Surreptitious Supersessionism

Supersessionism can be sneaky (if you don’t know what supersessionism is, check here).

A commenter on the Jesus Creed blog, where I guest-posted recently about Richard Harvey’s book, Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology, said that someone asked N.T. Wright (famed scholar of the New Testament) if he was supersessionist. Wright said that he was not.

The thing you can learn from a good book on the subject (we’ll be learning from a great one, Soulen’s The God of Israel and Christian Theology) is that supersessionism is not just overt anti-Judaism. Supersessionism is far more pervasive in Christian theology and far more surreptitious (that means sneaky). My guess is that Wright thought to himself, “I am very sensitive to Jewish issues, I am sympathetic to Judaism, and therefore, my ideas are not supersessionist in nature.”

Yet, the sad truth is, Wright is a supersessionist, even if he doesn’t realize it. He sees Judaism as subsumed in Christ and that there is not an ongoing, active role for Israel as the freely elected, irrevocably chosen people of God.

How does someone who understands Judaism so well and who writes some of the best historical sketches of Second Temple Judaism in all of academic literature wind up nonetheless being a supersessionist?

The very idea of supersessionism is just so darn hard to shake from within Christian theology.

R. Kendall Soulen’s The God of Israel and Christian Theology is a book that stands out from the crowd of books on the subject. This is the singular most intelligent, constructive, and incisive treatment of the topic.

On pg. 29, Soulen cites one example of supersessionism, from Melito of Sardis, the second century church father:

The people Israel was precious before the church arose,
and the law was marvelous before the gospel was elucidated.
But when the church arose
and the gospel took precedence
the model was made void, conceding its power to the reality . . .
the people was made void when the church arose.
From On Pascha

This little theological poem is an example of economic supersessionism: the idea that Israel is subsumed and made obsolete under the new economy of Christianity (or New Covenant or however you would like to express the new economy brought to us in Christ).

Economic supersessionism need not be anti-Judaic. You can admire a fossil. You can write about its history, the beauty of the creature that became the fossil. You can even say charitable things about those who continue to exist according to the pattern of the fossilized creature. But you believe nonetheless that the being that gave arise to the fossil can only continue meaningfully by switching to the new economy.

Often hand in hand with economic supersessionism is punitive supersessionism: Israel’s place is surrendered due to lack of faith in Christ. The “punitive” in punitive supersessionism does not always indicate that the church punishes Israel (though historically, this happened more often than not in numerous slaughters, burnings, pogroms, and eventually the ovens of the Nazi party). Rather, punitive indicates that the removal of Israel from its place as the covenant people of God is a punishment for failure to believe in and follow Christ. However, the church often took it upon itself to be the avenging agent of God against the Jews.

Melito of Sardis has a poem about this as well:

Therefore, O Israel,
you did not quake in the presence of the Lord,
so you quaked at the assault of foes . . .
you did not lament over the Lord,
so you lamented over your firstborn;
You did not tear your clothes when the Lord was hung,
so you tore them over those who were slain. . .
you did not accept the Lord,
you were not pitied by him. . .
-From On Pascha

You might possible eradicate economic supersessionism from your theology and expunge every trace of punitive supersessionism and still have a problem. You can say all day long, “I continue to believe Israel is God’s chosen people,” and yet be a supersessionist in a subtle and pervasive way.

How is this so?

The most pervasive, subtle, and sneaky form of supersessionism is structural supersessionism: reading the overarching narrative of the Bible in such a way that Israel is a footnote in history.

Soulen introduces a concept called the canonical narrative. It means the way you see the big story arc of the Bible, the metanarrative, the overarching tale.

The topic deserves its own blog post, but I’ll briefly describe the standard canonical narrative of the church, which Soulen documents as a second century production. Many modern theologians have not progressed from the second century on this most important matter. The SCN or standard canonical narrative is as follows:




Consummation (a fancy word for bringing top completion, perfection)

God created us. We fell away from him. He sent a redeemer to bring us back. The redeemer will return to consummate all things.

Consider how the SCN makes use of the Bible:

Creation – Genesis 1-2

Fall – Genesis 3

Redemption – Gospels and Epistles

Consummation – Revelation

The Bible of the SCN is greatly abridged. You could take your Christian Bible, cut out Genesis 4 through Malachi 4, and not lose a drop. Copies of the New Testament could be printed with Genesis 1-3 as an introduction and a selection of Messianic prophecies appended, and little would be lost.

