… As the People of God: Setting Things Straight
Adapted from On Behalf of All
Part I – Who is a Jew?
Most evangelical Christians today believe that the ‘Jews’ are the true ”children of God” and that they hold a distinct place in “God’s eyes” from that of the Church, despite their rejection of the Messiah (Jesus) and His Gospel – and consequently, their rejection of traditional and Scriptural “Judaism” or the religion of the ancient Hebrew people (as taught by the “Old Testament” Scriptures). In other words, the Church is supposedly just a bump on the log of redemptive history, and the “main event” revolves around the ‘Jewish people’.
To even begin to dive into this subject (which is extremely controversial in the present day, especially among American, evangelical sects of Christianity), it is necessary to take a giant leap backwards and consider many ideas and concepts individually, in order to do this overview any justice whatsoever. While these viewpoints are a drastic minority in both present day Christianity and in Church history, they represent an extremely influential viewpoint among protestants in the United States (but this has been the case only since the mid-19th century).
Who are the ‘Jews’, and what makes one ‘Jewish’?
What promises did God make to the Hebrews regarding the ancient land of Israel, and how does that correlate to the modern ‘Jewish’ nation-state calling itself Israel in the Palestine today?
What do the Scriptures say regarding Israel and how the Hebrew people are to be considered in relation to the Christian Church?
It is along these three questions that I will attempt to give an extremely brief and broad-reaching analysis of Israel as the “people of God.”
One of the biggest problems when discussing Israel, Judaism and the Church is that even saying words like ‘Jews’ or ‘Israel’ begs the question and is non-specific while being variously and contrarily viewed by many, many people (even among the Jews). ‘Jewish’ is viewed as both a religion and an ethnicity, both together and separately by various people, and ‘Israel’ is associated with the ‘Jewish’ nation-state of the present day as well as a nation and people of God in the old testament Scriptures.
Firstly, the question of “who is a Jew?” is not an offensive or ‘racist’ (in the pejorative sense of the term) question to pose, as the ‘Jews’ themselves pose this question and have written and expended a great deal of energy on this very inquiry.
All traditional Jewish sects today agree (according to the halakha) that one is a Jew either by birth (following the mother’s line of descent, or “matrilineally,” with ultra-conservatives saying both parents must be Jewish) or by conversion to Judaism (the religion, obviously, since one cannot convert to another ethnicity).
Already, one is faced with a great number of serious issues and controversies.
For starters, due to the diaspora, the emergence of Christianity in first century AD and mass conversions, the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the inter-marrying of Jewish people with non-Jewish people over the last two-thousand years, the likelihood of very many “Jews” (according to their own definition) remaining in existence – at least according to the matrilineal birth definition – is slim to none. In other words, from an “ethnic” standpoint (which begs the question whether Jews or the people of Israel had the same ethnic heritage to begin with – they did not), there are likely very few Jewish people in the world – at least, in a “pure” and ethnic/genetic sense of the word (and according to their own definitions).
This only leaves the existence of “religious” Jews, in my opinion, since most Jewish people today are of various ethnic and national descent (and the overwhelming majority live in the United States, and not in the Jewish state or the middle east). In fact, the Arabs (including millions of Arab Christians) are more “purely” Semitic people than any Jewish people in the world today, from a strictly genetic viewpoint. The genetics of Arabs and Jewish people in the middle east are closely related (with Arabs having a greater percentage of J1 Y-chromosomes than Jews), most likely due to the conquest of Palestine by the Muslims in the seventh century AD. Jewish genetics (in the middle east) also show a close connection with that of the Kurds. So really, when one speaks of being descended from a ‘Jewish’ mother, the identity of ‘Jew’ is only meaningful when considering the religious and pseudo-religious heritage of the Jewish people – not genetics. It just gets far too complicated, and without DNA history spanning the centuries, there’s really no way to tell for certain.
