americans, as if this were a holistic “diversity within unity” where everyone is special in their own way; rather they’re inescapably saying that Jews have a distinct role from everyone else, that they are, not as the redeemed but as Jews, a “peculiar treasure above all people” (Ex 19:5; Deut 14:2; cf., Tit 2:14).

    And this is why I don’t see how a distinction can be made between God’s calling to Gentile believers and His calling to Israel as a nation and people; because God’s calling to Israel as a nation and people has always been precisely that they would be the light of the world, and his promises of exaltation and prosperity are for that vocational purpose, that his name might be declared in all the earth, that his people would partner with him in redeeming the earth (Isa 42; 49; Matt 5:14). And it was precisely this commission which Jesus gave to his followers after the resurrection (Matt 28:18-20).

    As the people of God, the new community of Christ, we are, as Revelation 1:6 says, a “kingdom of priests”—meaning that all who participate in the kingdom share in God’s great mediatory task of reconciling everything in heaven and on earth in Christ. That is the one calling of Israel, now available to Jew and Gentile alike, for that is the one purpose of the covenants, spanning across the ages from the patriarchs to Christ to the new heavens and new earth.

  • holdon

    Wow, lots of fantasy here. What an enchilada of divergent thoughts!
    Of course the olive tree can’t be Israel, because both those in and out are called Israel.
    People who follow Jesus are part of the Church, not Israel.
    The nation of Israel today does not follow Jesus. They are unbelievers for the most part. They may be “Zionists” but Christians have nothing to do with it: they don’t follow Christ.
    The old promises that Israel would one time live blissfully and peacefully in their land has of course not happened yet. So, if those promises are worth anything they will still need to be realized at some time. The Jews are still waiting for this “world to come” and the Messiah, because of those promises.

  • I have no idea what Scot believes about what he just posted. This looks and smells like a fishing expedition to me. Especially since he has quoted almost the entirety of this post from a Messianic Jewish site.

    And since Scot hasn’t responded to the comments: that tell me he is sitting back and watching whether we are sleeping through his lectures again.
    Attention class you’re discussing a Messianic Jewish perspective.

  • Scot, thanks for being a voice against supersessionism. This is one of the biggest points of contention I have with the church. I have written about it extensively myself. Rather than point people to my blog, there are 2 books I recommend for people to read: Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged by Barry Horner and The God of Israel and Christian Theology by R Kendall Soulen.

  • scotmcknight

    Well, Norm, that bait is nothing if not enticing.

    1. I think the term “supersessionism” is actually a red herring since it is a term that no one really wants to embrace.
    2. The issues for me resolve into these sorts of questions: Does every Jew have to believe in Jesus as Messiah to be in the kingdom of God? If that is true, then there is some level of discontinuity, and that means some kind of “supersession” as part of “fulfillment” in Christ. Or, as Patrick has said above, the true Jew was always the one who believed, so that it comes down to covenant faithfulness. Then the issue becomes do those who believed among Israel have to believe in Messiah when he came? If so, there is supersession again.
    3. I find some folks who are against supersessionism to be more or less pluralists or two-covenant folks, and I don’t think those options resolve the questions.
    4. In other words, I want to hear a good explanation that explains the necessity of faith in Christ without some kind of supersessionism raising its head.
    5. I’m more than willing to surrender the term supersession, but we have to come up with terms that resolve the claim that Jesus is Messiah.

    In your court, Norm. I’m listening.

  • Scot,

    Thanks for taking the bait. 😉

    I think there have been several good observations in some of the comments so far, especially the recognition of Rom 9:6-8 in which not all Israel is Israel but it is through the Promise that children are named. My personal belief is that Adam represented the beginning of the church because that is when men begin calling upon the name of YHWH. Those from Adam to Moses included many who were not of Israel proper but they are illustrated often as being of the faithful “seed” lineage. They are included in the hall of worthies documented in Heb 11 who saw the “Heavenly country” from afar. (I take it that they grasped the Heavenly aspect of walking with God through the Spirit).

