Dispensational Hype and So Called Replacement Theology
I want to say something the Early Church Fathers and their view of the relationship between Israel and the Church, but before doing so let’s look at what some of my Dispensational brothers have said about the so called “replacement theology.” Dispensationalists have made a radical break with the most of the Church on this particular issue, and I think it is important to look at what some of the opponents of this historic (and I believe biblical) doctrine of the Christian Church have to say on this issue.
Clarence Wagner in his article The Error of Replacement Theology says the following “it is a doctrinal teaching that originated in the early Church” and also “Replacement Theology was introduced to the Church shortly after Gentile leadership took over from Jewish leadership.” We all know that “Gentile leadership” began, or to use Wagner’s term “took over” as soon as the Apostles had passed away.
In 1977 DTS student Alan Patrick Boyd wrote his Masters thesis titled “A Dispensational Premillennial Analysis of the Eschatology of the Post-Apostolic Fathers.” Boyd says that he undertook this study to “bolster” the dispensational claims, but he had to admit that “[T]his writer believes that the Church rapidly fell from New Testament truth, and this is very evident in the realm of eschatology. Only in modern times has New Testament eschatological truth been recovered.” He further admits “The Majority of the writers/writings in this period (70-165 A.D.) completely identify Israel with the church.”
Boyd writes “In the case of Barnabas, . . . he has totally disassociated Israel from the precepts of the Old Testament. In fact he specifically designates the Church to be the heir of the covenantal promises made to Israel.” He says this of the Shepherd of Hermas ( which was written before 150 AD) that it contains “the employment of the phraseology of late Judaism to make the Church the true Israel…” And Of Justin Martyr he says “he claims that the Church is the true Israelitic race, thereby blurring the distinction between Israel and the Church.”
Justin Martyr very clearly, with no equivocation, identifies the Church with Israel. It is also important to keep in mind that NO believer then countered or contradicted what Justin said. This is important because the Church has always had a lively discussion on matters of theological disagreement (like we see on this site). But NO ONE disagrees with Justin Martyr on this point until John Darby does so in the 1820s (more than 1600 years later).
But even before Justin it is clear that the Church fathers believe the Church has inherited the promises and blessings that God made to Israel, thereby identifying the Church as the New Covenant Israel of God.
We see this in Clement of Rome’s (30-100 AD) epistle to the Corinthians, which was written before the end of the first century. Clement knew and was a disciple of the Apostle Paul. We writes in this letter the the Corentian Church, “it is written: When the Most High divided the nations, when He dispersed the sons of Adam, He fixed the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the angels of God. His people Jacob became the portion of the Lord, and Israel the measurement of His inheritance. And in another place He saith; Behold, the Lord taketh for Himself a nation out of the midst of the nations, as a man taketh the firstfruits of his threshing-floor; and the holy of holies shall come forth from that nation. Seeing then that we are the special portion of a Holy God…”
For Clement Jacob/Israel was “the portion of the Lord” and the Church had become “the special portion of a Holy God.” He like the others, including the Apostles, makes the Church to be the inheritors of God’s promises to Israel.
It is interesting that the Dispensationalists readily and eagerly blame the post-Apostolic fathers for so-called “Replacement theology” and the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, but our Jewish friends charge the New Testament with both these things. While I disagree with both groups, I believe it is the Jews who have the stronger, more consistent argument. Lets look at what they say on this issue.
In an article titled The Anti-Jewish New Testament we find this:
The summary view of this essay is simple:
Question: What is the source of the common thread of anti-Semitism shared by the historical acts of persecution of the Jewish people?
Answer: The New Testament.
And then this: “The "Christian love for the Jew", of which so much is heard these days, turns out to be conditional in overwhelming majority of cases. Christians, evangelical Christian missionaries in particular, view the Jewish people as blind and in need of being made into "believers". When their missionary efforts fail, or when their deceptions are exposed, their professed love for the Jew quickly turns into hatred and contempt. Today's hand-clapping Jew-loving "new Christians" are evangelical Christian fundamentalists in disguise, some of whom even profess to be "Torah Observant". They teach the same anti-Semitic doctrines as have been taught by "The Church" throughout the Common Era. And while their tactics may have changed, their agenda and message remain the same.”
On their website they give a number of lists that include supposed anti-Semitic verses in the Bible. As a Christian I believe these folk are dead wrong in their assessment, but I do believe their argument is far better, and more coherent, than are the arguments and accusations of my dispensational brethren regarding supposed "replacement theology." If our Disbensational brethren are correct, and they are not, then the blame for replacement theology should not be set of the Early Church Fathers, but, as this Jews site argues, the blame must go back to the New Testament itself.
Thankfully both the Dispensationalists and these Jewish folk are wrong.