Furthermore, the Scriptures fail to indicate that being a ‘Jew’ or child of God / child of Israel had anything to do with ethnicity. Rather, the people of Israel were a religious people who had been delivered (“saved,” if you will) from Egypt by the mighty power of God through His prophet Moses, and who then paid homage to this deliverance and offered worship to their God in each successive generation through a variety of rites or traditions (e.g. the tabernacle/temple and sacrificial system of worship), prayers, hymns, etc. A “mixed multitude” (Exodus 12:38) of people enjoyed the deliverance of God from the hands of Egypt, and Israel remained a mixed multitude through the various exiles and dispersion down to the days of Christ.
The prohibitions against inter-marriage as found in the Torah (which, by the way, never mentions the importance of matrilineal descent – this is a tradition of post-Christian Talmudic Judaism) were not for the purposes of preserving a genetic lineage; rather, it was for the preserving of the religion of Israel: “Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to his son, nor take his daughter for your son. For she will turn your son away from Me, and he will serve other gods …” (Deuteronomy 7:3-4 LXX). This is the same reason Saint Paul exhorts the first Christians to not be “unequally yoked” with the non-faithful (2 Corinthians 6:14).
If the identity of the Jewish people, therefore, is marked by their religious beliefs and practices, there are a number of problems to consider.
For example, the Judaism seen in the old testament Scriptures and as practiced by various Jewish sects at the time of Christ is no longer in existence, nor is it practiced or believed by any Jewish people in the world today. To identify modern-day Jewish people with the Israelites of the old testament would be tantamount to calling people that gather to pray to Jesus but don’t believe in the Trinity and don’t perform Baptism or celebrate the Eucharist (or “Lord’s Supper”) “Christians.” Of course, in our pluralistic culture, such nonsense is rather possible.
This, of course, all revolves around the destruction of the second Temple in AD 70 by the Roman army and the fact that it has never been rebuilt. Not only this, but also the mass conversion of the Jewish sects to Christianity in the first century (both before and after the sacking of Jerusalem by Rome) left very few Jewish people (speaking of the religion, of course) in the world at all. Before and during Christ’s life, there were the sects of the Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots and the Pharisees. Following AD 70, these sects and distinctions vanished, and there was only left “rabbinical Judaism” (the continuation of the Pharisees) with a mixture of various non-traditional people (post-Sadducees, if you will, who reject everything but the Torah as divinely inspired).
The idea that there was one Jewish religion is a falsity and especially so in the days of Second Temple Judaism – the identification of Jewish people by their religious beliefs becomes a game of “pick and choose” where one must discern which sect is the correct one while sorting out their varied and contradictory beliefs and traditions. Complicating matters worse, there are a great number of “Jewish” people today that are atheists or reject any semblance of traditional Judaism altogether, and yet they are still considered and referred to as “Jews,” even by the most strict of traditional Jewish people! In fact, the number of atheists among the self-identified Jewish people has been drastically on the rise over the last century or so, and people such as Karl Marx – the author of Marxism and forerunner for communism, a radically atheistic political system and worldview – were prime examples of this type of “Jew.” Karl Marx isn’t exactly Moses.
In today’s world, there are a new group of sects under the banner of “Judaism,” such as the Orthodox (the majority and heirs of rabbinical Judaism), Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism. Among these groups (especially in Orthodox Judaism) and outside of them is a markedly non-Christian, esoteric tradition that has no support or inspiration from the Torah or other writings of the Old Testament Scriptures (e.g. Kabbalah, which has gained popularity in our day through its promotion by new age, non-religious and atheistic followers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, religiously speaking).
The beliefs of the largest sect of modern-day Judaism – the Orthodox Jews – are centered around the so-called ‘Oral Laws’ of Moses; a portion of what was eventually to become known as the Talmud, which was codified in the Mishnah (AD 200) and the Gemara (AD 500) by the remnants of post-Christian Pharisees. These writings are (obviously mistakenly) believed to be the divinely-inspired “commentary” or “interpretation” of the Books of Moses, which they claim was also given to Moses at the same time he received the written Torah from God (although this so-called ‘Oral Torah’ was not committed to writing until many centuries later, as found in the Talmud).
