On Supersessionism

Wrote this paper for my Systematic Theology class at Princeton Seminary with Dr. Ellen Charry. 1250ish words for the paper.

If you would like info on Supersessionism, here is a link to my dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/yptziamxyqw929b/AAD1x28D58uofEcLJ22NtTnfa?dl=0

This paper will cover the topic of Supersessionism. I will argue that the church does not replace Israel rather we were supposed to a part of Israel. Dr. Charry defines supersessionism as: “The postbiblical Christian view, that the church has superseded the synagogue or the Jewish people as the people of God. Today most Christian theologians reject the concept of Supersessionism.[1]

Judaism heavily influences the Gospel of Matthew. “Matthew’s gospel arises out of Judaism; yet Matthew insists the Jesus’s message differs from the Pharisaic Judaism of his time. This insight explains the tension between the Gospel’s emphasis on the law and the role of Israel on one hand, and its espousal of a deep integrity and universal mission on the other.” Matthew was most likely from a community of messianic Jews. Matthew saw Christianity as another branch of Judaism, not it’s own new religion. If you read the gospel of Matthew closely, you can see this and the Jewish theme. Matthew has a focus on the law, the Torah throughout his gospel account. What Matthew is calling for is “for a higher level of obedience to the law than required” by the Pharisees.[2] Also in Matthew it states that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Torah (Matt 5.17) and in Romans 10.4 it states, “For Christ is the end of the law.”

As Dr. Black stated in a lecture on the gospel of John: “Jesus is the exegesis of God”.[3] In Jesus we see God. Jesus seeks to implement God’s will here on earth. Jesus seeks to show the people how to live out the Torah. Hence, Jesus by no means is trying to reject 1st century CE Judaism rather he seeks to build on it. In other words, Jesus seeks to expand the teachings and the Torah of Judaism. In this way, Jesus was showing his followers and Ancient Israel what it actually meant to live in obedience to the Law of God.

Now lets look at what Deuteronomy 7.6-9 says about this subject. That passage states this about Ancient Israel “God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” Furthermore, the passage goes on to state “It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”[4] What this passage is showing the reader is that Ancient Israel is the elect in this passage not Christians. God chose Ancient Israel and not the other way around. God constantly, throughout the Old Testament, seeks a relationship with God’s chosen people, Israel. That is why God gave the Torah, so we would live in right relationship with one another and with God. God constantly seeks relationship even in the midst of the disloyalty and disobedience.

Critics of supressionism often cite Romans 9-11 where Paul argues that Israel remains God’s chosen people and the church is grafted in as God’s elect.[5] What Paul gets at in this passage is that he “argues that God did not, and does not annul Israel’s election because the majority have disobeyed.” Hence, “Paul’s own Jewish identity shows that the whole people has not been rejected.” Paul most likely was from a community of Messianic Jews. Romans 11:15 states: “For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead!” Acceptance in this passage has in mind full inclusion of both Jews and gentiles. “God’s ultimate acceptance of Israel is of the same order as resurrection.” [6] In my opinion, I do not think Paul, with Romans 11 in mind, was trying to start a whole new religion. Moreover, in verse 26 it says All Israel. “All Israel need not mean every Israelite” rather it “implies a significant conversion of unbelieving Israel.” In verse 11, Paul says “so as to make Israel jealous” what he is getting as is that all the gentiles joining would make the Jews join the new movement in Judaism.[7] Furthermore, the failure of most of the Jews in first century rejecting Christ as messiah, ironically, is an outpouring of God’s election on the remnant. God’s purpose in election is to never forsake his people. This rejection of the Jews to the word of God does not mean that the word of God has failed to save the Jews rather it is to stress God’s purposes. God’s purposes are that he elects his people and through that election he shows his love for them. This remnant in Romans of Israel “exists to ensure that God’s purpose of election might continue-that is, salvation depends entirely on God’s will.” Election is always the result of mercy (9.15-16) and compassion (verse 15), not anything humans do. There are multiple texts in the OT that show the election of both Jews and Gentiles. Those proof texts are Hos 2.23, 1.10; Isa. 10.22-23; and Hos 9, which Paul uses in Romans 9.[8] Moreover, as Romans 9.4-5 states: “to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs.” In other words, what Paul means by that is that the Jews are the first inheritors of the faith and Christians are the second; that is what I get from the verse at least. Consequently, our election “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.”[9] God is the one who decides who is elect, not us. What Paul was getting at in Romans 9-11 is a community that lived in unity together by the grace and mercy of God. Paul believed that Jews and Christians are “called to a spirit filled unity” in which our lives reflect the teachings of Christ and where we worship the same God together, under the same roof. [10]

“The earliest Christians were all Jews [and so was Jesus]. They saw faith in Jesus not as a new religion by as a fulfillment of promises that had been made to the Hebrew people in the OT. When early Christians spoke about God they did not mean some other God, rather they were talking about the God of the OT. In Romans 11 “God preserves a remnant chosen by grace.” [11] Salvation is always the act of God. By grace both Christians and Jews are both apart of the same faith. [12] “By virtue of this divine election, Israel’s unique status as God’s elect is irrevocable…and nothing Israel can do…,can revoke it.”[13] Irrevocably, “God’s love for Israel is grounded in his love for Jesus Christ, and therefore God’s love for Jesus Christ would be inseparable from his love for Israel, and vice versa. This unity cannot be destroyed because it is grounded in divine election…The love of Jesus Christ has made the people of Israel his own by virtue of divine election.”[14] Ultimately, as Paul states in Rom. 10.12-13: “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.” and “for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” God is a God “who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments”, that includes Jews and Christians who are the beloved of God.

[1] Migliore, Daniel L. “Appendix D: Glossary of Theological Terms.” In Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, 425. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004.

[2] The above quotations come from Spivey, Robert, D. Moody Smith, and C. Clifton Black. “Matthew: The Gospel of Obedience”” In Anatomy of the New Testament, 117. 7th ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013.

[3] NT2101 lecture on 2/24/2015

[4] NRSV

[5] Migliore, Daniel L. “Appendix D: Glossary of Theological Terms.” In Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, 425. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004.

[6] The above quotations in this paragraph are from: “Matthew.” In The HarperCollins Study Bible, edited by Harold Attridge, 1721. Revised ed. New York: HarperOne, 2006.  (See commentary notes)

[7] “Romans.” In The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, edited by Walter J. Harrelson, 2023-2027. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003. (See commentary notes)

[8] Ibid (quotes above are from this source).

[9] NRSV

[10] “Romans.” The CEB Study Bible. Ed. Joel B Green. Nashville: Common English Bible, 2013. 292 NT. Print. (See note on Jews and Gentiles in Christ)

[11] Ibid

[12] Romans.” In The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, edited by Walter J. Harrelson, 2023-2027. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003. (See commentary notes)

[13] Hunsinger, George. “What Christians Owe Jews.” Commonwealth 142, no. 4 (Feb 20, 2015): 12-17. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1655222339?accountid=13316.

[14] Ibid


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