Deuteronomy 30 and Supersessionism

Supersessionism is also called replacement theology. It is the idea that Israel failed and Jesus intended to replace Israel with a new people. There are many forms of supersessionism. I highly recommend R. Kendall Soulen’s The God of Israel and Christian Theology for an in-depth view.

What I have here are simply some notes I used for teaching a class. Though they are just notes, and though for some people they cover just the basics, I hope they will provoke some thought . . .

The Place of Israel According to the Church Fathers

The Epistle of Barnabas, c.135:
Take heed to yourselves and be not like some piling up your sins and saying that the covenant is theirs as well as ours. It is ours, but they lost it completely just after Moses received it.

Justin Martyr, 138-161:
We too, would observe your circumcision of the flesh, your Sabbath days, and in a word, all your festivals, if we were not aware of the reason why they were imposed upon you, namely, because of your sins and the hardness of heart.
 The custom of circumcising the flesh, handed down from Abraham, was given to you as a distinguishing mark, to set you off from other nations and from us Christians. The purpose of this was that you and only you might suffer the afflictions that are now justly yours; that only your land be desolated, and you cities ruined by fire, that the fruits of you land be eaten by strangers before your very eyes; that not one of you be permitted to enter your city of Jerusalem. Your circumcision of the flesh is the only mark by which you can certainly be distinguished from other men…as I stated before it was by reason of your sins and the sins of your fathers that, among other precepts, God imposed upon you the observance of the sabbath as a mark.

Origen, 185-224:
We may thus assert in utter confidence that the Jews will not return to their earlier situation, for they have committed the most abominable of crimes, in forming this conspiracy against the Savior of the human race…hence the city where Jesus suffered was necessarily destroyed, the Jewish nation was driven from its country, and another people was called by God to the blessed election.

Deuteronomy 30 as Prophecy
The prophecy of Deuteronomy 30:1-6 occurs in an unusual context. God has just explained, through Moses, what the consequences will be for Israel’s obedience and disobedience, the blessings and curses of the covenant. The blessings and curses are prophetic, indicating what will happen in Israel’s future.

Then Moses delivers a surprising message, one that is gloomy but followed by hope:

Israel will experience all of the blessings and the curses of the covenant, “when all these things have come upon you” (vs.1).

Israel will be ejected from the land and scattered to the nations, “among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you” (vs.1).

Israel will return to God after the captivity, “and return to the Lord your God” (vs.2).

Israel will obey God, “and obey his voice in all that I command” (vs.2).

Israel will be regathered and more numerous than before, “he will gather you again . . . he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers” (vss.3,5).

Israel will have circumcised hearts and perfect love, “God will circumcise your heart . . . so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart” (vs.6).

The prophecy of Deuteronomy 30 has not yet come to pass. Why do I say that?

The return to Israel after the Babylonian captivity was in small numbers as recorded in Ezra. They were not more numerous than their fathers.

The return to Israel in 1948 has not yet been accompanied by spiritual revival.

The promise of Israel’s return continued to be declared long after the end of the exile (Zechariah 10:8-12).

The promise of a last days turning of Israel to God continues in the New Testament (Romans 11:26).

Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 30:1-6 are the basis of numerous prophecies about Israel’s regathering and spiritual revival in days to come. A partial list would include:

Isaiah 11:11-12, God will gather Israel from the four corners of the earth.

Jeremiah 23:7-8, The last days regathering will be greater than the Exodus.

Ezekiel 36:24, God will take Israel out of the nations and into their own land.

Zechariah 10:8-12, In far countries, Israel will remember God and be regathered and be strong in the Lord.

Jeremiah 31:31-34, God will write Torah in Israel’s heart (note: nothing is said about Gentiles in the New Covenant promise).

Ezekiel 36:24-27, God will sprinkle Israel for cleansing, giving a new heart and a new spirit.

Note: The promise of Israel’s heart-circumcision relates to Jeremiah’s concept of Torah written on the heart and Ezekiel’s concept of a new heart and a new spirit. In the New Testament, this is called glorification, the process by which God’s people in the Age to Come are freed from the presence of sin and made perfect in righteousness. The New Testament writers were simply expressing a long-standing Jewish hope right from the Torah!


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
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