Apr 4, 2014
The controversy over God’s continuation of Israel as a viable nation despite their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah looms large in the Christian church.
Most followers of Jesus are not even aware of the various Christian theologies regarding the Jewish nation. Yet when uninformed evangelicals are exposed to such anti-Israel beliefs such as Replacement Theology (the view that Israel is no longer God’s elect people but replaced by the Church), these Christians are conflicted over what they are hearing and what the Bible teaches.
As a representative of Replacement Theology (though he prefers the term “Fulfillment Theology”) Gary Burge, New Testament professor at Wheaton College, in his book Whose Land? Whose Promises? the author states, “Abraham can become the father of many nations because when Gentiles share in Abraham’s faith, he becomes their father too (Romans 4:16). Physical lineage, therefore, has been spiritualized into a lineage based on faith (emphasis mine). The ‘land of Israel’ is likewise spirtualized now to include the entire world” (pg. 182).
The key concept to focus on from Burge’s theology is, “physical lineage . . . has been spiritualized into a lineage based on faith.” Israel is no longer a physical nation, according to the Wheaton professor, but has become a spiritual entity that one enters into by faith in Christ not by physical heritage through Abraham. If the physical seed has been “spiritualized” then the “physical” is no longer relevant, hence the physical nation of Israel is moot to God’s spiritual program.
The glaring mistake Burge makes is twofold: first, the physical lineage of a member of the nation of Israel never implied the individual within the nation has a relationship with God, and second, within the physical nation of Israel there has always existed a spiritual remnant of Israelites who remained faithful to God. These two truths do not redefined the nation of Israel, but describe the reality of a spiritual remnant within the physical Jewish nation.
In contrast to Gary Burge’s fulfillment theology which pushes aside God’s plan for the physical nation the Apostle Paul teaches that Israel still exists as a nation even after the first coming of the Messiah. In Romans 9:3-4a Paul pleads, “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” To Paul, “those of his own race” are “the people of Israel” quite alive and not replaced by or fulfilled in the New Testament church. (more…)
Mar 20, 2014
To many students of the Bible Paul’s comment in Romans 9:6 that “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel” (NIV) sounds very strange. Is Paul saying the part of Israel that is “descended from Israel” is no longer part of the nation known as Israel? Then that would mean the only people who are actually Israelites are Jewish people who believe in Yeshua as Messiah and the ”not all who are descended from Israel ” group are no longer members of the Jewish nation. Yet if you follow that logic, any examples of the NT apostles addressing the segment of the Jewish nation who have not accepted Yeshua as Messiah as still “Israel” makes no sense.
Check out these examples from the New Testament:
Acts 2:22: “Fellow Israelites, listen to this:
Acts 2:29: “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.”
Acts 2: 36: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
Acts 3:12: “When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you?”
Acts 3:17: “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.”
Acts 4:10: ”then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”
No wonder Christians are befuddled by Paul’s reference to two Israel’s in Romans 9:6.
Twelve Tribes of Israel
In light of Paul’s head-scratching use of the phrase, “”not all who are descended from Israel are Israel”, Christian theologians come up with explanations that confuse the issue even more.
My favorite explanation is the one that states unbelieving Israel has been replaced by the Church. This is called “replacement theology.” In this theological system, ”Israel” that accepted Yeshua is none other than the Church. Rather than create clarity, Replacement Theology (aka disguised as Fulfillment Theology or Transformation Theology or Promise Theology) contributes more fuzzy thinking since the reader of the New Testament is forced to think “Church” when he reads the term “Israel”. Try to think “Church” in reading Romans 11:26, ”and in this way all Israel will be saved.” Thanks, but no thanks. (more…)
Mar 11, 2014
A Position Paper of the Messianic Jewish Community regarding the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference (CatC)
1. The Word of God: the Tanakh and the New Covenant Scriptures together, are the one true, infallible, and unalterable standard of truth and life for all believers. As Yeshua our Messiah declared, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17) and “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Therefore we affirm that “all the promises of God are ‘Yes’” and ‘Amen’ (not abrogated) in Yeshua (II Cor. 1:20), and that “the gifts and calling of God” for His chosen people, Israel, “are irrevocable” (Romans 11:28b-29 in context). “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew!” (Romans 11:2). Rather, “to them belong [present tense!] the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises” (Romans 9:4).
