Reading Genesis & the ‘Old’ Testament as a Christian Book!

scroll 3 img_0126_595After writing an article on how to read the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), the author of said article has been “retired” from his post at the renowned Westminster Theological Seminary.

Dr Douglas Green is charged to be guilty of a “christotelic” hermeneutical method that severs the organic link between the Old Testament and the New Testament”.

Here is the example given of this approach which was the end of the story then regulates how the prior story is read and understood.

So why am I giving you this long illustration? To help you think about how you should read the Old Testament in general and Genesis in particular. Put simply, I want to suggest that you engage in two readings of Genesis. One is a first reading: Genesis on its own terms. Genesis as its own unfolding story, but also Genesis read as the first part of an even longer unfolding story. Genesis as an Israelite book, and not (yet) a Christian book!

The other way of reading is a second reading: reading Genesis in the light of the larger story’s surprise ending in the gospel – the story of the life, death, resurrection, exaltation of Jesus and his creation of a new people of God through the outpouring of the Spirit. I want to contend that a Christian reading of the Old Testament is, above all, a second reading. It’s a reading where you come back and make sense of the various scenes in Genesis, now with the knowledge that the story of Jesus (and his people) and not the story of Israel is the true, albeit unexpected, climax of the grand narrative in which Adam, Abraham, Jacob and Joseph (for example) play such important roles.

In other words, you let the Jesus-ending of Israel’s story reshape the way you interpret the particular passage you are dealing with. This is the way you read Genesis as a Christian book

Is this really the way for Yeshua-followers to read the Tanach, to read the end of the story (the New Testament) and then read the beginning (Genesis) in the light of it, in other word to Christianize the “Old” Testament so that it can have meaning for the Christian?

I appreciate a nuanced christotelic hermeneutic which can often reflect Second Temple Judaism’s (contemporaneous to the New Testament period) approach to reading and understanding the Tanach, seen in the assumptive practices of the Targumin and the developing midrashic system at that time.

Van Gemeren wrote his article Israel as the Hermeneutical Crux in the Interpretation of Prophecy for Westminster Theological Journal in 1983 where he claimed a new hermeneutic was at work to replace Augustine’s The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New Revealed, with the Old is by the New restricted the New is on the Old inflicted.

For those who are committed to the divine inspiration of both Testaments we must allow both Testaments to speak to us as God’s Word without overwhelming the integrity of the other. Not all the details in the Tanach speak of Yeshua, and it does not need to in order for Yeshua to fulfil Messianic prophecies. It is easy to have an over-developed Christology and expect to see Yeshua in all the details of the Tanach, a Chistotelic hermeneutic sees Yeshua as what the Tanach aims at rather than the centre of the Tanach, hence Christotelic (telos=aim) rather than Christocentric.

This area of debate about how to read the Tanach reveals is a fundamental error that needs correcting, with N.T. Wright and the New Perspective on Paul pushing too far in the Jesus ending of Israel’s story direction and consequently pushing Israel out or her own story!

Please note this post is not here as an opportunity to attack the New Testament, or faith in Yeshua, there are other threads where there is open debate on these issues. Comments off topic or offensive and seeking to deprecate a faith not your own, will be deleted. This particular post is for those who wish to discuss how Yeshua-followers can read the Tanach in the light of this debate on a christotelic hermeneutic.


Does King David Need a Christian Voice?

PsaltersDonald M. Poundstone a retired minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church,one of the Presbyterian denominations in America, has written an article about issues surrounding how Christians can sing all the Psalms. His denomination along with others have a welcome tradition of singing the Psalms in communal worship. There are some groups who adhere to exclusive psalmody, the practice of only singing Psalms in their church worship services. That being said, Poundstone wonders how Christians can sing for example the imprecatory Psalms that call for destruction of enemies using graphic and dramatic language along with other Psalms that express negative sentiments for Israel’s national enemies. Poundstone wonders how can Christians sing Psalms that don’t explicitly mention Jesus or have more brutal concepts of revenge and nationalism that have not been tempered by the New Testament.