What should concern Christians most when it comes to the writings of the Talmud is the radically anti-Christian and anti-Gentile (Goyim) viewpoints it espouses, replete with the worst of racism and even non-Theistic beliefs. Given that Talmudic (Pharisaic) Judaism is by far the most predominant form of Judaism in the world today, it should be given the most attention as representative of the type of ‘Judaism’ as passed down from the remnants of the first century (Second Temple Pharisaism, as seen in the days of Christ and the early Church) to the present day.
While many evangelical Christians likely hold to the notion that the followers of today’s so-called ‘Judaism’ have a strong affinity for the Old Testament Scriptures (straining to identify present-day ‘Jewish’ people with the people of Israel in their Old Testament), this is not the case.
The Talmud actually teaches that the Talmud itself is more important than the Scriptures:
“Those who devote themselves to reading the Bible exercise a certain virtue, but not very much; those who study theMischnah exercise virtue for which they will receive a reward; those, however, who take upon themselves to study theGemarah exercise the highest virtue.”
- Babha Metsia, fol. 33a
“The Sacred Scripture is like water, the Mischnah wine, and the Gemarah aromatic wine.”
- Sopherim XV, 7, fol. 13b
“My son, give heed to the words of the scribes rather than to the words of the law.”
- Erubhin, fol. 21b
“He who transgresses the words of the scribes sins more gravely than the transgressors of the words of the law.”
- Sanhedrin X, 3, fol. 88b
Along with an extremely low view of the Old Testament Scriptures (incidentally, most Jews today only believe the five Books of Moses or Torah were divinely-inspired – not the whole of the Old Testament), the Talmud and mainstream ‘Judaism’ (the direct descendant of New Testament Pharisaism) promotes extremist and offensive anti-Christian viewpoints.
For example, the Talmud refers to Jesus as Jeschu, rather than the proper Hebrew name Jeschua (which means “savior”). The name Jeschu is an anagram for the phrase in Hebrew “May his name and memory be blotted out.” Other references to Christ in the Talmud include the phrases “that man,” “a certain one,” “the carpenter’s son” and “the one who was hanged.” In various places, the Talmud and rabbinical Jews teach that Jesus was a bastard conceived during a menstrual cycle (cf. Kallah, fol. 1b/18b; the menstrual cycle reference being a reference to uncleanness known as ‘Niddah’ in Judaism); that he had “the soul of Esau”; that he was a fool (Schabbath, fol. 104b), a conjurer/magician (Toldoth Jeschu), an idolater (Sanhedrin fol. 103a) and a seducer (Sanhedrin fol. 107b); that he was buried in Gehenna (translated as “hell” in modern-day English Bibles) and worshiped as an “idol” and false god by his disciples (Zohar, III, 282; cf. Maimonides, Hilkoth Akum and Hilkoth Melahkim).
The Talmud also makes reference in numerous places to the necessity and nobility of showing cruelty towards Christians/Gentiles as well as deceiving them, hindering their success in the world and even murdering them.
Suffice to say, the Pharisaic Judaism of the rabbinical tradition has very little to do with the people of Israel in the Old Testament and their faith in God as their Deliverer and Salvation. The destruction of their Temple (and therefore, religion) in AD 70 and the rapid expansion of Christianity following the conversion of Saint Constantine the Great in the fourth century AD led to the need to re-define, re-imagine and re-examine ‘Judaism’ in a post-resurrection, Christian world.
While this has been extremely brief, abbreviated and broad, I hope this overview of the ‘Jewish’ (Judaic) people serves as a helpful starting point for one’s own studies and investigations regarding their history and beliefs.
Again, in order to avoid any confusion, I’m not making judgments against a certain “race” of people or being antisemitic by bringing up these points (in fact, the Church I belong to is Semitic, hailing from Damascus in Syria, and I have a great love for the Semitic peoples) – my reference to the ‘Jews’ is to a generally associated religious people as most clearly and traditionally expressed by the Orthodox, rabbinical Jews of the present day.