    The Bible continually speaks of the remnant faithful of Israel but the NT illustrates for us who those were at that particular time in history. If I am reading Romans 6 correctly then there is a new baptism through Christ that unites those remnant faithful along with the Gentile faithful who are being ushered into God’s faithful as well. I take it from Romans that Paul is attempting to mediate the two humanities into that one new Man he speaks of in Eph 2:14-15. Rom 11 is the summation of everything that Paul has been presenting throughout Romans and I think we may become a little too literalistic if we read Rom 11:26 out of context of the rest of Romans and especially Rom 9 where he lays his premise of whom comprises Israel. True Israel is nothing if not the faithful in God looking for the “Heavenly Country” and not the Physical country. Christ through His Death and Resurrection put to death Physical Israel and the Nations and set the government above their reach in the Heavenly Realm. Thus the Heavenly City comes down from God and the dwelling place of God is with man.

    Rejecting Christ appears to me to be rejecting being lifted out of darkness and refusing to walk in the full Light that is being offered. However the question remains how perfect we have to have our understanding down to receive the benefit of Christ atoning sacrifice and resurrection. Some people may reject an image of Christ that is a caricature of what He represents but have an affinity for His principles. Are they like the Heb 11 worthies of old that never saw Christ but had a Heavenly expectation of God? Would people post Christ time have the same offering of life eternal that the ancients did before He came? Makes for an interesting theological discussion perhaps. However I firmly believe we need to embrace the good news of the messiah and that is summed up as the Great Commandment in loving God with all our heart and our neighbor. All the Law and the prophets hang on those two commandments and if I remember correctly Christ came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.

    Therefore I believe that the Church has existed since Adam whom represents the first faithful man whomever that was to walk with God. Israel’s writers embraced the Adam character and claimed that frail faith legacy as their own plight, yet Christ as the Last Adam simply redeems the faith seeking ones of humanity. The Good news was that separation from God for faith seeking man was lifted up out of the dust by His resurrection and points us in the direction that the first Adam was expected to but couldn’t pull off because like us he was mortal, fleshly and not spiritual. All Israel needs the Gospel whomever they represent.

    1Co 15:49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.


  • Scot, have you read Christopher Wright’s “The Mission of God”? If so, do you consider him veering into supercessionism?

  • holdon

    Not only did Israel not exist since Adam, the church didn’t either. The NT is clear: the church was going to be build on a new foundation, Christ being the cornerstone and the apostles and prophets of the NT being the foundation having received the revelation of the Living God. It didn’t exist until the Spirit baptized the believers into one body at Pentecost.

    Christ would lead those of the Israel fold out and they would be joined with other sheep, not of that fold, and together they would become a new flock under one shepherd.

    Paul says that these two (believing Jews and Gentiles) would be a “one body; a new man”. Something that didn’t exist before.

    He also says that the current unbelieving part of Israel would also be saved in the future (after the fullness of the nations would have come in) because of the promises to the fathers.

    Therefore Israel != the church and the church != Israel. Some from Israel are in the church: that is called the Israel of God in Gal 6:16 as opposed to the recalcitrant Judaizers: they were not of God.

  • scotmcknight

    JM Smith, Yes, I’ve read it straight through and, of course, I’d not accuse hardly anyone of supersessionism, but anyone who thinks salvation is in Christ alone has crossed the threshold for the accusation. I’d like to see someone escape that problem.

  • scotmcknight

    JM Smith,
    2d reply: let’s say that Gentiles are only grafted into the Vine of Israel. One people — faithful Israelites and believing Gentiles. How are the “faithful Israelites” saved? By Christ alone or by virtue of their election/faith as Israelites? If the former, then the Vine’s “juice” is now new. So, even if we think there is one People of God, Israel, and the church is part of Israel (the Israel of God), the saving grace comes only in Christ and that means faith in Christ … how does that not create a problem at the level of discontinuity?

