Myth Busters; Replacement Theology

replacement theology

Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William Jackson

Replacement theology “is the teaching that the Christian church has replaced national Israel regarding the plan, purpose, and promises of God”1 In theological circles it is sometimes called supersessionism or fulfillment theology.  In short, it asserts that the Jews were bumped out as the chosen people and replaced by the Christians.  For Christianity, this is a critical component, especially if one believes in the rapture or tribulation.  As we view it, much of Revelations hinges on Daniel 9:24-27 which is where the seven-year tribulation was taken.  The problems for Christians is that Daniel is talking about the Jews in the final days not the Gentiles.  Thus begs the question, is replacement theology something that is supported by God’s word, or is it a method of perpetuating the Christian religion? We will dig into both the Tanakh and Christian writings to determine an answer.

We do know that initially God selected Israel as His chosen people; Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 7:6-8, 14:2.  However, if one reads the New Testament, it infers that Jews were replaced by Christians as God’s Holy people.  We see this with Paul when he says

For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.  He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.  – Ephesians 2:14-15

The “one new people” would be any Jew or Gentile that believed in the Christian messiah, or more simply said, “this one new people would be the Christians.”

As well; Colossians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:4, 2:13, and Revelation 17:14 are other New Testament verses that claim the church and believers in the Christian messiah are the new chosen ones2.

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So, what makes a people the chosen ones(?) – a covenant.  As we know, God did make a covenant with Israel first, through Abraham 3 (Genesis 12:1-3,7; 13:14-17; 15:1-21; 17:1-21 and 22:15-18) at Mount Sinai 4 (Exodus 19–24).  However, one must note that under this covenant, there are certain blessings (Leviticus 26:1-13, Deuteronomy 28;1-14), and curses (Leviticus 26:14-39 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68).  As the prophets would tell us, Israel would receive both blessings and curses for her obedience and disobedience, respectfully.  As for Israel’s disobedience, we see punishments beginning with the Babylonian captivity in 605 BCE.

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Yes, the consequences for disobedience are punishments; but this does not suggest that the covenant is broken.  God states, at the end of the curses, that He will remember the covenant He made with Israel (Leviticus 26:42, Ezekiel 16:60, Psalm 106:45).  Still many bring up Jeremiah 3:8, where God divorced Israel, but if we read the balance of chapter 3 we see God pining for Israel to repent and return to Him.

Another point to ponder is that our God does not change his mind (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, Isaiah 44:6), and He knows the future (Jeremiah 29:11, Isaiah 46:10, Psalm 33:11).  So, the idea that our God, who sees into the future and doesn’t change, would pick a new people is ludicrous.  Even when we look at the book of Zechariah we see a future plan which includes the Jewish people.  This book talks about the Messiah to come and Israel’s prospects in the future5.  In Zechariah 8:23 it speaks about an upcoming time where, “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”  If the Jews have been eliminated as God’s people, how could this statement of future tense happenings hold up?  Remember that Zechariah was written after the Babylonian captivity. Let’s not stop here, we need to look towards Malachi as to the conclusion of the Jews.  Remembering that Malachi was the last prophet to say anything.  He sums it up nicely by saying “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed” (Malachi 3:6). God then speaks to Israel over the next five verses explaining how Israel can recover from its’ curse.  Do we not think if God was going to break His covenant with His chosen people and pick a new people, that we would have heard about it through His prophets?

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The Tanakh teaches the restoration of the nation Israel5 – Deuteronomy 30:1-6, Jeremiah 30-31, 33, Ezekiel 36–37, Amos 9:11-15, Zephaniah 3:14-20, Zechariah 12–14.  Nevertheless, let us return to Paul, who at the beginning of this article talked about the Christians becoming the “new” chosen people in Ephesians 2:15; “He (Jesus) did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations…”.  So, Paul says that the method of making the Gentiles His chosen people is to remove the covenant. Funny, because the Tanakh tells us in Isaiah 56:6-8; Ezekiel 43:18-27 and Zechariah 14:16, that God’s Kingdom will be reinstituted as it was before. Likewise, for those that believe in the New Testament, it appears that Paul was in contention with his fellow Christian writers who believed that the law would remain and that the Temple would be restored (Matthew 5:17-18, Luke 16:17, Acts 3:20-21, Revelation 11:19). Replacement theology appears to be a method of forcing the New Testament to work with the Tanakh.  Stealing a play from the Christian handbook in 2 Corinthians 6:14, they warn believer to not be unevenly yoked.  The New Testament does this type of manipulation to the Tanakh, because they need to carve the puzzle pieces to fit them together; because they won’t snap into place on their own.  Replacement theology is just a way to force things together that do not fit.