To be truthful, the evangelical Christians and even secularists who treat all Arab people indiscriminately with disdain and suspicion (no doubt due to the current “war on terror”) are far more antisemitic than anyone else in the world today. The tragic irony, of course, is that by showing mis-placed and abiblical favoritism to the anti-Christian modern ‘Jewish’ nation-state in Palestine, many Christians are supporting the persecution of Arab Christians and their isolation and dispersion throughout the middle east and the rest of the world.
As a Christian, I have no respect or love for the religion of ‘Judaism’ – it is anti-Christian, it rejects the Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, it promotes violence and hatred towards non-Jewish people and it has created a troubling and volatile political situation in the middle east that will never be solved so long as mis-guided Christians in America show the people of the Jewish state unwavering support. However, I also strongly believe that God loves the ‘Jewish’ people (as He does all people), that they are in need of salvation from sin and death through Jesus Christ (as am I), and that they should be prayed for and shown love by all Christians (even amidst persecution and injustice).
We should not hide the truth of or shrink from sharing the Gospel from them (more on this in my third post) because we think they are the “children of God” by ethnicity, for all are in need of union with Jesus Christ and the transformation of our soul and body through the Grace of the Holy Spirit and by eating the true body and blood of Jesus. The true children of Abraham are children by faith and through union with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – not through blood or genetics.
In my next post, I will give another brief and broad overview of the promises God made to the Biblical people of Israel regarding their “holy land” and what these promises entail for both Christians and Jewish people living in the world today.
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Part II – The Jewish State
So then, what promises did God make to the Hebrews regarding the land of Israel, and how does that correlate to the modern Jewish nation-state in the middle east today?
This is where things get really dicey, especially when considering present-day politics and the beliefs of evangelical Christians on this very point.
Considering that the “Christian vote” essentially determines an election in the U.S. and that evangelical Christians represent a large segment of American, Christian voters (dwarfed only by Roman Catholics), any candidate that doesn’t wholeheartedly support the Jewish nation-state has written for themselves a death sentence (as Obama has learned recently, with his less-than-stellar relationship with Benyamin Netanyahu and suggesting that the Jewish state give back some land to the Palestinians).
There is no doubt that in the old testament God promised a land for Abram and “his seed” – the land of Israel / Jacob (ארץ ישראל).
“On the same day, the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘I will give this land to your seed, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates.’”
- Genesis 15:18 LXX
Anyone with a map of the middle east and a small dose of common sense can see, of course, that the modern Jewish state only occupies a fraction of this area. Immediately, then, it should be clear we’re not talking about the entire area of land promised to Abram’s seed by the Lord when we speak of the nation of Israel today.
However, this brings up a point of contention for the Zionists (those who believe that Palestine is a land promised to the Jews by God and that they must be given the entirety of this land and given full sovereignty over it, etc.): there is still some land “owed” to the Jews by God.
This begs the question, though: Has Israel at any point enjoyed the entirety of the land promised to them by God? If so, then there’s less thrust behind such an argument. Guess what? They have:
“So the Lord gave Israel all the land He had sworn to give to their fathers; and they took possession of it and dwelt in it [...] Not a word failed of any good thing the Lord had spoken to the children of Israel. All came to pass.”
- Joshua 21:47,49 LXX
So one can see, quite clearly, that the promises God made regarding the ancient land of Israel had been fulfilled in their entirety. “Not a word failed” and there are no “outstanding” promises waiting to be fulfilled in regards to the land of Israel by God. Along the same lines, King Solomon also declared: “Blessed be the Lord this day, who gave rest to His people Israel, just as He promised. Not one word has failed of all His good words He spoke through His servant Moses” (III Kingdoms 8:55 LXX).
The Lord faithfully gave the land of Israel to His chosen people, the descendants of those He saved from the hands of Egypt through the Holy Prophet Moses’ intercession and leadership (a mixed multitude, not any single “race” of people, by way of reminder). To say otherwise is to deny the words of the Scriptures.
