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CHAPTER ONE:

INTRODUCTION

a. Statement of the Problem

Communicants in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth are largely ignorant of the

main themes and worldview of the Hebrew Scriptures, and are therefore deficient in their

application of biblical truth to their lives and Christian witness.

b. Purpose of the Study

It was the purpose of this study to ascertain the degree to which structured

interaction between an Episcopal deanery cohort and a Messianic Jewish congregation

would increase comprehension of, and appreciation for, a biblical worldview among

Gentile Christians. The working hypothesis of this study was that for both practical and

spiritual reasons, Old Testament catechesis and biblical worldview development are best

accomplished in the twenty-first century in the context of direct interaction between

viable communities of the Christian faith from distinct Gentile and Jewish traditions who

mutually benefit and bless each other through their interaction, all the while maintaining

their separate identities in the Lord (thorny questions of theology will be addressed

subsequently).

Certainly, scripture study utilizing any number of responsible hermeneutical

approaches is important. But as one Christian leader’s wife recently wrote concerning

her husband, Norman, “[f]or the past year and a half he has hosted a weekly study group

co-led with a young Spirit-filled Christian, who is also an ordained Orthodox Jewish

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Rabbi, Norm says that studying together and practicing the spiritual disciplines of the

prophets of old has been an oasis in the desert, restoring that which has been lost or

hidden for centuries. He appreciates your prayers as Jew and Gentile search their

common roots in God” (Fredrick).

This study seeks to address what appears at first glance to be simply a matter of

defective Christian catechesis by postulating that especially in the postmodern context

which is the twenty-first century in the West, recovery of a proper and comprehensive

biblical worldview, as duly informed by the Hebrew Scriptures, will be greatly assisted

by Gentile Christians acknowledging the essentially engrafted aspect of their faith vis-à-

vis the Jewish people. The explosion of Messianic (Christ-believing) Jewish communities

in the last quarter century is, according to this study’s working hypothesis, the Lord’s

own remedy to the increasingly dysfunctional state of the Church today, provided Jewish

and Gentile Christians come to acknowledge both their equality before God and the

divinely ordered and distinct nature of their respective witnesses to the Gospel, a witness

that incorporates insights and praxis informed by long and consistent familiarity with the

Hebrew Scriptures.

The disciplines from which this study drew its character and execution include

primarily Biblical and theological, and to a degree, historical and behavioral studies. The

handling of the Scripture proceeded by the development of two biblical theological

motifs: the Covenant of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob with the nation Israel, and

the concept of “mutual blessing,” an idea to be developed extensively in the chapter on

theological reflection.

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c. Research Method and Design

The primary modes of research for this study included the following: a descriptive

assessment of pre-study attitudes and knowledge concerning the Old Testament and its

themes, and developmental analysis throughout the study period. The primary research

tools utilized included interviewing and questionnaires and survey data analysis.

Phase Descriptions

August, 2002 – Descriptive assessments commenced with Eastern Deanery

volunteer-participants from the Fort Worth Diocese. Focus groups were

convened and interviews conducted to generate baseline data.

September – November, 2002 – Questionnaires and surveys were completed on

a monthly basis by participants with an eye to tracking, in finer resolution,

changes in their spiritual lives as project interaction and instruction proceed.

December, 2002 – During the third week of the month, project exit interviews

were conducted, and the data coded and analyzed for the production of chapter

five of the study.

Evaluation: Criteria and Methods

The basis for evaluation involved discerning the changing worldviews and

thematic knowledge bases of participants concerning the Old Testament scriptures.

Project evaluation proceeded by consideration of the instruments of assessment indicated

above, which were rendered into weighted/quantifiable scales of worldview appreciation

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and thematic knowledge. This was necessarily an inexact science, but it was possible to

display participant progress without exclusive reliance on qualitative assessment.

One key decision made regarding study structure and data evaluation was whether

or not to establish a control sub-group that would receive didactic instruction, but not

have the opportunity for interaction with the Messianic congregation. A collaborate

discernment was made that rejected this approach as too cumbersome for the scope of

this study.

The cohort established for this study numbered twelve individuals, involved

approximately five to ten contact hours a month in study-related activity.

d. Thesis Overview; Presuppositions and Delimitations

Dr. R. Kendall Soulen of Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C.

throughout his book, The God of Israel and Christian Theology, demonstrates the

supersessionistic nature of early Christian reflection on the scriptural canon and its

immediate and long-term impact on not only the church’s relationship with the

unbelieving Jews, but also with its own early Jewish composition. He also discusses the

relevance of this issue for the state of Christian self-understanding and effectiveness in

the world today, as well as the concept of the “economy of mutual blessing” as a remedy

for biblical supersessionism (111).

An author from the Roman Catholic world, the Reverend Dr. Peter Hocken of

Vienna, Austria (and a former Anglican priest), wrote extensively over the past decade

and a half on the theme of the church’s life and witness vis-à-vis the Jews. In his book,

Blazing the Trail , Hocken asserts, “the unity of the Church of God was rooted in Israel”

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(100). He explores other aspects of renewal and recovery of manifested spiritual graces as

the church seeks to acknowledge the fullness of its composition and life.

Both of these authors, as well as others to be cited in the discussion following,

highlight a neglected breach of scripturally mandated attitudes and behaviors that the

church must repent of and remedy to be effective in discipleship and evangelism.

In all of this, the negative impact of unscriptural supersessionism on Christian

discipleship and evangelical effectiveness is the underlying motivation in this study

which addresses the failure of many modern Christians to appropriate the biblical

worldview. The postmodern context in which the church must now operate resists the

remediation of its internal life by didactic instruction alone, as important as that is. The

ancient as well as the postmodern need for authentic relationships as attested to in the

Apostolic Witness (New Testament), as well as lived, experiential witness can be

employed by the Holy Spirit through the faith community interaction proposed in this

study to effect a re-engagement with the Hebrew Scriptures especially on the part of

young, Gentile Christians in an effective and compelling way. I tested this hypothesis in

this study, a hypothesis validated by virtue of the data produced, reflecting the changing

and deepening perspectives on the Hebrew canon by study participants.

The role of historical discipline in this study is an implicit and essential part of the

underlying working hypothesis of this study, and is an explicit focus in chapter three. In

addition, some attention was paid to behavioral considerations in the methodology,

especially social dynamics. It must be emphasized, however, that the work of the Holy

Spirit in Christian souls is the focus of this study, regardless of the discipline under

consideration. The Spirit is the integrative principle here, and from Him emanates the

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inner logic and overall coherence of the project. I did indeed discern the Spirit’s enabling

of the fuller appropriation of the Old Testament worldview through His work in the lives

of Christians engaging in vital interaction and mutual blessing. I must state here that

aside from subjective discernment, there is a “growing exegetical convergence” (Juster,

“Israel” 11) these days in the evangelical and catholic worlds concerning the value of the

theological foundations from which I proceed in this project. I do acknowledge,

however, that there remains some disagreement on the topic of supersessionism, and by

no means do I argue that the convergence mentioned above represents a consensus. One

recent work representing some dissent from this growing convergence is Paul Zahl’s The

First Christian, which essentially argues that in Jesus, born to Jewish flesh, we

nevertheless have the definitive origin of a break with everything merely and uniquely

Jewish. Zahl’s position justifiably highlights aspects of that new work of the Spirit that

Jesus came to inaugurate, but does so at the cost of unjustifiably deprecating the grund

(with umlaut) out of which that new work flows. In light of this, I hope my study may

convince some with opposing views to consider the matter further.

Working on such intense matters of faith, I very much enjoyed this project, as it

represented the integration of some important ministerial and theological themes in my

life spanning a quarter century. Its value to me is considerable, and it also possesses the

potential for fruitful reflection in the global church. This project enabled vital research

and communication on a theme that could effect strategic realignment in the Anglican

world with our spiritual roots, as St. Paul describes them in Romans, Chapter 11. The

restoration of the significance of the “Old Testament” band on the Episcopal miter

through full deployment of scriptural witness and interrelationship with Messianic Jews

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will enrich and bless us as we seek to be a blessing to our ancient brethren. May the Lord

himself bless this effort, offered to His Glory!

I do acknowledge that elements of the so-called “hermeneutical spiral” will be

clearly influencing my method and approach and my predisposition to consider the

biblical text with a firm grasp of the accomplished and concrete facts we call history

(which may be simply regarded as recorded communal experience). I will be as

intellectually fair as possible and as Spirit-enabled as I can in reviewing the span of the

biblical text so as to do justice to opposing approaches and interpretations of scriptures I

will analyze. I am, however, a product of my own history and the particular journey God

appointed for me, and that history and journey will influence my treatment of the text, as

it would of any other student of scripture. Indeed one of the first lessons I learned, as I

began an extended graduate theological education over a decade and a half ago, was that

theology is a product of the theologian. “Here I stand” declared Martin Luther, and where

he stood was as much influenced by his personal history and experiences as his

considerable biblical scholarship.

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CHAPTER TWO
BIBLICAL BACKGROUND OF JEWISH IDENTITY, AND THE
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE NEW COVENANT

Overview

Generally the problem of impaired comprehension, appreciation and application

of Hebrew scriptures among Christians may be considered essentially a local pastoral

issue, to be addressed in isolated context by a religious “specialist” (minister) proposing

and then executing spiritual “therapy” to correct a perceived problem. It may be

considered a simple matter of defective Christian education. However, the Bible suggests

a deeper dimension of dysfunction in the church involving God’s covenantal purposes

with national Israel throughout history, a dimension the church largely fails to recognize.

The church’s leadership since early in the Christian era bequeathed to the following

generations a legacy that predisposed them to the basic problem we have noted.

Even as I begin this exegetical chapter which considers some foundational

biblical issues relative to this project, I acknowledge there are a variety of approaches to

the issues I address. Nonetheless many years dedicated to considering and praying over

the biblical text, in conjunction with a lively awareness of and appreciation for what God

appears to be doing throughout history, lead me in this direction. In particular, theological

developments since the rise of the Puritan movement in the seventeen century, as well as

nineteenth century initiatives involving Anglican churchmen who promoted the idea of a

Jewish homeland in Palestine, suggest that revival and Old Testament appropriation and

application are linked with a correct relationship to and cooperation with God’s purposes

for national Israel – both that Israel yet in unbelief regarding Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah,
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and that component of national Israel who participates in the life of the Body of Christ.

These considerations, taken together with biblical scholarship as it exists today, convince

me that the church suffered unnecessary losses throughout much of its history from its

failure to recognize what I argue is the scriptural link between God’s abiding purposes for

Israel and the church’s own enrichment and prosperity.

This prayerful, historically sensitive, and informed approach to the biblical text

therefore informs my exegetical method, and is the best method to can do adequate

justice to the topic at hand. A significant theological issue addressed in chapter three is

our frequent tendency in Christian theology to “de-historicize” and abstract God’s

revelation to mankind, one key element of supersessionism (a multivalent term defined

and discussed in greater detail in the next chapter). For our purposes at this point, let us

define supersessionism, in its broadest sense, as the conscious or unconscious tendency in

Christian theology to repudiate any ongoing relevance for national Israel as the Hebrew

scriptures present her, a unique group with a unique sacred history and covenantal

connection with God. Related to supersessionism is replacement theology, which

essentially declares the church utterly displaced national Israel in regard to the promises

of and covenants with God.

The foundational concept I will delineate and support in scripture is the God of

Israel’s everlastingly declared purpose to bless the world through the Covenant He makes

with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their seed/progeny. Understanding this concept

aright is a vital key to biblical understanding, especially in its historical breadth and

depth. To begin with, ha goy, the nation of Israel, is initially appointed to be God’s

priestly channel of blessing and revelation to all other goyim, the nations of the world at

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large (that these people also, in due course, receives blessing from other nations is a

related and pregnant idea we will explore later). Concerning such sacred progeny, St.

Paul’s “One Seed” exposition in Galatians 3:16 does not repudiate this understanding

insofar as it refers to the focus point and ultimate intensification of God’s overall purpose

for all the children of Israel in the Person of His Son (Paul refers to himself as “an

Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin,” Romans 11:1c). 1 Peter 2:9’s

application of the “priestly nation” principle to the church denotes an entity composed of

“first, the Jew and also the Greek,” suggesting something of a bi-partite quality. The

mystery of the Church, as Paul so aptly refers to it in Ephesians 1:9 and 3:4-6, does not

represent an abrogation of God’s declared covenant purposes for Abraham and his natural

children (Genesis 12:1-3). Rather this mystery is a new and expanded economy of

blessing, intended by God to serve as an example and prototype of that economy of

mutual blessing and propagation of blessedness that has always been the Lord’s desire for

his creation. The Church of God now constitutes one New People as they subsist in the

redeemed from the nations and the redeemed children of Israel, the “Prince with God”

(Genesis 32:28). 1

One major potential concern here might be an interpretation of Galatians 3:28 that

suggests the Christ event erased all earthly distinctions. The tendency toward this line of

exegesis is a core defect of the supersessionist impulse insofar that it also indirectly tends

to propagate the essential error of supersessionism, much like a virus that sickens one cell

and proceeds to invade new ones. In time the entire hermeneutic becomes

supersessionistic in nature, its peculiar perspective achieving something of a seeming

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“self-evident” status. However, this interpretation simply begs the question of whether

distinction and diversity exist in the Kingdom of God.

One example of the manner in which this interpretation influences hermeneutics

might be a consideration of John 14:6, a foundational statement concerning Jesus’s

unique mediatory role in human salvation. This straightforward declaration by the

LORD himself is remarkable in what it says; it is also quite possible to read into it things

it does not say. To say that Jesus is the appointed agency of Yahweh to bring light and

life into the world does not, in and of itself, say anything concerning the economy or

context for Jesus’ unique mediatory agency; it must come from a consideration of the

comprehensive scriptural tradition, a tradition that views creation as an ordered system of

diverse elements held together by a spiritual and physical ecology, the unifying principle

of which is indeed Christ Himself (Colossians 1:17), who now enables all humanity

equally graced access to the Father (Colossians 3:9-15 & Romans 10:12-13). Therefore

Christ does not eliminate diversity, but rather releases and enables the full functioning of

it!

