Jewish Roots Removed by Early Church?
A friend forwarded me an article that makes some interesting yet concerning statements about the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. The article, entitled How the Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith Were Removed from the Early Church was published in 2017 by Curt Landry Ministries.
The article starts with a discussion about replacement theology (also known as supersessionism), which, as the article points out, “teaches that the Church has replaced the role of Israel in God’s original plan.” I agree entirely with Landry that replacement theology does not reflect the biblical view of Israel. Scripture does not teach that the Christian Church “replaces” Israel. Rather it says that the people of God are no longer defined by their national identity but by their faith in Yeshua (Jesus).
In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul explained, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:29). And the book of Ephesians teaches that “through the gospel, the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Eph 3:6). God’s people are “one body,” made up of Jew and Gentile, whom the apostle Paul referred to as the “Israel of God” (Gal 6:16).
Landry then makes a few statements that caught my attention. He claims that “the Jewish roots of the faith have long been ignored by much of the Church,” and “many in the Church-world have professed that God has officially rejected His first love.” In light of the research I did for my book, Torahism: Are Christians Required to Keep the Law of Moses? I am sensitive to statements like these because they can become a slippery slope that leads people away from Christ. I am not familiar with Curt Landry Ministries, or it’s theological positions, so I want to be careful not to speak out of turn. But the statement above from this particular article does not represent the position of orthodox Christian teaching. At least not from the Protestant perspective.
I don’t deny the anti-Semitism that has sadly and wrongly occurred over the centuries at the hands of Christians. And there have certainly been heretical movements that attempted to “unhitch” Christianity from the Hebrew Scriptures. But as far as the orthodox teachings of Christian theology, there has been no separation from the Jewish roots of the faith. If the early church fathers wanted to separate from Judaism, why would they have included the entire Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, aka Old Testament) in the Christian canon? The early Church creeds and writings such as The Didache, the Creed of Aristides of Athens, Justin Martyr’s Dialog with Trypho, and even the Nicene Creed show no attempt to remove the Jewish roots of the faith. Just the opposite, in fact. Those writings show how much the early Christians affirmed and accepted the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. Despite whatever anti-Jewish sentiments may have existed, from the earliest centuries, Christian theology has recognized that it stands on the shoulders of the giants of the Jewish faith.
This article also says:
“God continues to bring the Jewish people into the land of their promise so that they might be a light to the nations—a light for all to see the truth of a loving heavenly Father who cherishes His children.”Curt Landry Ministries
This statement contains a subtle but significant proposition. It claims that the Jewish people are a “light to the nations” for all to see the truth of God. Landry is likely referencing Isaiah 49:6, which ends with “. . . I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” I want to be charitable in my assessment of Landry’s statement. It’s undoubtedly true that salvation came to mankind through the Jewish people (Matt 1:1-17; John 4:22, etc.). If that’s all the author meant, I have no problem with that. But it’s important to keep in mind that, when viewed in the context of the overarching story of Scripture, Isaiah’s prophecy about “a light for the nations” is ultimately referring to Yeshua, not Israel. Isaiah was prophesying that it is through the Messiah that God’s “salvation may reach the ends of the earth.” Israel is only the source of the light insofar as it is the channel through which Yeshua came. It is Yeshua who is the means of God’s salvation.
There is one last statement in the article worth noting. Landry writes, “A new movement has begun where so many within the Body of Christ are longing to relate with the Hebrew God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Landry may simply mean that many Christians are interested in learning about the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, which is a beautiful thing. But we need to be careful not to fall into the heresy that Marcion promoted and the Church rejected in the 2nd century.
Marcion believed the Hebrew God of the Old Testament was a completely different God than that of the New Testament, and he ended up rejecting the Hebrew Scriptures altogether. Yet, Scripture is clear that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worshipped the same God that Yeshua, Paul, and the apostles worshipped. There is just one God, and He is the God of all nations and all of Scripture. So when Landry says there is a new movement in which Christians are “longing to relate with the Hebrew God,” I fear he may be referring to the heretical movement of Torahism.
I don’t mean to pick at the small things, but I’ve seen up close how good theology can erode by degrees. And as the old German proverb says, “Der liebe Gott steckt im detail.” (God is in the details.)