Pounstone’s answer is to follow Isaac Watts and “strive to give King David a Christian voice”! Here is this quote in context:

But we also ought to recognize the limitations of the Psalter’s outlook, especially when compared to God’s final revelation in the New Testament. This is why we should follow in the footsteps of hymn writer Isaac Watts, who famously said three hundred years ago that we must strive to give King David a Christian voice. A minister in our church told me he believed God gave us the psalms in order to teach us how to write hymns. How true!


However do David’s words need Christianizing as Watt and Poundstone claim in order for them to have value for Christians, are the Psalms not the inspired Word of God and have value and speak God’s truth and heart and redemption history whether they are all immediately singable for Christians or not!? Does God’s Word need altering so it is more palatable and culturally acceptable for modern non-Jewish singers? Obviously not.

There is however, also a disturbing parallel in the call to give King David a Christian voice, to what German Christian Nazi group the German Christan did in WWII when even their hymns were de-judaised and the Tanach (Old Testament) seen as too Jewish.

Rev Sizer – Jews were Never Chosen People & Attacking Christian Zionism is the Gospel!

Stephen-Sizer-1Anti-Zionist crusader vicar Stephen Sizer will not only speak at mosques and on TV station of oppressive Islamic regimes to Muslims and to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign atheists, he will also share he message of animosity towards Christians who support Israel, to reformed Christian ministers in the guise of the Yorkshire Reformed Ministers Fraternal with 24 affiliated churches in the Yorkshire area.

The YRMF is led by the minister of Sheffield Presbyterian Church Rev. Dr Kevin J. Bidwell and Pastor Ben Hutton of Thornhill Baptist Church. I initially left a comment on their blog asking why they had thought it was so important to have invited Sizer to speak, however the comment was quickly deleted and there seems to be no desire to dialogue on this question. However a cursory glance at Bidwell’s blog reveals how enamoured he was with Sizer’s talk primarily because he has bought-into Sizer’s straw-man presentation of Christian Zionism as a one-size-fits-all theological bogeyman, or as Bidwell calls them “Israel fanatics”. It is informative that Bidwell seems to suggest that all political and this-worldly interests and issues are not for the Christian, citing Jesus’ words that His Kingdom is not of this world. However we live in this world, so to some extent His Kingdom is, of this world without being worldy! 

Bidwell has imbibed Sizer’s rhetoric  “some Christians wrongly seem to become engrossed in Middle Eastern politics.” One could however, claim that Sizer himself has lunched-out regularly on his engrossment in Middle Eastern politics and Bidwell was happy to have him speak and partake in Sizer’s obsession with Middle Eastern politics, however for Bidwell it seems OK when it is the anti-Israel side of the obsession. I doubt very much that the minister’s fraternal will have another speaker to balance-off the perspective Sizer brought. I would be happy to be proved wrong on that point.

At 8:50 in his highly political and biased talk, dressed as theology, to the august gathering of Yorkshire ministers Sizer claimed that Christian support of Israel is easily dismissed, as it is merely hot air in a balloon which he will provide the pins to pop, in fact only one pin is needed and Sizer will generously give the anxious ministers several to help them out!

Sizer starts his talk off with his usual scaremongering about the Israeli-Arab conflict being the most dangerous conflict in the world today, ignoring all other global challenges and the potential conflagration scenario that the Ukraine-Russian-USA(EU)-Russian conflict could easily develop into both economically and militarily.

Sizer claims the Old Testament can ONLY be read through the eyes of Jesus and the Apostles, so much for all scripture, (which was the Old Testament when Paul wrote to Timothy), being God-breathed.

Sizer claims at 10.51, if you preach what a Jewish rabbi could also preach, there must be something wrong with it. This is surely an exaggeration, I’m sure there are many things said in sermons in church and synagogue that are repeated in both.