2. The Messiah Yeshua’s calling for His Body – in the Land of Israel and throughout the world — is to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19) by proclaiming “repentance for the forgiveness of sins…in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). Every movement or activity which does not promote or which, on the contrary, distracts us from that central purpose and calling is not of God, no matter what biblical or spiritual language may be used to describe it. Yeshua never commanded, or even suggested, that His followers were to “bring in” the Kingdom of God on earth. Yeshua Himself promised to establish His Kingdom upon His return (Matthew 25:31, 34), and we, who are heirs of His Kingdom and proclaimers of it in the present age (James 2:5; Acts 28:23, 31), are instructed to pray for that day to quickly come (Matthew 6:10; cf. Philippians 3:20-21).
3. Christ at the Checkpoint is, therefore, a false messianic movement, arrogating to itself the role of Messiah in establishing the Kingdom while promoting a humanistic, political “liberation theology.” [All the “evangelical” CatC speakers reflect the same approach and goals, as is evident from the Kairos Document which Yohanna Katanacho, CatC Committee member, helped compose and Bethlehem Bible College endorsed]. Although cloaking its “mandate” in biblical language (“the teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom of God”) and using seductively positive terms (“Peace, justice, and reconciliation”), this movement has one overriding purpose: to sway Evangelical believers worldwide away from belief in the eternal promises of God to Israel by slandering the Jewish people and delegitimizing the Jewish state; painting Israel as a wicked, oppressive, apartheid “entity”—especially in contrast to the supposedly ‘democratic, tolerant and peace-seeking’ Palestinian Authority and people. There is no Gospel here! (more…)
Mar 26, 2013
Is “replacement theology” becoming the newest fad among Christians? Lately I run across more and more Christians who claim the Church has replaced Israel as God’s people. The sad thing is that most of them don’t know why they believe what they claim. As I dig deeper speaking with these individuals, they all share the same defect – they are sadly deficient in their knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures.
For those who teach Israel has been replaced by the Church, Romans 9:6 is an essential verse in their arsenal. On the surface, the verse can be confusing. The verse reads, “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” It’s like saying, “Not all players wearing a LA Dodger uniform on the field at Dodger Stadium and sitting in the dugout are really Dodgers.”
The replacement theologian would say, “Not all Jewish people who are wearing the Jewish uniform and sitting in the Jewish dugout are really members of the team. In fact, the real Jews consist of members of the Church who have placed their faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah.”
Replacement theology can be very confusing. If you follow their line of thinking, in some passages “Israel is the Church” and in other texts, “Israel is the Jewish nation.” Israel keeps switching leagues. Sometimes they are in the National League; then at other times they are in the American League. I don’t know who to root for because I don’t know who is who.
Sep 24, 2012
I thought the issue of whether or not Jesus was married was settled when Dan Brown’s fiction book, The Da Vince Code, often taken as non-fiction, was debunked by one conservative biblical scholar after another. Yet the conjecture Jesus had a wife does not seem to ever want to go away.
In The Da Vince Code the author relied heavy on third and fourth century Gnostic texts to concoct his unprovable premise that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, and together brought a child into the world, Jesus Jr. According to Brown and Michael Baigent’s Holy Blood, Holy Grail (the true literary source for Brown’s plagiarised work), Mary Magdalene took the “Jesus child” out of Israel to protect her treasured progeny and made off to France. The child grew up, married and fathered a child whose descendants married into the French royal line and, after several generations, engendering the Merovingian dynasty.
Dan Brown’s hypothesis bears no biblical evidence and lacks historical proof as many biblical researchers exposed during the “Da Vince Code” mania that grabbed the attention of the biblically illiterate who would rather believe a Hollywood film over the historical veracity of the Bible. Yet somehow Tom Hanks, who starred in the film production is more credible than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John!
The “Wife of Jesus” Papyrus Revealed
Recently Harvard Divinity School historian of early Christianity Karen L. King announced she has come across an ancient papyrus fragment from the fourth century that, when translated, appears to indicate that Jesus was married.
Coptic papyrus fragment claims Jesus was married
An article in the Huffington Post on this discovery states:
The text is being dubbed “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” The part of it that’s drawing attention says, “Jesus said to them, ‘my wife’” in the Coptic language. The text, which is printed on papyrus the size of a business card, has not been scientifically tested to verify its dating, but King and other scholars have said they are confident it is a genuine artifact.
Concerning the controversial section of the text, the Huffington Post records:
The quote about Jesus’ wife is part of a description of a conversation between Jesus and his disciples. In the conversation, Jesus talks about his mother twice and speaks once about his wife. One of them is identified as “Mary.” His disciples discuss whether Mary is worthy of being part of their community, to which Jesus replies, “she will able to be my disciple.”
In her presentation about the Coptic fragment King admits the papyrus does not prove Jesus was married. What it does prove, according to King, is that the debate about Jesus’ marital status was present in the early formation of Christianity. In fact, in order to give credence for those who advocated celibacy as the highest state of purity, many Christians appealed to Jesus’ unmarried status.
