Christianity argues that God was fed up with Israel, revoked his covenant and replaced Israel with Christianity…Christians teach that God broke his covenant with Israel.
(Rabbi Moshe Rat)[i]
Have you ever strolled through a museum admiring paintings only to notice that Jesus and his disciples are depicted with distinctly European features? Their complexions are fair, their noses delicate, and their hair often light in color. These prominent Jewish figures from Israel appear far from authentically Jewish or Israeli in these artistic representations. The Jewish-Israeli Messiah, Yeshua, has been replaced with a gentile, Europeanized Jesus. This alteration skews our perception of these historical figures. It symbolizes the cultural and theological shift in the church regarding Israel.
For nearly two millennia, most of the Christian Church, including Orthodox and Protestant denominations, has maintained that the Jewish people’s rejection of Jesus as their Messiah resulted in God’s rejection of Israel. Consequently, not only their nation and temple were destroyed, but it is believed that God has abandoned them, leaving them without any purpose regardless of His promises and covenants. Essentially, due to their rebellion against God by rejecting Jesus, it is taught that God replaced Israel with the Church, transferring the blessings (but not the curses) initially promised to Israel to the Church instead. This idea originated with the church fathers.
Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD), one of the earliest theologians, considered by some to be “the greatest genius the early church ever produced,”[ii] proclaimed that the Jews were to blame for killing Jesus.[iii]
However, the belief that the Jews are solely responsible for the death of Jesus is refuted by Acts 4:27, which identifies a conspiracy involving Herod, Pontius Pilate, Gentiles, and Jews. Furthermore, all people are accountable for Jesus’ death as we have all sinned (Romans 3:23). Christ died for all sinners (1 Corinthians 15:3). Even theologically speaking, blaming only the Jewish people for Christ’s death —which needed to happen for our own sake— is to miss the point.
From the subsequent step, ‘the Jews killed Christ,’ the next logical step would be ‘God hates the Jews and has revoked His promises to them. For example, Eusebius (3rd century), a bishop and scholar of the biblical canon who is regarded as one of the most important Christians during late antiquity,[iv] taught that the blessings promised to Israel in Scripture were meant for the church. In contrast, the curses were meant for the Jews alone. He also asserted that because the Jews rejected Christ, the Church was the “true” Israel.[v]
This concept, known as “Replacement Theology,” is embraced by the majority of professing Christians today. As a result, they view modern-day Israel as a mere historical coincidence devoid of any spiritual significance and the Jews as a group that somehow was lucky enough to survive for an extremely long time and against all odds. These individuals believe God no longer has plans for the Jewish people, considering the regathering of the Jews and the re-establishment of the state of Israel as merely historical accidents with no spiritual importance.
In “Dialogue with Tryphon the Jew,” one of the earliest known dialogues between Christianity and Judaism from the 2nd century AD, the assertion first appears that the church replaced Israel. A church father, Justin Martyr (100–165 AD), wrote: “We, who were carved out of the bowels of Christ, are the true race of Israel.”[vi] The discourse surrounding replacement theology expanded as these debates intensified during the Middle Ages. Several rabbinic commentaries from the end of the first millennium AD[vii] reflected this Christian theological perspective.
According to Professor Michael Avi-Yona:
The sages mockingly rejected the Christians’ assertion that they were the true Israel. In opposition to the written Torah, which Christians claimed for themselves, the sages highlighted the Oral Torah’s reality, which excluded Gentiles. The sages also alluded to divisions among Christian sects, contrasting them with the unity of Judaism. Rabbi Barachia stated, “This is how the nations of the world are: these say, ‘We are Israel, for us the world was created,’ and these say, ‘We are Israel,’ etc.”[viii]
Replacement Theology is the theological basis which fueled the abhorrent rise of anti-Semitism against Jews. In the past century, numerous studies and books have established a link between replacement theology and Christian anti-Semitism.[ix],[x],[xi]
As the Middle Ages drew to a close, the situation escalated due to the rise of medieval art, particularly paintings of Biblical narratives. In these artworks, Jewish individuals were often portrayed as sinister figures in league with the devil, collectively scheming to execute Christ. This characterization branded them as “Christ killers,” further perpetuating antisemitic stereotypes.