Sizer asserts, and warns that it may sound anti-Semitic, that the Jewish people as a race were never God’s chosen people at 14.51 mins.

Sizer also recites his usual over-the-top statements from select minority of American Christian Zionists leaders and then claims all that he does in attacking Israel and her Christian supporters is really the Gospel after-all! So for Sizer attacking Christian support of Israel is the gospel. Sizer is deluded if he thinks his new Crusade against Israel is actually the gospel. I wonder if any of those ministers saw through this talk and challenged Sizer’s ‘other gospel’.

Flip the Israel obsession coin and on one side you will have Hagee and on the other you will find Sizer. These ministers seem happy to have one side of the coin because it seems more theologically reformed because of Sizer’s attack on chiliastic eschatology and the Augustinian hermeneutic recycled and renewed by N.T. Wright that Sizer builds upon.

Sizer’s talk can be accessed here.

John Hagee Claims Jesus Did Not Come to be Messiah

Surprising and not a little shocking to hear this from any Christian minister. It is especially odd from Hagee, considering everyone thinks Christian Zionists like him are really missionaries in disguise. Maybe he is simply over-compensating for all the suspicion he receives from the Jewish community, or… I don’t know what are your thoughts on this?

No “Christian Seders,” Please!

155Sicut Locutus Est blogged this: No “Christian Seders,” Please!

There is much to commend in this essay, not least its warning against supersessionism in over-eager Christian attempts to claim the Seder for Jesus and the Church whilst implicitly writing the Jewish people out of the story. Messianic Jews must remember that even in a Messianic seder, the primary memorial is deliverance from Egyptian slavery even if most Messianic Jewish seders will include mention of Messianic aspects and note where Yeshua would have introduced the Lord’s Super.

So why is a Messianic seder different from all other seders? Well they shouldn’t really be that different if the Exodus is remembered the way the Almighty commanded.

Numbers 9:1: 1The Lord spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt. He said, 2“Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time. 3Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations.”

Here is the article:

No “Christian Seders,” Please!

With Holy Week on the horizon,  many Christian congregations have started announcing Seder dinners to observe Maundy Thursday. People of good will recognize this as a devout and well-intentioned attempt to honor the Jewishness of Jesus, and the Jewish roots of the Christian communion meal which was, Christians say, “instituted” by Jesus on the night he was handed over–a night that fell, according to the gospel accounts, during the annual Passover observance. It is understandable, therefore, that Christians would desire to commemorate this institution with a nod to its original context.

There are many difficulties with the practice of a Seder meal by Christians, however (the biggest being that a Seder is simply not for Christians, but we’ll get to that later). The other biggie is that we really do not know for sure what the “original context” of Jesus’ ‘last supper’ was.  We think we do: since Sunday School we’ve been taught it was a Passover meal, or Seder; but scholars continue to debate the precise character of the meal Jesus shared with his disciples that night. One thing we know for sure, however, is that, although it may have been a Passover meal of some sort, it was not a Seder in the modern sense. We know this because the introduction into Jewish ritual life of the Seder we know today came after the time of Jesus.

Modern day Jewish celebrations of the Passover are a melding of traditions that arose shortly after the destruction of the Temple (70 CE), through Late Antiquity and into Middle Ages. It is a developing tradition, too, with additions being made to the haggadah even to this day. Ironically, some scholars believe that the modern Seder developed in part at least as a reaction and resistance to the growing influence of the Christian church and its sacred meal. If that is true, Christians celebrating a Seder (as Jews celebrate Seders today) are celebrating, at least in part, a meal that was meant to criticize them and establish the distinctiveness of Jewish rites over against Christian ones. This anti-Christian critique is no longer prominent in contemporary Seders, but this curious history of the Seder still makes for a polemical mish-mash that, if known by the organizers of “Christian Seders,” might take away some of the romance of the night!