The SCN is structural supersessionism because in the very structure of its understanding of the Bible, Israel is a footnote.

We would do well to ask ourselves, why didn’t God bring the redeemer right away, before Abraham and Moses and all that inconvenient stuff?

At the very least, we need to embrace a canonical narrative that recognizes God sunk his presence into the “carnal soil” of history (the term was coined by Michael Wyschogrod, an Orthodox Jewish theologian, and is used by Soulen). Israel is the carnal soil into which God’s presence was placed in human history. To make a long story short, in a foolproof manner, not dependent on complete faithfulness from Israel, God’s presence on earth, his incarnation, was through the people Israel.

Ultimately the incarnation settled in its ultimate form in a son of Israel.

Our canonical narrative at the very least needs one more step, and creative ways of restructuring it should be thought out:






So, if you want to develop a theology which rids itself of all supersessionism, which assumes that God did not waste anything in his economy of redemption, that nothing is purposeless in the Biblical story arc, you need not only to get rid of economic and punitive supersessionism, but also structural.

And this is a paradigm change in theology. I suggest Soulen’s book as one great attempt on the way. I find his rebuilding of the canonical narrative persuasive. Others are possible.

Discussion Starter
Are you prepared to accept the three levels of supersessionism (punitive, economic, structural)?

What Biblical ideas persuade you that supersessionism is not true theology? Or, conversely, if you think supersessionism is valid, what points persuade you of that? (I promise, this is dialogue, not a chance to gang up on those who do not share my own theology).

What is the continuing role of the Jewish people in a theology that eliminates supersessionism?


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian, Judaism, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism, R. Kendall Soulen, Replacement Theology, Supersessionism, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Surreptitious Supersessionism

  1. Penina says:

    Would you not agree that Romans 11 is a primary contributor to the prevalence of supercessionist doctrine within Christianity? Specifically:
    Romans 11:15 “For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”
    Romans 11:19-20
    (19) You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”
    (20) Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear;

    Penina Taylor

  2. sidefall says:

    I agree with you that supercessionism permeates Christian theology to a far greater extent than is often realised.

    For example, even those who maintain that Israel has an ongoing purpose in the world often still view Judaism as being superceded by Christianity. Hence Jewish believers are required to assimilate into Christianity. Stuart Dauermann has written eloquently on this, which I think he calls “crypto-supercessionism”.

    I was interested to note that you mention the standard canonical narrative and its supercessionist structure. This reminded me of something, so, if I may, I’m going to digress slightly. Many Christians, particularly evangelicals, feel it important to create statements of faith setting out their doctrines, typically in a list of bullet points. I always find this slightly ironic as these people often label themselves as “bible-believing christians”, but there is no biblical mandate to create such a statement.

    However, the thing that really annoys me about statements of faith is that the overwhelming majority of them make absolutely no mention of Israel or the Jewish people. This makes me feel sick – it’s as if they just don’t exist or are a minor theological sideline. This has to be one of the clearest evidences that supercessionism is deeply embedded in the structure of christian theology.

  3. ichthus888 says:

    Hi there,

    May I ask what you’ve read of Wright that led to your conclusion please?


  4. icthus888:

    First, I asked him in person, respectfully and as an admirer of his writings, in front of 1,000 scholars at the Society of Biblical Literature in New Orleans in November 2009. He said, after making some positive statements about Judaism and Messianic Jews, that we have to understand that Judaism was subsumed in Christ.

    Second, in Jesus and the Victory of God he repeatedly suggests that Jesus is an end to Jewish-Pentateuchal institutions.

    Derek Leman

  5. Penina:

    It’s ironic that you suggest Romans 11 as the source of much supersessionism. Perhaps you intended it that way. Romans 11 is, of course, the most pro-Judaism chapter in the New Testament. Paul says, among other things, that God’s free and irrevocable election of Israel stands. He is clear that he refers to Jewish people apart from faith in Jesus (though there is a damnable insistence by some Christian traditions that Israel in Romans 11 means Christians!).

    The idea that Israel’s no to Yeshua means reconciliation for the world is not supersessionism to me. Mark Kinzer makes much of this statement in Paul, suggesting that God is working through Israel’s no toward the redemption of Israel and the world.

    Please do clarify a bit more what you mean in saying Romans 11 is actually the culprit in this sad tale of Christian triumphalism.