Since it is a matter of Scriptural and historical record that Israel no longer has possession of this land (not even today, assuming that the “Jews” in “Israel” are one-and-the-same as those referenced in the old testament – they are not), it must be investigated whether or not this means the original promises of God to Abram have been abrogated or if God still “owes” this land to the Jews.
The Lord’s words to King Solomon helps one understand the nature of these promises of land (and “nationhood”) to Israel:
“Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, with integrity of heart and in uprightness, and you do everything I commanded him and keep My statutes and My judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I said to David your father, saying, ‘There shall not fail a man to be ruler in Israel.’
But if you or your sons turn from Me and do not keep My commandments and My statutes Moses set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I gave them. I will cast from My sight this house which I made holy by My name. Israel will be destroyed, and will become but prattle among the peoples. As for this exalted house, everyone who passes by it will be astonished, and will hiss and say, ‘Why did the Lord do this to this land and to this house?’ Then they will answer, ‘Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, and they embraced other gods and worshiped and served them. That is why the Lord brought all this calamity on them.’”
- III Kingdoms 9:4-9 LXX
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Israel was soon abandoning the promises of God and worshiping false gods, and the Lord stuck to His word and drove them out of their land into exile and the temple was destroyed (to be rebuilt later). “All bets were off” at this point, and Israel was on a downward spiral towards the great Day of the Lord (fulfilled in the Incarnation and parousia of Christ).
The apocalyptic literature of the Holy Prophets and the eschatological expectation of a coming Messiah was the only hope left for the people of Israel, and the predictions and ruminations on His coming were at a fever pitch all the way up until the birth of Jesus (e.g. the Holy Prophets Daniel, Ezekiel and Jeremiah, the Wisdom of Sirach, the Wisdom of Solomon and apocalyptic literature like 2 Enoch, all of which speak of the coming Messiah, the resurrection and the restoration of Israel on the great Day of the Lord).
Of course, the ultimate rejection of God by the Jews was the rejection and murder of their own Messiah – Jesus of Nazareth. Because of their “unbelief” - Saint Paul writes – Israel was “cut off” (Epistle to the Romans 11:19) from their standing before God as His chosen people. Salvation has always been by faith (as we see in Abraham) and never because of ethnicity or heritage. Otherwise, the Incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ were meaningless (and this is the greatest scandal and danger of Zionism). More on this in part three.
The people who were of descendants of Israelites – that is, those who did not receive Christ and become Christians – in their rejection of the Messiah were also rejecting the promise God made to them regarding land and nationhood. “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (St Matthew 21:43). This was seen most explicitly in the destruction of Jerusalem and the (second) temple in AD 70 by the Roman armies of Titus. The Jews would never again worship in Jerusalem as they were commanded by God, and the religion (and old covenant) was abrogated and rendered“useless” (as St Paul says in Hebrews) by the new covenant, through Christ.
Finally, it should be noted that the entirety of the Old Testament promises to the people of Israel were never intended to be permanent or the finality of God’s revelation and salvation for His people; they were merely “types” and “shadows” of that which was to come (cf. St Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews ch. 10) – the new covenant. The promises made to the “seed” of Abram were promises ultimately made to Christians and fulfilled through the Incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ: “For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham” (St Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews 2:16); and this includes the promise of the land of Israel to the seed of Abram, which is also fulfilled in Christ and the new testament Church (again, more on this in the third part); for Christ is truly “the seed” of Abraham (Epistle to the Galatians 3:16).
The land of Israel, Jerusalem, the temple and all of the old covenant were merely shadows and types of what was to come in the new, and in Christ and His Church. There is nothing “special” about the land that was once Israel today (especially the modern Jewish nation-state, which doesn’t occupy the same land as promised to Abram to begin with, and has no temple and no Levitical worship, and no true ’Jewish’ people), and it was only a type of the “heavenly Jerusalem” and kingdom as found in Jesus Christ and in the Church.