So… to hold a Seder as a way to commemorate the “background” meal Jesus shared with his disciples and which he “turned into” a Communion meal (as I have heard some Christians say) is anachronistic—it is a tradition Jesus did not know. More precisely and significantly, however (as I said above), it is a tradition that developed into its present forms after Jews and Christians had taken separate religious paths—a tradition, therefore, that Jews and those who became Christian never shared in the first place. It belongs to Jews only and distinguishes them as Jews in ways that make any Christian usage of it seem presumptuous, especially given the fraught and violent history of Christian usurpation and replacement of all things Jewish that we call “supersessionism.”  Given this history and this ongoing supplanting of the Jewish covenant, I wonder if we would do better to spend our time reflecting on what often befell Jews in Holy Week in many places in medieval Western and Eastern Europe—the pogrom—than to spend time appropriating one of their characteristic rituals and making it our own.

Holding a Seder in a Christian church as a Christian event during Christian Holy Week is dicey, then. Dicier still is  celebrating a Eucharist in the course of the Seder or finishing the Seder with Communion. This  sends an unintentional but real message that the important thing about this Seder is what (we suppose erroneously) Jesus did to transform it and make it into something else. In other words, what we imply is that the Seder’s real value is to point towards or usher in communion– that communion is really what it’s all about, when all else is said and done. This is to write Jews out of their own story. We have already succeeded in writing them out by the way we often use Old Testament texts in preaching and teaching—let’s not turn their meal into our meal for our devotional agendas, just because it feels more authentic or rootsy for us to do so.

To avoid “writing Jews out of their own story” when we engage in a “Christian” reading of the Old Testament, then, we need to operate on two levels at once: on the level of the text as an expression of a particular people’s religious experience, which is not ours; and on the level of the text as the Church hears it in the context of its its particular experience of Christ.

This double-vision may oblige us, for example, to refrain from a too-easy juxtaposition in liturgy of certain texts, OT and NT, that suggests that the NT text explains or fulfills the OT text in a way that exhausts all other possibilities of interpretation (this happens way too frequently in some lectionary pairings).

It may oblige us to speak of certain figures and events in the Hebrew Scriptures less as archetypes, allegories, or foreshadowing of Christ and his ministry, and more as evidence of the consistent pattern of God’s activity throughout ”salvation history,” with which our Christian experience of God in Christ is wholly consistent .

Full article can be read here

Gary Burge: Not Sent by Heaven

burge1Malcolm Lowe writes on the Gatestone Institute – Gary Burge: Not Sent by Heaven


While most Evangelical Protestants are generally friendly to the Jewish people and the State of Israel, there is a small band of Evangelical pastors and professors who want to line up all Evangelicals unilaterally on the Palestinian side. The most egregious example may be Anglican vicar Stephen Sizer, whose has chummed up with the likes of Naturei Karta and Iranian President Ahmadinejad. But Gary Burge probably wields the greater influence.

As “Professor of New Testament” at Wheaton College, where he has taught since 1992, Burge has taken whole generations of Evangelical students to such places as the Bethlehem Bible College for one-sided indoctrination in the Palestinian “narrative.” That is, the students are bombarded with typical Palestinian complaints about Israel. Encouragement to investigate the veracity of those complaints is lacking, let alone the history of Palestinian aggression against Israelis and the corruption and misrule of the Palestinian Authority.

Will those unfortunate students be able to cause Israel much harm? Maybe not. The harm done to impressionable young minds is another question. One wonders whether Wheaton College believes that such programs befit a respectable Christian teaching institution.

In March 2012, Burge was back at the Bethlehem Bible College to lecture at the so-called “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference. The very title of the conference betrays its misleading agenda. The idea was to underline that today if Mary and Joseph tried to visit Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus, Israeli security would stop them at a checkpoint. All this ignores, of course, the fact that they were a family of Jews committed to observance of the Jewish religion.

Today, indeed, if a young couple called Miriam and Yosef from Upper Nazareth tried to go to Bethlehem for the birth of Miriam’s child, they would be turned back at the checkpoint. This is because Israel forbids its Jewish citizens from entering Area A of the Palestinian authority, lest they be killed or kidnapped.