    Derek Leman

    • Penina says:

      Hi Derek,

      I am referring specifically to the idea that the unbelieving branches were cut off in order to make room for the wild branches to be grafted in. Sounds like we are toast so that Gentiles can be the new Jews.

  6. Penina:

    Good point. The thing is, it’s more complex than that. Paul’s audience here is Gentiles who were disdainful of Jews in Rome. His point is that the Jewish people are the root of God’s redemptive purpose in the world and that this has not changed. The cut off part suggests, I think, that individuals among the Jewish people are cut off from the blessings of God’s ongoing work. Another way to say this would be, “God is doing something now in Yeshua that brings peace and hope and many of my own people are cut off from this by their choice to reject him.” I don’t assume this is a statement about final destinies as that might go beyond Paul’s language. But Paul’s point is not merely about his generation being cut off, but also that Israel remains the root of the tree and only through the holiness of Israel (patriarchs, larger concept of the chosen people) are the branches (natural = Jewish individuals, wild = Gentile individuals) holy.

    It would seem Paul is rejecting the idea of perceived supersession and arguing the reality of Israel’s ongoing status as the covenant people of God.

    Derek Leman

  7. amiel4messiah says:

    Excellent thread Derek and some interesting contributions. I am utterly amazed how anyone can read Jeremiah 31:36 and conclude that some church has replaced the Jewish people. I mean, church doesn’t even appear in the Bible – anywhere. It is the mystical Body of Moshiach, comprised of Jews and Gentiles. Jochanan says that salvation is of the Jews. Penina, you need not worry. It’s all part of ‘the plot’ anyhow and Praise be to Adonai, for in the end ALL Israel shall be saved :-) I believe that the time of the Gentiles is drawing to a close. Many, many Rabbis in both the US and Israel are secret believers in Yeshua (and terrified of going public at this stage) – but this will soon change. Baruch Hashem!

  8. Penina says:


    I appreciate your position concerning Romans 11, but whatever Paul’s original intention and meaning, it is clear that some in the church have taken it to mean that unbelieving Jews have been replaced by believing non-Jews on the tree of Judaism. However, you said in your post that the root is Israel. Its pretty clear, though, in the grand scheme of the NT, that the root is supposed to be Jesus, the tree being Israel and the branches being God’s faithful.


  9. Penina says:


    I am not worried – especially since salvation means the physical redemption which the messiah will bring at the end of times. But the myth that there are tons of Rabbis who are secret believers is just not true. With the exception of congregational rabbis, it is far more beneficial for them to “come out of the closed” because of the positive attention they receive from the messianic world – it far outweighs any ostracization by friends and family.

    When I was a believer, I, too, was convinced that there were tons of secret believers among the Orthodox, but it is clear to me now that this is just not the case.


  10. Penina:

    Thanks for your thoughts and I definitely don’t want to seem a nudge who must have the last word.

    I just don’t think many people will say Jesus is the root. Israel as a whole is the root and the branches are individuals. I can try today to check a number of Christian commentaries their take.

    You sound like you have an interesting story, as a former Messianic. Have you written about your story somewhere?

    Derek Leman

  11. Everyone:

    Right after I asked Penina if her story is written up, I looked at the details of her comment that I can see as a blog owner but which the public cannot. She is the director of Shomrei Emet, a counter-missionary organization. I don’t think that discredits her comments any more than being Messianic discredits ours in discussion with mainstream Jews. I am just disclosing this so people might have a better idea where she is coming from. In case you don’t know, counter-missionary organizations are sort of evangelical Jewish groups teaching people reasons not to believe in Yeshua. It is interesting that these groups often use a similar approach to Christian missionary organizations.

    Derek Leman

  12. Penina says:

    Hi Derek,

    My biography can be found at

    Please understand that my organization is educationally based and I do not advocate any form of uncivil behavior towards messianics or anyone else, for that matter. I am not here to bait anyone, just participating in honest dialog.

  13. greg10e says:

    Perhaps Wright can say he is not a supersessionist because he has a different understanding of the purpose and goal of Israel than you do.
    Whilst I respect most of what you are doing and saying, and have learned much from this site, I still get the impression that you believe that God’s work in this world is almost all about Israel. Wright (and the bible, I would say) stresses that God is about putting the whole world back together again, and Israel’s place and purpose are subsumed in the greater work. With the resurrection of Jesus and the breaking in of God’s new kingdom into the world, Israel’s purpose has been eclipsed by the task of bringing all things in heaven and earth under the Lordship of Christ. Israel, as Wright would say (I think), was only ever at best a signpost, not the final picture.
    This doesn’t invalidate or diminish anything Israel ever was or did, but it subjects even the nation of Israel to the Lordship of Christ.