To ascribe sacred and unwavering importance to this land and to the Jewish religion is to Judaize (a heresy, condemned by the Council in Acts of the Apostles, ch. 15, the entirety of St Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, and subsequently by other councils and fathers of the Church over the centuries) and abandon the new covenant altogether – it is apostasy and a rejection of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. Epistle to the Hebrews, ch. 6ff).
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.”
- St Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews 12:22-24
It should be evident, therefore, that the promise made to Abram regarding the land of Israel and the inheritance of his “seed” is a promise of the kingdom of Christ and the Church – an eternal kingdom that “cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28) that is not of this world. Whether Jew or Gentile, this is the Gospel for all and the salvation for all, withoutexception.
In my final post on this topic, I will conclude by discussing the relationship between Israel or the ‘Jews’ and that of the Church (much of which has been hinted at throughout this post).
As always, we should pray for Jews (as well as Zionists), who are deceived into thinking that they are without the need of the Gospel and that our concerns should be with this world, maps, borders and the division of land. Lord, have mercy on us all.
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Part III – Israel: The Church
As I come to my last entry on this subject, I must admit that this is to me the simplest and most straightforward point one could make with regards to Israel. While I grew up in a tradition that wrongly saw the ‘Jews’ of today as “God’s chosen people” and in a place of favor even greater than that of the Church, I now believe the truth – and it seems to be a rather plain one in the Scriptures. I find it hard to understand how people can miss this who claim such an admiration for the Scriptures, but I digress. This isn’t about pointing fingers – I was there once. Lord, have mercy on us all.
So then, the last topic to cover with regards to Israel as the “people of God” is how Israel relates to the Church.
To put it plainly, the Church is Israel; that is, the Church replaces and takes its place as Israel or God’s “chosen people,” called out from the world and set apart as His own.
After all, the word “church” is translated from the Greek ekklesia which literally means “the called-out ones” or “the gathered” assembly. The same people who were called out of the wilderness and into Palestine are those who are called from all the ends of the earth (along with all those in heaven) to worship the Trinity and our risen God as Christians. The people of Israel were not a “separate plan” of redemption and the Church is not an ellipsis in God’s plans for humanity; salvation can be through Christ and through the Faith of Abraham alone.
In fact, we can see plainly in the Scriptures that the worship and prayers of Israel before Christ were insufficient for salvation (Saint Paul calls them “worthless”) – the death and resurrection of Christ was always part of salvation for them (and thus the necessity of Christ descending to Hades to free the captives from the grips of death through the Gospel). The apocalyptic literature of second-temple Judaism points to this quite regularly, as well, but those who reject these Scriptures wouldn’t know this as readily, of course. In doing so, they have played into the hands of the Jews and abandoned the Gospel.
Everything that the Scriptures say about Israel is also said about the Church in the new covenant, without exception. More importantly, however, the things said about Israel and the Church in the Scriptures are not said when applied to disobedient Israelites. There is no “get out of jail free card” for Jews simply because they’re Jews, and “not all Israel is Israel.” This has always been the case, and it is the same today for the Church as the trueIsrael.
For example, God is said to love Israel and they are referred to as His beloved people in the old testament Scriptures in various places. However, for those who are disobedient, God is not pleased and they are not His “beloved” people (cf. Jeremiah 12:8; 16:5, etc.). Indeed, the Church – as the faithful and true descendants of Abraham, in Christ – are now God’s beloved people: “I will sow her to Myself on the earth, and will love her that was not loved, and will say to that which was not My people, ‘You are my people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are the Lord my God!’” (Hosea 2:23 LXX; cf. Romans 9:25).
Again, the Jews are often referred to as God’s “children,” but those who are disobedient and persist in unbelief are no longer God’s children: “They sinned; the blameworthy children are not His” (Deuteronomy 32:5 LXX). Jesus himself made this clear, as recounted in St John’s Gospel:
“‘I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.’ They answered and said to Him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father … You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.’”