  • Doug

    One of the things I believe non covenant theologians do not wrestle with enough is the dual use of “Israel” and “church” by those who are labeled by others are supercessionists or replacement theologians. For example, I’m not aware of any Reformed, covenantal people who teach that the church has now become the theocracy of Israel or that it replaced it, having taken over that purpose in the NT. Maybe someone in Rome might say that (the emperor or pope is the new king of the theocracy and has the right to implement law or go to war against nations)?

    This is to fail to make critical distinctions between the visible church and invisible church as well as between the theocracy of Israel and the remnant or the saved within it. Those distinctions seem perfectly biblical to me. “Not all who are descended from Israel (the nation) are Israel (those of the promise). Israel can’t be used in the same sense in this verse.

    Thus, covenant theology teaches that the invisible church is the oak out of which the acorn of the remnant of the OT grew up. There is organic relationship between like things, invisible and invisible or elect and elect. In the OT the remnant was part of Israel, in the NT they are part of the church. But, of course, “church” is nothing but the LXX word sometimes used for the assembly of Israel.

    The visible church is now the main place where God saves people, just as he did in the OT in the nation of Israel. So there is some correlation with regard to that. In the visible church–which then moves to the invisible, God also implements the transformed ceremonial (“offer your bodies as living sacrifices”) and civil (“don’t muzzle the ox”) law . But again, the term “church” is simply a term the NT picks from the LXX which referred to the community of God in the OT. How can “ekklesia” “replace” “ekklesia” (sorry for all those quotes)? I don’t get that?

    I just don’t see these 12 points as having come to grips with these distinctions yet. They seem to me to often to equate the invisible church with visible Israel, thereby creating a strawman and unhelpful labels, labels which in some circles–such as members of my own family–make people think this view is antisemitic. Several of them seem to equivocate on the invisible/visible distinction made by its opponents. That’s my two cents as a Reformed pastor.

  • Cal

    I would say that the Church is a Theocracy. It is Christ Jesus who is the King.

  • Jon Philips, 6:48pm,

    I’ve read Barry E. Horner’s book Future Israel, but like many other works in that vein I thought it went into a deep black hole by trying to track down and condemn every so-called supersessionist. Working mostly off of a post-holocaust sentimentality, Horner points the finger at Reformed folk and claims that giving the title of “Israel” to Gentile believers while denying the covenantal use of that same term from unsaved Jews is unavoidably rooted in a Greek Neo-Platonic worldview and not in the thinking of the New Testament authors. But I think that N.T. Wright makes an excellent point and shows that this accusation is unfounded.

    “Neither the recognition that Paul’s main target was paganism, and the Caesar-cult in particular, nor the equal recognition that he remained a thoroughly Jewish thinker, should blind us for a moment to the fact that Paul still expressed a thorough critique of non-messianic Judaism. Paul remains at this point on the map of second-temple Judaism: believing that God had acted to remodel the covenant people necessarily entailed believing that those who refused to join this remodeled people were missing out on God’s eschatological purpose. As post-holocaust thinkers we will of course be careful how we say all this. As historians of the first century, we will recognise that it must be said. As Pauline theologians we will recognize that it contains no shadow, no hint, of anything that can be called anti-Judaism, still less anti-semitism.”

    There’s a big difference between replacement theology and remnant theology, and often times the latter is confused with the former. Many sects within first century Judaism would have been in full agreement with Paul that (a) not all ethnic Israel was truly the “Israel” to which God would fulfill his promises, and that (b) when God renewed the covenant He would throw open its doors to let the Gentiles in. Their disagreement would have arisen over (a) what exactly makes one a member of the true Israel and (b) the means through which God would renew the covenant.

    While they would have maintained (to varying degrees of course, according to the standards of each respective sect) that their adherence to the law would produce righteousness within the nation, thus ushering in the messianic age where God would renew the covenant with them, Paul and the rest of the early church declared, in contrast, that that new age had already dawned, not through their corporate adherence to the law (for Paul insists that this would have been impossible [Gal 3:21; Rom 3:20]), but through the faithfulness of Jesus of Nazareth, who was “born under the law, that he might redeem those who were under the law” (Gal 4:3-4). Jesus – the one whom they crucified and whom God raised from the dead – he is Israel’s Messiah, her representative, and it was stunningly through his death and resurrection that (in fulfillment of the Scriptures) God has renewed the covenant with his followers, opening up its membership to all the nations that they too might be saved and receive of the promises made to the fathers. This is what the early church believed, and there is nothing “supercessionist” about it.

