Posted by: mystic444 | June 15, 2014

The New Testament’s View of ‘Israel’

One has to wonder whether ‘Christians’ have lost all ability to read with comprehension the New Testament ‘Scriptures’ which they claim to believe. These days, we have ‘Christians’ ranging from ‘far right’ Conservatives and Evangelicals like Baptist pastor John Hagee to the Roman Catholic Pope, openly and unblushingly proclaiming that the Jews/”Israel” are ‘still’ “God’s chosen people” with special covenants – particularly a covenant granting possession of a piece of real estate in the Middle East – which belong to them alone (as opposed to all non-Jews/Gentiles). We know that this is so – we are told – because the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 11:29 that “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable”. Yet no one seems to comprehend that such a notion of racial Jews and national “Israel” having irrevocable claim to such materialistic covenant blessings peculiar to them alone is completely contrary to the argument of Paul and the teachings of Jesus Christ! 🙄

It’s true that in that very interesting portion of Romans – chapters 9-11 – Paul began by expressing his concern and sorrow for his brothers ‘according to the flesh’, the Israelites who have been given wonderful covenants and promises (9:1-5). In chapter 10 verse one Paul said my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved; and by the end of chapter 11 he has reasoned to the conclusion that and so all Israel will be saved (11:26) because the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (11:29). But this conclusion concerning “all Israel” at the end of chapter 11 has been reached by qualifying and restricting the concept of “all Israel”.

The apostle Paul consistently denied that being a Jew was a matter of racial descent/genealogy; or that being “the Israel of God” was a matter of national affiliation. Near the beginning of the letter to the Roman Christians (2:28 and 29) he wrote: For he is NOT a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision 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, and not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. In Romans 9-11, after expressing his concern and sorrow at the beginning of chapter 9, he essentially followed that up by admitting that his sorrow was misplaced because despite all appearances God’s promises to “Israel” were not failing to be accomplished. That is because …they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham… (9:6 and 7). He then began to develop that very controversial concept of “election”, and the “remnant” to whom the promises belong.

I’m not going to get involved in the controversy between ‘Calvinists’ and ‘Arminians’ concerning election and predestination. For my purpose, it is sufficient to point out that in Paul’s theology, the ‘elect remnant’ are those who at some point in their lifetimes come to embrace the faith of Abraham, and in particular faith in Jesus as the Christ and in the things he taught. Whether these people are ‘elect’ because they believe, or believe because they’re elect, they are nevertheless the same people; and one can pretty much refer to them as “believers” and “elect” interchangeably – in Paul’s theology at least.

The point is that in Romans 9 and 11 Paul insisted that “all Israel” to whom the covenants and promises were made were the elect/believers, not everyone who is born Jewish. In fact, God’s gifts and calling extend to people of all nations so that Gentile believers/elect obtain the same promised covenant blessings as Jewish believers/elect. Gentile believers in Jesus Christ are as much the “children of Abraham” as are Jewish believers in Jesus Christ; and those who reject the ‘Messiahship’ and the teachings of Jesus are not “children of Abraham” and heirs of the covenant promises no matter how pure is their physical genealogical descent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So when Paul said in 11:26 all Israel will be saved he was not talking about all those who are physically descended from Jacob/Israel and are physically Jews (he specifically said in 9:6 that such physical descendants of Israel are NOT “all Israel”); rather he was speaking of the elect remnant who receive the promises as opposed to “the rest” who were hardened (11:7).

But despite everything Paul has said by way of contrasting the ‘elect’/believers with Israel “according to the flesh”, those who lack the ability to read with comprehension will claim that Romans 11:28 nevertheless teaches that all physical Jews are beloved for the sake of the fathers! Here’s what the verse says: As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. See, we are told, those who are enemies of the gospel are nevertheless beloved for the fathers’ sakes because of election. Never mind that this flagrantly contradicts everything which Paul has said previously!

The question should be asked, “what does ‘the election’ mean in this verse”; or rather “who are ‘the election’”? Many people read it as if ‘the election’ means simply “God’s choice”; in fact a number of translations (such as the Revised Standard Version and the New International Version) even delete the article (“the”) preceding “election” so it reads “as concerning election…” and will sound like it means “concerning God’s choice they [the Jews] are [all] beloved”. The problem is that Paul had already defined what he meant by “the election” in 11:7 – although this is obscured in all English translations I have consulted except the King James Version and one literal translation. For this reason I used the KJV for verse 28 quoted above, and will use it for verse 7 which reads: What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.

