The Lie of Replacement Theology
formerly "Scripture vs. Supersessionism"
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 4 October 2013; Revised 13 July 2021
Sources: Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (Updated Edition 1995).
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Hebraic nature of the entire Bible I use the terms Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
Replacement Theology, also known as Supersessionism, contends that Christianity (the Church) superseded or replaced Israel in God's affections because of supposed Jewish rejection of Yeshua. After the Roman destruction of Israel as a political state in A.D. 132, patristic leaders of Christianity believed that God had effectively and permanently revoked Israel's ownership of the holy land. The New Covenant was then interpreted as having replaced the Old Covenant as a binding authority on the Christian's life and the religious observances developed by the Church replaced the religious calendar commanded in the Torah.
Church leaders, beginning with the church fathers, have engaged in revisionist theology to expunge the Jewish roots of the faith by interpreting all biblical passages related to the covenant promises to Israel as now belonging to the Church. Any Jew that wished to be a Christian has been expected to renounce Jewish identity, including all Torah religious observances and distinctive Jewish customs. The Church then found justification in its Replacement Theology to allow and even promote antisemitic campaigns to systematically discriminate against Jews in every country where Christianity was the dominant religion.
For almost two thousand years Replacement Theology has dominated the theological teaching of Christianity. Even the teaching of Evangelicals sometimes reflects the influence of this errant doctrine. Yet, the evidence of Scripture is overwhelmingly against Replacement Theology. According to apostolic principle Replacement Theology is certainly a false doctrine, if not a demonic doctrine (cf. 1Tim 4:1-3; 2Pet 2:1; 1Jn 4:1). This doctrine makes God a liar and reflects the first lie spoken by Satan in Scripture, "has God said?" (Gen 3:1).
The following propositions reflect what Scripture really teaches. He that has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Church.
The Calling, Promises and Gifts
● The calling, promises and gifts of God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for their blood descendants are irrevocable (Rom 9:4-5; 11:29)! They cannot be changed by any human authority.
● God has not rejected Israel (Jer 31:35-40; 33:19-26; Luke 1:54-55, 68-74; Acts 26:6-7). The apostle Paul boldly makes this point twice in his letter to the Roman congregation: "I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew" (Rom 11:1-2). The church fathers and Christian theologians since then have called the one they identify as the "father of Christianity" a liar. It is they who have lied. (See my commentary on Romans 9 and 11.)
● God promised the land of Canaan to be a permanent possession of Abraham and his blood descendants through Isaac. No passage anywhere in the Bible revokes this divine right. (Gen 12:7; 15:18; 17:8; 26:3-5; 28:10-15; 35:9-12; Ex 32:13)
● God promised that the Jewish people would return from their dispersion over the earth to the holy land, the Land of Israel, and again be an independent nation. The apostles expected to see the restoration of their nation (Acts 1:6-7), and indeed the Second Coming is contingent on the fulfillment of this prophecy. (Deut 30:4-5; Isa 11:11-12; 43:6; 49:8-12, 22; 51:11; Jer 16:14-16; 23:3-6; Ezek 28:25f; 31:7f; 36:24f; 37:12; Ezek 38:8, 12; Amos 9:14-15; Zech 8:7f; Matt 23:37-39; Luke 21:24)
● The center of God's redemptive activity in the first and second advents is Israel. When Yeshua returns he will establish his millennial headquarters in Jerusalem, fulfilling the prophecy of Joel and Zechariah. (Matt 24:27-28; 25:31-33; Luke 13:35; 18:31; 21:27-28; 24:47; Acts 1:11; 10:39; 13:31; Rev 16:13-16; 19:15-19; 20:9)
The Continuing Reminder of God's Choice
● Yeshua promised the apostles that they would judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt 19:28; Luke 22:30). The tribes of Israel have not disappeared or been assimilated.