God did not erase the essential earthly distinctions between men and women,

Jews and Gentiles, and parents and children in the Greek scriptures (including its more

“developed” sections in Ephesians and Colossians). Even vowed, celibate religious,

special signs of the age to come among God’s people in this present world, still maintain

a vital distinction of gender identity (even if they often take compound names suggesting

an androgyny); the opportunity to minister to each other as men and women in distinctive

ways is therefore also maintained (the celibate Jesus maintained extraordinary

relationships with women qua women, in a manner different than his male disciples).

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Concerning Jews and Gentiles, Paul himself notes that the Gentiles in the Body of Christ

received spiritual blessings from the Messianic Jews; therefore, it is now appropriate for

them to bless the Messianic Jewish Jerusalem church during a time of special need

(Romans 15:25-27). Paul, intriguingly, does not here explicitly enumerate these

blessings; evidently, they were so obvious in the first century Apostolic era as to render

that exercise superfluous. One modern commentator offers this observation: “. . . the

New Testament’s effective history confirms that the Jewish tradition of moral teaching

for Gentiles, rooted ultimately in the Torah, consistently determined much of the

substance of ethics in the mainstream of emerging Christian orthodoxy” (Bockmuehl

vii).2 The basic point is that creation and fundamental covenant order and distinctive do

not disappear as a result of the in-breaking of the New (or, better perhaps, Re-newed)

Covenant or Testament, inaugurated through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Therefore I will accomplish in this chapter the setting forth of a biblical argument

that the church can operate in the pleroma, the fullness of grace and blessing and power,

only when it embodies and reflects the Trinitarian dynamic of mutual blessing among

distinct but related communities. I particularly argue for one special application of this

principle as it relates to Messianic Jewish and Gentile people and congregations. It is my

scripturally-based thesis that a loving and dynamic interaction between Messianic Jewish

and Gentile believers and phases of expression in the Body of Christ helps to fulfill the

instructions and high priestly prayer of Jesus in John 14 through 17 concerning Christian

unity which leads to the glory of God abiding fully among His people. That glory is the

ground upon which the church of God is led by the Holy Spirit into the grace of “all

truth” and revelation, the fullness of understanding of the Word of the God of Israel. This

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thesis project specifically addresses the question as to whether that mystical but real

dynamic of mutual blessing enables an increased appropriation of the fullness of God’s

word among Gentile believers, to the end that the church becomes more fully equipped to

serve the Great Commandment and Great Commission.

The Divine Economy of Mutual Blessing and Gentile-Jewish Interaction

In the Re-newed Covenant, there is an ongoing relevance for Jewish-Gentile

distinctive and therefore intentional interaction in the Body of Christ, outside of basic

access to the grace of God in Christ (Romans 10:12). We generally fail to perceive this

because the lens through which we tend to read scripture, what R. Kendall Soulen calls

the “standard canonical narrative,” has prevented us from seeing this distinction from the

days of second century Christian apologetic and theological reflection (12,25,33, et al).

Therefore, as early as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, “what to do” about the Hebrew

Scriptures (and the nation who served as God’s channel for its composition) becomes an

occasion for vexing questions and earnest debate. But if we examine the scriptures

through the interpretive lens that proclaims with Paul that “God has not rejected his

people whom he foreknew” (Romans 11:2a), we might discover an astonishing and

elegant design whereby intelligent creatures might not simply co-exist in a holy diversity

devoid of envy and competition, but co-exist in a blessedness of interrelation that mimics

and echoes the very life of the Trinity itself. Indeed, Ecclesiastes 4:12 speaks of the

multi-twined cord whose strength is derived from component elements in vital

interaction.

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Before proceeding further, I must at this point assert that it is not my intention

here to in any way argue that the Covenant forged between the physical descendants of

Israel and their God produced a race of human beings who, regardless of their individual

relationship with the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, enjoy some standing before the Lord

that enhances their access to the grace of the Holy Spirit beyond that which is the right of

any human being. 3 We will discuss the entire notion of Covenant, both “Old” and

“New” biblically speaking, shortly.

However, I argue here that the ancient election of Israel produces within the Body

of Christ a dynamic of mutual blessing whereby the Jewish representation among the

saints serves as one distinct phase and divinely-appointed element in the axis of

redemption which also includes the representation of believers derived from the other

nations. The continuing Jewish identity and representation in the Christian faith is of

concern here, in order that a distinct component people group derived from an ancient

complex of covenants be recognized and allowed to function in distinctive ways within

the Body of the Messiah, itself a distinct entity among all the nations (1 Peter 2:9), to the

mutual enrichment and edification of everyone with the church; thereby enabling a more

coherent and forceful witness to both unsaved Jews and unsaved Gentiles. It is also the

specific intention of this chapter and the next to highlight both the biblical rationale and

the manner in which this interaction among these distinct entities in the

church fulfills God’s purposes for the church especially as regards the appropriation and

application of the fullness of divine revelation to the life of the church, and to the mission

and ministry which flows from it.

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With this perspective in mind, I will first just cite a very few instances in scripture

whereby God declares His eternal purpose to utilize the descendants of Abraham, Isaac,

and Jacob as key agents of salvation in the world. The Torah, of course, is replete with

such references, as we might expect, inasmuch as foundational theology for both

Christians and Jews is to be found in this portion of scripture. Beyond the core divine

pronouncement to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel

later prompts the patriarch Isaac to reiterate and convey the covenant first made with his

father to his conniving and deceiving son, Jacob (Genesis 27:28-29). This text is

remarkable for two reasons: first, the bare word first given to Abraham is now expanded

in its scope and implication.4 Second, the blessing is conveyed in the context of illegal

procedure. Jacob’s sinful, deceptive behavior in acquiring the blessing, by the

foreknowledge, providence and sovereignty of God, does not disqualify him from

receiving it. He will subsequently undergo disciplinary action from the hand of the Lord,

a broader instance of the principle annunciated in Psalms 89:30-34 concerning the

Davidic covenant, but the “call and election” of Jacob remains nonetheless through it all.

A covenant is a covenant, and it is only by virtue of God’s faithfulness to sinful human

beings as illustrated with the patriarchs and the Hebrew nation generally that we in the

age of Christ’s dominion and authority (Matthew 28:18) have confidence that God’s

declared purposes and promises for us are also valid and enduring, in spite of our own

unfaithfulnesses. From this foundation of the covenant, we move to Passover.

The Exodus Passover story and God’s designation of Israel as his first born,

priestly people from among the nations (Exodus 19:6), as well as covenantal material in

Leviticus and Numbers which portray the priestly ministry of Israel on behalf of the

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nations, are another foundational set of scriptures. In addition, Deuteronomy 32 provides

an interesting perspective on the place of the elected nation in the Song of Moses. Verses

8 and 9 depict a grand design whereby “the nations” are appointed their times and places

according to an obscure reference to “the number of the gods” (Qumran manuscripts), or

even “the Israelites” (Masoretic text), while “the Lord’s own portion was his people,

Jacob his allotted share” (Deuteronomy 32: 8-9). Later, the Psalmist declares that the

Lord revealed himself specifically to Israel in a special way not enjoyed by any other goy

or people-group (Psalms 147:19-20). Doubtless, Paul had this reference in mind when he

cites the revelation of God as pertaining properly to the children of Israel (Romans 9:4), a

revelation which has, in Christ, now also become the shared possession of graced

Gentiles (Romans 15:27). 5

The national implications of these texts suggest an important foundational

principal of hermeneutics as pertaining to the physical descendants of Abraham. Before

delving into the central concern of this chapter’s biblical focus, the New Covenant

properly speaking, it is important to address a related topic which involves an objection

relative to my assertions concerning Exodus 19:6, namely that Israel’s “priestly nation”

designation was indeed “superceded” by the New Testament’s clear application of this

text to the Christian church, as witnessed in 1 Peter 2:9-10 and Revelations 1:6. This is a

weighty matter to consider. Among numerous commentators, both the “Commentary on

First Peter,” of The New Interpreter’s Bible (vol. XII), and Raymond Brown are clear

that “the exiles of the diaspora” being addressed in 1 Peter, despite intriguingly Jewish

associations, are in fact Gentile converts.6 The focus is on what Brown will term an

“affirmation of Christian identity and dignity.” The Egyptian Exodus and Sinai

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experience are powerful images now conveyed to the new Christians Peter addresses, and

Brown suggests that these folks “had been evangelized by missionaries with a very deep

attachment to the traditions of Israel” (709). 7

Quite simply and directly, the New Testament’s application of “priestly nation”

language to the Christian church is not particularly relevant or adverse to the basic thrust

of the argument that God constituted in history a sacred people who served and continue

to serve as a “bridge” of divine grace to other people. One of the more interesting

derivations from the Latin language concerning the concept of “priest” is the word

pontifex, with clear sacerdotal applications especially in Roman Catholicism. It is a word,

however, useful to us in non-Roman contexts because it provides a word picture of the

priest as a “bridge,” which is the root meaning of pontifex. Without any diminution of the

priestly character of the Christian church, it is very convincingly demonstrated that

national Israel did exhibit -- and still exhibits -- something of a bridge-like function

among the nations, even if that ministry today is obscured by generations of mutual

misunderstanding between Jews and Gentiles. The very existence of the Christian Church

itself would have been impossible without the deposit of faith that constituted the

Israelite Tradition, which tradition formed and informed the Messiah himself as well as

the early apostolic band. The ultimate issue, logically speaking, is whether or not the

Christian church (understood as essentially Gentile, as is largely true today, or essentially

Jewish, as was true in the first years after the resurrection of Jesus, or a hybrid of the two)

can take up Israelite/Jewish characteristics and functions without destroying the

covenantal holiness and character of national Israel. The answer to this question must rest

upon a close, biblical theological examination of the topic of the New Covenant

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originally articulated by the prophet Jeremiah, and possible modes of application and

fulfillment of that covenant. It is to this issue that we now turn.

Indeed, the most remarkable biblical text from the Hebrew scriptures which

speaks of the enduring quality of the covenant establishing Israel as a national entity

forever is Jeremiah 31:31-37, remarkable because it neatly, in one stroke, establishes both

the reality of the New (or Re-Newed) Covenant and God’s eternal purpose to keep Israel

as a distinct nation among the nations of the world. This association of the “New

Covenant” with enduring national identity clearly addresses the roots of supersessionism

and replacement theology, whereby Israel’s existence is either marginalized or

allegorized as being irrelevant to God’s economic dealings in view of the Church’s

standing before God. The Hebrew scriptures, however, taken as a whole, fairly assume an

ongoing and even eternal quality of distinctiveness concerning Israel among the nations,

even when other nations are specifically mentioned as ultimately enjoying God’s

gracious covenant blessings in the context of the new age of the Messiah (Isaiah 19:19-

25).

It is the complex topic of the New Covenant and possible modalities of its

implementation that we now turn to. Scholarly analysis and discussion of the New

Covenant is extensive and fascinating. We must immediately recognize the tension

between those who hold to a classical “covenant theology” perspective on the matter, and

those who adhere to the “dispensationalist” school. Among even those who subscribe to

elements of a dispensationalist approach to biblical interpretation, the topic of the New

Covenant provides a rich source of reflection and controversy. However, the Greek New

Testament scriptural exegesis treatment of the New Covenant greatly impacts one’s

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disposition toward the larger theological question of supersessionism. An appreciation for

the biblical hermeneutic one selects to analyze the New Covenant and its provisions and

applications provides the best opportunity for the theologian and minister to consider

dispassionately whether or not supersessionism represents the best interpretive system for

biblical studies in the manner concerning national Israel.

Rodney J. Decker discerned three major positions concerning this application of

the New Covenant to the church. We will consider his discussion on these in a moment. It

is important, however, to note that although Decker considers the topic a virtual non-

issue for covenant and nondispensational theologians (who largely reject any other

position than that the New Covenant is the church’s possession, period), Daniel Juster,

whose background includes both Reformed covenant and dispensational influences, takes

a hybrid approach to the topic, and produced a hermeneutic in which Decker’s work is

indeed (or should be!) most relevant to the work of theology across the board. Says

Juster, “I should mention my indebtedness to both Dispensational and Covenant

Theology. I am sympathetic to features in both and disagree with both” (7). 8 I concur

with Juster; one need not be a dispensationalist to appreciate the richness of the theme of

the New Covenant; indeed, the New Covenant in its fullness preempts any interpretive

scheme that would attempt to limit its application according to restrictive or cultist

theories of biblical understanding.

According to Decker, the three divergent views of the New Covenant (which

nonetheless overlap in places) are as follows:

1) The Church has a different New Covenant than Israel;

2) The Church has no relationship to the New Covenant;

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3) The Church participates in some aspects of the New Covenant. 9

Decker traces some shifting about in the thinking of leading dispensationalist theologians

such as Ryrie and Walvoord who now repudiate the first position, essentially relegating

hold-outs such as Miles Stanford as possessing an indefensible position on it. Concerning

arguments for the second position such as were articulated by J. N. Darby, he states that

“it is nearly impossible to find contemporary advocates” for it in print today (Decker

436). Darby does have one insight, however, that I find intriguing in that he invokes the

idea of the church being “one with the Mediator of the new covenant” (Notes on the

Epistle to the Hebrews, 72-73, qtd in Decker 437). This insight provides a possible

application to Psalms 45 and the picture of the “Royal Marriage” whereby the Queen – a

likely symbol of the church – is associated with the Lord in a manner that belongs to a

realm outside of legal provision. This, of course, does not by any means establish

Darby’s position, but it does suggest another modality whereby the New Covenant is, in

fact, manifested among men.

