• What is replacement theology?
• Was Jesus a Zionist?
• Does modern Israel inherit the promises made to Abraham?
Scroll down to find the answers to these questions.
As the church became the main religious force in the Roman Empire, hostility against Judaism influenced some leading church theologians to condemn and even demonize the Jewish people. Thus began the spread of anti-Semitism through much of Christian Europe.
What is Replacement Theology?
Replacement theology is the idea that Christians have replaced Jews as God’s chosen people. Replacement theology’s followers believe that since the Jews rejected and crucified Jesus and refused to follow him, God rejected them and made a new covenant with the church. This covenant cancels God’s special covenant with the Jewish people.
Replacement theology came about partly because of the conflict between synagogues and Christian churches in the earliest centuries. This conflict appears in John 9, where the man born blind is cast out of the synagogue because he said that Jesus healed him. Later, as the church became the main religious force in the Roman Empire, hostility against Judaism influenced some leading church theologians to condemn and even demonize the Jewish people. Thus began the spread of anti-Semitism through much of Christian Europe.
Was Jesus a Zionist?
Not only would Jesus find modern Zionism peculiar, but in his own day he rejected the closest thing to it.
Zionism is a political viewpoint that promotes the goals of the modern state of Israel. Christian Zionism shares these same political views but includes theological ideas. Christian Zionism uses the Bible to say that faithfulness to God should be expressed through faithfulness to modern Israel’s future. This viewpoint is not about defending or respecting Judaism (though some Jews may make that claim). It is about claiming that the secular state of Israel has divine privileges that no other nation has. Christian Zionism is the idea that God’s purposes are realized in the pursuit of Israel’s security and prosperity.
In Jesus’ day, many Jews urged their neighbors to be politically active to help ancient Israel. They described it as a divine duty. Some collaborated with the Romans (the Pharisees, the Herodians), while others used raw violence (the Zealots). But in each case, the aim was the same. Helping Israel’s political fortunes was considered a religious duty.
Does modern Israel inherit the promises made to Abraham?
In the book of Genesis, God makes promises to Abraham (the father of Judaism). He promises rich blessings on Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:1–3) and makes a covenant with Abraham, promising that his descendants would inherit the land of Israel (Gen 15:18). The promise is repeated in Gen 17:7–9 and Gen 26:2–4. Abraham is told three things: He will have many descendants, they will possess a particular territory (today’s Holy Land), and they will be a blessing to all nations. In Gen 17:7 this promise is called an “everlasting covenant.” All of this happened over 4,000 years ago.
Today, some argue that Jews inherit this promise. Therefore, they argue, the modern state of Israel (which identifies itself as a Jewish state) can make a divine claim that all of the Holy Land belongs to Israel. This is not a political or historical argument. It is a theological argument, which goes like this: “God gave the Holy Land to the Jews in the Bible, and that should settle the modern political debates.”