But let us suppose that the Jewish couple managed to pass or evade the checkpoint. They would certainly be given “no room at the inn” by the Palestinians, while all the world’s foreign ministries would denounce those “Jewish settlers” for their attempt to set up residence in Bethlehem. Such elementary verities, of course, surpass the mental capacity of the partisans of “Christ at the Checkpoint.”

Burge’s lecture is available on Internet as a video; there is also an excellent written summary by one of the participants in the conference. The official title was “Theology of the Land in the New Testament,” but about a third of it was chit-chat about Burge’s encounters with Jews in Israel. Recalling those encounters, Burge emphasized time and again the “fun” that he got from subjecting his Jewish counterparts to ridicule. At the end of the presentation, Burge whipped himself into a fervor about how, the next time he goes to Jerusalem, he could preach his version of Christianity in the Jewish quarter of the Old City.

Now, one might sympathize with Burge when he meets Jews who want to transfer the Dome of the Rock to some other site in order to rebuild the Temple. That is, if he has reported them correctly. There is, for instance, a Jewish group that has used ancient Jewish sources to reconstruct the implements used in Temple worship. Generally, however, such groups maintain that building the Temple itself must await the coming of the Messiah; in the meantime, one can only make such preparations for that event.

But let us consider an example that shows Burge’s failure to understand either Judaism or the New Testament accounts themselves. Burge was in the Western Wall plaza and intent on taking photographs on a Sabbath, when some Jews warned him that it was forbidden.

“So I had my camera in my hand and they thought it was a good moment to come over and teach me a lesson about why you shouldn’t take photos on the Sabbath. This sounded like fun, so after their sermon I asked them, well, what is really wrong theologically with using a camera on Sabbath? Honestly, debating details of Sabbath observance on the Sabbath sounded very biblical, especially one hundred yards from the Temple. So they argued that pushing the button on the shutter release was doing work. I told them climbing all these stairs all over Jerusalem was more work and on it went for about a half hour. This could have been a scene right out of the Gospel. I said I was celebrating the beauty of God’s creation by taking a picture, they said I was breaking the Law. I was having a great time.”

Here Burge shows a fundamental ignorance that might be forgiven the average Christian layperson, but is inexcusable in anyone who purports to be a professor of Bible. The meaning of “doing no work” in regard to the Sabbath has nothing whatever to do with physical effort. Doing no work means refraining from creation, just as God spent the seventh day without creating anything. Making a photograph, of course, is an act of creation. So the proper way to “celebrate the beauty of God’s creation” on the Sabbath is precisely not to take a picture of it. Or, if Burge had been more inventive, he could have sung the hymn “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.”

Had he put away his camera and sung that well-known verse, he might have given his Jewish interlocutors an unexpected favorable impression of Christianity. Instead, he wilfully confirmed any prejudices that they had about Christian stupidity. That, for Burge, is “having a great time.”

As for calling this episode “a scene right out of the Gospel,” Burge showed his incomprehension in the field that he teaches. The reference is to various incidents in which Jesus was criticized for healing on the Sabbath. There has been a great deal of insightful scholarship on this topic. That includes an article of mine with David Flusser inNew Testament Studies, a journal that all “professors of the New Testament” are assumed to read, as long ago as 1983. The main conclusions are the following:

First of all, both Jesus and his critics were agreed that the Sabbath should be observed scrupulously, but that it could be violated in cases of dire need. Rather, they differed on what counted as dire need. The later Jewish consensus was that only the need to save a human life could justify – and would indeed require – violating the Sabbath, if that life would be lost by not acting before the end of the Sabbath. But earlier on there were less stringent views, such as that of Jesus: his healings concerned lifelong severe handicaps, such as blindness or paralysis.