Finally, Decker acknowledges that “the majority view among dispensational

circles today is that the church participates in some way in the New Covenant” (Decker

441), but then cites the diversity among the adherents of that view. He particularly cites

the work of Homer A. Kent, Jr. from his article, “The New Covenant and the Church” in

Grace Theological Journal. 10 Decker summarizes Kent’s position “by stating that the

covenant ‘will be fulfilled eschatologically with Israel but is participated in

soteriologically by the church today’” (qtd. in Decker 442). He also cites Bruce A. Ware

who notes “Israel and the church share theologically rich and important elements of

commonality [including ‘coparticipation in the one new covenant’] while at the same

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time maintaining distinct identities” (qtd. In Decker 443). 11 It is important to note here

that Ware is not arguing for a Christless “salvation” for Israel, only a distinctive future

redemption for the nation under precisely the same terms that salvation comes to anybody

– by the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the subsequent reception by faith engendered

in the human soul. It is also important to again emphasize that although this entire line of

discussion may seem relevant only to those associated with the dispensationalist school,

such an assumption is unfortunate. As Daniel Juster commented in his own discussion of

the classic concerns of the Princeton School of Theology at the turn of the nineteenth and

twentieth centuries, “we affirm with the Covenant Theologian the unitary nature of the

Covenants” (Juster, “Covenant” 9). The issue is really not whether the Covenant or

Dispensationalist position is the controlling one; the issue is concerned squarely with the

topic of fulfillment as regards the one New Covenant. Both schools can find convergence

with this perspective. Certainly integrity of biblical language regarding national Israel in

the context of fulfillment was on the mind of none other than Covenant theologian John

Murray when he argued for an interpretation of Romans that maintained the term “Israel”

in the ninth through eleventh chapters of the epistle “could not possibly include Gentiles”

(qtd. in Juster, “Israel” 12).12 He was preceded by none other than Beza’s own

discernment that the epistle includes a reference “to a restoration of national Israel to

God’s favor” (qtd. in Juster, “Israel” 7). 13 All this is assumed concrete and absolute, in

spite of the fact that neither Luther nor Calvin acknowledged such a position vis-à-vis

national Israel.

Having established this unifying codex, we continue our discussion on the topic

of fulfillment, noting that Decker cites Bruce Compton’s dissertation on the New

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Covenant, “An Examination of the New Covenant in the Old and New Testaments”

(prepared under the supervision of Homer Kent). Compton, says Decker:

argues against using fulfillment terminology [concerning the church’s

participation in the New Covenant] because, as he defines ‘fulfill,’ it

implies that the church is the complete fulfillment of the covenant,

replacing Israel as the covenant partner. (Decker 447, emphasis mine).

In his footnote on Compton, Decker adds, “Instead of ‘fulfill,’ Compton uses phrases

such as ‘participate in,’ ‘involved with,’ ‘recipients of,’ ‘presently benefits in,’ ‘dual

application,’ ‘involved in the benefits of,’ and others” (Decker 447). “Partial

implementation” and “division of blessings” are noted as precedents regarding the

Abrahamic Covenant (Decker 448). The conclusion of the matter for Decker is that the

third viewpoint (page 6) is preferred today, and with this I heartily concur. Lest however,

he be without critique here, I must partially disagree with a side observation in his

conclusion:

The inclusion of remnant Jews in the church during the present

dispensation does not demand [the notion of] partial fulfillment, for they

are incorporated into the body of Christ as are all other believers. There is

no distinction in the church between Jew and Greek (Gal. 3:28). These

Jews participate in the New Covenant today on the same basis as Gentiles

who are baptized into Christ, not as inaugural representatives of the

covenant partners. (454)

I previously registered my dissent concerning an interpretation of Galatians 3:28 erasing

all earthly distinctions. What I discern here is a dispensationalist whose theological

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method briefly turned him, ironically enough, towards a quasi-“covenant” direction as

regards the Messianic Jewish believer, a curious perspective that unhappily possesses all

of the weaknesses and none of the strengths of either school! Very germane to this thesis

project, and vigorously to the contrary, I argue that the Messianic Jewish believer, while

not exactly a partial fulfillment, rigorously speaking of the New Covenant (the full

provisions of which include the securing of perfect obedience and that exhortations to

“know the Lord” will be obviated), is nonetheless the harbinger of that day when their kin

according to the flesh do in fact experience that fulfillment (certainly Paul was fairly

anxious to establish his Hebrew heritage and ongoing identity throughout the New

Testament, an observation we will return to later in this chapter). Although it is true the

Messianic Jew today receives Christ by faith, objectively speaking, in the same manner

as the Gentile, it is very often not true that the faith unto salvation is experienced,

subjectively, the same way. The Gentile experiences Christ from outside his cultural

context; the Jew receives him from within an ethos that directly testifies to him.

Testimonies of Messianic believers are frequently compelling in their particular depth

and emotional impact, all of which speak to the greater mystery of Israel. Or as one wag

once put it, “Jews are like everybody else, only more so!”

By way of transition now to a broader issue regarding the biblical framework for

this thesis project, I cite again Daniel Juster:

The issue of worship form is related to our concept of fulfillment. Is the

past to be reflected in the forms expressing New Covenant fulfillment, or

is the past forgotten and even abrogated? Jacob Joaz, influenced by Oscar

Cullmann’s writings, has beautifully said: “The past is seen as salvation

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history in the light of the present, but the present cannot be recognized at

all as salvation history without the positive ‘presentation’ of the past. This

is so because, again I quote, salvation-history forms a whole that as such

remains ever present.” It is the present meaning of the past in the presence

of fulfillment that Messianic Judaism seeks to keep alive. (“Covenant”

12)14

It is interesting to note that biblical scholarship today is starting to question the admitted

long-standing rule that everything in the “Old” Testament be qualified and understood

strictly by way of reference to the “New” Testament, as in “the Old Testament predicts

the New Testament; the New fulfills the Old.” This overly simplistic axiom has virtually

ruled scripture exegesis and biblical theology, but now is effectively challenged by

outstanding scholars such as Christopher Seitz and others. They argue that the Hebrew

text has its own proper standing quite outside of any consideration of the Greek

scriptures. The relationship between the two testaments is much more complex than

assumed before, much more interactive and dynamic. This line of reasoning enriches our

understanding of the Word of God in general, and enabling a more informed approach to

the issues this project addresses. The approach might well be termed “holistic,” even

“catholic,” in the best sense of the word. Its growing influence is the fruit of a post-

Holocaust consciousness in the church that is willing to discern the manner in which

supersessionism has historically skewed biblical studies.

The limited “lens” through which Christian commentary, until recently, viewed

the Greek scriptures largely predisposed the Gentile church to acknowledge no ongoing

relevance for the Jewish believer in the context of a distinct Jewish identity or lifestyle

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within the church, since things “Jewish” may well be regarded as passe. The Gospels

sanction no such idea. Jesus does challenge certain interpretations of the Torah

throughout his ministry, but the charge that he is a “marginal Jew” is incorrect. Jesus had

an innovative and intuitive approach to the Torah and the prophets that truly astounded

his listeners and observers, but outright rejection of the written revelation of God in the

Torah-Neviim-Kithubim (Tanak, or Hebrew Bible) is nowhere to be found in Jesus’

teaching or example. There are, of course, not a few who would dispute this statement.

Influenced as they are by the supersessionistic standard approach of Christian exegesis as

regards things Jewish, this is understandable. Donald Hagner, however, in his capacity of

chaired professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary notes that the (non-

Messianic) Jewish understanding of Jesus’ attitude to the Law comprises a broad

spectrum that includes many scholars like Herbert Loewe, who “maintains that Jesus was

a faithful upholder of the Law all his life” (Hagner 94).

Probably among the most enduring challenges to such an understanding is the

misapplied charge of Judaizing, a style of polemic attributed to St. Paul’s Epistle to the

Galatians. It is important in this vein to examine both Paul’s instruction to the church in

Galatia and his own example of, as a Jew, honoring a Jewish lifestyle in a variety of

contexts. One does observe that along with this apostle’s struggles with early Jewish

believers who possessed an inadequate appreciation of the all-sufficiency of Christ for

salvation, the early church in its first ecumenical council (as recorded in Acts 15) gives

permission for Gentiles to become Christians without first becoming proselytes to

Judaism. What is vital to note here, however, is that what was not at issue in Acts 15 was

the ongoing relevance of the Hebrew scriptures and a Jewish lifestyle for Jewish

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Christians; that much was simply assumed. 15 The assembled council even implies that

the Gentiles may very well benefit from frequenting the synagogues so as to hear the

Word of God from the divinely inspired scrolls of Israel (Acts 15:21).

Paul himself acknowledges all this by his behavior in relation to Jewish

observance. His “Apostles to the Gentiles” maintained a rather complex, at times seeming

contradictory, praxis with regard to his national heritage. He eats with Gentile believers

and upbraids Peter for failing to do so (this entails no flouting of the Hebrew scripture, as

equivocal as that canon is concerning the Gentiles – indeed, Ruth and Ezra display that

very tension -- only a rabbinic interpretation about the “uncleanness” of the peoples of

the nations); see especially Acts 10:28 in this regard. But he also shows special eagerness

to be in Jerusalem during the Shavuot/Pentecost holy day (Acts 20:16b), mentions “the

Fast” (probably Yom Kippur – Acts 27:9), delays departure from Philippi for Troas to

celebrate the feast of Unleavened Bread (Acts 20:6), and twice undertakes a special vow

as prescribed by the Law, the second one resulting in his arrest in Jerusalem (Acts

18:18b; 21:23-26).

While Paul observed many Jewish rites, he found others unduly promoted Jewish

legal observance, especially among Gentiles, because such partisans of the faith fail to

understand the transformed nature of the believers’ relationship to the Torah (even the

rabbis believed that when Messiah came he would bring a “New Law,” not in the sense

of abrogation of the old, but in fuller development of it). He acknowledges outright the

goodness of the Law in Romans 7:12, but also the inability of sinful humanity to keep it.

Therefore, argues Paul, the Torah as implemented as an often onerous (Acts 15:10)

system of righteousness with God is null and void with the manifestation of Christ among

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the nations, who is the terminus and relativizer of any and all mere systems of approach

to God. The Torah, in Paul’s view, is a standard by which righteous attitudes and

behaviors can be known to exist among the believers; it is also a representation of the

character of God as it is manifest in the human situation. It is “good and holy.” It is not,

however, in and of itself a means to either justification or sanctification (Galatians 3:3).

Actually, Paul’s most impassioned assertion is that “faith works through love,” i.e.

through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:6b; 3:2). The mode or manner of

salvation, comprehensively understood as justifying and sanctifying grace working within

the believer, is entirely the Spirit’s doing. The pneumatic gift procured through faith in

the death and resurrection of Jesus upon repentance from sin, and bestowed through the

church’s ministry (Acts 8:17) affects the first phase of the New Covenant spoken of in

Jeremiah 31, resulting in the “first fruits” of redemption. Torah, in this economy, is

transformed from an inferior system of works-righteousness and salvation, corrupted

because of the flesh, to a holy standard whereby we may contemplate the character and

excellence of him who fulfilled its requirements exactly and in their fullness, and who by

grace offers eternal life and holy wisdom to those who respond to his call.

Scholarly opinion concerning this topic is replete with perspectives all across the

spectrum. Notes Raymond Brown, “. . . an enormous amount of scholarly labor has been

expended on this very difficult topic” (578). 16 I find especially intriguing W.D. Davies’

analysis of this important topic, although I do not infer some of the things he did from the

biblical evidence. Claims Davies:

the universalism that . . . was implicit in the depth of Paul’s experience of

God in Christ . . . in . . . its strict logical expression in life was never

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achieved. In fact, both in life and thought, the Book of Acts and the

Epistles of Paul reveal a conflict in the latter which was never completely

resolved, a conflict between the claims of the old Israel after the flesh and

the new Israel after the Spirit, between his ‘nationalism’ and his

Christianity. It is, indeed, from this tension that there arise most of the

inconsistencies that have puzzled interpreters of Paul; and it is only in the

light of the Judaism of the first century A.D. that this is to be understood.

(“Paul” 58-59)

Intriguingly, Davies goes on to trace this same ambivalence in the Hebrew scriptural

tradition itself, as we also noted earlier (59-66).

While I do not subscribe to the inference Davies draws above, his insight is

compelling as he considers this great apostle. Davies refers to “[t]he discovery that the

Gentile was his [Paul’s] brother ‘in Christ’ . . . as the solution of an inner conflict: it was

a thrilling mystery” (“Paul” 67). Nevertheless, Davies relies on C.H. Dodd’s argument

that “there is no ground for assigning any special place in the future to the Jewish nation

as such” as something, ultimately, that Paul “could not conceive” (qtd. in Davies “Paul”

75).17 Then says Davies:

The fact that when the Messiah came to his own, his own received him

not, was a shattering blow to him, and he reels under the emotional tension

caused by the rejection of Jesus by Jewry. He yearns over his people . . .

Despite his noble universalism he finds it impossible not to assign a

special place to his own people. (75)

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And so in due course by his concluding chapter, Davies ends, “ . . . throughout his life

Paul . . . assigned to the Jews in the Christian no less than in the pre-Christian

dispensation a place of peculiar importance” (321, emphasis mine). He continues flatly:

A Paul who when he became a Christian had ceased to be a ‘Jew’ would

not be the Paul that we know; it was part of his very integrity as a man that

he should retain his Hebrew accent, as it were, even in his new faith. We

believe that Paul’s concern for ‘Israel after the flesh’ is a tribute to the

profundity of his thought no less than to the warmth of his affections,

because, as we have previously asserted, it is a sublimation of nationalism

in Christ such as Paul yearned for his own people that must always be

desired and not its suppression or extinction.” (321-22 emphasis mine)

Davies, according to his conclusion, experiences the very ambivalence he argues

he observed in Paul. Consider this:

It was the historic fact that the Old Israel had been chosen at the Exodus

and had been, as a result, in a relation, if we may so express it, of peculiar

intimacy throughout the ages with God . . . it was this that made Paul’s

‘nationalism’ invade his Christianity. . . one thing at least shines clear, that

‘Israel after the flesh’ persists as an enigma to the twentieth no less than to

the preceding centuries. (322 emphases mine).

And finally a most profound statement, that fairly lays the “rock foundation” for this

thesis project:

Paul thought of the incoming of the ‘Old Israel’ into the Church as life

from the dead. Whether he was justified in this extreme [a la Davies]

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claim, whatever its exact meaning, we cannot say, but it cannot be

doubted that a Christendom which is almost entirely Gentile would gain

by the incursion of the Old Israel, which is still the heir of the prophets.

(322 emphasis mine)

In one fell stroke, Davies discerns what is the central concern of this project and its

biblical moorings, and he seems overcome by the theme. This has also been my lived

experience as a Gentile in active fellowship with Messianic Jews for over a quarter

century; we may at first cavil, but ultimately “the depth of wealth, wisdom and

knowledge in God” will convince us otherwise (Romans 11:33).

One could cite many other Greek scripture references relative to this question, but

they all may be considered along the analytical lines just presented. A comprehensive

examination of the teaching and modeled lifestyle of the early church leadership (all the

canonical apostolic writers being Jewish, except Luke) virtually compels one to

acknowledge that, far from being a negative or marginal factor in the life of the early

church, Jewish observance among the Jewish contingent in the Body of Christ was

pervasive and highly regarded. They displayed integrity of God-given identity as they

worshipped the Father “with, in, and through” the risen Lord and Messiah, in the power

of the Holy Spirit, and in an identifiable Jewish manner. In addition, and this is key to the

thesis under consideration, it was their very Jewishness in loving and dynamic relation to

the Gentile brethren that was very much in the mind and intentional design of God with

regard to the functioning of the Body of His Son. Having established an irrevocable

covenant with Jewish flesh, He now continues to honor that covenant in a renewed and

expanded context whereby the richness of His grace abounds beyond the initial recipients

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to embrace an entire planet (Isaiah 49:6), indeed an entire Universe (Colossians 1:20), all

the while preserving the integrity, identity and special functioning of the component parts

of the whole (Ephesians 4:15-16) in a glorious economy of grace and mutual blessing.

Israel’s “Oblation” in the Midst of the Gentile Church

It is now for us to draw these biblical threads into a cord of insight regarding the

Lord’s intention for the full functioning of the church and the indwelling Glory of the

Spirit’s fullness. According to some commentators, including Alan Ross, the framework

for the book of Romans may be understood as a gospel exposition that utilizes the

Hebrew temple sacrificial system as a metaphor for God’s grand design for the ministry

of the church (Ross). Starting with the Levitical sacrifices pertaining to atonement and

sin-and-guilt-purgation, Paul progresses throughout his epistle by moving to sacrifices

offered in view of the atonement already achieved, to the establishment of a broad

spectrum of sacrificial/sacramental bonds including dedication, thanksgiving, restitution

and peace or “well-being.” God’s ultimate desire is to receive an offering of the nations

(Romans 15:15-16), concerning which Paul sees himself as a priest in a catalytic role.

Certainly the Holy Eucharist itself represents the highest example of a thanksgiving

offering to the Lord that rises to Him “as a sweet smelling savor,” and he exhorts

Christians to be dedicated or conformed to the Lord’s will and purpose (Romans 12:1-2),

which represents a lifelong act of acceptable spiritual service, or worship.

Now what is most interesting about this sacrificial metaphor is that Paul, nearly

out of the blue, invokes the situation regarding the nation of Israel! Romans 9 - 11 stand

in a curious way relative to the other material in the epistle; in some ways, these three

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chapters might almost represent a divergence from the apostle’s main argument

concerning justification and sanctification, and the offering of the church to God. If,

however, we continue with the sacrificial metaphor, Paul’s heartfelt cry for Israel’s

salvation in the very midst of the book suggests he believes Israel’s participation in the

economy of salvation to be central to the whole project of the oblation to God intended

by the divine plan. Without Israel “on board” Paul implies, there would be a terrible

omission in the human oblation God desires. The sacrifice of Jesus must surely be

effectual for Israel, enabling her own central role in the plan of God. This is an Israel

which possesses “the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the

worship, and the promises” (Romans 9:4); in short, a people with a history, a concrete

existence and a, perhaps scandalous, “particularity” not unlike that of its Messiah.

The place of Messianic Israel among the Messianic representatives of the Gentile

nations might be therefore crucial to the overall health and effective functioning of the

Body of the Messiah. Without the presence of an identifiable Messianic Israel in the

church, the church is incomplete and even twisted in its self-understanding and witness. It

is also stymied in its appropriation of the full revelation of God in the Holy Scriptures,

comprehensively understood.

The only remedy to such a situation is obvious, namely the re-incorporation of a

once estranged identifiable Messianic Israel into the full life of the church. More will be

said in the next chapter concerning historic ecclesiastical prohibitions and canonical

censures of the practice of the faith of Israel on the part of believing Jews (including the

Inquisition), but there is no question but that a hearty and substantial repentance must be

demonstrated by the Gentile church for its disobedience to explicit commands in the

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Greek scriptures (Romans 11:11-25). We, however belatedly, must aggressively pursue

Gentile-Jewish reconciliation in the church. Opportunities to promote reconciliation and

interaction between Gentiles and Jews in the Body of the Messiah would also serve the

promotion of greater general health in the church, and better enable its universal mission

and ministry.

For the biblical reasons stated in this chapter, this thesis project rests upon a “firm

foundation” indeed from the Word of God. The theological ideas only touched on in this

chapter must now be developed more fully in the next.

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CHAPTER THREE

A THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION -
SUPERSESSIONISM AND ITS IMPACT:
REMEDIES AND RESULTS

Lord, you now have set your servant free *


To go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, *
Whom you have prepared for all the world to see;
A Light to enlighten the nations, *
And the glory of your people Israel.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

(Common Book of Prayer 120)

It is with these lines from our evening office, “The Song of Simeon,” derived

from Luke 2:29-32, that we transition from biblical analysis to a theology of “counter-

supersessionism,” including the fruits of repentance that follow upon reconciliation

between the Jewish and Gentile wings of the Christian faith. To apply this concept, I also

wish to advance an effective theology of pastoral action that I believe will better enable

the church to operate fully as God intended, particularly with respect to the all-important

communication and application of the written Word found in the corpus of the Hebrew

scriptures.

Guiding Assumptions

In chapter one, the thesis asserted that Gentile Christians (specifically for the

purpose of this project, a representation of adult communicants from the Episcopal

diocese of Fort Worth) find themselves quite challenged today to fully understand and

appropriate the riches of the scriptures found in the Hebrew Bible. Actually, one might

also add that because of this deficiency, portions of the Greek scriptural tradition are

34
often misunderstood and misapplied. I specifically assert that this problem is especially

apparent in this post-modern era in which many vestiges of scriptural comprehension

once enjoyed by our ancestors have largely disappeared. I say “vestiges” because I also

argue that key deficiencies in scriptural understanding have been experienced by the

church since its earliest history as a result of its supersessionism with regard to things

Jewish (I will formally define this term shortly). Paradoxically, I also assert that the post-

modern context with its receptivity to post-Enlightenment epistemological modalities

provides significant opportunities for the correction of this problem through a dynamic of

the Holy Spirit which manifests itself in a truly holistic and catholic Christian

community, one that fully accounts for all its members, Jew and Gentile alike.18 I propose

that unique and real, if somewhat difficult to define, aspects of Messianic Jewish -

Gentile Christian interaction, interaction where there is an exchange of spirituality, will

establish ecclesial conditions for the possibility of the fullness of the Spirit to be present

so as to bring the Body of Christ “into all Truth.”

The Problem of Supersessionism and its Consequences

The Nunc Dimittis that introduces this chapter provides a succinct scriptural

summary of God’s overall intention for the economy of salvation through the incarnate

Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. “Light” and “Glory” are key words in this canticle,

light pertaining to what the ministry of the Hebrew Messiah would bring to the nations of

the world, and glory pertaining to what that same ministry would bring to the redeemed

physical descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This beautiful piece of scripture

holds forth a vision of Israel and the nations in vital relationship to each other as distinct

entities of the in-breaking Kingdom of God. Dan and Patricia Juster build upon this

35
vision in their book, One People, Many Tribes. They propose that the model of the

church in its various aspects, phases and modalities is a Messianic commonwealth. Like

any commonwealth, there is a root nation or ethnos, and a constellation of diverse

derivatives of this mother body. The various colonies and tribal off-shoots of the root

nation enjoy a rich variety of lifestyles and practices, but all of them sustain an ongoing

relationship with the root nation, and subscribe to certain basic or core principles that

enable them to cohere and interrelate peaceably, but without dilution of the separate

identities associated with each sub-group.

The central unifying principle is the light of Christ of the Kingdom of God (John

1:4-5). The wellspring of all redeemed life is to be found in Jesus Christ, and Him alone,

who possesses “the fullness of Him who fills all things.” This enabling eternal light,

although complete in itself, does not exist merely for its own sake, but by the Father’s

design exists to order and energize the universe (Colossians 1:16-17). The glory of the

Lord that Israel is meant to enjoy by intimate association with Him thereby also

establishes her forever as a distinct expression of the divine will. A hostile challenge to

this vision is the reality of supersessionism, here defined as the theological notion that the

church utterly replaced Israel in the mind of God, at least in terms of the promised

blessings of the covenant (covenantal curses for disobedience remain, however, in this

scheme, in fact are fundamental to it). According to Franklin Littell, the “myth of

supersession” has two foci: “(1) God is finished with the Jews; (2) the ‘new Israel’ (the

Christian church) takes the place of the Jewish people as carrier of history” (qtd. in

Bloesch 131).19 In this same article, Bloesch notes that Lutheran scholar Johannes

Aagaard asserts, “the church is . . . the sole eschatological reality” (Bloesch 131).

36
Another term more or less synonymous for supersessionism is so-called “replacement

theology.” Interestingly, Walter A. Elwell’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology contains

no entry for either “supersessionism” or “replacement theology,” but it does contain an

entry entitled “Restoration of Israel” with a cross-reference to an article entitled, “Israel

and Prophecy” (938; 572-74). This article, by P.C. Craigie, further referencing works by

C.E. Amerding and W.W. Gasque, as well as G.E. Ladd and G.P. Richardson,

acknowledges the difficulty in interpretation of texts that may or may not suggest that the

church has comprehensively become the “New Israel,” logically replacing national or

even a dispersed ethnic Israel in God’s prophetic plan. Observes Craigie, concerning the

diverse prophetic witness, “ . . . it is not that the respective messages contradict each

other, but rather that the truth toward which they point eludes the descriptive capacity of

human language” (qtd. in Elwell 573). 20 He concludes, however, “[i]n summary, the

biblical perspective emerging from the writings of the prophets is that human history has

a direction and movement within the providence of God in which Israel has a continuing

place” (Elwell 574). Thus, the overall thrust here repudiates the idea that God is finished

with national or ethnic Israel with regard to a renewed relationship of blessing. 21 I

subscribe to this theological trajectory in light of the biblical and theological arguments I

present in this chapter, as well as chapters two and five.

Rather more unequivocal is the remarkable references to ethnic Israel in the new

Catechism of the Catholic Church. The subject index of this comprehensive tome under

“Israel; Israelites” contains the following three sub-heading references: “call of Israel

irrevocable, 839;” “Church formed in advance in Israel, 759-62;” and “Israel’s hope,

674.” The second reference presents an understanding of national Israel vis-à-vis the

37
church that can only be described as “covenant theology” in its tone, and the third is as

explicit as possible that ethnic Israel will be a true and vital component of the Kingdom

of Christ in its fullness (suggesting something of a dispensational character). This is truly

a balanced and comprehensive vision, very much consistent with that of Dan Juster’s

approach to the biblical and theological issues involved.

What I find most troubling about supersessionism, in light of these critiques of its

rationale, is that it purports to seemingly glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by denying that his

light and ministry have relevance or vital application with respect to the covenant made

with the descendents of the patriarchs. We say we are “Christ-centered” when we

denigrate the patriarchal covenants, and relegate the Hebrew scriptures and their concerns

to an inferior position in our scriptural thinking. This does not really enhance the dignity

and Lordship of Jesus Christ, but actually diminishes the full impact of his light and

glory. It also tended, historically, to deflect the duty for ongoing self-examination and

repentance by, in the words of James and Christine Ward, taking “every prophetic word

of judgment as a word about other people,” in this case ethnic Israel (123). Although I do

not agree with these authors concerning the spiritual standing of those of ethnic Israel

who do not maintain a faith relationship with the Messiah Jesus (they appear to subscribe

to a “parallel track” theory of salvation, a troubling idea consisting of unscriptural and

trendy notions of salvation that effectively “exempt” Jewish people from entering into

God’s purposes through the Lord Jesus Christ), they are correct in pointing out some of

the deleterious effects of supersessionism on the Body of Christ itself (more on this

momentarily).