  14. Penina:

    I am glad to hear that. You are most welcome here, then, and I hope I will not be an ungracious host. I would certainly enjoy sometime a friendly point-counterpoint blog discussion on a chosen topic if you were interested. Otherwise, feel free to come back as a reader and commenter often. But I do hope you take me up on the offer of a special blog post exchange of ideas sometime.

    Derek Leman

  15. Penina says:

    Thanks, Derek…

    I would enjoy a post exchange on a given topic. However, my frequency of response on your blog this past 24 hours is unusual as I am very busy. So, understanding that it might take me a couple of days to respond in such a situation, I’d love to have that dialog.


  16. greg10e:

    My emphasis on Israel is due to the community I am part of and the issues we discuss here. I would never want anyone to think that I believe in any sort of Jewish superiority or that I see the redemption of the nations as less important. It is sort of the nature of a Messianic Jewish blog to be out of balance in this way. In my World to Come book, I have a chapter on Israel as the Vessel followed by one called The Nations as the Goal.

    The word subsumed, which you used, is the word I am trying to argue against. Why must Israel’s ongoing role as the covenant people have come to an end simply because the long-called-for extension of God’s revelation to the nations has happened? There is not a need for either-or, but your comment implies that it must be either Israel or the nations. I agree that all things are being brought under the Lordship of Messiah. I am saying that he does it his way and that Israel is at the center. You are saying Israel is no longer the center. Your comment demonstrates my point, and Soulen’s, that supersessionism is very hard to give up and is so bound to Christian thinking, many cannot imagine their theology any other way. So my question is: can you imagine your theology expanding to include the idea of Israel’s free and irrevocable election? If not, I’d be interested to hear your take on Romans 11:25-29.

    Derek Leman

    • greg10e says:

      I have no problem with Romans 11:25-29 in that God has not finished with the nation of Israel. He has not abandoned them and in His time they will return to Him. There is some ambiguity in my mind, though, about what Paul means when he says “thus ALL Israel will be saved”, especially in light of his comments in chapter 4 etc.
      In terms of Israel being subsumed by God’s wider purposes, I do not mean that Israel is no longer important or does not possess a special birthright. What I do mean by “subsumed” is that Israel is only one part of God’s greater work. It retains its special relationship with God, its history and its stature as the native olive tree.
      But what I see Paul saying in Romans is that now, in terms of God’s righteousness/justice/remaking of the world, Israel stands alongside the nations as a beggar for God’s grace in Christ. Still a distinct people according to the flesh, but one people in Christ.
      What I struggle with is Romans 4:13-17 which tells me that Abraham is also my father; that I am his offspring even though I am not one who is “of the law”. If I am just as much a child of Abraham as Moses who stood on the mountain to receive the law, how does Torah apply to me? Why should the life I live be any different from my Jewish brother or sister? Does God run a special rule book for Jewish people? And on what grounds? Is the gospel no longer the power of God for salvation?
      After reading Wright’s comments on Romans I am actively trying to re-think my understanding of this book once again. I haven’t as yet tackled his weighty tomes – I want to get a few things clear in my own mind before I wade in there.

      The other area I have difficulty understanding is that of the MJ approach to Torah observance, and that stems from my view of Israel and the nations as blood brothers from different mothers, or “surreptitious supersessionism” as you call it.
      It seems to me that there are differences of opinion in the MJ community about how extensive Torah observance needs to be. (Your blog Aug 2008). Could this be because there is a certain inner consistency between all of what the Torah calls for (eg blood sacrifices) and God’s work of grace in Jesus?
      In Romans 3:21, Paul says that the law and the prophets testify to the righteousness/judgement of God in the gospel. If this is the case, and that Torah observance is meant to testify to God’s proclamation of forgiveness and restoration in Jesus, how is this understanding reflected in MJ communities and their Torah observances?
      To me it seems there will always have to be compromises made based on semi-arbitrary criteria, but I may be wrong.
      I would value your response to these (somewhat muddied) issues.

  17. ichthus888 says:

    Thanks Derek, that let’s me see better where you’re coming from. Did you appreciate anything from Wright’s JVG, or in your view was it mostly offbase?