Moreover, some of the reported healings on the Sabbath do not truly violate it. For instance, when Jesus told a man to stretch out his paralysed hand and the man was able to do it, the hand was found to be healed, but neither Jesus nor the man had done anything that violated the Sabbath.

Both Jesus and his critics would have been astounded to hear of Burge’s “dire need” to take a snapshot on the Sabbath, as if it ranked with healing the blind. Burge’s comparison of himself with Jesus is preposterous and absurd.

For the sake of Burge’s students, I shall relate a different Christian-Jewish encounter. Many Christians in Israel could tell a similar story, but this just happened to me. It took place not far from the scenes of Burge’s exploits and only a few weeks later. His students might ask themselves whether this was not a more Christian form of behavior toward Jews. Perhaps it will save them from marching down the “broad way” (Matthew 7.13) behind him.

One Friday evening, just around the beginning of the Sabbath, during a walk around a Jewish neighborhood in the dimming light, I sat down for a while in the deserted street. It was at this point that an elderly lady approached from the other side of the road and interrogated me about “Filipinas.” There are many women, and some men, from the Philippines who work as carers for the aged and infirm in Israel, where they are greatly appreciated. The following conversation ensued (in Hebrew).

“Do you know a Filipina?”she asked. “There are many Filipinas,” I responded.

“I need a Filipina to do something.” Immediately, I understood. Observant Jews are forbidden to turn electricity on or off during the Sabbath. Some have an automatic timer that switches the whole electric system on in the evening, including lights and heating, then switches it off for the night. Maybe her whole flat was in darkness.

“I can do it,” I said. “Are you not a Jew?” “I am not a Jew.” “A hundred percent not?” she insisted. “A hundred percent.” “Are you a Christian?” “Yes.”

“Perhaps you were sent by Heaven!” she exclaimed. Reassured, she led me back across the street and up some flights of stairs. In her modest flat there was one light on, in the kitchen, where an older man – presumably her husband – was sitting.

Here was the problem. She had laid a row of little dishes of food on a hotplate, but it was unplugged. All her careful plans for the Sabbath were faced with ruin. I took up the plug and inserted it into a socket. Mission accomplished.

That single light also had to illuminate their sitting room and, more dimly, further rooms down a corridor. I asked if I could do anything else, but no.

At this point a second woman emerged from the corridor. “That’s mother,” said the first woman, “she’s a hundred years old!” “To a hundred and twenty,” I responded, wishing her a life as long as Moses. There was nothing more needed, so I retraced my steps down the stairs and left them to their simple Sabbath celebration.

Now let us imagine that she had come across Gary Burge, sitting there in the street. Sent by Heaven? Hardly. It would be another chance to have “fun” at the expense of pious Jews. “Walking up those stairs is much more work than inserting a plug,” he would have admonished her. “Do it yourself.” “Free yourself from the Law, learn from the Gospel.” And he would have walked off, treasuring a new exploit to recount at the next “Christ at the Checkpoint.” Burge playing (his understanding of) Jesus again.

To conclude, let us locate Burge in the Evangelical and the broader Christian spectrum. It is widely perceived that Evangelicals are peculiarly attached to the State of Israel, but a 2011 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has shown that the issue is not so simple.

The survey was addressed to “Evangelical Protestant Leaders” and asked three relevant questions (besides covering many other issues). Asked “Which side do you sympathize with more?” 34% answered “with Israel,” 11% “with the Palestinians,” 39% “with both equally” and 13% “with neither.” Note, however, that this was – strictly speaking – not a theological question. The other two questions were unambiguously theological.

Responding to “Is the State of Israel a fulfillment of biblical prophecy?” 48% said yes and 42% said no. With regard to “God’s covenant with the Jewish people,” 73% said “it continues today” and 22% that it “no longer applies.”

On this last question, that great majority of Evangelical Protestant leaders is aligned with what has been Roman Catholic teaching since the famous declaration Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. Many of the so-called “mainline” Protestant churches have issued similar declarations in the meantime.

