Friday, October 13, 2006

Abraham's Seed

At the request of Stephen, the following is as brief an elaboration of my thoughts as I can muster re: the nature of "Israel"--who is in it today, who is not, and what this has to do with that hotly-disputed little parcel of land in the Middle East.

Firstly: I do not believe in--nor, imo, does the Orthodox Church teach--what is called "Replacement Theology" by many groups in Christianity that are enamored with all things Hebrew...that is, the idea that the Old Testament Israel has ceased to be, and has been replaced by the Church. The Church does not see herself as a Second Israel, for the Scriptures teach that the Original, First Israel never ceased to be. What has happened is that, simply speaking, those human beings, be they Jew or Gentile, who have rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah of God have been severed from the Israel of God (see Rom. 11 for an indepth description of this by St. Paul). In the same manner, then, all those who live by faith in Christ have been baptized into the Body of the Messiah, who is the Root of Jesse and the flowering of the tree of Israel.

St. Paul states it succinctly: "If ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." For me--and for the Church--the idea that a group of people that have, by and large, deliberately and vehemently separated themselves from Christ for almost 2,000 years can still be called heirs of promises made to the "children of Abraham" is a slap in the face of Jesus Christ himself. Will all of the Jews come to faith in Christ? Eventually, somehow, yes, to the glory of God they will accept their Messiah and be united to Him with the circumcision not made with hands (baptism), but until then--we must be clear--they are no longer in the green wood of the tree of Israel, but rather the dry (Luke 23:31), and therefore inheritors of none of the promises made to Israel in the Old (or New) Testament, for they (unlike the Christians) no longer comprise the Israel of God, which has been carried on into the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ by those who would accept said Christ.


EYTYXOC said...

Someone needs to come up with a term to replace "replacement theology," for it is used pejoratively to describe something that I, too, believe the Scriptures assert - i.e., that the Church (made up of both Jews and Gentiles) is the Israel of God.

I agree in large part with your idea that nothing was ever "replaced"; rather, something new was grafted in. On the other hand, in the parable of the vineyard, Jesus says the Kingdom would be taken away from its unworthy tenants and be given to others, so the idea of "replacement" is not, to me, totally unwarranted.

Romans 9-11 still remains a bit of a mystery to me, as it does somewhat support the idea held by many premillennial dispensationalists that the salvation of "Israel" is being worked out parallel to the calling of others into the Church. I'll be interested to read Archbishop Dmitri's discussion of this in his forthcoming commentary on ROMANS (in print November 2006?).

Stephen said...

I think I am following you in that Jesus and the Apostles did not set out to re-establish a literal twelves tribes of Israel, but that it is more of a spiritual thing, and that the nation of Israel as it was set up still exists, and that us gentiles who have become Christians are being adopted into the nation. Please correct me if I am not getting it. That said, do you have anything to say regarding James 1:1? And what does all this have to do with modern Israel? Thanks.

Aristibule said...

In theological discussions at ORU and elsewhere (mostly with Assembly of God or Messianics) I've used the term 'Continuation Theology' to distinguish Orthodox Theology on Israel as opposed to heretical views of 'Dual Covenant Theology', 'Replacement Theology' or 'Rabbinic Theology'. 'Continuation Theology' is a similar idea to the 'Eucharistic Theology' that Dr. Margaret Barker traces in the early Jewish Christian communities (the roots of Eastern Orthodoxy) as a continuation of the Prophetic and Temple worship, rather than the Babylon-based Pharisee tradition.

EYTYXOC said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
EYTYXOC said...

(Reposted with active link)

"Continuation Theology." That might be good, and only bug people who stress the CHANGE of the priesthood from Levi to Judah/Melchizedek.

Some links to articles by Margaret Barker:

Jewish Roots of Eastern Christian Mysticism

David Bryan said...


You got it that the Israel of the OT is merely continued on as the NT Church (instead of being replaced by it) via the Jewish believers in Christ that stayed connected and the Gentile believers that got grafted in.