References:

  1. Slick, Matt. “What Is Replacement Theology?” CARM. Accessed April 30, 2016. https://carm.org/questions-replacement-theology.

 

  1. Sizer, Stephen. “2 – Israel and the Church: Who Are God’s Chosen People.” Zion’s Christian Soldiers? 2007. Accessed April 30, 2016. Page 22, http://www.christianzionism.org/BibleSays/Sizer03.pdf.

 

  1. “Jewish Roots.” The Abrahamic Covenant. Accessed April 30, 2016. http://chosenpeople.com/main/jewish-roots/267-the-abrahamic-covenant.

 

  1. Barrick, William D. “The Mosaic Covenant.” Academia.edu. Fall 1999. Accessed April 30, 2016. (Page 220) http://www.academia.edu/1370222/The_Mosaic_Covenant.

 

  1. Vlach, Michael. “12 Reasons Why Supersessionism / Replacement Theology Is Not a Biblical Doctrine.” – Theological Studies. 2012. Accessed April 30, 2016. http://theologicalstudies.org/resource-library/supersessionism/327-12-reasons-why-supersessionism-replacement-theology-is-not-a-biblical-doctrine.

 

 

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Why The Second Temple Did Not Work

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William J Jackson

In Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 we hear about the possibilities of both blessings and curses for Israel.  As for the curses, the condition was to obey God, or suffer the consequences.  Like most people, Israel was prone to disobedience. So, in 605 BCE Israel would receive the curses promised by God in the form of the Babylonian captivity.  God’s Prophet Jeremiah gives conformation to this in; Jeremiah 25:11, and 2 Chronicles 36:21-22.  On the up side, God also promised that these curses would reversed on a future date (Deuteronomy 4:31, Leviticus 26:42). Understandably many people believe that the curses were ended after the Babylonian captivity, when the Second Temple was built.  Using the Tanakh, we will determine if the curses did end and did God recognize the Second Temple.

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First, to understand if the Second Temple was successful, we need to understand God’s sovereignty through the Temple system. First God established the Tabernacle for Him to commune with Israel.  Undoubtedly the most crucial piece was the Ark of the Covenant where God met with Israel (Exodus 25:22).  After the Tabernacle was completed, God filled it with His glory (Exodus 40:34).   About 500 years later the Ark was moved into the Temple which King Solomon built for Him.  Again, as before, immediately God filled it with His glory (1 Kings 8:10-11, 2 Chronicles 5:13-14, 7:13).  So, if God honored the Second Temple, He would have filled it with His glory at its dedication.  He did not.  Nowhere in the Tanakh or even in Jewish literature does it say that God’s divine presence entered the Second Temple.  One of the major reasons for this might have been that the Ark of the Covenant was not a part of the Second Temple.  As it would be the Ark was missing, probably plundered by the Babylonians or hid1 from them.  Another reason may have been that Israel was still suffering the punishment of her disobedience.

Israel Scattered

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Admittedly, the Second Temple period must have felt like the curse was lifted when the Israelites returned home.  This is our assumption, yet only 5%2 of the Jews returned home, over 95% chose to stay in Babylon.  Also, many Jews never even went to Babylon at the beginning of the captivity.  They fled to Egypt instead (Jeremiah 43).  Additionally, the Babylonian captivity was not the only time large portions of Israelites were brought into internment.  Over a century earlier Northern Israel was brought into captivity.  Here Assyria took a large portion of the Israelite population in 720 BCE (2 Kings 15:29, 16:9).  This exile is where the phrase “the Ten Lost Tribes” was coined. We must remember part of the curse was that Israel would be dispersed among the nations (Leviticus 26:33, Deuteronomy 28:64-66).  This still appears to be true.

Corruption with the Second Temple Priesthood:

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The First Temple existed for 410 years, during that time there was 18 High Priest.  Conversely, the Second Temple existed 420 years and had an astounding 300 High Priests.  Thus, the second temple High Priest were in power, on the average, for about a year and a half, whereas the original Temple’s High Priest spent over 20 years in position.  The short terms for the Second Temple High Priests, no doubt, interrupted continuity in Temple practices.  Also, we need to ask ourselves, “why was there such a turn over with the Second Temple High Priests?” One theory is that during Yom Kippur, if the High Priest was not pure enough, he would have died3 when he entered the Holy of Holies.  It could have been this or the fact that the priestly positions were sold to the highest bidder4 or possibly both.  What we do know is that historically it is well established that the Priest within the Temple during the Second Temple period were corrupt5, 6.  Malachi makes this painfully clear in Malachi 2:1-9.