All those declarations, Protestant as well as Roman Catholic, draw upon decades of scholarship on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, which should be familiar to any “professor of New Testament.” Thus Nostra Aetate asserts: “The Church keeps ever in mind the words of the Apostle about his kinsmen: ‘theirs is the sonship and the glory and the covenants and the law and the worship and the promises; theirs are the fathers and from them is the Christ according to the flesh’ (Rom. 9:4-5)…” It adds that “God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues” (echoing Rom. 11.28-29) and that “the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures.”

Now, the declarations of both the Vatican and Protestant churches have been wary of ascribing a theological significance to the State of Israel. Rather, they often distinguish between that state, as a political institution to be evaluated like any other state, and the return of the Jews to their biblical homeland, which is interpreted positively in terms of God’s faithfulness toward the Jewish people. More details can be found in an article of 1989 to which I contributed.

We may imagine that many of the 42% of Evangelical Protestant leaders who declined to endorse the State of Israel as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy did so because they make a similar distinction. After all, many of them must be among the 73% who asserted that God’s covenant with the Jewish people “continues today.”

Burge, however, is resolutely opposed to that majority Christian teaching. Toward the end of an interview with Hank Hanegraaff in July 2012, Burge claimed that all the promises made by God to Israel in the Old Testament are “Jewish theology” that the New Testament “turns inside out.” Yes, admits Burge, Paul does envisage a continuing existence of the Jewish people, but God is now equally concerned with all peoples and God’s interest has turned away from the Land of Israel.

Burge then described the State of Israel as a “highly secular” state that is “sharply disinterested in any of the covenant obligations that you have in the Old Testament,” so “the strings attached to the land no longer pertain.” This pejorative description is false: one need only recall the many decisions of Israel’s Supreme Court in favor of non-Jewish minorities, fulfilling a frequent biblical demand. Israel’s Declaration of Independence contains deliberate echoes of Judaism’s covenantal commitments.

More fundamentally, Burge disregards a distinction familiar to biblical theologians: God may punish deviations from the covenant, but He never abolishes the covenant itself; His covenantal partner need only repent in order to benefit from the covenant again. But maybe Burge belongs to those Christian theologians who hold that all the day-long repentance of Jews on Yom Kippur is a waste of time because they have not acknowledged Jesus,

In that interview, Burge was practicing what is commonly called “replacement theology,” that is, treating the Christian Church as the authentic continuation of Old Testament religion to the exclusion of Judaism. Curiously enough, earlier in the interview he had deprecated the replacement theology of early Christian writers.

So also at “Christ at the Checkpoint,” he strove to distinguish his view from earlier replacement theology. What is the difference? Old-time replacement theology, he said, claimed that Judaism had been replaced permanently by Christianity. His own view is that Judaism lost its validity with the coming of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago; so Judaism is just hanging around until Jesus returns in glory and the Jews recognize him as their Messiah. Not just Jews but many Christian theologians today would regard Burge’s distinction as nit-picking.

Thus Burge is far out on a theological fringe, isolated not just from fellow Evangelicals but from Protestant and Roman Catholic teaching in general. It would not be far-fetched to call Burgism a contemporary heresy. But accusations of heresy are too easily thrown around, not least by Burge’s friends at Christian Zionists. So let’s think it enough to call him a marginal theologian.


Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament

three viewsThis is a book that deals with issues that have pertinence to many of our discussions both in our blog posts and comments threads over the last four years. One of the authors is a Messianic Jewish scholar, Darrell Bock, who takes the middle position between the views of Kaiser and Enns.

This book in the Counterpoints: Exploring Theology series introduces three approaches presently employed in the study of the uses of the Old Testament in the New Testament, especially in those instances where the New Testament authors discern the fulfillment of a prophetic element in the Old Testament text. The foundational issue concerns the relationship between an Old Testament author’s meaning and the meaning of that same passage when it is used by a New Testament author.

To watch an introductory video from Zondervan publishers, click here.