You asked: "do you have anything to say regarding James 1:1?"

Well, yes, he's talking primarily to Jews, mainly because, as we know, his epistle was one of the first books of the NT to be written; he more than anyone would be writing to members of the physical twelve tribes of Jacob. This doesn't preclude, however, the non-Jewish believers from also being grafted in and constituting the Israel of God, which is the Church.

You also asked: "And what does all this have to do with modern Israel?"

It really means that we have no stake in the conflict going on at present. We're not concerned with where one worships God--in Jerusalem or on the hill of Samaria, as Christ said to the woman, makes no difference--for the Church worships in Spirit and in Truth wherever she may be, and so real estate has very little value for us. Regarding divine right to any particular piece of land, we feel that all that really matters to us is whether or not we can keep open the sacred spaces of our parts of the Holy Land.

KATH -- thanks for the heads up on the typo. I, too, am anxious to read His Eminence's commentary.

Anonymous said...

I'm very much looking forward to Archbishop Dimitri's book as well. One of the best things about the last 20 years has been the increase in Orthodox bible commentaries. Bishop Kallistos has an interesting article here, it's quite old but worth reading, I think

Paige said...

I agree that the state of Israel is not the Biblical Israel. But why should that fact preclude the US (or anyone else) from political alliance with them? I mean, Japan isn't the Biblical Israel either, but I don't see anyone mentioning that when discussing whether or not we should support Japan in conflicts with its neighbors.

Stephen said...

I think the point re aligning with modern Israel or not, as I understand David, is that we shouldn't be doing it for spiritualized reasons, so I guess any other reason for alignment is up for debate as to its validity.

Thanks David, for answering these questions. It's much appreciated. They make more sense than my friend's interpretations, and at an opportune moment I might try passing these ideas on. Thanks again.

Aristibule said...

Well, last time Japan had conflicts with its neighbors (China, Korea, the Phillipines) - we (the USA) nuked them. If one removes the Dispensationalist agenda, is there good reason to support Israel politically? That is debatable (IOW, an open question with no solid answer.) For myself, I have to agree with the Edah/Satmar, Agudat Israel, Neturei Karta, and others* - and also, if i'm against German Nationalist Socialism, Serbian or Croatian ethnic cleansing, South African apartheid, then would it be consistent to be for a 'Jewish Israel' (or for a Muslim Palestine)? The fact is, of course, that Israel (and Palestine) do exist as real political entities, and should be treated as such (including pressuring either when they allow persecution of Christians, or define their political entity in terms of ethnicity or religious discrimination). What some of us are complaining about, however, is the tendency for superstition to cloud the matter.

* Religious Jewish anti-Zionism is predicated on the fact that the Scriptures do not teach the foundation of a medinat Yisrael - ie, a secular state seized by force, but that Return will only be accomplished with the Coming of the Messiah and the advent of the Malchut Yisrael (the Kingdom of Israel), and that the sins of the sons of Joseph are what separate them from the Land (HaEretz). In 1958 VaYoel Moshe was published, as an exposition of the traditional pre-Holocaust Orthodox Jewish view that the exile from Israel was accompanied by a covenant with God including three parts: the Jewish people would not ascend to Zion by force of arms, that the Jewish people would not rebel against the rule of the Nations, and that the Jewish people by repentance would put off their sins so that the Messiah would Return. The argument against the traditional religious position has been whether the German Holocaust was special enough to break those oaths.

The traditional Orthodox Jewish view does accord with an Orthodox Christian understanding, though the scales still must fall from their eyes to see that the Malchut Israel has come - the Church of Christ. I'm a Westerner as well, and firmly believe in the tradition of Freedom - as I don't have a romanticized superstitious view of the State of Israel (medinat Yisrael), I do believe they should be held to the same standards as every modern state (the same standards I judge my own government by, including the will and action to bring change.)