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…)
Apr 20, 2012
Why am I writing so much about the seed of Abraham? After all, there are so many other issues that seem to be much more important when it comes to examining the Middle East crisis. Let me be bold enough to say that how a person understands the biblical teaching on the seed of Abraham, determines how much he will grasp the theological implications of the Middle East crisis.
Does the seed of Abraham only relate to Jewish people? Does it include Arabs and Christians as well? Can one support the idea that those who call themselves the seed of Abraham are no longer the “true seed of Abraham” if they refuse to accept Jesus? These are essential questions any student of the Bible must come to grips with. Too many erroneous sermons have been preached in the church concerning the identity of Israel causing confusion among churchgoers.
Unfortunately, this was one of the main issues espoused by Wheaton College NT professor Gary Burge in his recent lecture at the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference, “The Theology of the Land According to the New Testament.” However, in his lecture Burge hardly referred to the land of Israel but instead set his scope on casting a dubious hue on the identity of the Jewish people as the true seed of Abraham, and consequently no longer legitimate heirs of the Promised Land.
If a person can demonstrate that Jewish people today are not the true seed of Abraham, this teaching goes hand in hand with the belief God no longer has a present covenant with the Jewish people in which He has promised the Jewish people the Holy Land of Eretz Israel.
Burge, like many replacement theologians (the belief the Church has replaced Israel as God’s people), quotes a string of New Testament passages to support his view that DNA (aka Jewish ancestry) no longer matters, but faith is what matters most to God. Since Christians demonstrate true faith in the God of Israel by accepting the Jewish Messiah, then Christians must be the true seed of Abraham.
The next leap in Burge’s theology is to state even though the Jewish people are entitled to a homeland, there are no biblical covenants today that entitle them to this land. Because of their failure to accept Christ, they have forfeited the divine land rights to Israel. What we are seeing today is a secular movement of the Jews returning to the land, but without the blessing of God or the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
The Christian Tradition of Adverus Judeos in Connection with John 8
One of the passages used throughout the history of Christian doctrine to prove Jewish people are not the true seed of Abraham is John 8. In fact, John 8 has been used by medieval theologians to teach that the Jewish people have been spawned by the devil. In John 8:44 Jesus tells the Jewish leaders He is speaking to that their father is the devil.
The devils display anti-Semitic stereotypes all too common in late medieval and early Renaissance art.
While Burge has not gone so far as to connect Jewish origins with the devil, he does use this passage to teach the Jewish people who do not believe in Jesus have been replaced by Christians.
Burge’s misinterpretation of John 8 puts him in the camp of those guilty of Adverus Judeos. Adverus Judeos is described in Wikipedia:
“Adversus Judaeos (Greek kata Ioudaious, “against the Jews” or “against the Judeans”) are a series of fourth century homilies by John Chrysostom (deemed a saint by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches) that have been circulated by many groups to foster antisemitism. Steven Katz cites Chrysostom’s homilies as “the decisive turn in the history of Christian anti-Judaism, a turn whose ultimate disfiguring consequence was enacted in the political antisemitism of Adolf Hitler”. James Parkes called the writing on Jews “the most horrible and violent denunciations of Judaism to be found in the writings of a Christian theologian”. His sermons against Jews gave further momentum to the idea that Jews are collectively responsible for the death of Jesus.”
While Burge does not harp on the collective responsibility of the death of Jesus by the Jewish people, his denial of their covenant entitlement to the land of Israel and their replacement as the “seed of Abraham” by Christians is all part of the same tradition of Adverus Judeos. (more…)