July 18, 2019

Jews, Christians, and Zion


The people then was a model by way of a preliminary sketch,
and the law was the writing of a parable;
the gospel is the recounting and fulfilment of the law,
and the church is the repository of the reality.
The model then was precious before the reality,
and the parable was marvelous before the interpretation;
that is, the people 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.

In these verses from his poem “On the Passover,” Melito of Sardis, a bishop of the second half of the second century, eloquently states the classical Christian doctrine that has come to be known as “supersessionism” or “replacement theology”: The Jewish people and the Torah, valid and precious in their own time, have now been rendered obsolete by the fulfillment of that which they foreshadowed, the church and the Gospel, respectively.

Melito also harbors considerable rage against the Jews, not simply because of their refusal to meld into the church but also, and more pointedly, because of the role he believes they played in the crucifixion of Jesus:

What strange crime, Israel, have you committed?
You dishonoured him that honoured you;
you disgraced him that glorified you;
you denied him that acknowledged you;
you disclaimed him that proclaimed you;
you killed him that made you live.

The superseding of the people Israel, then, was not simply a smooth realization of God’s providential purpose; it was also a punishment for the murderous evil of the Jews.”

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