Supersessionism is the traditional Christian belief that Christianity is the fulfillment of Biblical Judaism, and therefore that Jews who deny that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah fall short of their calling as God's Chosen people.
Thus, according to supersessionism, the Jews are either no longer considered to be God's Chosen people, or their proper calling is frustrated pending their acceptance of Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah.
Critics of a complete replacement theory, the first alternative just mentioned, might reason that the "chosenness" of the gentile believers in the messiah is an engrafting into the promises made to Israel. If the Jews can be rejected, then the chosenness of the Church is also reversible, since its basis is in the former. However, if the election of the Christian Church is not reversible, then neither is the election of Israel, which is its basis.
The traditional form of supersessionism does not theorize a replacement; instead it argues that Israel has been superseded only in the sense that the Church has been entrusted with the fulfillment of the promises of which Jewish Israel is the trustee. All Western Christian sects and denominations have held some version of this belief, which has served not only as the explanation for why believers in Christ should not become Jews, but is also the rationale for attempting the conversion of Jews to Christianity. However, since The Enlightenment, a growing minority of Christians have questioned this doctrine.
In the 20th century the Roman Catholic Church issued a number of theological position papers which appear to reject this concept outright, and affirm that the Torah is a valid path for Jews to achieve salvation, that their covenant with God is still valid, and that the Jews of modern times are a direct unbroken continuation of the ancient Children of Israel. This view is not accepted by all Catholic theologians, though it has been reaffirmed several times by the Magisterium. The Catholic Church still proclaims Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, and recently affirmed the importance of Jesus for salvation in the declaration Dominus Jesus . However, although salvation comes from the Church, the current teaching is that persons outside the Church, and particularly the Jews, can receive salvation through the semina verbi contained in their religious traditions.
Several liberal Protestant Christian groups have formally renounced supersessionism, and affirm that Jews, and perhaps other non-Christians, have a valid way to find God within their own faith. In addition, many fundamentalist Christian groups, including conservative evangelical protestants and anabaptists, have renounced replacement theology, though these groups still hold that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to God (citing usually John 14:6). Other conservative and fundamentalist Christian groups hold supersessionism to be valid and replacement theories are sometimes held, however, and the debate continues.
Conservative Christian groups that reject supersessionism usually believe in dispensations and hold that at a future time God will return his focus to the Jewish nation, citing Romans 11.
- The Jewish Christian Relations center for religious dialogue http://www.jcrelations.net/frmain.htm
- The Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies http://www.icjs.org/home.html
Last updated: 02-07-2005 12:47:30
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55