  18. judeoxian says:

    While I don’t disagree with your post, in defense of the traditional canonical narrative, Israel’s history and continued calling are found within the “Fall,” “Redemption,” and “Consummation.” I realize that many Protestant Christians wouldn’t think of Israel in these categories, but to me, you can’t think of these steps without thinking of Israel. The Fall is not limited to the garden, but is a process that displays itself continually in human history, and can be found throughout the OT. Redemption too, is not an event, but a process. It began with God’s covenant with Abraham, reached its pinnacle with the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Messiah Yeshua, and continues on through the proclamation of the Good News. Consummation will be that time when “all Israel shall be saved.”

    In partial defense of Wright, his “supersessionism” stems from (and almost consists entirely in) his reading of the Gospels and that he thinks Jesus did away with certain commandments of the Torah. These commandments just so happen to be the sign commandments that are integral parts of Jewish practice. IMO, if Wright were to change his perspective on this matter alone, it would eradicate any hint of supersessionism in his theology.

  19. amiel4messiah says:

    Dear Penina. Well, you certainly have an interesting story to tell and I shall have a look at your website when I get a minute. Of course, “tons of Rabbis who are believers” is an ambiguous statement. And it is true, I have no idea how many. But I know that my Rebbe is secretly in touch with many, many Rabbis all over the world, but particularly in Israel and the US (primarilly Orthodox and Chassidim). You say it is easy for them to come out? To be cut off from your own flesh and blood is not easy. To lose your job is not easy. To lose everything dear to you is not easy.

    When I told my Rabbi that I believed that Yeshua was our Moshiach, I was asked to resign from being a member of our shul, I was asked to leave the Synagogue and was shunned by many members of the congregation. It was a small price to pay compared to what the leaders of our shuls would have to pay, so I understand their reluctance to go public at this time. But I DO know that there are many more believers than we realise.

    Like you, I am very busy and cannot comment as often as I would like. But it was nice to communicate with you. Shalom and Kol Tuv…

  20. Pingback: Scattered Thoughts « Just Jewish.

  21. abunudnik says:

    It’s interesting how many Christians feel that Jews believe that God’s mind is occupied with the Jewish people exclusively. Is that really so? I’m a Jew, secular and brought up in an Anglican boarding school (where they did their best to convert me) and I think no such thing. At the same time, I find it impossible to believe in a child-sacrifice religion’s return as a step forward. This is what Judaism rejected in Sumer. I could accept Jesus as a defense attorney before God (a man who represents himself in Court has a food for a client) as an opposite number to hs-satan as the prosecutor but that’s as far as my imagination permits. God having two sons makes sense to the mythic imagination. Not only Christianity is supersessionist but also Islam which considers itself to be the last word. The same was no doubt true of Judaism viz the earlier, particularly Sumerican faith against which, I believe, Judaism formed itself. No. I think I rather like Leornard Cohen’s “Oh bless the continual stutter of the word being made into flesh.” Continuous revelation. The process will always be in full swing while there’s human breath and a need for meaning.

    • abunudnik:

      I find it less than charitable for you to characterize our belief as a child-sacrifice religion. Your perception that this is so is based on a complete lack of information about what atonement means in Christian theology. If you want to leave the dialogue in such a shallow place, I will be glad to let it lie. But if you had any purpose at all in commenting other than simply insulting Christians and Messianic Jews, perhaps we could start over again and you could ask a question or make a point that has a point.


  22. Penina says:

    Don’t you think its a little problematic that early Christianity changed the concept of the messiah from one of moshiach – an anointed king to that of moshiah – a savior and added the idea of being a sacrifice for the atonement of sins, a concept that cannot be found in the Tanakh?

  23. Penina:

    Good to hear from you again. I am very aware that Yeshua’s mission was not what was expected. I have a Podcast all about it.

    And I think you know I don’t fit into a simplistic reading of the Hebrew Bible as has too often been put forward by Christians and Christian missions to the Jewish people.

    But before you write off the idea of God doing the unexpected, read again the Israelite prophets and find there a depth of irony and radical mercy which is consistent in every way with what Yeshua said and did. This is not about proof. I am merely saying that the God we find in the Hebrew Bible is limited neither by Christian models or Jewish models. He is unpredictable, radical, and his mercy is beyond our comprehension.

