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What Is Replacement Theology?

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  • Written By: Jan Fletcher
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2016
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A controversial Christian doctrine, replacement theology espouses the belief that the Church is now the beneficiary of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenantal promises originally made to Israel. These covenants are believed by many Christians and Jews to be of divine origin. Some theologians have viewed the Holocaust as a way to explain prophecies and events recorded in ancient Jewish and Christian texts. The Holocaust also provided an impetus for establishing the state of Israel. As a result, it has also played a role in shaping recent developments in replacement theology.

Some Jewish people today continue to believe that the promises made to Abraham's descendants will happen at a future date. Conversely, a number of Christians believe the Jewish people lost these promises, because their ancestors failed to believe in Jesus as a divine being many centuries ago. As a result, a significant number of those who profess the Christian faith also believe the promises were transferred to them, and taken away from the Jewish people. This is known as replacement theology, because they believe the Church replaced Israel in God's plan.

In the early centuries following the advent of Christianity, replacement theology first took hold among some Christians. These adherents believed that God considered them to be the new recipients of the promises made to the ancient nation of Israel. Due to the Israel's rejection of Christ as a divine person, replacement theologians claim the many promises made to Abraham's descendants are now void.

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These theologians say this occurred because ancient Israel's leaders rejected Jesus' teachings, and that rejection resulted in God rejecting them as the chosen people of God. The promises, also called covenants, are contained within an Old Testament portion of the Holy Bible, known among Jews as the Torah. There are many promises in the Torah, but one of the most contended is the promise of Israel's divine right to the land.

When the Holocaust occurred in the mid-20th century, this galvanized Jewish survivors to obtain a homeland. Much of the fervor to regain Israel rested upon two ideas. The first goal of many Holocaust survivors was to prevent a repeat of the mass destruction of their people. A lot of Jewish survivors felt the only way to do that was to establish a nation in which the Jewish people could govern themselves, through reclaiming ancestral land.

Many Jewish survivors who settled in Israel, as well as their descendants, still believe in the promises they claim God gave to Abraham's descendants, which includes the land now claimed by Israel. Replacement theology usually rejects that belief. Some Christian theologians, however, continue to believe in the right of the Jewish people to have a homeland. "The Promised Land" refers to the promise recorded in the Torah that promised Abraham and his descendants the land known as Israel. Future rewards are also promised, but many interpret these promises as metaphysical in nature.

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