The Description of the Coptic Fragment
The fragment only has eight incomplete lines of text on one side and additional barely legible lines on the other side showing only three faded words. The text is written in the Coptic language rather than Koine Greek, so it is a copy of an earlier version or an original penned in the fourth century. King claims it is from a second century Greek text but offers no proof.
Along with Karen King, Princeton University professor Anne Marie Luijendijk and Roger Bagnall, director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, claim they have confirmed the document is valid.
So what should Christians make of this most recent discovery of a papyrus fragment from the fourth century that claims Jesus was married? Was Jesus married? If so, and this fact was deliberately or inadvertently left out of the New Testament records of the life of Jesus, does this then cast doubt on the accuracy of the four gospels and their writers?
The Debunking of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife
First, the document is from the fourth century. Four hundred years after Christ lived on earth. How can writers in four hundred years later know more than the eyewitnesses who lived with Jesus three years and knew His life on a daily basis?
Second, the dating is not verified yet, but give or take a fifty or one hundred years we are dealing with a document 300-400 years removed from Jesus’ historical appearance on earth. I find the historical method used by King to be highly unusual.
When asked where did the papyrus come from. King answered, “We don’t know. . . nothing is known about the circumstances of its discovery,” an admission that has raised red flags for other scholars. King speculates the fragment may have been tossed in an ancient garbage heap by someone who objected to the idea of Jesus being married. As a student of biblical history, I am somewhat taken back by King’s unfounded speculation about an historical document about which he is clueless regarding its origins. Instead, this Harvard scholar offers her conjectured opinion based on absolutely nothing.
Third, the Coptic papyrus fragment does not prove Jesus was married. Even King admits the historical artifact is not old enough to prove Jesus was married. The only thing the document proves is that early Christians may have discussed whether Jesus was married.
The Harvard historian is quick to admit that the reference to Jesus’ wife may have been figurative:
King also acknowledged that Jesus might have been speaking figuratively when he referred to “my wife.” After all, the fragment is just 33 words long, with incomplete sentences and very little context.
Fourth, in the fourth century Gnosticism was at its peak in influencing unsuspecting Christians. This is when all those weird gospels made their appearance such as the Gospel of Judas made their contested appearance in Christianity. Gnosticism was always looking for ”secret knowledge” and seeks to reveal hidden truth about Jesus previously unknown, hence the entire gnostic influenced premise of the Da Vince Code which has been disproved over and over.
When asked by Huffington Post about what other ancient texts say about Jesus being married, King answered,
The Bible, of course, says nothing about Jesus marrying, though New Testament writers occasionally used the metaphor of the church and God’s people as the “bride of Christ.” Some of the Gnostic gospels — ancient texts unearthed in the 20th century that are not included in the Christian canon — suggest that Jesus had an intimate relationship with Mary Magdalene. The apocryphal Gospel of Philip, for example, says that Jesus kissed Mary, and loved her more than the apostles.
Again, these are unfounded speculations based on documents that came later than the original gospels written by men who knew Jesus.
Fifth, Gnosticism made its appearance in the first century in an elementary form and was refuted by the New Testament writers. They claimed Jesus was pure spirit and did not have a human body. To the Gnostic flesh is evil. I John deal with the fact that to be a believer one must confess Jesus came in the flesh in order to be a true believer.
I John 4:1-3 refutes early gnosticism:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.
Sixth, this is a fragment the size of a business card. Are you going to trust the four books of four eyewitnesses who lived with Jesus or a fragment from a papyrus?
Seventh, Harvard professor Karen King is a specialist in Gnosticism, “King, who focuses on Coptic literature, Gnosticism and women in the Bible, has published on the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Mary of Magdala.” Is it any wonder that these extra-canonical books which contradict the New Testament make their appearance in order to cast doubt on the validity of the New Testament canon. A lot of the teachings in these text contradict the theology and teachings of Jesus and the writers of the gospels and the epistles.
Eighth, if Jesus was married, then when He was on the cross, why did he tell John to only take care of His mother and not His “wife”? Also, the NT lists Jesus’ brothers and sisters, mother and father, his cousin John the Baptizer, and his aunt and uncle Elizabeth and Zacharias. Why wouldn’t his wife be mentioned?
Ninth, the issue raised by the appearance of this Coptic text, despite what King claims, is not celibacy as viewed by early Christians or whether or not Jesus remained chaste. The significance of this “discovery” is whether a Gnostic papyrus fragment the size of a business card written 400 years after Jesus has more authority than the four books of the New Testament by men who knew Him intimately.
For further information on this “wife of Jesus” Gospel, check out BIOLA professor Gary Manning Jr.’s blog.