    The Messiah idea is a very fluid idea. It is not the simple thing either Christian or Jewish interpreters have typically made of it. Academic writing about the message of the Hebrew Bible has moved light years beyond the old arguments.

    As I say in my Podcast, we have to decide how we know. For me, and many in this generation, the way we know is by finding stories that cohere and explain reality. We may not be able to prove that the story we follow is absolutely true because our ability to prove anything is in doubt. But to follow the story that best explains reality makes sense and is a way of making our story cohere as well.

    There are a thousand reasons why the Yeshua-giving-his-life-to-bring-redemption story makes sense. It’s the story that helps me see how all the pieces fit. If you don’t believe this story, ask yourself, is it more because you are a product of your community (the anti-missionary community) or because you have seriously considered Yeshua’s story and found it wanting. Meanwhile, what story do you replace it with? How does the story you believe in deal with evil? How does it include the nations and not just Israel? Does the story you believe cohere as well as the one I believe?


  24. abunudnik says:

    derek4messiah :
    I find it less than charitable for you to characterize our belief as a child-sacrifice religion. Your perception that this is so is based on a complete lack of information about what atonement means in Christian theology. If you want to leave the dialogue in such a shallow place, I will be glad to let it lie. But if you had any purpose at all in commenting other than simply insulting Christians and Messianic Jews, perhaps we could start over again and you could ask a question or make a point that has a point.

    I’m sorry I offended you. I don’t understand the Christian idea of atonement and admit to a lack of knowledge. I have heard it said that Jesus died for our sins a hundred times and I’m still no nearer to understanding what that means. But then again, I had a Chemistry teacher who said “a mole is a number, Avogadro’s number…” and gave the number but 80% of the class still didn’t understand him because he had no way to metaphorize. One day a substitute teacher, in 5 minutes, made all of us but one understand what the teacher had been trying to express for months.

    I didn’t mean to insult Christians but the sacrifice of a child is what happens here and it’s a return to all that Judaism rejects. I don’t understand how that isn’t a point. I also said I thought it a good idea for people to have a defense attorney before God since ha-satan (The Adversary or The Accuser in Hebrew) is the prosecutor. I can understand that notion as the role Jesus plays. That’s a point too.

    Also I said the early Hebrews rejected the child-sacrifice cult of Sumer. I don’t see how that’s not a point. The social organization was of service to classes above through the agency of an institution I believe was called the Habiru. Whether or not the Hebrews got their name thereby is a matter of controversy. These are all significant points as was my point about the way one culture subsumes another. The cult places are taken over (why do you think there’s a war for Jerusalem today) and new meaning is given to old texts. I mentioned this too. Is this not a major point?

    As a Jew I just can’t see that God has need of a son though ha-satan appears to be just that in Job. To save his son’s soul he tortures Job. Perhaps the Crucifixion is something like that only it’s the good son and not the bad one.

    I don’t mean to give offense. I just don’t understand these things though I’ve tried to all my life. When I listen to Mahalia Jackson, I get Jesus and then when she stops singing that understanding just disappears. When I listen to Sunday preachers on TV I haven’t a clue what they mean. It just puzzles me.

    One last thought. This essay was about supercessionism. What if supercessionism is in the nature of religions? What if there is no religion without supercession? In primitive cultures of the Americas, old myths are ceremonially burned and new ones consecrated to increase the tribe’s good footing with the divine. The same is true in the Pacific islands. Cultures, we know, have limited lifespans. New ways of understanding become necessary in the failure of culture, which is why it appeared to Toynbee that religion was the fruit of culture. It could as easily be the seed, as in Spengler. Which may point to the real problem here. As Toynbee noted, Ancient Christianity was unable to jettison the Old Testament because it was unable to found a body of Christian laws from the New Testament. I’ll say! “Had it not been for the Law I never would have known sin” is hardly a good starting point! The Law, it might be said, was on trial in the Gospels and the Law was found wanting. There needed to be something above Law: a savior. But in Isaiah it says “I am the Lord thy God and besides me you have no savior.” A being who is the incarnation of the Law. Yes, I think I get that. But I cannot accept it. And all history proves that nations of men, not laws, fail while all nations of laws, not men, succeed.

    I won’t apologize for the persistence of my stubborn religion. I will apologize for characterizing Christianity as a child-worship religion. I merely meant to say that it was an aspect of the religion that made it difficult if not impossible for Jews to understand and accept. I stand always ready to be enlightened though. I always want to understand those things I don’t understand.

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