The Prophets

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Being a Prophet didn’t just mean predicting future events (Jeremiah 30:3), it meant having a relationship where God communicates with you and you influence your people, Israel (Exodus 3:2, 2 Chronicles 24:19, Jeremiah 26:5, Isaiah 51:4). As for the Prophet influencing Israel, this was usually done through the King. Interestingly, there were very few prophets around after the Babylonian captivity.  Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel were around before and after the destruction of the Temple and Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi where around with Israel’s return home.  But with Malachi being the last Prophet in about 400 BCE and the Temple being completed in 350 BC7, God did not provide any Prophets after the Second Temple was completed.  Likewise, Israel did not really receive her freedom from Babylon in 539 BCE.  She would be controlled by Persia (539 – 334 BCE), Greece (334 – 197 BCE), Rome (197 – 636 CE) and so on.  In truth, Israel’s leadership from the destruction of the first Temple until 1948 has been token, with no true King.  Let us remember another aspect of the curse which is “you will be defeated and occupied by your enemy armies” (Leviticus 26:17, and Deuteronomy 28:25). This did not end after the Babylonian captivity in 539 BCE, it has gone on for over two and a half millenniums.

The Future Temple

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Many assume the future Temple spoken of in Tanakh is the Second Temple. Ezekiel talks about this Future Temple in Chapters 40 through 48 in his book. The Second Temple is much smaller, and less elaborate, than the one Ezekiel describes.  Ezekiel’s Temple appears to be one that Israel will earn through true her repentance (Ezekiel 43:9-11).  Also, we have Zechariah 6:12-13 talking about a future Temple being built by “The Branch” which is probably a metaphor for the future Messiah (Zechariah 3:8, Isaiah 11:1-16, Jeremiah 33:15).  Finally, we have Malachi 3:1-4 which states that God will “come to His Temple” while purify and re-establishing His Priesthood.  The Second Temple Priesthood was not purified, it was lacking.  These Temple references are depicting a future Temple earned through repentance which has not happened yet.

Conclusion

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The history of Israel is having the blessings of God, being punished for disobedience and eventually being redeemed.  Many feel that Israel was redeemed after the Babylonian captivity when the Second Temple was built.  The Second Temple does not seem to have been honored by God.  Yes, some of the curses appear to have been lifted recently; Israel being its own nation and the land being productive. However, Israel is still dispersed among the nations (Leviticus 26:33, Deuteronomy 28:64-66).  Fortunately, God does promise a future day they He will gathered His dispersed; Isaiah 11:11-12, 27:12-13, Ezekiel 20:34.

 

Reference:

  1. Milikowsky, Chaim. “Where Is the Lost Ark of the Covenant? The True History (of the Ancient Traditions).” Tradition, Transmission, and Transformation from Second Temple Literature through Judaism and Christianity in Late Antiquity: 208-29. doi:10.1163/9789004299139_010.

 

  1. Spiro, Ken, Rabbi. “History Crash Course #43: The Jews of Babylon.” Ken Spiro. September 1, 2001. Accessed April 26, 2016. http://kenspiro.com/article/history-crash-course-43-the-jews-of-babylon/.

 

  1. “Priest on a Rope: High Holidays – Yom Kippur Response on Ask the Rabbi.” Aishcom. Accessed April 23, 2016. http://www.aish.com/atr/Priest_on_a_Rope.html.

 

  1. Kahane, Rabbi Daniel. Kabbalah of Time: Revelation of Hidden Light through the Jewish Calendar. Place of Publication Not Identified: IUniverse Com, 2013, Page 195

 

  1. Babylonian Talmud, Pesahim 57, 1, Tosefta, Minhot 13, 21

 

  1. Spiro, Ken. “The Second Temple.” The Second Temple. Accessed April 23, 2016. http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/the_second_temple/.were

 

  1. Goldwurm, Hersh. History of the Jewish people: the Second Temple era, Mesorah Publications, 1982. Appendix: Year of the Destruction, pg. 213. ISBN 0-89906-454-X