Shifting attitudes about Israel within Christendom have created confusion about the Christian’s connection to the Jewish people, the modern State of Israel and the Middle East conflict.
Why the shift in attitudes? Why the confusion?
What Christians from any era of Church history think about the Jewish people and Israel is largely determined by their approach to Bible interpretation. Most theologians agree there are two basic approaches—the literal and the allegorical.
Olive Tree Alliance consistently recognizes the normal meaning of words, with no allegorical manipulation within the historical and cultural context of Scripture—which is the literal approach.
The allegorical approach took root in Christian thought some 1800 years ago when Augustine of Hippo, one of the most influential Christian thinkers of the day, promoted a symbolic or metaphorical interpretation of the Bible. His influence propelled the allegorical approach into an official tenet of the state Church, even though it had been denounced as heresy two centuries earlier.
Augustine based his theology on views first espoused by Justin Martyr who—because he believed Israel to be forsaken and dispossessed by God—proposed that all the blessings, but paradoxically none of the curses of the Abrahamic Covenant were passed to the church. John Chrysostom, a contemporary of Augustine, went a step further charging the Jewish people with the death of Christ and inciting violence against them as a justifiable consequence.
Over the next 15 centuries, Replacement Theology—also known as Supersessionism or fulfillment theology—emerged as an official doctrine of the Church. (1) The allegorical approach spawned seemingly endless anti-Semitic laws that restricted Jewish life and legitimized the persecution of the Jewish people.
In 1233, Pope Gregory IX established the Papal Inquisition making the conversion of Jews to Christianity a priority under threat of death. The Spanish Inquisition in 1478 specifically targeted the Jewish population. The objective was to expose and punish converted Jews who were believed to secretly practice Judaism; but in the end, became a tool to drive Jewish people from Spain.
After 14 years of gruesome torture and death via burning at the stake, an edict in 1492 gave the Jewish community of Spain the choice of baptism into the Catholic Church or exile. Most fled. Across Europe, pogroms and localized Easter massacres fanned by regional passion plays forced Jewish people to choose conversion to the Church of Rome or death.
During those horrific times, the Jewish community learned that the name “Christ” was only linked with the hatred and violence inflicted upon them by the professing church.
No atrocity more graphically illustrates the effects of Replacement Theology than the Nazi Holocaust. Perpetrated under the influence of Hitler’s neo-pagan ideology, centuries of Replacement Theology prepared a complicit European Christendom. History sadly documents that Christians used theology to justify not only the persecution, but the attempted worldwide annihilation of the Jewish people.
Decades after the carnage of the Holocaust, the impact of Replacement Theology still lingers. Although a normal reading of the Bible does not support the aberrant doctrine, churches abandoning the literal interpretation of Scripture are particularly vulnerable. Entire denominations have turned their backs not only on the nation of Israel, but the Jewish people as well.
Today, many evangelicals stand in solidarity with the modern State of Israel and the Jewish people, but there are signs that some support is beginning to waver. Over the past 20 years, attitudes regarding Israel and the Jewish community are again shifting as popular evangelical leaders have begun espousing a loud anti-Israel agenda that fuels anti-Semitism.
Olive Tree Alliance works to eliminate confusion about Israel and thus provides a biblical foundation for Christian solidarity with the Jewish community. We believe that an educated understanding of the Bible and history motivates and enables Christians to debunk misinformation about Israel and combat anti-Semitism.
Please consider partnering with Olive Tree Alliance to help end confusion and counter the flow of misinformation about Israel and the Jewish community.
1) The image of Ecclesia et Synagoga reflects the allegorical approach to Bible interpretation of professing Christendom during the Middle Ages. Many examples can be found in works of art from the period. [Public domain].
OLIVE TREE ALLIANCE
Biblically Authentic – Standing With Israel
Charles E. McCracken