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In response to these unscriptural exemptions from living, Messianic faith, and the

regrettable actions of certain Christian denominations to dilute the universal call to that

faith, some theologians expressed dissent to such developments. In “Supersessionism,

Engraftment, and Jewish-Christian Dialogue: Reflections on the Presbyterian Statement

on Jewish-Christian Relations,” Robert R. Hann argued against an unbiblical

undermining of the call to all people to embrace the gospel on the occasion of the issuing

of the 1987 Statement by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

pertinent to the matter of Jewish-Christian relations. By way of summary, Hann dissents

from the implicit universalism of the PCUSA statement, and analyzes supersessionism in

an approving manner as an early and pervasive reaction of the historic church against

Jewish claims that contradicted the gospel message. After building a context that argues

from a base of post-biblical patristic polemic, Hann then launches into a brief

consideration of Romans 11 that eviscerates most of the text of what Dan Juster

maintains is a “growing exegetical consensus” concerning God’s astonishing plans for

ethnic Israel (Juster, “Israel and the Church” 11). Although Hann’s defense of the

integrity of the gospel is a most commendable thing, he overstates his case, failing

thereby to accurately grasp the very complex issues involved.

In contrast, Bloesch’s paper, mentioned earlier, comes closer to the mark in my

view. A most important insight is contained in this statement:

What is important to understand is that both Israel’s rejection and the

Gentiles’ election are acts of God that belong to the mystery of divine

providence. To be sure, Israel’s disobedience provoked God’s

displeasure . . . In Romans 11 we are introduced to the still deeper mystery

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that God’s rejection of Israel is not final . . . but only provisional . . . In

the No of God’s rejection is hidden the Yes of his election. (133-34)

He goes on to briefly note, “[i]t was the Puritans and Pietists who reclaimed the Pauline

hope for Israel as a nation and through Israel hope for the world” (134). More on this

topic will be presented in the next section. Bloesch also spends a good deal of space on

the reflection and writings of Karl and Markus Barth concerning Romans 11, where they

point out, “God’s mercy must and shall be revealed to all Israel” (qtd. in Bloesch 134).22

Toward the end of his paper, Bloesch cites again from A Shorter Commentary, “ . . . the

whole Church of Jesus Christ needs the Jews. She needs their failure . . . their rejection . .

. but she needs even more their full entrance into the faith in the Messiah, their addition

to the Gentiles and Jews who already do believe in him” (qtd. in 141). Markus, for his

part, is cited both in Bloesch (141-42) and Ellison (101-102) as recognizing no terminus

for God’s providential and covenantal concern for ethnic Israel.

Opposed to these healthy inclusions, supersessionism is a form of schism,

probably the earliest and most destructive schism in the church’s history. The apostle

Paul, as noted in the last chapter, issued severe warnings to the Gentile contingent at the

church in Rome to the effect that they must never elevate their sense of themselves, their

“status” in God’s mind and intention, above even unbelieving Israel (how much more

applicable to believing Israel!).23 The rank and well documented disobedience of the

church generally in the second century and onward in failing to honor this charge

produced conditions in which the fullness of God’s revelation was increasingly

unavailable to the church, a fullness that abides in Christ as expressed through the

universal church’s gracious unity-in-diversity. This doubtless sounds like a radical

40
statement, and I would have also eschewed such a view until recently. Consideration,

however, of an excerpt from Ephraim Radner’s The End of the Church: A Pneumatology

of Christian Division in the West in connection with a doctoral seminar at Trinity

Episcopal School for Ministry in 1998 reveals, in tandem with an important initiative

called Toward Jerusalem Council Two, that, regretfully, such is in fact the case. (Toward

Jerusalem Council Two, or TJC2, will be discussed in detail in chapter five).

Radner’s compelling thesis argues that, in view of second millennial Western

schismatic activity (he does not examine the schisms of the first millennium, including

the Messianic Jewish-Gentile split), the church lost the ability to appropriate scripture, to

consistently receive the realm of the miraculous, to truly taste the Bread of Life, and to

order its ministries in a coherent fashion. He further argues that the schisms of the West

have resulted in a virtual abandonment of the church, in a “macro” sense (phrasing mine)

at least, by the Holy Spirit. If the church is thus deprived we cannot even repent from our

state, denied the grace to do so which only arises from that same Spirit. (The Spirit, of

course, is nonetheless quite active in individuals and even godly groups of Spirit-renewal

minded people, but as a comprehensive entity, the church-as-a-whole is Spirit-deprived

and often therefore depraved).

I take Radner’s argument one step further by application to what might be termed

the Ur-schism, truly and literally the “mother” of all schisms, the great divorce of the

Gentile church from its Jewish roots. Gentiles predominated in the church during the

second century and beyond. In the absence of apostolic correction through the ministry

of The Twelve, who formed the Jewish nucleus of the proto-Church of the Messiah,

“what to do” about the “Old Testament” and the lifestyle of faithful Jewish believers

41
became a significant issue. His Holiness John Paul II commented on this topic in an

address to the Pontifical Biblical Commission, April 11, 1997. He said:

Since the second century A.D., the church has been faced with the

temptation to separate the New Testament from the Old, and to oppose

one to the other . . . It is impossible fully to express the mystery of Christ

without reference to the Old Testament. . . . By taking part in the

synagogue celebrations where the Old Testament texts were read and

commented on . . . He became an authentic son of Israel, deeply rooted in

his own people’s long history. (qtd. in Carroll vii, emphasis mine)

The developing theology of the Christian church started with honest questions about how

to understand and apply a two-fold scriptural canon consisting of a historic Hebrew

component and a more recent apostolic, Greek-language witness. Then Justin Martyr’s

and Irenaeus’ “standard model” of scriptural interpretation rendered God’s covenant with

Israel and her life in the world as largely “irrelevant for shaping conclusions about how

God’s consummating and redemptive purposes engage creation in universal and enduring

ways” (Soulen 48). 24 Local church councils followed suit in succeeding centuries,

imposing restrictions on Jewish expression in an uncoordinated fashion. Along the way

there would be many other insults and denigrations of the Hebraic heritage, Marcion’s

outright rejection of the God of Israel and the “Old” Testament being merely a

particularly low point in this downward spiral (The Church’s condemnation of Marcion

was laudable, but that he could gain any following is symptomatic of the growing

problem of supersessionism). Finally, the second council of Nicea explicitly and

universally proscribed any aspect of Jewish observance, Messianic or otherwise, in a

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triumphalist Christendom on pain of excommunication and civil censure, nothing less

than full-blown anti-Semitism and blatant supersessionism-come-of-age.

Interestingly, there are some intriguing hints of appreciation for the Hebraic

heritage and Israel’s national identity buried in patristic literature. Hilary of Poitiers

makes reference to the contribution of “natural” (an intriguing adjective for a people

whose ancestors often produced offspring through rather challenged obstetrical

modalities) Israel, ultimately redeemed, to the “adornment and extension of the blessed

city.” He declares, “Israel, now in captivity, will continue the construction of the house

when the fullness of the nations has come” (qtd. in Wright 433). 25 Thus does one

churchman of the era display at least a rudimentary appreciation for some ongoing

significance of the covenants God forged with Israel, although his words might be

construed as deferring that significance until a future epoch. Even here, however, he

speaks of redeemed Israel as laboring in conjunction with the redeemed from all the

nations at the time of the Lord’s parousia, thereby acknowledging a measure of

interrelationship and reciprocity between distinct entities.

Such happy hints of recognition of God’s total purpose are, however, undermined

by the growing sense of hostility toward Israel and her covenants evident in church

history, culminating – arguably – in the destruction of entire faith communities in the

twentieth century at the hands of an at least complacent and compliant European

Christianity. And as Soulen argues, the European theological minds of the nineteenth

century were quite content to propose what he terms a “Disembodied God” (78). He

specifically analyzes the work of Kant and Schleiermacher to demonstrate that the notion

of “Christian Divinity without Jewish Flesh” (57) was taking over “educated” thinking on

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the topic of the Jews and the place of the Old Testament in Christian theology in that era.

The influence of that sort of reflection on the ability of the church to properly appropriate

scripture was devastating. In addition, the theological violence inherent in that project

both summarized and recapitulated the centuries of negativity and distortion that

preceded it with regards to things Jewish, and established something of an at least

indirect rationale for Hitler’s “final solution.” When all is said and done, the sound of

Christendom’s final fall and crash to the ground, and the rise of Post-Modernism may

well be traced to the church’s long-term refusal to heed the clear prescription for its own

survival found in Romans chapters 9 - 11.

An Historical Excursus

For those of us who hold frankly and unapologetically to an evangelical and

theologically conservative, biblical faith, there is a redemptive and exciting story to relate

and consider here that serves as a something of a counterbalance to the largely dismal

historic character of Christian thought and practice with regard to things Jewish. It is a

story that contains a number of important and happy intersections with developments in

Christian England from the days of the Reformation (that same story, however, also

contains one intersection with the Anglo-Catholic movement at its very inception, which

I regret to admit as one who largely embraces its tenets, that I must regard as less than

felicitous; see endnote #7). I will trace these developments in some detail, but the

following may serve as a summary of the impact of them on the highest levels of British

civil and ecclesiastical governance a century ago:

The great event of Israel’s return to God in Christ, and His to Israel,” said

Bishop Handley C.G. Moule, honorary chaplain to the Queen of England

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from 1898 to 1901, “will be the signal and the means of a vast rise of

spiritual life in the universal church, and of an unexampled ingathering of

regenerate souls from the world. (qtd. in M. Brown 25) 26

From where did such a remarkable statement derive, in view of the

overwhelmingly negative character of Christian reflection on natural Israel throughout

history? What formed and informed the theological project that could produce such

insight in the England of that time (and is there any chance it could occur again)? 27 It is

to these questions that we now turn our attention.

The theological position and sentiment that fueled Bishop Moule’s comment

concerning Israel cited above derives from what Dan Juster calls “Evangelical Pietism.”

Rooted in seventeenth century English Puritanism (“Dissenters” in their time from the

perspective of the Church of England), and influential via Lutheran German Pietists,

Scandinavian Free Churches and the Moravians on some establishment Anglicans in the

eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Evangelical Pietism (as understood by Juster)

eschews the utilization of state power to “establish” a particular state church, but rather

promotes a lively, biblical and personal faith that nonetheless, for all its distrust of

“official” religion, seeks a strong influence for the Christian faith on society at large.

Quite to the point of this discussion, Juster declares, “[i]t is my contention that where

Evangelical Pietism is strong the Jewish people find friends and allies for their rights in

society” (“Jewish People” 4). 28

Now we must reflect on the contribution of English Puritans to a recovering sense

of the place of natural Israel in the plan and purposes of God in and for the church, no

less than the world. The seminal work on this topic is Ian Murray’s The Puritan Hope.

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Murray’s scholarship is truly astonishing in its scope and impact. He devotes the better

part of two chapters of this book, and not a little of the rest, to the place of natural Israel

in the theology and most importantly prayer life of Puritan leaders and congregations

both in England and America. Tracing the impact of the public recovery of the scriptures

during the English Reformation on the church, Murray examines the issue of certain

aspects of unfulfilled biblical prophecy as the wellspring of Puritan life and spirituality.

Certainly all the reformers focused on the Second Coming of the Lord as a prime

influence in the life of a church emerging from the Middle Ages, but as Murray

demonstrates, “the Reformation period . . . did not establish for Protestantism a

commonly accepted view of the unfulfilled prophecies which are to precede that coming”

(Murray 40). According to Murray, it was the matter of “future of the Jews” that would

provoke controversy and diversity in developing biblical studies. In England, Peter

Martyr’s Commentary upon Romans, published in London in 1568, “prepared the way

for a general adoption amongst the English Puritans of a belief in the future conversion of

the Jews” (qtd. Murray 42). Murray’s scholarship mentions and in some cases details the

contribution of dozens of Puritan theologians to a developing sense of the importance of

natural Israel to God’s purposes in the church and the world. A partial listing includes:

Hugh Broughton, William Perkins, Richard Sibbes, Thomas Goodwin, William Strong,

William Bridge, George Gillespie, Robert Baillie, John Owen, Thomas Manton, John

Flavel, David Dickson, George Hutcheson, Jeremiah Burroughs, William Greenhill,

Elnathan Parr, James Durham, William Gouge, Sir Henry Finch, Moses Wall, and in the

New World, Increase Mather.

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Representative among these are these beautiful words from the pen of Elnathan

Parr, who in his Plain Exposition (publ. 1620) said:

The casting off of the Jews, was our Calling; but the Calling of

the Jews shall not be our casting off, but our greater enriching in grace,

and that two ways: First, in regard of the company of believers, when the

thousands of Israel shall come in, which shall doubtless cause many

Gentiles which now lie in ignorance, error and doubt, to receive the

Gospel and join with them. The world shall then be a golden world, rich

in golden men, saith Ambrose. Secondly, in respect of the graces,

which shall then in more abundance be rained down upon the Church.

(qtd. in Murray 46-47) 29

In this remarkable quote is the first clear articulation of the view, preceded in this regard

only by Thomas Brightman (a sometimes controversial figure according to Murray), that

the influx of the Jews to the historic Messianic faith will actually increase the

effectiveness of the church in her earthly mission. This is a robust view of history that

breaks out of mere “spiritualizing” of the church’s mission, and plants it more firmly on

the soil of actual history, something that John Henry Alsted later also embraced (Murray

47). This recovery of a concrete versus abstract and “otherworldy” focus is a prime theme

and benefit of a properly biblical faith that does justice to the Hebrew Scriptures,

according to Soulen and many other commentators and theologians (x-xi 17-21).

The continuing relevance of Israel within the world and within the church itself

was a real concern for the Puritans based upon their exposition of Romans 11, according

to Murray. Although not without nuance and some diversity of understanding among

47
themselves regarding the details of Paul’s apostolic witness concerning natural Israel, the

Puritans understood some kind of ongoing differentiation between Jews and Gentiles in

God’s plans and the Kingdom of Christ, Galatians 3:28 evidentially notwithstanding, as I

have argued earlier. Murray considers and summarizes the position of the Puritan writers

on the question as to whether the notion of “the chosen remnant” exhausts God’s plans

and purposes for Israel in the negative by stating, “God has further planned the salvation

of Israel on a scale which will enrich the Gentiles to a degree hitherto unprecedented . . .”