How does a Christian explain Israel?
For 2,000 years, the concept of Israel has perplexed many within the Church. Lacking a language and land, a nation is left without a clear path forward, and historically speaking, such people groups disappear within a few generations. Consequently, the question of Israel’s fate has remained contentious, with various theological perspectives emerging over time.
Despite this uncertainty, the concept of Israel remains crucial for Christianity. Israel’s history and connection to the Jewish people are integral to understanding God’s plan for humanity. The Jewish people were chosen by God to bear His message and bring about His plan of salvation, culminating in Jesus being born to Jewish parents in the Land of Israel. However, most Christians have silenced and ignored the question of how this relates to the Church and its role in God’s plan.
In the 14th-16th centuries, with the automated printing press becoming popular and widespread, Christians became unbound by their religious leaders’ guidance, now able to investigate biblical texts independently.
As Jews, we owe a great debt of gratitude to the invention of the modern printing press. Consider the impact on a Christian reading the New Testament for the first time in their life and encountering this verse:
I ask then: Did God reject his people?
By no means! I am an Israelite myself,
a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. (Romans 11:1-2)
A spiritual awakening among Christian believers who recognized that the Bible and New Testament conveyed a different narrative than what they often heard in their churches and from their priests began.
These Christians believed that the Jewish people played a significant role in God’s plan for humanity, as “through their fall salvation has come unto the Gentiles” (Romans 11:11). Therefore, Israel was indeed used by God and therefore remains a crucial aspect of God’s plan of salvation and will play a significant role in the end times as well. These Christians view the re-establishment of Israel as a nation in 1948, as well as the survival of the Jews, as fulfilling biblical prophecy.
As an Israeli Jewish-Christian, I consent with this view, believing God is not at all done with Israel. In fact, I believe the best is yet to come!
The question of Israel’s fate and how it relates to the Church and God’s plan for humanity continues to be a source of theological discussion and debate. However, exploring what that looks like is beyond the scope of this book.
Is Replacement Theology Biblical?
One of the main challenges facing Replacement Theology is that it directly contradicts several teachings found in the New Testament itself. One such example is Acts 1:6-7, where Jesus’ disciples asked whether He would restore the kingdom to Israel at that time. Jesus did not correct them but answered that it was not for them to know when. While it is true that Christ is present in the hearts of believers, the Bible also teaches that Yeshua will return to establish a physical kingdom.
Much like Acts, in Romans 9-11, Paul puts Israel as the central theme. The covenant God made with Abraham, promising to bless the whole world through his descendants and give them the land of inheritance, is still expected to be fulfilled in the future. The salvation of Israel is national and includes the return to the land from exile, repentance, forgiveness, and the restoration of the kingdom of God the way it ought to be. It is not because Israel will turn perfect, but because “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29)
While Israel may not be at the center of attention at this moment, this is only temporary (Romans 11:25). The rebelliousness of the people of Israel is not a permanent condition, and their salvation is tied to the promises of the New Testament regarding the future restoration of Israel in their land. Regardless of what that might look like in reality or if some of it is figuratively speaking, the fact remains that God is not yet done with Israel.
Furthermore, Paul also emphasizes that God has not abandoned His people and points to the fact there is still a remnant of believers within Israel who follow Jesus. In verse 1, Paul poses a question that strikes at the heart of Replacement Theology: “Did God reject his people?” In response, he unequivocally states, “May it never be!“
Paul’s passionate response to the idea of God rejecting Israel highlights the importance of our faith in a God who stands behind his words.
The salvation of the Gentiles is intertwined with the salvation of Israel (Romans 11:25-26), and the fulfillment of the promises made to Israel is a crucial aspect of God’s plan for the world.