    It’s quite easy to pick out the anti-semitics like Luther and accuse the whole lot (from the patristics to the present) of holding to an inherently anti-Judaistic eschatology, but such an argument is hardly objective or Biblically based. There definitely still remains a remnant of that eschatology in many circles within the Reformed tradition, but titles like “replacement theology” and “supersessionism” have largely become straw-man caricatures that misframe the discussion when in fact relatively few NT scholars these days would personally wear that badge. For the most part the discussion has shifted, and there is usually much more nuance and balance to a Reformed take on Israel than the other guys usually portray in their ad hominem appeals to a post-holocaust pro-Israel sentiment.

    Attempting to set the various agendas to the side and read the NT honestly, however, we find that it’s abundantly clear about the fact that we Gentiles who were once strangers and aliens have now been grafted into Abraham’s family through Jesus, who is the perfect “Seed,” the “true Israel,” so that we too are God’s Israel, the Sons of God, heirs of the promise. To reject that is to outright ignore huge portions of the NT – not only bits of Romans, Galatians and Ephesians, but also Matthew, Hebrews, Revelation, etc. In telling Jesus’ story as the climax of Israel’s history, the NT writers proclaim that it was he who walked out Israel’s calling and that therefore the covenant has been reconstituted around him. That’s why all of those aspects of the law that were meant to keep Israel separate from other ethnicities (e.g., circumcision, dietary laws, etc) are no longer necessary – because the covenant is no longer ethnocentric and the calling of Israel to be the light of the world, the city on a hill, the ministers of God’s covenant faithfulness to the earth, is now the calling of everyone in Jesus, both Jew and Gentile alike (Gal 3; Eph 2).

    Now, since the kingdom is no longer ethnocentric, but is instead Jesus-centric with the “middle wall of separation” broken down – making us Gentiles partakers of the “commonwealth of Israel,” fellow heirs of the “covenants of promise,” and thus nullifying the civil ordinances which were once meant to keep Israel separate from the Gentiles – then the OT promises made to Israel must now be understood, in light of what Jesus has done, to include saved Gentiles in every respect. This doesn’t mean that we now hold the OT with a different hermeneutic than the NT, rather it simply means that we must read the whole Bible for what it truly is: a story, a great moving narrative spanning across the ages, and as such we must read each chapter within the context of the whole, recognizing where we are at each point along the way.

    Many today read the Bible in far too much of a Neo-Platonic “fortune cookie” manner, treating the 66 books as just a collection of timeless revelatory truths as if all communicated from one author at one time. It’s directly out of this thinking (as it was basically rehashed through the Enlightenment) that Dispensationalism emerged in the 19th century, treating eschatology as a big puzzle in which we simply grab all of the passages that have apocalyptic language and try to fit them into our timeline of the end-time events, without regard for their context and place within the grand covenantal narrative of history. If you do this, you will quickly find that there are things in the OT regarding the way God related to Israel that don’t quite line up with what He did through Jesus in the NT, and in pulling the testaments together you’ll inevitably have to compromise a plain sense reading of one or the other. In and of itself this reveals that something is amiss, that a good step back and a rethinking of some basic presuppositions is probably in order.

  • DRT

    This subject is most humbling to me. This is an incredible example of how theology can have (potentially disastrous) real world impacts.

    After reading the comments, I can’t help but believe that this is a subject where we need to claim mystery/ambiguity while still analyzing the texts. This also brings to light the issue I have with a cognizant knowledge of Jesus being the only channel for salvation. That type of thought simply elevates the one who is thinking it too far, therefore it must have some other twist that is not being seen clearly.

    I still think theology, and especially Christian theology needs some sort of law like the cosmological principle that is in science. This is one of the two major problems I have with reformed theology (the other being god is the author of evil), and it is also a risk for supersessionism.