(65). Focusing specifically on Romans 11:12;15, he argues that the sense of these verses

“according to the common Puritan interpretation, points to a vast addition to the Church

by Israel’s conversion with resulting wider blessing for the world. There is a great revival

predicted here!” (66). Murray would later refer to the “interaction between Jews and

Gentiles in the advancement of the kingdom of God” as an occasion for God’s fullest

purposes to be realized in the church and the world (70).

Murray recognizes three “modern” beliefs that militate against the convictions

just cited. The first is premillenialism of a certain sort, which argues that Christ’s advent

must precede the general conversion of Israel. He characterizes premillenialism as largely

un-Puritan in character, but given the former’s popularity today, it tends to trump the

prophetic convictions of the latter. The second influence is described as a:

. . . school of prophetic thought [that] has maintained that any general or

national conversion of Israel in the future would be inconsistent with the

overriding message of the New Testament . . . that Israel . . . could have

distinct spiritual significance only in the period prior (emphasis original)

to the breaking down of the middle wall of partition between Jew and

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Gentile . . . there is no longer Jew or Gentile – the perspective is no longer

national, but spiritual and universal. (Murray 77)

John Murray carefully validates the essential equality of Jew and Gentile in the Gospel,

while he also carefully presents the Puritan conviction of a “particular design in the

realization of God’s worldwide saving purpose” (qtd. in Murray 78).30 That “particular

design” goes beyond the notion of a mere remnant, according to Ian Murray.

A third militating belief against the Puritan vision of Israelite redemption is that

scripture “witnesses to a steadily worsening world and thus demands from us a very

different expectation with regard to the whole period which lies between us and the

coming of Christ” (Murray 79). Murray deftly analyzes texts often interpreted in this

fashion; however, these analyses do not overthrow the basic Puritan understanding.

Of course in none of these discussions are we presented with the question as to

how the redeemed among Israel should conduct their lives and their worship in

conjunction with their Gentile companions. One almost senses, through Murray’s

analysis, that Messianic Jews, in the Puritan imagination, would simply settle down like

any good group of Churchmen and be proper Christians like everyone else, but it is just

as likely that the Puritans would allow redeemed Israel such distinctive signs and

folkways as would be proper to them, so long as there would be no essential contradiction

to clear New Testament teaching (we have already noted in chapter two that Paul

observed and validated such folkways for himself, and Jewish believers in general, only

that they not impose them on Gentiles). What is clear, for our purposes, is that the

spiritual descendents of the Puritans, as regards the question of Israel, were anxious to

authorize some measure of ostensible Jewish observance in worship praxis and lifestyle,

49
as witnessed by Anglican sponsored Hebrew-Christian Kehillot (fellowships) in both

Jerusalem (Christ Church Center, Old City, 1849) and London (The Palestine Place,

1814), among other such places (See App. VI). 31

The Way Out

As one wise saying goes, “when you realize you’re lost, go back to where you

were and start over.” The Christian word is “repentance.” If the Gentile church began the

process of schism and dysfunction through corporate failure to honor God’s ongoing

purposes in and through its internal Hebraic witness, the way out of the Gordian Knot is

to acknowledge the work of the Sword of the Spirit which even now issues from the

mouth of the returning Lord of Life (Revelations 19:15), and to reengage its roots in that

witness. As indicated earlier, only the Spirit can enable the errant church to come to

repentance. Radner proposes that the death of Jesus must find its outworking in the death

of the church itself before the church can receive resurrection grace to become again what

was intended for it from the beginning. 32 What the Lord expressed to the disciples on the

night before he suffered and died is truly his last Will and Testament. It is the in-breaking

of this New Covenant in his Blood alone that enables a chastened and humbled church,

divested of triumphalist and supersessionist posturing, to return to a place of true

blessedness and blessing. The church can proceed to validly claim the fullness of the

promise of the Spirit in its midst, including the power to apprehend “all truth” and

scriptural understanding, only as the agape which the Lord enjoined on the disciples is

again evident among all the components of the church.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit enables and through meek repentance, this project’s

theological basis is the recovery of loving Christian community of a particular sort. By

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free and willing interaction in worship and Fellowship between Gentile and Jewish

believers in the Lord of Life, we sought conditions (in diversity and expression) which

would appeal to the Spirit to draw down the Fire of God and to enable and expedite

scriptural understanding. In effect a “window” was under construction in this project

through which one might observe, in small measure, the result of promoting the

emergence of a more truly and comprehensively catholic community among the saints.

The impact of that state of affairs on the appropriation and application of the Hebrew

Scriptures will be analyzed more exhaustively in chapter five, but it may be stated here

that beyond the mere humanly explainable and observable factors involved with Gentile-

Jewish interaction, there is, theologically speaking, something deeper than overt

mechanisms of influence in operation in this business. True apprehension of the word of

God is always a supernatural matter (1 Corinthians 2:10-16), quite beyond simple (or

even complex) human explanations. Theologically, and not merely psychologically or

sociologically, the spiritual dynamics arising from the sort of interactions intended in this

thesis project were sought in order to allow something new and of the Spirit’s origin and

enabling to occur in the minds and hearts of the study group. We will assess the degree to

which these dynamics resulted in new insights into scripture and life application in the

concluding chapter, but the theological as well as biblical ground upon which the study is

built would seem to suggest that God may be doing a new work among us today, a raising

up of formerly “deserted ruins” into the blessing of rebuilt “walls and cities” of the Spirit

(Isaiah 58:12). One of the most precious gifts of God is the ability to receive and profit

from His revealed Word, both written and incarnate. Whatever we might do from a

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theological and biblical perspective to enable the church to better receive that gift is a

blessed work indeed!

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CHAPTER FOUR
ONE COHORT’S EXPERIENCE WITH JEWISH BRETHERN

Overview

The basic design of this project was to invite a focus group necessarily consisting

of volunteers to engage in a three and a half month “event” in which they agreed to three

specific tasks involved with the study:

1) To respond to two paper assessment instruments at the beginning and the

conclusion of the study, which would evaluate their level of understanding of elements of

the Old Testament text as well as pertinent elements relating to the concept of ministry in

a “post-modern” age to which the Hebrew scriptures speak;

2) To attend, as they were able, all or at least half of four cross-congregational

interactions: three worship and fellowship experiences with Messianic Jewish

congregation Baruch ha Shem in Dallas, plus a fourth, private meeting with one of their

congregational leaders toward the end of the study period;

3) To meet as a cohort with me monthly over a three month period in an

interweaving fashion with the congregational events, for the purpose of elucidation of

Messianic Jewish praxis and reflection on such changes in their biblical understanding

from their exposure to the ministry of Baruch ha Shem.

Twelve adults from the Eastern Deanery of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth

participated in the study under the conditions set forth above. It was my sincere hope that

the cohort would have included several participants from the teen or young adult age

group so as to assess more directly the impact of the study on those acknowledged to be

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most affected by the culture of post-modernism. While the study did not include anyone

under the age of thirty, there was some fruitful reflection on the second-hand reaction of

teen children and grandchildren of some of the participants, thus providing at least some

insight into the potential transgenerational impact of the study.

In the course of the cohort-only meetings and the final meeting with a Baruch ha

Shem congregational leader, the approximate two-hour sessions were audio-taped and

later transcribed in order to capture the flow of discussion and key responses to leading

questions that were designed to provoke self-awareness in connection with the study

elements. The initial and final instruments together with the responses from the three

intermediate meetings constitute the coded study data. Out of the twelve participants,

three for various reasons did or could not sustain the level of participation necessary to

track development in understanding, leaving a total of nine persons fully “vested” in the

study. There were eight elements under study (to be discussed in detail below), and so

five coded data sheets were generated, each in the form of an 8 x 9 matrix for

consideration and analysis. Presented in the appendix is a hybrid qualitative-quantitative

approach taken with respect to the data in which qualitative consideration of participant

responses were rendered into a scoring scheme which then enabled a focussed quasi-

quantitative analysis of seventy-two data points over a three month time period. Some

attempt to quantify the data was necessary in order to more accurately assess the

considerable data structure generated in the course of the study; which consisted of 181

distinct observations and comments offered either on the paper instruments, or in the

course of the participant cohort debrief and reflection meetings (not everyone had

something to say concerning the eight study elements at every meeting).

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It should be noted that I do recognize, as expressed by William Myers in Research

in Ministry, that this researcher, subjectively speaking, was also generating an implicit

data structure in the course of the study, not clearly coded or available in quantitative

fashion, but nonetheless embedded in the overt data. I accounted for my theoretical

approach in the previous chapters, and these things should be kept in mind while

considering the data. As Myers explains, such a process is very interactive, and I found

myself refining my approach as the study progressed (73-75). However, I did not

substantially alter my hypothesis as I proceeded, because, I sensed a deepening and

developing of Old Testament understanding occurring in the cohort that was both

exciting and confirming of my initial hypothesis. I constantly asked myself whether or

not I was “leading the witness,” and explicitly requested, on a number of occasions,

heartfelt and personal responses from the participants and not what they thought I wanted

them to say. These were mature adults, and I believe they spoke as they honestly

perceived things within themselves. Several reflections offered in second-hand fashion by

parents and grandparents of teens provided a buffer to direct influence by this researcher

as concerns these children, and it was interesting to note how robust teen responses were!

In any case, it is important to acknowledge these things before proceeding now to a more

detailed consideration of the methodology.

The Study Procedure

In designing an overall assessment scheme to evaluate the level of appropriation

and appreciation of the Hebrew scriptures on the part of the project participants, with

particular application in the post-modern context in which the church must now minister,

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two sets of questions were developed. The first set consisted of one question each relating

to the following five themes:

1) relevance, or authenticity of faith;

2) the concept of community;

3) the identity of God;

4) the place of emotional experience in religious faith; and,

5) the interaction of spiritual and cultural considerations.

The second set consisted of one question each relating to the following three themes:

1) the place of OT law or Torah for modern Christians;

2) the place of OT narrative material for Christians; and,

3) the place of the prophets and their message for Christians.

The specific questions relating to the above eight themes under investigation

appear in the appendix in the letter prepared for each participant at the beginning of the

study. In asking fairly open-ended questions, I provided free rein to the participants to

interpret the questions any way they wished; I did not want to overly directly their

responses at the inception insofar as I believed their unprompted reflections would better

enable me to assess their true comprehension of scriptural material and the themes

associated with post-modern ministry. I attempted to both glean their true level of

understanding and derive good follow-up thought-provoking questions by this approach,

highlighting the real interactivity of the project.

The project calendar was as follows (all for the year 2002):

September 10th - initial orientation meeting and distribution of first assessment

instrument to study cohort;

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September 15th – first on-site service attended at congregation Baruch ha Shem,

on the eve of Yom Kippur (the Kol Nidre service);

October 8th – second cohort meeting for debriefing and focus on study questions,

which were now a second pass through the study themes;

October 19th – second on-site service attended at Baruch ha Shem (Shabbat);

November 2nd – third on-site event at Baruch ha Shem (Saturday evening

Havdalah/Shabbat-closing and congregational fellowship gathering);

November 12th – third cohort meeting for debriefing and focus/reflection;

December 14th – fourth meeting with Baruch ha Shem, consisting of an open time

with a congregational leader, an associate rabbi/pastor, at researcher’s residence.

December 23rd – distribution of final paper assessment instrument, to be returned

by early January 2003.

As noted before, the response of each individual at each point of assessment became an

item of data for the study. While a more comprehensive analysis of this data appears

below and in the final chapter, it is interesting to note that, while there was an overall

progression in understanding on the part of the participants, there were a few occasions

where a participant “regressed” in his or her level of comprehension and application of

the study material. At first this disturbed me; things were not proceeding as I thought they

“should.” Then I arrived at an insight concerning what was actually happening, and it was

confirmed by the explicit statements they were making. Participants really were being

challenged to expand their appreciation and comprehension base, and they, like most

human beings, displayed classic “two steps forward, one step backward” behavior in

some cases. This only confirmed that something significant was going on in the cohort.

57
Data Analysis and Assessment

In order to perform an adequate consideration of the data, each participant’s

comment or reflection was evaluated and assigned a “score,” which was an indication of

the extent to which that particular comment, in the judgment of the researcher, exhibited

a clear understanding of the study element with which it was associated. The scoring

range was from zero to ten, zero indicating no biblically or theologically responsible

insight into a particular theme, ten indicating excellent insight. As stated, this was a

subjective evaluation on my part, and an attempt to render a qualitative assessment into

something of a quantitative data structure. In order to give some indication as to how the

scoring proceeded, I will cite a few examples from the 181 data elements:

Example #1 – a zero score assigned: in response to the initial assessment

instrument question #8, “What place do the Old Testament prophets and their

message have for you as you live your Christian life?,” one participant (who later

dropped out of the study) wrote, “O.T. prophets and their messages have no

relevance to me and I tossed them out years ago.”

Example #2 – a five score assigned: in response to the same initial assessment

instrument question above, another participant wrote, “the Old Testament

prophets teach us much about our being obedient and the different personalities of

these people.” This response seemed to indicate a good but average understanding

of the value of prophetic literature; it had something of the feel of a “stock

answer.”

Example #3 – an eight score assigned: the same person in example #2, above,

responding to the same question on the final assessment instrument wrote, “Even

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tho (sic) the prophets spent a lot of time prophesizing to the Jewish people, we are

a lot like the Jews. We have many of the same problems when it comes to

walking daily not just with Christ but with God. We can learn much from the OT

lessons.” This later response exhibited depth and insight not apparent in the first

response, and reflected a more mature and more personal appropriation of the

prophetic literature. This was the overall trend of the “before” and “after”

responses noted in connection with the questions on scripture.