If God were to change his mind about his promises to Israel, how could anyone trust His promise of salvation? It would be like a child growing up in fear that their parent might disown them and cast them out of the house any day. As children of God, we need to know we can trust God to live up to his promises and not be capricious or indecisive, even when we embarrass him by throwing a tantrum. Safety and security is the most basic need of any human being. This is how God created us, so it is only logical to expect Him to keep His promises- all of them.
Ethically speaking, Replacement Theology directly contradicts the character of God and the teachings found in the Old and New Testaments. The salvation of Israel remains a central theme throughout the Bible, and the promises made to Israel are still expected to be fulfilled in the future. God is the best coach in the world, and He wants to prove it by winning using the most rebellious, proud, stiffed-neck group in the league; Israel.
Psalm 129:5-8 proclaims that anyone who hates Zion will be put to shame, and believers are cautioned against blessing such individuals.
Two biblical principles need to be emphasized concerning the notion that the Jews have been rejected by God. Firstly, Israel was chosen as God’s people to be a witness, not of their perfection but of a relationship between imperfect people and a perfect God (Isaiah 43:10-12). This calling, which is “irrevocable” (Romans 11:29), is meant to show that God loves and works through imperfect people. And that relationship, like any other relationship, includes ups and down.
Secondly, in contradiction to Replacement Theology, the Bible affirms that God has not rejected the Jews due to their unbelief. In Romans 3:1-4, Paul declares that Israel’s rejection of Jesus has not invalidated God’s faithfulness to His promises:
What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God. What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.”
In Romans 11:1-2 Paul testifies that he himself is proof God did not forsake Israel because he himself a Jew who follows Jesus:
I ask then, did God reject His people? Certainly not! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject His people, whom He foreknew.
Even if we were to momentarily entertain the idea that God intended to abandon the people of Israel in favor of the Gentiles, we would encounter a dilemma: Jesus was an Israeli Jew, as were his disciples. Suppose God truly desired to forsake Israel and turn to another group of people. In that case, He should have chosen a Greek, Egyptian, Edomite, Babylonian, Moabite, Assyrian, Ammonite, or another non-Jew, rather than Jesus, a Jew from the tribe of Judah.
While the Jews are currently under discipline for rejecting our own Messiah, our preservation throughout history is an overwhelming testimony to God’s promises.
The prophets consistently warned Israel of discipline for unfaithfulness yet always promised preservation, as seen in Jeremiah 30:11:
“For I am with you,” declares the Lord, “to save you; for I will destroy completely all the nations where I have scattered you, only I will not destroy you completely. But I will chasten you justly, and will by no means leave you unpunished.”
God’s love for the Jewish people is evident in Zechariah 2:8, where He proclaims them “the apple of His eye” and warns anyone who would harm them. In Jeremiah 31, God makes a promise stating that the descendants of Israel will never cease to be His people as long as the laws of nature remain in place:
This is what the Lord says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord Almighty is his name: “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,” declares the Lord, “will Israel ever cease being a nation before me.”(Jeremiah 31:35-36)
This promise assures us that God has a plan for the people of Israel and that he never changed his mind about it. The idea that the Church is “plan B” because God failed to work it out with Israel is false. God will not reject His people, no matter how unfaithful they are (2 Timothy 2:13) – just as you will never reject your small child, no matter how bad they behave. The imagery of the heavens and the earth’s foundations being explored above underscores the eternal nature of God’s promise. In other words, just as the sun, the moon, and the stars still shine in the sky, we can be sure that God has a plan for Israel. His promises to Israel will be fulfilled whether we can see and understand it or not and whether we like it or not.
Debunking Replacement Theology’s Arguments
The New Testament is a definite anti-Semitic book with plots against the Jews!
(Rabbi Daniel Asor.)[xii]
Indeed, Replacement Theology, promoted by many Christians, is largely based on interpretations of different biblical passages taken out of context. Mainly: Romans 9:6, Matthew 21:43, Galatians 3:7, 9, Galatians 3:28-29, Galatians 6:16, and Revelation 2:9. Let’s quickly survey them.
Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
Matthew 21:43 is often cited to suggest that the kingdom of God will be taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles. However, as theologian Arnold Fruchtenbaum argues,[xiii] the kingdom will be taken from that generation and given to a future generation of the people of Israel. One possibility is Jesus’ Jewish disciples. They and the early Christian community in Acts 2 were mainly composed of Jews, and they are likely the “people who will produce its fruit.”
Otherwise, Matthew 23:37-38 describes Jerusalem being judged despite Jesus’ attempts to prevent it. Nevertheless, verse 39 offers hope, as Jesus predicts that a day will come when the people of Israel will accept Him as the Messiah. Suppose Jesus did not speak of His Jewish disciples and the first church. In that case, the future generation, the Israel who would finally accept Jesus in the future (‘All Israel’ who will be saved; Romans 11:26), is the generation Jesus spoke about.
However, even if we insist that the people mentioned in Matthew 21:43 refers to the Church in general, we must not forget that Abraham was promised to be “a great nation” and that he would bless many nations (Genesis 12:2-3). Therefore, including the Gentiles in the kingdom does not replace or exclude the Jewish part of the church, which is the stamp on which the branches were later grafted into.
Galatians 3:7, 9
Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham…So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
I can say that the guy who led me to Christ almost 25 years ago is my “spiritual father” (regardless of us not having any blood connection). Likewise, in Galatians 3, the apostle Paul argues that Abraham is the spiritual father of all believers, not that Gentile believers physically become Jews (or replace them).
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Paul’s message in Galatians 3:28-29 may seem to suggest that there is no longer any distinction whatsoever between Jews and Gentiles. However, it is essential to understand that Paul is not advocating for eliminating all differences between people. Instead, he emphasizes that everyone is invited to join God’s spiritual family through faith in Christ Jesus, regardless of their origins, status, or gender.
In the Second Temple period of Judaism, the temple was divided into several sections, and access to these sections varied based on one’s status and gender.
Paul’s message was particularly significant in a society where only Jewish men were allowed to enter some parts of the Temple. Through Christ, this division and enmity between Jews and Gentiles, male and female – has been abolished, and access to God is open to everyone, regardless of their background.
However, it is essential to note that this does not mean all distinctions and roles are eliminated. Paul acknowledges these distinctions’ importance in other parts of his writings. For example, he acknowledges that the gospel was intended for the Jews first (Romans 1:16). He also wrote that slaves should obey their masters (Ephesians 6:5). Similarly, he acknowledges that males and females do have distinct roles (Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2-3).
Thus, while Paul emphasizes the unity and spiritual equality of all believers in Christ, he also acknowledges the importance of various roles and distinctions within society and the faith community. Just as Paul was not seeking to demolish the uniqueness and differences between males and females, he did not seek to cancel the identity and distinctions of Jews and Gentiles.
Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—[even] to the Israel of God.
Galatians 6:16 is often translated as suggesting that the church is ‘Israel,’ replacing the ethnic nation of Israel. However, this interpretation is based on the assumption that the Greek word “Kai” in the passage should be translated as ‘even to,’[xiv] which is rarely ever used in the New Testament.[xv] The more common interpretation is “in addition,” “and,” or “also,” In Galatians 6:16, Paul is blessing all believers in addition to the believing Jews within the church. Paul blesses them for rejecting the false doctrine that the Law of Moses must be kept in order to be saved.
In other words, some translators of the text decided it couldn’t possibly mean that Paul intended to bless the house of Israel in addition to the Gentile followers of Yeshua. Consequently, they chose a less common interpretation of the grammar, merging the two groups with no distinction. Although this translation isn’t technically incorrect, there are many reasons to adhere to the standard interpretation of the Greek word “καὶ” (“in addition,” “and,” or “also,”), which is far more common.
“Synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9)
The Jewish and Christian scriptures have long been subject to translation and interpretation. However, the process of translation is not without its challenges and consequences. One significant challenge arises from the linguistic differences between ancient Greek, the original language of the New Testament, and modern English. This issue is particularly evident in translating two ancient Greek words: “Ekklēsia” and “ Sunagógé.”
Many Christians in modern times are familiar with the term “Ekklēsia,” which they often understand to mean “church.” However, this interpretation is not entirely accurate. In ancient Greek, “Ekklēsia” and “Sunagógé” were both used to describe gatherings or assemblies.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica:
The term synagogue is of Greek origin (synagein, “to bring together”) and means “a place of assembly.”
Ecclesia, Greek Ekklēsia, (“gathering of those summoned”), in ancient Greece, assembly of citizens in a city-state. Its roots lay in the Homeric agora, the meeting of the people.
In James 2:2, for example, the Greek word “Sunagógé” is translated as “assembly,” referring not to a Jewish synagogue but to a Christian church gathering. Therefore, these two words did not carry the modern religious connotations we associate with them today (‘Ekklēsia’ to mean a Christian church and ‘Sunagógé’ to mean a Jewish synagogue). Instead, they referred to any type of assembly or gathering, regardless of religious affiliation or context.
Another example is Acts 19:41. In the English Standard Version (ESV) it reads, “he dismissed the assembly.” The word for assembly is “Ekklēsia.” If “Ekklēsia” indeed meant “church,” as commonly believed, the translation should read, “he dismissed the church.” However, it wasn’t a Christian church at all but a gathering of a “crowd” (verse 35) of random people, most of which “did not even know why they were there” (verse 32).
The inconsistency in translating these words highlights the ideological bias that translators may unknowingly (or knowingly) introduce. The inconsistent translation of these words in the Bible has led to confusion and, in some cases, serious consequences such as antisemitism.
Revelation 2:9 states, “the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews and are not but are the Sunagógé of Satan.” Most translations use the term “synagogue” even though the verse specifies that those referred to are not Jews. For the sake of comparison, the New American Bible version translated “the assembly of Satan” (instead of “synagogue”), recognizing its real meaning.
In conclusion, it is clear that the group of individuals attacking the Christians in the City of Smyrna in Revelation 2:9 were not Jews. It is possible that they originated from the Greco-Roman world and were former God-fearers who adopted Jewish customs and practices, similar to some of the Galatians.
It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.
In Romans 9:6, the Apostle Paul specifically addressed the subject of Jewish believers. He introduced the concept of a spiritual remnant within the Jewish people, dubbed ‘Spiritual Israel.’ This term referred to Jewish followers of Jesus, whom he recognized as the authentic Israel. Consequently, he proposed that the promises designated for the people of Israel were inherited not by all of Jacob’s descendants but only by this believing remnant. This group, the real Israel, resembles the remnant of Israel during Elijah’s time – those who did not bow to Baal, as Paul reminded his audience in Romans 11:4. The Apostle Paul’s perspective, therefore, was that becoming part of the ‘true Israel’ was not a universal privilege extended to every believer in Jesus Christ but a specific one afforded only to Jewish followers.
The Bible: A Book of Jewish Self-Criticism
Suppose one wishes to find verses that could be taken out of context to establish an anti-Semitic worldview. In that case, they don’t have to look solely at the New Testament, as the Hebrew Bible contains instances where the prophets sternly and harshly criticized the religious leaders of the people of Israel. However, it would be inaccurate to label the prophets of Israel as anti-Semitic simply because they chastised their own religious leaders by comparing them to snakes and spiders (Isaiah 59:5). These statements are not considered anti-Semitic, as they were spoken by Jewish prophets, not by a Gentile with malicious intent against the Jewish people.
Likewise, it is inappropriate to claim that Jesus and His disciples, Jews who critiqued the religious leaders of Israel, were anti-Semitic. Just like the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah did, Jesus, the Prophet of prophets, also criticized the religious leaders of his time with similar epithets (“hypocritical,” “snakes,” “pythons,” “your father the devil,” etc.; See Matthew 23).
