Have you ever heard the term "Supersessionism"? Perhaps you have heard it called, "Replacement Theology"?
Supersessionism and replacement theology are both names for the Christian teaching that asserts that the Jews were originally God’s chosen people, but because they rejected Christ, they were replaced by the Church. As a result of this replacement, the Jews lost all of their divine privileges and instead were cursed––cursed to suffer and cursed to wander the earth. Replacement theology is a belief that led to all kinds of horrible Christian virulence against the Jews. Consider some of the things that Christian leaders wrote and said about the Jewish people:
- Tertullian, a second century church leader who actually coined the term “Trinity,” taught: “Though Israel may wash all its members every day, it is never clean. Its hands, at least, are always stained, forever red with the blood of the prophets and of our Lord himself.”
- Gregory of Nyssa, a church leader from the fourth century, took this teaching to the next level, referring to Jews as: “Slayers of the Lord, murderers of the prophets, enemies of God, haters of God, adversaries of grace, enemies of their fathers’ faith, advocates of the devil, brood of vipers, slanderers, scoffers, men of darkened minds, leaven of the Pharisees, congregation of demons, sinners, wicked men, stoners, and haters of goodness.”
- John Chrysostom, a fourth century Christian leader, preached frightening words: “Just so the Jewish people were driven by their drunkenness and plumpness to the ultimate evil; they kicked about, they failed to accept the yoke of Christ, nor did they pull the plow of his teaching…Although such beasts are unfit for work, they are fit for killing. And this is what happened to the Jews: while they were making themselves unfit for work, they grew fit for slaughter.”
- Martin Luther, one of the founders of the Protestant movement, wrote: “What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing and blasphemy…First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom...Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed.”
For centuries in Christian Europe, from the Crusades (of whom Jews were some of the first victims) to the Spanish Inquisition (whose primary targets were Jews called conversos), and even in some ways to the Holocaust, this Christian anti-Judaism, created out of replacement theology, has had terrible results.
And yet, is replacement theology Biblical? And, is this hatred of the Jews Biblical?
Certainly not––the apostle Paul himself provides a straightforward answer:
“I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.” Romans 11:1
By no means has God rejected the Jews! Indeed, they rejected their Messiah––but as Paul goes on to show, at Christ’s second coming, they will receive him and recognize him (Romans 11:25-26).
So from whence came this replacement theology? And where did this dreadful hatred originate?
Replacement theology exists because of another doctrine: the doctrine of the Trinity. Because, if Jesus were God, then it wasn’t just that the Jews rejected their Messiah and crucified him, but they crucified God. What crime could ever be worse? And, how could a people possibly be forgiven for killing God? In fact, Trinitarian Christianity even developed a term for the Jewish killing of God: it was termed the crime of deicide.
Whereas the apostle Paul, not believing in a Trinity, could write that the Jews were not replaced and not cast off, Tertullian, in his Trinitarian mindset, could see no way in which the Jews could ever have a relationship with God.
And thus began Christian hatred of the Jews.
Is that to say that every Christian who believes in the Trinity will hate the Jews? Certainly not. But, for those Trinitarians who think through their beliefs and who realize that indeed, a belief in the Trinity leads to charging the Jews with deicide, it is difficult to escape some form of anti-Judaism. And, the boundary between anti-Judaism and hatred of the Jews is very difficult to envision.
Indeed, doctrines impact actions. For many Jews, the un-Biblical doctrine of the Trinity has indirectly caused much tragedy.
- Jason Hensley