In some ways, however, it seemed that the dramatic increases of understanding occurred

in connection with the first five questions relating to themes and concerns of post-modern

ministry. We will consider four examples below:

Example #4 – a five score assigned: in response to question #1 on the initial

instrument, “What does the term ‘authenticity’ or relevance mean to you as you

think about the Christian faith?,” one participant wrote, “What I believe I feel is

appropriate and biblically correct with our faith and the world.” The answer was a

bit scrambled, syntax-wise, but I gleaned the gist to be consistent with a “stock”

and somewhat impersonal reply to the question.

Example #5 – an eight score assigned: the same person above wrote on the final

instrument, “Before attending Baruch ha Shem I believed the OT scriptures were

important but was not really sure what to do with the information. After attending

Baruch ha Shem, I came to realize that we had left God the Father out of our

worship. God wants us to worship HIM just as Christ worshipped HIM. As

modern day Christians we have forgotten to worship God the Father and

concentrate on worship of HIS Son [alone].” This individual has, ironically,

59
“stumbled” back, in a practical way, upon the historic Trinity through her

exposure to the Messianic Jewish worshipping community. Also, it was this

person’s teen daughter who provided some pointed commentary on the themes of

relevance, authenticity and community even though “once removed” from the

worship experience at Baruch ha Shem; she yet discerned important dimensions

of these concepts as relates to modern Christian living in conversation with her

mother.

Example #6 – a score of four assigned: in response to the question, “What does

the term ‘community’ mean for you as you think about the Christian faith?,” one

individual wrote, “all physical things that you can see or touch, known or

unknown, were created by God; this is our community, no matter how big or how

small, we look upon it.” Highly naturalistic in tone, this answer seemed unfocused

and inappropriate to the question.

Example #7 – a score of nine assigned: with reference to the same question as

above, at the conclusion of the study this same person wrote, “I don’t think of it as

a ‘religious’ community, but as a Christian community including both Gentiles

and Jews. It was their role to crucify Jesus, which in turn made it possible for us

to be saved.” There’s been real development in thought here, much more focussed

than before. Incidentally, this same individual noted during the first debrief

session in October that the folks at Baruch ha Shem were “focussed” in their

worship; they knew Who it was they were addressing themselves to in a very

personal and single-minded fashion.

60
What emerges from the data is evidence of only a moderate increase in scriptural

understanding, but a pronounced increase of a sense of relevance, community, the

identity of the personal, Hebrew God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and a deeper

appreciation for the proper and balanced role of impact or emotion in the worship and

service of God. This “connection to the wholistic self,” as I name it here, is something of

a precondition to effective worship and ministry in this scattered, post-modern context in

which we find ourselves today. In turn, it may well be that it is the recovery of the

holistic self in relation to the God of the Bible and his ancient covenant people in the

Christian community that is a prime, driving expedient which enables scriptural recovery.

Over all eight categories under investigation, the mean score from study inception

to study conclusion rose from 5.5 for all participants to 6.9. Again, this attempt at a quasi-

quantitative evaluation may seem contrived, but I believe it captured accurately the value

of even limited interaction between Gentiles and Jews in the believing Christian

community. Possibly the best overall qualitative-style/narrative commentary came from

one already very motivated participant in late December (this layman probably reads the

Daily Office more faithfully than most clergy!): “[p]articipation in this thesis project has

changed me; it’s not the same anymore when I read the Old Testament lessons in the

Daily Office.” Pastorally speaking, it is difficult to imagine a more satisfying assessment

of a spiritual initiative than this one, and it was paradigmatic of the generality of the

concluding comments from participants who chose to offer them (most did). It is clear to

me that something good and holy occurred among the study participants (and myself!) as

well as the members of congregation Baruch ha Shem in Dallas, TX, and that God’s

blessing was upon us as we ministered one to another.

61
CHAPTER FIVE

CONCLUSION

Some Opening Reflections In This Closing Chapter

“In seeking to Christianize Indians or Chinese, Christians never sought to make


an end to Indians or Chinese. Just this was – and is – involved in the attempt to make the
“old” Israel over into part of the “new.” And since the very existence of Jews – believing
Jews, unbelieving Jews, agnostic Jews, but in any case human beings who have not
ceased to be Jews – is a stumbling block to supersessionist Christian theology . . . [then
we have] the idea that, strictly speaking, Jews – and no one but Jews – should not exist at
all.
....
Then how can the Christian thinker trust the Holy Spirit to speak to his own
thought now, when on Jews and Judaism it failed to speak, or spoke at best ambiguously,
through the whole Christian tradition – and when, at the time of supreme testing, the
Christian catastrophe [of the Holocaust] was all but complete? The theological trust – one
can say nothing else – is ruptured. And the question is: Can there be a Tikkun
[restoration]?
....
A Christian thinker repenting of supersessionism can surely think theologically
about Jews only with Jews – and seek the Holy Spirit only between himself and his
Jewish partners in dialogue. How can he hope for its presence? ” (Fackenheim, 282-83).

Before launching into more technical considerations in this final chapter, the

excerpts above from To Mend the World frame for us, by way of reminder, something of

the larger issue we have addressed throughout this study. Beyond the biblical and

theological issues discussed in chapters two and three, beyond the methodological

concerns and data analysis in chapter four, there is my simple and stark question, “where

is the Holy Spirit to be found and wherein will restoration occur with regard to the

church’s repentance from supersessionism as we have defined it for this study (it should

be noted again that as an evangelical Christian I do not totally share Fackenheim’s

particular spin on this term)?” The restoration I refer to, and the presence of the Holy

62
Spirit referred to in the third excerpt from Fackenheim’s book, I argued in this study

begins with the basic project hypothesis concerning a renewal of scriptural

comprehension and application in the church, but by extension may be understood more

broadly to include larger considerations of evangelism and renewal that have the potential

to serve the Lord’s purpose to truly redeem the world.

In his novel The Chosen, Chaim Potok (only recently deceased at the time of this

writing) presents to us in the character of Danny Saunders something larger than a

fictional person. In my view, Danny Saunders stands for the Jewish people, worldwide,

over the past two thousand years. Subjected by his Hasidic rabbi father to an emotionally

brutal form of discipline – “the Silence” – for nearly all of his young life, at the novel’s

conclusion we observe Reb Saunders reflecting on his relationship with his son. Speaking

with Danny’s friend – and through him to Danny himself – the father says:

Reuven, the Master of the Universe blessed me with a brilliant son. And

he cursed me with all the problems of raising him. Ah, what it is to have a

brilliant son! Not a smart son, Reuven, but a brilliant son, a Daniel, a boy

with a mind like a jewel . . . [but] There was no soul in my four-year-old

Daniel, there was only his mind. He was a mind in a body without a soul. .

. . I cried inside my heart . . . A heart I need for a son . . . compassion I

want from my son, righteousness, mercy, strength to suffer and carry pain,

that I want from my son. (276-77)

And after recounting what pain he subjected himself to in the process of disciplining this

dearly beloved boy, who indeed learned the necessary if bitter lessons of life, the old man

63
concludes, “I have no fear now. All his life he will be a tzaddik [righteous one]. He will

be a tzaddik for the world. And the world needs a tzaddik.” (280).

The Jewish people, and no less the Jewish believer-in-Messiah-Jesus, are uniquely

gifted by God throughout their covenant history and, up until now, endured a divinely

ordered “Silence” of sorts designed to develop their collective soul. Their seeming

abandonment by God has was a providential form of national discipline, if Romans 9 - 11

means anything, but the day of their collective salvation is at hand. As a harbinger of that

day, I believe the presence of Messianic Jews in the largely Gentile church serves as an

occasion for the ministers of the unfolding New Covenant, Jews and Gentiles alike in the

Body of Christ today, to convey to one another through their mutual interaction the

promised blessings of the Kingdom that Jesus came to inaugurate, and to prepare well for

the return of the King of Kings.

In order to fully realize the blessings attendant upon Messianic Jews in the midst

of the church, it is incumbent for Gentile believers to permit them the distinctive praxis

of the faith that the Holy Spirit has ever urged upon them since the days of the apostles.

Volf and Bass in Practicing Theology ask us to focus on those practices of faith which

demand “attentiveness to specific people doing specific things together within a specific

frame of shared meaning” (3). Brueggemann extends the thought here:

. . . this recognition of Judaism might suggest that serious theological-

liturgic engagement with actual Jewish communities of practice is an

appropriate dimension of the practice of faithful interpretation . . . It

follows that an engagement . . . both evokes and requires a certain kind of

community . . . there must be a place and a group of people, over time and

64
through time and in time, who engage in such a practice. Therefore a

community intent on Old Testament theology must have a certain form of

life to it, a life that is prepared to acknowledge the rootedness, richness,

and density of the practice it undertakes. (Brueggemann, Theology 734,

743).

While I do not completely endorse Brueggemann’s application of the principle he

enunciates above to non-Messianic Jewish contexts, he does make a valid point even

there, and certainly I do argue (and possibly Brueggemann would not!) that it very much

applies to Messianic Jewish communities of faith vis-à-vis Gentile Christian churches.

The living engagement suggested here was the modus operandi of this thesis project, and

what results that could be noted as a consequence of this specific engagement are the

object of our attention now, as well as the important question as to whether other similar

engagements might produce similar outcomes.

Conclusions

It is time to draw some firm conclusions from this study. Now one consideration

immediately requires some discussion. In the design phase of this study, the issue of just

what the independent variables were that might drive the results prompted some

consideration to the possibility of having a control group that did not participate in

Baruch ha Shem congregational activities, but that was the beneficiary of some of the

discussion that occurred during the debrief sessions of the study cohort. It is a fact that a

good amount of explanatory and motivational interaction occurred between the researcher

and the cohort participants during the cohort-only meetings (see Appendix III); therefore

65
one cannot assert unequivocally that the tentative conclusions brought out in chapter four

apply strictly as a result of the cohort’s interaction with congregation Baruch ha Shem.

Insofar as there was no control group, therefore, I will not assert the firm

conclusion that it was only the interaction with a Messianic Jewish congregation that

prompted the documented increase in both Old Testament appreciation and application,

and the heightened ability to appropriate themes that might enable greater effectiveness in

ministry in a post-modern context. My own role as a researcher and yes, teaching-pastor,

was doubtless catalytic in prompting some of the increases in understanding and

application observed over time in the study cohort. Nevertheless, I do believe the data,

well considered, largely substantiates the original thesis proposed in connection with the

ministry problem identified in chapter one. The extent to which the project results are

repeatable will in part be influenced by the presence and nature of a project “shepherd,”

to be sure, but there is a dynamic here which transcends the ministry of the researcher.

It is at this point that an even quasi-quantitative approach must give way to a

more intuitive and anecdotal consideration of not just the 181 data points duly noted, but

also the non-verbal and implicit communication and interactions observed in the cohort,

not only in debrief sessions and in connection with assessment instruments, but during

our time with the people of Baruch ha Shem. The study participants were clearly

“graced,” for lack of a more elegant or theologically precise term, in their interaction with

the Messianic Jewish brethren. The mutual bestowed included not only the intellectual

and social realms but also the spiritual. Only deeply spiritual, and not merely pedagogical

influences such as may have come from me, can account for some of the improved study

element scores of many of the participants.

66
It must also be acknowledged that not every participant benefited in a significant

way from the study. As was already noted, one individual ceased her involvement with

the study; the rather negative manner in which she approached the OT scripture on the

occasion of the initial assessment was not in any way modified by anything that occurred

before she finally left the project. In other cases, an opposite situation was noted. One

person had already been deeply involved with disciplined Bible study that included

significant portions of the OT text, and the appreciation level initially, and throughout,

was keen – and even. The generality of the cohort did, however, articulate a changed

attitude toward and level of understanding of the Hebrew scriptures that strongly suggest

that in this thesis project, the hypothesis set forth is at least tentatively verified.

At the very least, this study should hopefully lead to more rigorously controlled

and more widely focussed studies that involve teens and young adults in the cohort. As

was mentioned earlier, many older Episcopal Christians (and Gentile Christians

generally) do have the benefit of some measure of disciplined, comprehensive Bible

study in their background. A generation ago, well over half of those reaching the age of

eighteen had even some biblical exposure; today that fraction is reduced to approximately

one quarter of the American generation who reach its twenties. This is the cutting edge of

evangelism and ministry in our world today, and there is more research, and most

importantly, much more ministry to be done among this age group along the lines

suggested in this thesis project.

At this point I have only one final observation to make, one that is perhaps

tangentially, but powerfully, related to the thesis topic. This study has involved real

interaction with two vital phases of the Body of Jesus Christ on the earth today. Insofar as

67
one of these groups is of explicit Jewish lineage, I believe it challenges the tendency to

“feel-good” ecumenism that has too long characterized relations between Gentile

Christians and Jews, all Jews, in the last thirty years. This style of ecumenism has now

resulted in the most unfortunate recent pronouncement by U.S. Catholic bishops to the

effect that Jewish people need not give serious consideration to the message of the

Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) in order to receive a sure and eternal salvation.

It must be clearly noted here that the Messianic Jewish community does not

subscribe to this idea. Beyond that, such a notion deprives the Body of Christ of the

fullness of its expression and dynamic, by effectively exempting one potentially vital

group, the Jewish people, from participation in it! This study, perhaps indirectly and

certainly without initially intending to do so, sharply challenges the assumptions that led

the bishops of the church of Rome in the U.S.A. to what I believe to be a deeply flawed

and erroneous conclusion, a conclusion that ultimately will bless nobody.

What hopefully will bring a blessing to everyone is the recognition that Jewish

people belong in the Body of Christ as an identifiable, covenant people. Their covenant in

Christ is a renewed one, and while the work of the Spirit effectively transposes the key,

as it were, in which they “play” their life in Torah, it by no means blots it out (we have

already noted that the rabbis taught that the coming of Messiah would bring new insights

into the Torah). This is a core concern of Towards Jerusalem Council 2 (TJC2); official

declarations and a vision statement from the initiative, which appear in the appendix, set

forth the rationale for the church catholic and universal to correctly align itself with

God’s purposes for Israel and the Messianic Jewish witness. As a representation of the

Body of Messiah from among the nations and across denominational lines committed to

68
the goals of TJC2 together learn to die to themselves with Christ, and with the Lord

experience resurrection graces, the church’s reintegration with and recrystallization

around the Messianic Jewish witness will ultimately heal its own dysfunction. “What will

their return be, but life from the dead” queries St. Paul in Romans 11. It is a glorious

scripture worth contemplating in all its implications.

I offer this study to the greater glory of God, and with deep appreciation for the

study participants whose names appear in the acknowledgements dedication, and

especially my first Messianic mentor, Dr. Daniel C. Juster. I will ever treasure their

enthusiasm and support. I also pray work will continue and deepen in this area of

investigation and ministry by others with more extensive resources and contacts, and

perhaps even greater energy. As the major initiative represented by Toward Jerusalem

Council 2 proceeds toward a rendezvous with destiny not many years hence, I only can

hope that the Vision of a fully united but truly pluriform church will emerge in which

Jews and Gentiles, men and women, parents and children, and all the orders of redeemed

creation participate in an economy of mutual blessing and ministry, in the love and fear

of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. To HIM be the Glory forever! Amen, and

amen.

69
Notes

70
1
The expression, “economy of mutual blessing,” is a central feature of the theological project of R.

Kendall Soulen in the work cited in the bibliography. Dan Juster has also utilized this notion in a book

currently under production. More space will be devoted to Soulen’s work in chapter three.
2
Bockmuel also says the following in a footnote to this statement: “this is true even where in due

course that derivation was no longer fully understood, or even denied. Jurgen Wehnert . . . has show

that the explicit rationale for this Jewish moral tradition come in time to be attached to the Apostolic

Decree as recorded in Acts 15” (viii).


3
The “Affirmations and Denials Concerning Israel and the Church” issued by the North American

Protestant Church Council (as revised 2/9/96) contains this excerpt concerning Romans:

We affirm that Christians of all nations are indebted to the Jewish people for preserving

the Scriptures and especially to the saved remnant of ancient Israel who were faithful to

the Covenants and brought the gospel to the world (Romans 9:4,5;11:18) [and] We deny

that this gives ground for Christians to idolize the Jewish people who will also be

indebted to Christians of other nations at the end of the age for their salvation (Rom.

11:14,32). (NAPCC 33)

Also pertinent to this topic is a statement by the Gentile wife of a Messianic Jewish Israeli originally

from New Zealand which appears in their ministry newsletter, “The Carmel Alert” (Out of Zion

ministries, August 8, 2003; www.out-of-zion.com). In this issue Josie Silver comments that she has

only great “joy as a goy” (Gentile), is not seeking “conversion,” and although she fully is sympathetic

to her husband’s calling as a Jewish believer and the entire Messianic Jewish movement, she realizes

God made her to be like Ruth of old a Gentile, and finds great fulfillment in living in a relationship of

blessing with Jewish people, all the while preserving her own unique and distinctive heritage as a

Gentile, who also lives in the land of Israel as a contributing member of a largely Jewish society.
4
An excellent presentation and discussion of the progressive nature of the ratification of God’s core

Covenant with Abraham appears in Rodney Decker’s article “The Church’s Relationship to the New
Covenant,” which will be cited in greater detail later in this chapter.
5
H.L. Ellison in The Mystery of Israel argues that “the oracles of God” (Romans 3:1-2) have been

“entrusted” to the Jews in an abiding manner in view of the “neutral” construction of the Greek verb,

acknowledging that some translators (the AV, RV, Moffatt, et.al.) have rendered the original verb tense

into an English past tense (33). Beyond obvious technical considerations of medieval and modern

publishing arrangements, Ellison is making an important point. Hebrew scriptures cohere with the

people group who produced them in an organic fashion that speaks to a mystery of God’s providential

outworking. Paul’s observation concerning this spiritual reality may well be understood as making a far

more significant point than mere textual transmission logistics!


6
Raymond E. Brown. An Introduction to the New Testament. 708-10.
7
Brown continues, “(Below I shall suggest that this area of Asia Minor had been evangelized from the

Jerusalem of Peter and James.)” To my mind this may raise another question. Insofar as Peter was sent

primarily to “the circumcision” and James was the primary Jewish “pillar” in Jerusalem, might we

wonder out loud whether or not these newly evangelized folks were at least of partially Israelite stock,

perhaps of the ancient northern Kingdom banished to Assyria? In any case, though, Brown himself is

clear: “[t]he important v. 9 interprets Exod. 19:6 (LXX), ‘You shall be to me a kingdom, a body of

priests, and a holy nation,’ i.e. the privileges of Israel that are now the privileges of Christians” (709).
8
“Covenant and Dispensation” 7, an unpublished paper prepared by Dr. Juster in the course of his

early pastorate at Beth Messiah Congregation, a leading Messianic Jewish congregation during the late

1970s and early 1980s. Juster still possesses a keen appreciation of the strengths and limitations of

Covenant and Dispensational theologies, and in a most insightful fashion has developed a most

compelling approach to the New Covenant and related topics.


9
Rodney J. Decker, “The Church’s Relationship to the New Covenant.” This is a two-part article in

which the author first establishes certain background issues involving the New Covenant as articulated

by the prophet Jeremiah and potential modes of application of that covenant, especially as regards the
Gentiles. Decker considers approaches to the New Covenant that include understanding it as

“essentially an administrative implementation of the Abrahamic” (296), and the notion of a

“complementary hermeneutic . . . the principle that God can do more than He promised, but He cannot

do less” and therefore that “the expansion of promise need not mean the cancellation of earlier

commitments God has made” (emphasis original, 297). His invocation of the idea of “Division of

Blessings” (298) provides a good foundation for a better understanding of R. Kendall Soulen’s

“economy of mutual blessing,” mentioned in chapter one and to be discussed further in subsequent

chapters. Decker concludes the first part of his article by observing “Numerous passages relate to the

New Covenant – passages found in at least four prophetic books that span more than 150 years. None

of the passages, not even the locus classicus, Jeremiah 31, mentions all the elements of the covenant.

This suggests that, though any deletion or lessening of the promised provisions would challenge the

veracity of God, the addition of other elements is theoretically possible until the final ratification of the

covenant” (305).
10
Kent. “The New Covenant and the Church.” Grace Theological Journal 6. (1985): 289-98.
11
Ware. “The New Covenant and the People(s) of God,” in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church:

The Search for Definition, ed. Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992,

68-97.
12
John Murray. The Epistle to the Romans Vol. II. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965, 96.
13
As noted in Henry Alford. The Greek Testament. Chicago: Moody Press, 1958, 435-36.
14
The Joaz quote from R.M. Longenecker, Paul the Apostle of Liberty. New York: Harper, 1964, 125.

One might profitably note the strongly covenant theology tone implicit in this quote.
15
The “mirror image” as it were of Jerusalem Council I, giving permission for Gentiles to remain

Gentiles in the Body of Christ, is the recent initiative entitled Toward Jerusalem Council 2 (TJC2),

more of which will be spoken later in this paper. Briefly for our purposes now, TJC2 simply seeks to

give Jewish believers the opportunity to maintain and rejoice in their Jewish identity, free to be
themselves without wholesale cultural assimilation into the largely Gentile church as was true during so

much of the past two millennia.


16
Referring just to recent scholarship not long before his death, Brown says in his footnote to this

sentence, “Fitzmyer (Romans 161-64) devotes over two pages of bibliography to it; also F. Thielman,

Paul and the Law (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1994); and the important review article by C.R.

Roetzel, CRBS 3 (1995), 249-75.”


17
Dodd, The Epistle to the Romans . (qtd in Davies 75).
18
Douglas Harink’s recent work, sub-titled “Pauline Theory Beyond Christendom and Modernity,”

fruitfully utilizes an approach to theology and biblical studies that exemplifies the congruence of Paul’s

“method” with the implications of living in a post-modern world.


19
Littell, Franklin. The Crucifixion of the Jews, 30.
20
I argue here that it may not be so much a constraint of human language as much as the very issue

under consideration in this project, i.e. the church’s inability to fully receive the Word of God aright

due to her collective and historic supersessionism.


21
Don Finto put the matter rather interestingly during a television interview on the 700 Club with Pat

Robertson, shortly before the convening of a major meeting of the Toward Jerusalem Council II

initiative in Vienna, Austria in the Fall of 2001. To paraphrase Finto: Ruth of old told her Israelite

mother-in-law, “your God will be my God, and your people my people;” the church, however, has said

in effect, “your God will be my God, but you can go to hell!” One can’t improve on that observation

for clarity and passion!


22
Barth, Karl and Markus. A Shorter Commentary on Romans .
23
Neil Elliott puts the matter thusly,”[i]t’s increasingly clear that Paul’s target was the arrogance of the

human heart, especially as it found expression in the boastful supersessionism of early Christianity”

(30).
24
This concept is termed “the standard canonical narrative” by Soulen. By this he refers to an

underlying matrix of assumptions about the biblical text which predispose us to either see or not see, as

the case may be, elements of the written revelation. These undergirding, virtually unconscious

assumptions form a worldview which serves as a filter that very much influences our hermeneutics.
25
“Commentary on Psalm 126” 7-9. Patrologia Latina 9. 696-97.
26
Handley C.G. Moule, ed., “The Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans,” Expositor’s Bible, A Complete

Exposition of the Bible, A Complete Exposition of the Bible in Six Volumes with Index, vol. 5 Grand

Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1956, 590, cited in Finto, 41.


27
Though not a scholarly reflection, commonly understood, I cautiously include here a literal dream I

had one night during the week of the thesis project preparation seminar held at Trinity Episcopal

School for Ministry in June 2002. In it I was suddenly at Westminster Cathedral and observed, from

behind the Episcopal vestments of the Archbishop of Canterbury, a vestment rack. In a manner I can’t

explain, the cope and miter came down to settle upon me, but I was agitated because – aside from the

strangeness of it all – the left band protruding from the back of the miter was crimped and jammed into

the cope, and was not free-hanging as the right one was. Whereupon I pulled up the left band and

smoothed it down as was the right one; and immediately woke up. Almost instantly the thought came to

me that the crimped left band of the Episcopal miter, insofar as it has traditionally symbolized the Old

Testament canon, and its being smoothed back into place was a sign that Anglicanism can and should

again be a significant player in the restoration of biblical understanding in its fullness, including the

place of Israel both in the church and in the world. Such a positive development cannot and will not

occur, however, without its own particular experience of and participation in the Cross of Christ, even

as has been true of every other occasion for revival and ultimate blessing in the church. This

conformity to the Cross of Jesus is a biblical mandate, one which Radner in his own manner explicitly

recognizes in his book, The End of the Church.


28
Juster, in his currently unpublished paper, “The Jewish People and Evangelical Pietism,” (4). In

connection with what I said earlier concerning the Anglo-Catholic movement and my own proclivities

toward and participation in it, I must acknowledge that the simultaneous deep appreciation I have for

the Oxford Movement which spawned it, and the spirituality of Evangelical Pietism, produces no little

sense of irony for me in view of the reality of the Puritanical roots of Evangelical Pietism, the historical

antagonist to the Anglo-Catholic way. In addition, the Oxford fathers’ hostility toward the naming of

Solomon Alexander as a “Protestant” bishop in Jerusalem, the very flashpoint at the inception of that

movement, fills me with a double sense of irony. Nevertheless, authoritative teaching from the Church

of Rome today, unquestionably a prime locus of Catholic identity, firmly establishes the truly Catholic

position concerning natural Israel today, which is happily simpatico with the Evangelical Pietistic

tradition in that regard. Certainly, by the Providence of God, the term “Evangelical Catholic” is

becoming anything but an oxymoron, and Israel may be most interestingly, and as this thesis project

contends, the glue that God will use to increasingly knit and heal His divided church.

Far from an isolated or eccentric view of my own, this notion goes back to the eighteenth century

figure Count Nikolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf of Austria, Moravian leader, sometimes called “Forefather

of true Ecumenism” for this very insight.


29
From The Works of Elnathan Parr, 3rd ed., 1633, 175.
30
John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, vol. 2, 1965, 77.
31
An excellent presentation of the many instances of Puritan-influenced, European-based sponsorship

of distinct Messianic-Jewish/Hebrew-Christian expressions in the Body of Christ, including these

instances cited here, was a feature of “The North American Consultation, 2003” of the Toward

Jerusalem Council Two (TJC2) initiative held in May, 2003 at Baruch ha Shem synagogue in Dallas,

TX. Among the presenters on the Executive Council of TJC2, Johannes Fichtenbauer, a Roman

Catholic deacon of the Archdiocese of Vienna, Austria whose spiritual leader is his Eminence Dr.

Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn, gave a PowerPoint summary of the sovereign activity of the Lord in
recent centuries that has begun what many evangelicals – and Catholics – believe to be a prime

harbinger of the Lord’s Second Coming. Said one very highly placed churchman in the Roman

hierarchy during a recent consultation in Europe, who must for now remain anonymous, “[i]f you (the

Messianic believers) are – what you say you are – it can only mean the coming of the Lord is near . . .

For centuries our theologians knew you would have to come one day – but we could not figure out how

this would come to pass . . . And here we stand seeing you as this eschatological sign . . .”
32
In what may well be the only place in its liturgical life where the church explicitly associates the

death of Jesus with its own death and the chastisements of national Israel, the Tenebrae service for

Holy Week, we see an interesting identification by the church with the entire economy of death and

resurrection. No less than Israel of old, the church as a whole must and will experience something of its

own “exile” for its arrogance and sins. “Identificational repentance,” whereby a representation of the

whole repents for the sins of the larger entity, or elements of it across time and space, is a powerful tool

for reconciliation, and is a prime component of the dynamic of TJC2. In point of fact, the church has

throughout at least part of its history recognized, however dimly, this vital principle.