● The 144,000 chosen special servants in Revelation come from the twelve tribes of Israel. (Rev 7:3-8; 14:1-5; cf. Matt 1:1-17; 19:28; Luke 2:36; 3:23-38; 22:30; Acts 26:7; Rom 11:1; Php 3:5; Jas 1:1)
● The twelve gates of the New Jerusalem are inscribed with the names of the twelve sons of Jacob (Rev 21:12) and the names of the twelve Jewish apostles are engraved on the twelve foundations of the city (Rev 21:14). No Gentile name is memorialized with such significance.
● The God of the Bible is identified hundreds of times as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the God of Israel (Gen 31:42; Ex 3:6; 5:1; Matt 22:32; Mark 12:26; Luke 1:68; Acts 3:13; 7:32). Only once is God spoken of as the God of the Gentiles (Rom 3:29).
● God promised Abraham that those who blessed him and his descendants would be blessed and those that cursed him and his descendants would be cursed (Gen 12:3). Disciples of Yeshua are prohibited from giving an offense to Jews (1Cor 10:32).
● See my article The Twelve Tribes of Israel.
The Old Covenant Scriptures
● The only Bible that Yeshua and the apostles knew was the Tanakh and they treated the Hebrew Scriptures as inspired of the Holy Spirit, authoritative, vital for worship and of practical use for instruction in how to live a life pleasing to God. (Luke 24:32; John 10:35; Acts 17:11; Rom 15:4; 1Tim 4:13; 2Tim 3:16; 2Pet 1:20-21; 3:16)
● The Tanakh is the source of all the promises of salvation through Yeshua, resurrection of the dead and eternal life. Revoking the Old Covenant destroys the basis for these doctrines. (Matt 21:42; Luke 24:27, 45; John 7:38; 20:9; Acts 8:35; 18:28; 28:23; Rom 10:11; 16:25-27; 1Cor 15:3; 2Cor 1:20; Gal 3:22)
● The only commandments Yeshua and the apostles knew and emphasized in their teaching and writings came from the Tanakh. Yeshua declared that he did not come to revoke God's laws previously given to Israel and he had low regard for anyone who did (Matt 5:17-19; 7:26-27).
● Yeshua upheld the commandments given to Adam (Matt 19:1-9), Abraham (Gen 26:5; Matt 5:48; Mark 16:15), and Israel (Matt 5:17-19). Also, the apostles with the authorization of Yeshua insisted on compliance with the commandments given to Noah (Acts 15:20; Rom 13:1-4).
● Both Yeshua and the apostles affirmed the continuing relevance and authority of the commandments God gave to Israel. Torah commandments were not invented by Moses. (Matt 5:1-48; 15:3; 19:1-9, 17-19; 22:36, 38, 40; John 14:15, 21; 15:10-12; Acts 15; Rom 3:19f; 7:7-13; 13:1-4; 1Cor 7:19; 14:34; Eph 2:20; 6:2; 1Th 4:2-8; 1Tim 1:8; 6:13f; Heb 10:16; Jas 1:25; 2:8f; 4:11f; 1Pet 1:16; 2Pet 3:2; 1Jn 2:3f; 3:22-24; 4:21; 5:2f; 2Jn 1:4-6; and Rev 12:17; 14:12)
● Commands issued by Yeshua and the apostles and recorded in the Besekh (there are over a thousand) are actually restatement and application of commandments recorded in the Torah. Only one commandment is identified as "new" (John 13:34; cf. 2Jn 1:5).
● The apostles and first century disciples were zealous to live by Torah commandments. (Acts 21:20, 24; Rom 8:4; 1Jn 3:22; 5:3)
● The Torah is holy, because the holy God of Israel gave it. The Torah is the only thing that defines what is sinful and if the Torah has been revoked then there is no more sin needing atonement. (Rom 2:18; 3:20, 31; 5:13; 7:7, 12-14)
● The Ten Commandments and the two great commandments are reiterated for compliance in the Besekh. (Matt 19:17-19; 22:36-40)
● When the rich young ruler asked Yeshua what he must do to obtain eternal life, Yeshua told him to keep the commandments. (Matt 19:17)
● See my article Law vs. Legalism.
