Replacement theology in modern history is a very sensitive issue among organized religion, seemingly causes discomfort among many believers of various faiths, when confronted by this matter. Josue A. Garcia de Escamilla explores how replacement theology throughout Church History has created an anti-Semitic climate within the Church.
In this blog, I am not stating that all Christians hate or dislike the Jewish people. On the contrary, I firmly believe that we as Christian should bless the people of Israel and acknowledge their birthright to the Holy Land and to Jerusalem as their national capital. I know hundreds of Christians that support Israel. Majority of the Christians across the globe love the Jewish people and pray for their peace and for the peace of Jerusalem. This is simply a post on the brief history of Replacement Theology.
In simple words, Replacement Theology, also known as Supersessionism, is the teaching that the Christian church has replaced national Israel regarding the plan, purpose, and promises of God. Therefore, many of the promises that God made to Israel must be spiritualized. For example, when it speaks of Israel being restored to the land, this really means that the Christian church will be blessed. Also, covenants made with Israel are fulfilled in the Christian church, so let’s look at a few teachings of this doctrinal errors:
- The Jewish people are no longer God’s chosen people. Instead, the Christian church now makes up God’s chosen people.
- In the New Testament after Pentecost, the term “Israel” refers to the church.
- The Mosaic covenant is replaced by the new covenant.
So, the prophecies in Scripture concerning the blessing and restoration of Israel to the Promised Land are “spiritualized” or “allegorized” into promises of God’s blessing for the church. This ideology has caused much confusion and contributed to the sad reality that many Christians fail to appreciate and misinterpret the Jewish roots of their faith. At the same time, Christian attitudes toward the Jews and their Jewish Scriptures have prevented many Jews from considering the New Testament to be a Jewish book.
Replacement Theology in religious organizations can lead to anti-Semitism for the reason that it has brought a great amount of suffering to my people Israel. Horrible persecutions have been done in the name of the “Church” and also in the name of their “Christ”. In order to understand, we must find the main cause for such actions and beliefs.
The Root of this Error
Some of today church leaders seem to hold views about ethnic Israel that express institutionalized prejudice and an “anti-Jewish” bias. But how did the church get so far removed from its Jewish roots of the faith? Is Christianity simply anti-Semitic in it perspective? Is it possible to be a sincere Christian and be anti-Semitic?
Throughout many centuries the Jews have been known as the murderer and rejecters of Christ which many church fathers have preached and has led to Jewish persecution as if the church was granted permission from the Almighty to do so. Origen of Alexandria (185-254 A.D.) who was an ecclesiastical writer and teacher who contributed to the early formation of Christian doctrines stated that the Jews were driven out of their land because they murder Jesus the Christ and therefore are under the curse of God and are replaced by the Church. (Poliakov 23)
John Chrysostom (344-407 A.D.) one of the “greatest” of church fathers; known as “The Golden Mouthed.” who was a missionary preacher famous for his sermons and addresses the following:
¹“The synagogue is worse than a brothel…it is the den of scoundrels and the repair of wild beasts…the temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cults…the refuge of brigands and debauchees, and the cavern of devils. It is a criminal assembly of Jews…a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ… I would say the same things about their souls… As for me, I hate the synagogue…I hate the Jews for the same reason.”
From the beginning of the third century, this type of ideas had gained momentum and pushed for anti-Semitism to take root in the church. We must recall that for the first two or three centuries the Christian Church was not yet hierarchized and had not accepted any universally supreme establishment. So the following question must be asked, why did Jerome, another church father, sought the instructions from rabbis? Who were the ones that taught them Hebrew if not the Jews? Many questions arise which must be addressed. With the quote from Origen mention above, why does he just like many other in the past and in our present day call the Jews “Christ killers”? Were they not aware that such event had to take place in order for redemption to take action for all of the human race?
In the book of Isaiah in chapter 53 it talks about the Messiah and the purpose of his coming. A lot of Christian believers do not know of such scripture because some are not taught certain and/or attend a New Testament church. There is no excuse for neither because the Old and New Testament are one book. The death of the Messiah (Christ) had been prophesied. Isaiah 53:3-5, 12 reads as follow:
“3) People despised and avoided him, a man of pains, well acquainted with illness. Like someone from whom people turn their faces, he was despised; we did not value him. 4) In fact, it was our diseases he bore, our pains from which he suffered; yet we regarded him as punished, stricken and afflicted by God. 5) But he was wounded because of our crimes, crushed because of our sins; the disciplining that makes us whole fell on him, and by his bruises we are healed. 12) Therefore I will assign him a share with the great; he will divide the spoil with the mighty, for having exposed himself to death and being counted among the sinners, while actually bearing the sin of many and interceding for the offenders.” (Complete Jewish Bible)
As we can read the above scripture we can the death of the Messiah had been prophesied and it will bring redemption to Israel and the Gentile nations. It also states that the Messiah would bare our pains and He was punished for our sins. The dual claim of Christian throughout the centuries, that the Jews both rejected and crucified Christ is one that has brought unimaginable misery to the Jewish people.
¹Wilken, Robert L., John Chrysostom and the Jews: Rhetoric and Reality in the Late 4th Century. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004, p.111.