If the purpose of a prophet is to criticize spiritual leaders, then the role of the Messiah would undoubtedly include similar responsibilities. This is something both Jews and Christians often forget.
During Jesus’ time, there was no shortage of criticism directed toward the religious leaders of Israel. This was prevalent even within Judaism itself. Renowned Jewish historian Joseph Ben Mattathias and the Dead Sea Scrolls provide evidence of the corruption and greed that plagued the priesthood and religious leaders of that era. Later, the Talmud itself, in Tractate Pesachim 17, acknowledges and condemns the corruption within the priestly families in Israel during Jesus’ time. According to Tractate Yoma 8 and 9, high priests were known to bribe officials. Should we say they, too, were antisemites?
Furthermore, it wasn’t just the priesthood that faced accusations of corruption. Prof. David Flusser, a historian from the Hebrew University, details popular opinions among the people of Israel during the Second Temple period regarding the Pharisees, based on the Dead Sea Scrolls, which depict the Pharisees as corrupt and malevolent leaders:
The charge of hypocrisy and unrighteousness is levelled by the men of Qumran against the Pharisees. They are also described as swaying the vast majority of Israel of that time. Moreover, according to the pesher Hosea, the people “listened to their deceit, honoured them, and held them in awe as gods.”[xvi]
Much like any other Jewish writing, the New Testament contains Jewish self-criticism and debates among Jews. Therefore, interpreting these criticisms and arguments out of context can lead to incorrect views of the New Testament as antisemitic by both Jews and Christians, much like misinterpreting arguments between siblings. Family members can speak to one another in ways outsides simple can’t.
This article was taken from my book, “Why Don’t Jews Believe in Jesus.“
 Regarding the claim that God has already fulfilled the land promises to the Jews during the time of Joshua: Psalm 105:8-11, written by David long after Joshua, declares the everlasting nature of the land promise and its yet-to-be-fulfilled state. The Jews have never fully occupied all the land promised to them in the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 15:18-21).
 According to Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs
[ii] McGuckin, John Anthony (2004). “The Life of Origen (ca. 186–255)”.
[iii] California State University at Northridge, “Canons of the Church Council at Elvira (Granada) ca. 309 AD,” www.csun.edu/~hcfll004/elvira.html
[iv] Gonzalez, Justo L. (2010-08-10). The Story of Christianity: Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. Zondervan. pp. 149–150.
[v] Centre for the Study of Historical Christian Antisemitism, “John Chrysostom,” www.hcacentre.org/JohnChrysostom.html
[vi] Justin Martyr, “Dialogue with Tryphon” (Hebrew translation), Magnes, 2004. Chapter 135.
[vii] Such as the Tanhuma Midrash Vayyera 5:3
[viii] Michael Avi-Yona , In the days of Rome and Byzantium , Bialik Institute , Jerusalem, 1980 , p. 148 (my emphasis).
[ix] “Faith and Fratricide: The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism” by Rosemary Radford Ruether (1974).
[x] The Origins of Anti-Semitism: Attitudes Toward Judaism in Pagan and Christian Antiquity” by John G. Gager (1983).
[xi] “Holy Hatred: Christianity, Antisemitism, and the Holocaust” by Robert Michael (2006).
[xii] Asor, Al Pitcha Shel Rome, pg. 22.
[xiii] Fruchtenbaum, Israelology, 405.
[xiv] Lenski, The Interpretation of Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians , 224–25.
[xv] Johnson, “Paul and ‘The Israel of God’: An Exegetical and Eschatological Case-Study’,” 187.
[xvi] Professor David Flusser’s “PHARISEES, SADDUCEES AND ESSENES IN PESHER NAHUM” Summary by Harry Gaylord. Page 40. See also: Flusser, Scrolls from the Judean Desert and the Essenes, p. 78
This article was taken from my book, “Why Don’t Jews Believe in Jesus.“