The People of God
● The Good News is from the Jews and for the Jews first. Replacement Theology ignores the origin and sets aside the biblical standard and evangelism priority. (Matt 10:5-6; John 4:22; Rom 1:16; 2:9-10)
● The Body of Messiah is built not only on the foundation of the original apostles, but of the prophets that wrote the Hebrew Scriptures, as well. (Eph 2:19; 2Pet 3:2)
● Paul's letter to the Hebrews, the two letters of Peter, the epistle of Jacob ("James") and the epistle of Judah ("Jude") were specifically written to Messianic Jews in Israel and the Diaspora. (Heb 2:1; 3:12; 6:1-3; Jas 1:1; 1Pet 1:1; 2:12; 2Pet 3:1; Jude 1:1, 5)
● Salvation for Gentiles occurs by being granted citizenship in the Commonwealth of Israel and being grafted into the root of Israel. Jewish disciples were not granted citizenship in the Church on condition of abandoning their roots and thus are under no obligation to surrender their traditions that mark them as the chosen people of God. (Acts 21:20; Rom 11:17, 24; Gal 3:6-9, 14, 29; Eph 2:11-22)
● Yeshua promised that his disciples would one day recline at table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not Gentile Church leaders. (Matt 8:11)
The Sabbath and the Festivals
● During their lifetimes Yeshua and the apostles faithfully kept the Sabbath, Passover and all other Jewish festivals. (Matt 26:2, 17; Mark 1:21; Luke 2:41; 23:56; John 2:13; 5:1; 6:4f; 7:2, 10; 10:22f; 12:1, 20; Acts 2:1; 12:3f; 13:14; 17:2; 18:21; 20:16; 21:20-26; Rom 11:16; 1Cor 5:6-8; 16:8f; Col 2:16; Jude 1:12)
● God's appointed times of spiritual celebration and worship detailed in the Torah were intended for all mankind and in the millennial kingdom the feasts prescribed in the Torah will be observed by the entire population. (Isa 66:23; Ezek 46:1-11; Zech 14:16-19; Matt 26:29; Acts 13:44; 17:26)
● God intended that the Sabbath and the festivals mandated in the Torah were to be observed in perpetuity, that is, forever. (Lev 23:21, 31, 38, 41; Matt 12:8; 24:20)
The New Covenant
● The New Covenant was promised to Israel and the house of Judah, not to Christianity. (Jer 31:33; Heb 8:8)
● The New Covenant is not a new set of laws or the end of commandments but the power to keep the laws of the Old Covenant. (Jer 31:33; Ezek 36:26-27)
● In the first century the apostles and their Gentile converts did not accept a Gentile religion, but Gentiles accepted the Good News of the Hebrew prophets. (Acts 3:25; 10:43; Rom 4:1-12; 16:26; Gal 3:29; 1Pet 1:10; Rev 10:7)
● The New Covenant did not end the two great signs of the Old Covenant (circumcision and the Sabbath, Gen 17:11; Ex 31:13), but infused them with new theological meaning. Yeshua was circumcised and kept the Sabbath. (Matt 12:8; Mark 2:27; 3:4; Luke 2:21; Acts 16:13; Rom 2:26-29; 4:11; 1Cor 7:19; Gal 6:15; Col 2:11)
● The New Covenant transformed the Passover into a Messianic Passover. Yeshua did not create a sacrament called the Eucharist. (Luke 22:20; 1Cor 11:25)
● See my article The Messianic Meal.
For Further Reading
Daniel Gruber, The Separation of Church and Faith, Volume 1: Copernicus and the Jews. Elijah Publishing, 2005.
Dan Juster, Jewish Roots: A Foundation of Biblical Theology. Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., 1995.
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Zondervan Pub. House, 2008.
Hugh Schonfield, History of Jewish Christianity: From the First to the Twentieth Century. Public Domain, 1936. Reprinted in PDF by Vine of David Publishers, 2008.
Oskar Skarsaune, In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity. InterVarsity Press, 2002.
David Stern, Messianic Judaism: A Modern Movement With an Ancient Past. Lederer Books, 2007.
Marvin R. Wilson, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989.
Brad Young, Paul the Jewish Theologian: A Pharisee among Christians, Jews, and Gentiles. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1997.
Copyright © 2013-2021 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.