  • Wow, this is obviously my pet topic and you must have posted it after my morning cup of coffee which I take with creamer and the Jesus Creed blog! The writer of this list of 12 is a great guy, but his thinking, as evident in the specifics of his list is rather Dispensationalist Christian (which is just a little different from my POV, but we have plenty in common).

    I think better arguments can be made and a more sophisticated case. Mark Nanos’s commentary on Romans (both the book, The Mystery of Romans, and his comments in The Jewish Annotated New Testament) for starters. R. Kendall Soulen’s The God of Israel and Christian Theology. Barry Horner’s Future Israel.

    In general, I like to say that everywhere the Standard Christian Canonical Narrative chooses “replacement” as its model, it would be truer to the Story of Israel and the Story of Messiah to choose “expansion” instead. The new thing does not cancel the former things. I have a page on my blog called “Supersessionism” with more.

  • Wyatt


    Sorry and I am glad you were not being coy. The idea of supersession has scared many Jews away from the church and it appears to be a good hiding spot for some anti-Jewish thought in the church.

    One major gap I see here is the lack of attention paid to the Jewish thinkers in the church (unless they become Gentile and all is forgotten and they are just like everybody else, no diversity).

    I was wondering where Derek Lehman was at yesterday. Nice to see he arrived. “Expansion”, good word.

  • Glenn

    If Israel has not been replaced then the issue of Jews who “are saved” and yet remain Jews reveals they may have a unique call in the church. How would you disciple a Jew “after salvation” in your church? Would you teach him to identify with his people and carry out his unique covenant responsibilities? If so, what would that be? Or would he assume a Gentile identity? The fact that the church has very little if no ability to answer this after 2000 years of Christianity shows how far down the rabbit hole the problem goes.

  • Norman

    Often the context of the NT regarding being saved is not always speaking of “salvation” in the manner we usually mean today. Being a Jew and being saved often meant being protected from the coming fury and pestilence of the Roman Army bringing judgment upon physical Israel and Jerusalem in particular. (See Christ instructions in matt 24 on what to do when that time arrived) We need to keep this context in mind when discussing these issues. Many scholars have noted the OT biblical theme of Exodus in describing the times of the first century transition from the old Mosaic way to the new Kingdom of Christ. This transition actually correlates to the 40 year period from resurrection/Pentecost until the decree of judgment brought in that Generation, culminating in the sign of the Temple and sacrificial system being razed. That essentially ended Christ work of judgment upon His enemies and then according to 1 Cor 15:24-28 Christ hands full authority back to God so that God may be all in all. (That is unless one thinks we are still in that transitional period still)

    Moses and Noah like many other OT examples possibly sets the standard of leading the faithful remnant into the promised land or protection from judgment and in Moses case he does not continue on into that Land. Now Moses is different than Christ in that he represented the Law and its weakness whereas Christ represents the repealing of that weakness defeating Death of the Law.

    1 Cor 15: 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

    However it seems that when Christ leading the New Exodus of God’s remnant people has been consummated then handing His works back over to God brings some interesting concepts back into play. This means that the Last Adam is set in stone as an everlasting headship and pattern for all the faithful of earth but the particular works of directing this Exodus transitional time has been completed. If this is a correct reading of Paul then we may need to revisit our idea of still living in the 40 year New Exodus of the first Century. Hebrews 3 & 4 pointed to that generation seeing the promised land if they remained faithful to the calling.

    Has Christ handed His Kingdom back to God after it has been established and if so are we back to the principles of walking with God through faith as illustrated through Abraham but no longer under the scourge of the first Adam and works of the “flesh”. Rather we have Life through the Spirit.

    Could this be the simple meaning of Rev 21:23? “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp”

    I’ll give you a hint: the reason there is no need for the sun or the moon is that they represent the mode of existence of the Old Covenant and Temple. They regulated the festivals.

    Col 2:16 16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

  • John Inglis

    Jews and the current country of Israel has just as much right to exist as any other ethnic and cultural group, and as any other country. Both are deserving of the same protection and general human rights as we afford any other. There never was, and never will be, any excuse for pogroms and what Luther and others have done through history. Opposition to killing and oppression does not, however, require giving Jews and Israel a role in current and future salvation history.

    Those ethnic, cultural, and legal groups no longer have any role in salvation or salvation history qua themselves. Jesus and one’s relationship to him is all that matters now. I don’t really see how the gospels can be read any other way. Furthermore, nothing stops any cultural grouping (or legal, or ethnic) group from practicing discipleship to Christ in a particular fashion that works with and allows for their cultural differences. Jews who follow Christ can remember all their cultural events, and live as Jews, though these extras and cultural baggage have nothing to do with a proper relationship to Jesus Christ.


  • That was a succinct and clear summary of the reasons why replacement theology is not biblical. I have read numerous books on the subject and appreciate it when an evangelical scholar today recognizes that God still has a plan for the Jewish people and Israel as a nation. I have both heard and read a lot of the so-called Christian rhetoric which is anti-Israel and borders on being anti-Semitic.

    Salvation has come to the Gentiles to provoke the Jew to jealousy and not to just “provoke” the Jew. (Rom. 11:11).

    Christian love for the Jewish people will open their hearts to the gospel.

    Thank you for being a scholar that can open dialogue with the Jewish people without compromising the gospel.

    By the way, what books do you recommend on the subject that give a great exegesis of the important relevant texts: (Romans 2:28, 9-11; Galatians 3:16, 6:16; etc.?)

    Shalom B’Shem Adonai.

    Jon Lieberman

  • For clarification, I was responding to the 10 reasons Dr. Mcknight gave to initiate the discussion on supersessionism, I was not responding to the prior comments of John


  • Patrick

    I would say one must believe Jesus is The Son of God and we did not supercede national Israel. We didn’t supercede authentic Israel either, we are authentic Israel and so was Abraham, King David and Jesus’ mother, Mary. Caiaphas wasn’t.

    The Roman centurion was, we are.

    Unbelieving Israel/Jews never served Yahweh’s interests , anymore than the Canaanites that worshipped Ba’al did. We didn’t supercede them. They were not in Yahweh’s service.

    The unconditional promises were to believers, IMO. They were never to ethnic Israel except to the extent those Jews believed, IMO.

    That Romans 11:25-26 exegesis points this out. That’s actually a big part of the mystery, that Yahweh was going to fulfill the promised restoration of eschatological Israel by bringing the Gentiles in along with the believing Jews, we’d all be the Israel of God and we wouldn’t be Jews or Gentiles anymore, a new humanity.

    The feast of Messiah on Mount Zion in Isaiah supports this view , IMO. Just as with the wedding feast of The Lamb in Revelation, every part of humanity under the sun, an uncountable multitude worshipping Messiah and enjoying the big day of restoration of the universe and Israel, made possible by Yahweh’s Incomparable Son, Jesus of Nazareth.

  • Tom

    Both Jews “who were close” and gentiles “who were far away” have been superseded by a third entity:

    Ephesians 2:17-18
    He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

    The new entity, the church, is “a house” or “holy temple” with Christ as the cornerstone:

    Ephesians 2:20-21
    Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.

    And now God is working through this new house/holy temple/church where his Spirit dwells:

    Ephesians 2:22
    Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

  • The covenant of Moses became a burden for the people of Israel. It promised great blessings, but most were unable to receive them, because their covenant was too hard to fulfil. Their disobedience constantly put them on the wrong side of their covenant under its curses. That is still the situation.

    Jesus fulfilled the covenant on behalf of everyone united with him by faith. His new covenant opened the way for Israel to fulfil the old covenant. Israel had a wonderful covenant, but they rejected the one who enabled them to fulfil it. Without a covenant with Jesus, the covenant with Moses was valid, but deficient. If they had accepted Jesus, Israel would have been able to fulfil their covenant by faith and receive the promised blessings.

    The church is truncated because the Jewish people are mostly missing. A church without the chosen people is incomplete. With part of the team missing, the church is ineffective. The church does not reach its full potential during the first half of its history, because the Jews are missing. That has been the story for the last two thousand years.

    The Jews will be converted by an outpouring of the Spirit and the preaching of a prophetic church. This is not a change in game plan. The Jews receive salvation like every-one else, by repenting and believing in Jesus.

    The church will no longer be truncated. The Holy Spirit will no longer be constrained by part of the body of Jesus being missing. With his team complete, the Holy Spirit will have a new freedom to work in the world.

    The Fullness of the Jews opens the way for a rapid advance of the gospel. God will be free to pour out his Spirit and bring his Kingdom to fulfilment.

  • Scot, thanks for answering.

    I don’t see the discontinuity problem that much. I think Kaiser made a good case that salvation has always been by faith in God’s “promise-plan”, the details of which were unclear before the coming of Jesus, but are now more fully revealed with His arrival. The experience of “the juice” (to use your metaphor) by those in Israel may have changed, but “the juice” itself is the same.

  • This one took me by surprise, Scot. The whole earth becoming spiritual Jews is the game. Returning to ethnicity in the plan of redemption is retrograde to me and not something I expected. We are all full of surprises, aren’t we? I have gotten so beat up by Christians with this position I don’t even have places on my person for new scars.

  • Thomas Renz

    For what it’s worth: I used to be a dispensationalist. I now suspect that anyone who uses the term “supercessionism” to characterise mainstream theology of the last 500-2000 years thereby just reveals how little they have understood the other side of the argument.

    Not adding much new but I was stirred up to respond in the style presented with 12 counter-assertions.

    1. The Old Testament promises the restoration of the nation Israel from exile and records its initial fulfilment after the exile. Reference to Isaiah 40 indicates that John the Baptist announces the further fulfilment at the coming of the Christ.

    2. The Old Testament promises the perpetuity of the nation Israel but not necessarily in the form we identify as a nation state, otherwise the promise of perpetuity would have been made at a time when the thing to be perpetuated did not exist. In fact, for most of the time following Jeremiah 31 Israel did not exist as a nation state. Fact.

    3. Just as Christ is everything the promised King was truly meant to be and yet utterly different from the expectations of many, so the salvation and restoration of Israel looks different from what many would have expected it to look.

    4. The New Testament explicitly states that the Old Testament promises and covenants to Israel are still the possession of Israel but the way Paul uses terms like “sonship” in Romans indicate that the promises are no longer exclusive to one ethnic group.

    5. The New Testament indicates that God is faithful to Israel because of His promises to the patriarchs of Israel (Romans 11:28) and that God fulfils these promises way beyond what was expected, e.g., with the elect/true descendants of Abraham not only inheriting a strip of land but the earth.

    6. The New Testament indicates that Israel’s election/calling is irrevocable, a calling that now reaches beyond Jews (Roman 9:24), indeed the elect and Israel can be rhetorically contrasted with each other (Romans 11:7).

    7. It is debatable whether the New Testament uses the term “Israel” for those who are not ethnic Jews (Gal 6:16 is usually interpreted in this more inclusive sense; Ephesians 2:12 implies that Gentiles now belong to the commonwealth of Israel, Revelation 7:4 is sometimes seen as another description of Revelation 7:9) but it is clear that Ezekiel’s teaching that “not all Israelites truly belong to Israel” is still true (Romans 9:6).

    8. The New Testament identifies Christ as the true vine, i.e. “Israel” and the whole thrust of the New Testament suggests that those who are in Christ belong to Israel.

    9. The coming of Christ changes everything. Two-people-of-God-theologians have regularly failed to allow OT passages to speak to the issues they address. by applying them to contemporary situations far removed from the logic of the prophecies.

    10. Two-people-of-God-theologians have failed to explain convincingly how the restoration of a Davidic monarchy over a nation state Israel and the re-construction of a temple with animal sacrifices would integrate with what God has been doing for the last 2000 years or move his purposes forward.

    11. Two-people-of-God-theologians have failed to take seriously the picture of the one olive tree.

    12. New Testament prophecy never speaks of a blessed future apart from Christ – head and body.