The same phrase – “the election” – was used in both verses; both cases included the article “the”. The Greek word for “election” (ekloge), as in English, is not the same word as is usually rendered “elect” (eklektos) though it is a cognate. “Ekloge” can be rendered “election”, “selection”, or “choice”. Since, in verse 7, “the election/choice” is contrasted with “the rest” who are hardened, it fairly obviously is synonymous with “the elect” or “the chosen” in Paul’s usage. For this reason, all English translations I have consulted (with the 2 noted exceptions) translate “the election” in verse 7 as “the elect” or similar phrases such as “the chosen” (Young’s Literal Translation); “God’s chosen servants” (Weymouth); and “the selected group” (International Standard Version).

Instead of being consistent in translation, however – except for the KJV – the English translations render the phrase in verse 28 variously as “the election”, “election” (without the article), “the selection”, “the choice”, and “God’s choice”. This prevents the reader from realizing that “the election” in verse 28 is the same as those who were contrasted with “the rest” in verse 7. In reality verse 28 has the same meaning as verse 7 and all of the rest of Paul’s teaching in Romans: “As concerning the Gospel, they [Israel ‘according to the flesh’ – ‘the rest’ of verse 7] are enemies for your sakes; but as concerning the election [the elect/chosen ones], they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes [they have obtained the promised blessing which ‘Israel’ seeks as in verse 7].”

According to Paul, Gentile believers/elect are also beloved “for the sake of the fathers” (the promise to Abraham was that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in him); and they inherit the very same covenant promises and blessings as do the Jewish elect/believers. They are grafted into the same “good olive tree”. This remains true even in that future ‘golden age’ when “fullness” of blessing for the Gentiles arrives and the whole world is blessed (if that ‘postmillennial’ interpretation is correct). Paul does not foresee a time when things will return to the way they used to be (according to Paul’s theology), with the Jews being “God’s chosen people” and the Gentiles cut off from God, the covenants, and Christ. Nor does Paul foresee a day when the Jews will have their own covenant blessings separate from those of the ‘saved’ Gentiles. In Paul’s theology, all believers (Jew and Gentile) are one “in Christ Jesus” and participate in the same blessings.

This by itself should indicate what kind of blessings Paul considered to be inherent in “the covenants” and “the promises”. Just as the “Israel of God” is not the physical “Israel”, so the “promised land” is not a physical piece of real estate. The blessings belonging to God’s elect/believers are “spiritual blessing[s] in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3), and the “promised land” is a “heavenly” country (Hebrews 11:16). Our struggle in obtaining and keeping our “promised land” is not against “flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12) – in contrast to the struggle of “Israel according to the flesh” against the Palestinians in order to steal their “promised land” from those Palestinians; and “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” (2 Corinthians 10:4) in contrast to the guns and bombs used by racial Jews against the Palestinians.

This is consistent with Paul’s insistence that Jewish and Gentile believers all partake of the same covenant promises and blessings. Certainly I am not aware of any Zionist who will accept the notion that “the land of Israel” (the physical land) belongs to all believers – both Jew and Gentile – and that Jewish non-Christians (or simply non-believers) have no claim to that physical land! 😆 Nevertheless, “New Testament” theology does insist that no unbeliever (even though Jewish) has any inheritance in God’s covenants; while ALL believers (both Jewish and Gentile) have full inheritance in all of God’s covenant blessings.

All of this has been about Paul’s theology; but many people believe that Paul was more “anti-Christ” than “Christian”. So what did Jesus have to say about racial Jews and Israelites? Let me just give a couple of examples of Jesus’ thought on the matter.

When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:10-12). This was said after a Roman centurion had expressed faith in Jesus’ ability to heal his servant without even coming to his house and being physically in the presence of the sick person.

Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof (Matthew 21:42 and 43). This statement was made after telling a parable about the leasers of a vineyard who continually refused to render to the owner his share of the produce (lease payment); they beat up and killed the servants the owner sent to collect his payment, and finally killed the owner’s son. This was a parable about the Israelites’ continual rejection and sometimes murder of the prophets who came to warn the people and to get them to ‘render to God His due’ by turning from their evil ways and properly serving God. In both passages, the teaching of Jesus seems very similar to the teaching of the apostle Paul! 😯 He taught the “replacement theology” which modern so-called Christians so despise in deference to Jewish fables!

Those who call themselves ‘Christians’ and claim to believe in the “New Testament” as “Scripture” need to wake up and read their “Scripture” more carefully. Then they need to decide whether they will believe it, or Jewish lies and myths!

As for myself, I don’t believe in a “personal” God, especially one who has ever chosen one people over everyone else; and who gives them a piece of land as their own, calling on them to murder or drive out those people who already occupy that land. “The Force” does not make ‘covenants’ with people, and especially with one people to the exclusion of all others. I believe it was wrong of early Christianity to give any credence at all to such an idea – even though they maintained that God “used to” have a favorite but doesn’t any longer.

 

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