- Gospel According to St John 8:37-41, 44
In this conversation, Jesus points out that the Jews who reject Him as their Messiah (in other words, every Jew alive today and since this point in time) are of the devil, and that God the Father is no longer their father – Satan is. They even accused Jesus of being abastard in this conversation (v. 41b). As an aside, how strange that protestants and evangelicals rely upon the old testament Scriptures of these people (the Masoretic text) who couldn’t even recognize their own Messiah and are – according to Jesus – sons of the devil. It is no wonder that our Father among the Saints, John Chrysostom, once said in a sermon “The synagogues of the Jews are the homes of idolatry and the devil, even though they have no images in them … the Jews do not worship God, but the devil” (Eight Homilies Against the Judaizers, Sermon I:3). If this is “hate speech,” then the first stone must be cast against Christ himself, perhaps the world’s first “antisemite” according to modern definitions of such things. Who will throw that stone?
Israel is, of course, also referred to as the “kingdom of God” in the Scriptures. And yet, those who are unfaithful or reject God (as did all ’Jews’ that did not become Christians) are no longer a part of this kingdom. In the words of the famous “antisemite,” Jesus:
“‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into Gehenna. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’”
Gospel According to St Matthew 8:10-12
So if the Jews that rejected Christ are not of this kingdom, who is? The true sons of Abraham – Christians. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (St Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians 1:13-14). The “kingdom of God” has been taken from the faithless of Israel and given to the true Israel – to Christians (cf. St Matthew 21:43).
Given the title of these posts, it should be obvious that Israel or ‘the Jews’ are also often referred to as the “people of God.” In the same manner as all the previous titles mentioned here, however, those that are unfaithful and follow after other gods (as with the Jews who rejected Christ) are no longer God’s people: “Call his name Lo-Ammi, for you are not My people, and I am not your God” (Hosea 1:9 LXX). Faithful, Orthodox Christians, on the other hand, are most assuredly God’s people: “… our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (St Paul’sEpistle to Titus 2:13-14).
The faithful of Israel were called God’s “vineyard,” “priests,” the “wife” or “bride” of God, the “circumcised” and “the chosen people” – just as the Church is in the new testament Scriptures. We even see that, in most cases, these references in the old testament were in fact meant for the Church and are seen in greatest fulfillment in the life of the Church –not in the shadows of the old covenant. The Apostles saw no “disconnect” or “separate plan” for the Church than that of Israel – all that was said of Israel by God was immediately and without question applied to Christians, from the very beginning of the Church, and as clearly seen in the new testament Scriptures.
As has been alluded to several times already in these posts, the Church and Her Christians are the true “children of Abraham,” while disobedient Israelites (those who have rejected Christ) are not:
“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not from men but from God [...] A man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Torah. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith [...] And he [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be counted for them also.”
- St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans 2:28-29; 3:28-30; 4:11
There is no way that one can conclude from the Scriptures that to be a Jew is a matter merely of ethnicity or nationality. The true Jews are the faithful sons of Abraham, who have the circumcision of the heart through the Grace of the Holy Spirit; the true Jews are Christians and the new covenant has fulfilled and abrogated the old.
Jewish people have rejected their own Prophet from among their people; their own Messiah and salvation from God: “And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people” (Acts 2:23; cf. Deuteronomy 18:15,18-19). In so doing, they have ceased to be the children of Abraham and this is now applied to the Church of Jesus Christ.
“Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.”
St Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians 3:7-9
St Paul is adamant that anyone who chooses Jewish identity or nationality over the Church and the faith of Abraham “apart from the works of the Torah” (i.e. the worship and temple rites of Israel in the old covenant) has abandoned the Gospel and is following a false one (cf. Galatians 1:6-7). This is the primary theme of his epistles to Galatia and the Hebrews, after all: There is only one Gospel and one plan of salvation for God’s people, whether “Jew” or “Gentile,” slave or free, male or female (cf. Galatians 3:28); “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).
