ISRAEL AND THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH Bradley University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

Dr. Robert C. Kurka
Professor of Theology and Church in Culture
Lincoln Christian University
Bradley University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
Winter 2016
Course Description and Outline
 This four-session course will identify major theological, historical and sociopolitical issues that have framed the Christian Church’s relationship to Judaism
and ancient/modern-day Israel through the centuries. It also will attempt to
offer some constructive suggestions on promoting Jewish-Christian dialogue in
our contemporary, conflicted world.
 Four Lectures/Discussions:
1. “‘Salvation is from the Jews’: The Debt that Christianity Owes Israel”
2. “How Does the Church View Ancient/Modern-day Israel? A Brief Survey of
Historical and Contemporary Options”
3. “How Has the Church Treated the Jewish People?: Some Shameful—and Saintly
4. “Towards a Healthy Jewish-Christian Dialogue: Critically Affirming Points of
Similarity and Difference”
In the discipline of Systematic Theology, this
discussion is generally located under
 Ecclesiology is an area of the discipline of Systematic Theology that
is concerned with the origin, nature, function, and structure of the
CHURCH. While the relationship between Israel and the Church is
seen as a “sub-topic” in theological circles, it has been a major
point of dispute among Christians throughout the centuries since it
affects other key Christian beliefs about salvation and the future
(eschatology). It also has contributed to an indefensible AntiSemitism in the past as well as an uncritical “Zionism” on the part of
some Christians in the present-day.
and the complexity of the matter
 While Christians have traditionally viewed Jewish people as candidates
for evangelism, Moreover, in December, 2015, the Vatican issued the
“The Church is obliged to view evangelization to Jews, who
believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to
people of other religions and worldviews…In concrete terms this
means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports
any specific mission work directed towards Jews.”
--The Gifts and the Calling of God Are Irrevocable
Lecture #1: “‘Salvation is from the Jews’: The
Debt that Christianity Owes Israel”
“You Samaritans worship what you do not know,
the Jews.”—Jesus (John 4:22)
for salvation is from
From its inception, Christianity has called attention to its
Jewish roots…
“For I could wish that I myself were cut off from Christ for the sake of my
people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to
sonship; theirs is the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law,
temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is
traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever
praised! Amen.” –Paul (Romans 9:3-5; NIV]
The Christian New Testament’s “Debt” to the
Jewish Old Testament
In over 220 direct citations of the Old Testament (not to mention numerous
paraphrases, allusions and “echoes”), the New Testament writers ground
the Church in…
1) Israel’s ancient history (creation, fall, calling of Abraham)—Rom. 4-5
2) Israel’s “unique” monotheism—1 Cor. 8:4-6
3) Israel’s “spiritual” defeats—1 Cor. 10:1-13 (Heb. 3-4)
4) Israel’s Messianic hopes –Mark 8:29
5) Israel’s salvation—in Christ –Luke 2:29-32
6) “Last Days”—Acts 2:17-21 (cf. Joel 2:28-24)
7) Israel’s future restoration—Acts 15:15-18 (cf. Amos 11:12)
8) Israel’s ethical mandates –Jas.1:26-28
In the NT’s presentation of Jesus Christ (reflecting his own selfconsciousness), he is clearly not the dismantler of God’s covenantal
promises with Israel but the one who brings them all to completion— “For
no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2
Cor. 1:20)
Matthew’s Nativity Story….guiding Gentile
magi to Bethlehem by the Jewish Scriptures
 When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, during the time of
King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked,
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?”…When he
(Herod) called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers
of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In
Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has
written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means
least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who
will shepherd my people Israel.’”
--Matt. 2:1,2,4-6 [NIV] (citing Micah 5:2-4)
Notre Dame Historian Mark Noll summarizes
this indebtedness by calling attention to the
concept of TRUTH
 Early Church adopted Israel’s belief that there is Truth …and this Truth is
located in the One, Personal God who makes himself known through
REVELATION (general and special)
 Early Church adopted Israel’s belief that Truth (special revelation) is
coherent and understandable because this God communicated in
“ordinary” human language (and it could be read and studied)
 Early Church adopted Israel’s belief that Truth can be put into action—from
the Jewish Temple rituals and (later) synagogue instruction to Christianity’s
organization around local churches and pastoral teaching
Source: Turning Points, 3rd ed., 18
Jewish-Christian Perception of Late First
Century Rome…
 Sulpicius Severus observes that the Roman emperor, Titus, desired to destroy the
Jerusalem Temple:
“…in order that that the Jewish and Christian religions might more completely be
abolished; for although these religions were mutually hostile; they had nevertheless
sprung from the same founders; the Christians were the offshoot of the Jews, and if
the root were taken from the stock would easily perish.”
(Quoted in F.F. Bruce, The Spreading Flame, 156)
 W.H. C. Frend: “All Christianity at this stage [in the apostolic period] was ‘Jewish
Christianity.’ But it was Israel with a difference.” (The Rise of Christianity, 123)
Lecture Two:
“How Does the Church View Ancient and Modern-day
Israel? A Survey of Contemporary Options”
 While virtually all Christian traditions assign Christ as the culmination of the
Old Testament story (not to mention the focus of the New), there are
considerable differences in assessing the precise relationship of Israel and
the Christian Church in the Scriptures. Four major viewpoints have been
prevalent during Christianity’s 2000-year history which in turn, have
contributed to attitudes/actions that have been grievous and gracious.
Covenant Model
Classic Dispensationalism
Progressive Dispensational Model
Progressive Covenantal Model
Four Views: Comparison and Contrast
Several Questions to consider for our
final lectures…
 What view(s) best represents the New Testament’s attitude towards
Judaism? Why?
 What view(s) would tend to define “Israel” in a religious or spiritual sense?
Why? What view(s) would tend to define Israel in ethnic terms? Why?
 What view(s) is most conducive to anti-Semitism? Why?
 What view(s) is most conducive to contemporary Zionism? Why?
 What view(s) is most conducive to Christian evangelism of the Jewish
people? Why?
 What view(s) is most conducive to Christian dialogue with the Jewish
people? Why?