The Jews, Modern Israel, and the New Supercessionism

Calvin L. Smith King's Divinity Press, Lampeter, UK May 5, 2009
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According to supersessionists the church has replaced or superseded Israel in God’s program. (While the British spell the word “supercessionism,” the preferred American spelling is “supersessionism.”) Since this amillennial view seems to be growing in popularity, it is encouraging to have this book with its defense of the role of Israel in God’s future program. Editor Smith is the principal of King’s Evangelical Divinity School, a distance-learning college in Britain, and editor of Evangelical Review of Society and Politics.

The book’s eight chapters provide an up-to-date defense of the biblical basis for a future for Israel. In chapter 1 Andy Cheung, a lecturer in biblical languages, defends the view that the word “Israel” in the New Testament, and especially in Romans 9–11, always refers to ethnic Israel. Smith, the book’s editor, discusses in chapter 2 the nation Israel as a biblical theology theme. In chapter 3 Jacob Prasch, founder of Moriel Ministries, discusses the hermeneutical issue of how a spiritualized interpretation of Scripture gave rise to supersessionism. In chapter 4, “A Calvinist Considers Israel’s Right to the Land,” Stephen Vantassel takes issue with replacement theology. He notes that in the church “Jews and Gentiles are one. But this oneness does not negate God’s promise to the physical descendents [sic] of Abraham” (p. 73). He adds that “the New Testament does not deny Israel’s right to the land. There is nothing in the New Testament which tells us that God’s promise to Abraham is no longer valid (Gen. 15:18)” (ibid., p. 76). Vantassel makes it clear that “God promised the land to Abraham’s physical descendents [sic], not his spiritual ones” (ibid.). “Paul never denies that Israel still has a right to a particular plot of land” (ibid., p. 79). “The replacement view,” Vantassel points out, “fails to consider that a literal bestowal of land to physical descendents [sic] of Abraham can be accomplished simultaneously with the spiritual blessings that Christ will grant to [believing] Gentiles” (ibid., pp. 79–80).

Howard Taylor discusses in chapter 5 what the Bible teaches about Israel and the land. Writing chapter 6 on evangelicals and Zionism, Paul Wilkinson, a pastor, presents interesting historical data on early Zionists, such as W. E. Blackstone (whose book Jesus Is Coming this reviewer enjoyed reading as a teenager), John Murray McCheyne, Charles Simeon, J. C. Ryle, John Nelson Darby, F. B. Meyer, and Joseph Seiss. In chapter 7 Smith addresses the political issues present in the Arab-Israeli conflict and the relationships between messianic Jews and Christian Arabs. In the last chapter Tony Pearce, a pastor in a Jewish area in London, discusses issues pertaining to Jewish evangelism.

This book is a strong polemic against the view that the church has replaced Israel and that the promises God made to Abraham and his descendants are passé. This book is a refreshing presentation of God’s faithfulness to His chosen people, Israel. Hopefully this work will encourage supersessionists to reexamine their hermeneutical approach to what the Bible says about the Jews and modern-day Israel.

—Roy B. Zuck

October 1, 2011
 

Biblotheca Sacra

This review appeared in the Oct-Dec 2011 vol. 168 no. 4 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.

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