To be a Christian is to be a Jew – and vice versa – in the truest sense of the words. It was always the case in Israel that to be “of Israel” was to be faithful and to trust in the Lord. Likewise, it has always been the case that to be a Christian is to be faithful to Christ and His commandments. Those who identified Israel along national or ethnic lines – or even along the lines of old covenant worship and ceremony – were condemned as in error by both Christ and His Apostles. Faith is the key, and has always been the key.
Finally, we know that the new covenant in Christ is not something exclusively for the Gentiles because it was given to the Jews first. In other words, there are not separate “plans” for salvation – one for the Jews as God’s “chosen people” and another for the Christians as a sort of “interruption” to God’s redemption of Israel in history. To believe in separate plans for salvation or to claim that the Gospel is not for the Jews today is to deny the Gospel and abandon Christ; to make His Incarnation, death and resurrection wholly unnecessary for the whole world.
“‘Behold, days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘when I shall make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not according to the covenant I made with their fathers in the day I took hold of their hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not abide in My covenant, and I disregarded them,’ says the Lord.”
Jeremiah 38:31-32 LXX
This “new covenant” was made with the house of Israel, as the Prophet intimates above. “But,” you will say, “isn’t this a covenant with the Church?” Exactly. Israel is the Church and the Church is Israel. This “new covenant” is a covenant with the true people of God by faith and is one that supersedes and replaces the old: “But now He has obtained a much more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second” (St Paul’sEpistle to the Hebrews 8:6-7).
Does St Paul leave a place for the old covenant to remain between God and the “Jews,” even in light of the dawn of Christianity? For the Jews to remain as God’s “chosen people,” despite the rise of the Church and the destruction of the Temple and the old covenant’s ceremonies and rituals in the first century (AD 68-70)? “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13).
There are numerous other references and citations I could provide that clearly show the abrogation of the old covenant in the establishment of the new as well as the fact that the Church is the true Israel and that the Jews are no longer God’s “chosen people” apart from Christ. I hope that what I have provided above is enough to at least get you headed in the right direction if you have been led astray by false teaching in today’s evangelical gatherings or by the tenets of Zionism.
I hope that I’ve successfully made a case for the fact that “Jews” are not God’s people and that they are in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Mysteries of the Church just like anyone else. Those that have rejected Christ and created a religion around the “traditions of men” and anti-Christian sentiments are emphatically not the chosen people, and I can think of no one else in this world that needs the Gospel more. To refuse to tell them of their unfaithfulness or to blindly support a nation that has committed more inhumane acts of terrorism than any other state (with the exception of the United States) is unacceptable as Christians, and we must not be led astray any longer, but cling to the Gospel and its truth – no matter how hard it might be to hear it for those who remain in darkness while the light shines brightly upon them.
And so, I will conclude this brief series with a quote from one of St John Chrysostom’s homilies against the Jews (many in his day were in danger of apostasy, by celebrating the feasts of the Jews as Christians, and he devoted several sermons to criticizing this practice). We must never be proud because we have received the Grace of God in the Gospel; we must stand fast, and cling to Christ through faithfulness. Otherwise, we’ll be no better off than those who rejected their Messiah and had him put to death. Lord, have mercy on us all!
“But do not be surprised that I called the Jews pitiable. They really are pitiable and miserable. When so many blessings from heaven came into their hands, they thrust them aside and were at great pains to reject them. The morning Sun of Justice arose for them, but they thrust aside its rays and still sit in darkness. We, who were nurtured by darkness, drew the light to ourselves and were freed from the gloom of their error. They were the branches of that holy root, but those branches were broken. We had no share in the root, but we did reap the fruit of godliness. From their childhood they read the prophets, but they crucified him whom the prophets had foretold. We did not hear the divine prophecies but we did worship him of whom they prophesied. And so they are pitiful because they rejected the blessings which were sent to them, while others seized hold of these blessing and drew them to themselves. Although those Jews had been called to the adoption of sons, they fell to kinship with dogs; we who were dogs received the strength, through God’s grace, to put aside the irrational nature which was ours and to rise to the honor of sons.”
- St John Chrysostom, Against the Jews, Homily I:II:1
Adapted from On Behalf of All: