I want to thank a good friend , whose email inspired this article.
HaYovel often discusses replacement theology. Replacement theology gets defined obliquely (and mostly implicitly) in a few of HaYovel’s published resources, but as of now we do not have a single, concise resource to point to which defines and explains the term. In this short article I define the term replacement theology and explain why HaYovel believes rejecting replacement theology arguments is necessary to understanding the magnitude and scope of what God is doing in Israel’s Heartland today.
Very briefly, “supersessionism” is an umbrella term for positions arguing that the Christian Church replaces, or supersedes, the family of Israel (i.e. the Jewish people) in their covenant partnership with God. This often involves reading the Bible with an interpretive lens—that many Christians may not realize they are using! Every time the word “Israel” appears this replacement theology lens instead interprets and understands it as “Church” or “the Church.”
Supersessionist arguments can be explicitly antisemitic. A prevailing thought throughout Church history and among many Christians today is that God replaced Israel with the Church as punishment for Israel’s widespread rejection of Jesus as the Son of David, Israel’s prophesied Messiah. The Jewish people’s exile from the Promised Land and widespread persecution throughout history are often taken as evidence for this position.
Beyond its sadistic antisemitism, I think it’s clear the evidence doesn’t support this view. Most trivially, the Jewish people’s exile among the nations ended 72 years ago with Israel’s rebirth in 1948. Secondly, the position’s evidence is not Biblical! Jewish persecution by others occurs throughout the Old Testament long before any Jews ever rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Further, God explains these exiles and the Land of Israel’s desolations ahead of time! In Deuteronomy Moses says, “If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law […] you will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. Then the LORD will scatter you among all the nations, from one end of the earth to the other” (Deuteronomy 28:58, 63-64).
Perhaps as you read this you are thinking, “These verses have to do with the law, and not Jesus or Israel’s covenant relationship with God!” Here’s the thing: the law (the Torah) is entangled with God’s covenant relationship with Israel. In just the next chapter, the explanation for the Promised Land’s future desolation is “because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 29:25). Covenants (especially God’s covenants!) are everlasting, eternal, immutable. God never gives up on anyone, and the parties to covenants are irreplaceable.
Here’s why HaYovel really cares about this: if God has no plan to restore the nation of Israel to the Promised Land, then what is the point of HaYovel’s work? What motivates and inspires volunteers to travel thousands of miles from home? to pay their own travel expenses? to take time off work, giving up the wages they otherwise could have earned in their skilled professions? to, in some cases, quit their jobs for extended periods, uncertain of what they will return to, but anxious for nothing and sure of God’s love and provision for themselves and their families?
Is it for a vacation? Is it because Israel is a beautiful country? Do they just really like wine? Are they coming with the ulterior motive of converting Jews to Christianity? *
And, for that matter, what happened in 1948? Was Israel’s rebirth a roll of the dice, a cosmic fluke? Was “ a country […] born in a day or a nation […] brought forth in a moment” by mere luck and not by God’s Hand? (Isaiah 66:8).
No! But these sorts of unbiblical conclusions are how replacement theology catches Christians unawares.
HaYovel passionately believes and argues that replacement theology blinds you from seeing and understanding God’s love and plans for the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. If you read the Scriptures by replacing “Israel” with “Church” you miss God’s ongoing plan to replant and restore the Land and People of Israel. Without understanding God’s plans for Israel, how can you understand God’s plans for you, the Church, and all the nations of the earth? Reject replacement theology and connect with Israel’s Heartland!