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Marcion

What is the origin of Replacement Theology?

Many of the early Church Fathers had extensive knowledge of Greek poetry and the writings of the philosophers and, consequently, were heavily influenced by Greek thought patterns. Chief among these was the use of allegory and this led to interpretations of the Bible that was highly symbolic. Origen, in particular, popularised allegorical interpretations of the Bible, which have influenced Christian understanding right to the modern day. This was not good news for the Jewish people. 

Once the Church had moved away from its Jewish origins, the Gentile Church Fathers were keen to show the world how the favours of God had moved from the old flesh-and-blood natural Israel to the spanking new spiritual Israel, the Church. They reasoned that the Jews had had their chance, and failed. 'Didn't they bring it on themselves', they argued. 'For surely they not only rejected Jesus, their Messiah, but they killed him as well!'

It suited them to ignore a few key points:

1. It was the Romans who actually killed Jesus. Crucifixion was a Roman instrument of death.

2. A reading of the Gospels show that it was the Jewish leadership who bear the responsibility for the rejection of Jesus, not the Jews as a whole. 'But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.' (Matthew 27:20)

3. Jesus had to die for Christianity to exist. There can be no resurrection without a crucifixion. Should we eternally condemn whoever is responsible for this part in God's plan for mankind?

4. On the cross Jesus himself forgave the people responsible for his death. (Luke 23:34)

5. Jesus knew in advance of his death, he spoke of it earlier to his disciples. It was no surprise to him.

It's a pity that the Church Fathers, of Gentile origin, were unwilling to consider these points. It appears they had their own agenda to follow. These early Christians weren't an ignorant rabble, they were learned men who were zealous in defending their faith, often to the death. Yet they were blinkered when it came to 'the Jewish question'. Why was this? There were four reasons.

Firstly, there was a split between Judaism and early Christianity. The key event was the revolt in 132 AD, when the Jewish Christians refused to support their fellow Jews but, instead, fled from Jerusalem. This resulted in great antagonism towards the Christians from the Jews, who were still, at that time, in the majority.

Secondly, the Christians saw the destruction of Jerusalem as 'proof�' that God had turned His back on the Jews and saw themselves as God's new 'chosen people'.

Thirdly, the majority of Jews at that time refused to accept Jesus as Messiah. As a result, some early Christians began to see Jews less as potential converts, but more as enemies of the gospel.

Fourthly, the Church was becoming overwhelmingly Gentile and so the new leaders began to formulate a new theology that accounted for this.

Their conclusions can be summarised thus: God had permanently cut the nation of Israel off as His people as a result of her disobedience and idolatry in the Old Testament, and her rejection and crucifixion of Jesus in the New. The faithful of the Church age became the 'new Israel' of God. The Church would now inherit the promises given to national Israel.

In 160 AD Justin Martyr, living in Asia Minor. wrote a piece called 'Dialogue with the Jew Trypho' in which he declared that the (Gentile) Church has completely and permanently replaced Israel in the working out of God's plans and would now inherit all the promises promised to Israel in the Old Testament.

But the real villain was a man called Marcion, who gave us Marcionism, the first great assault on the pure faith of the apostles. Here was a man so heavily influenced by the Greek philosopher, Plato, that he was willing to allow these pagan ideas to create a wedge between the Old Testament of the Jews and the New Testament of the Christians.

Plato believed in dualism, a separation between the spiritual and the physical, the former being 'good' and the latter 'evil' (more of this in my book, How the Church lost The Way ...). 

Marcion took this dualism and applied it to the Bible. He reasoned that the Old Testament represented the failed religion of the Jews, supplanted by the spiritually-charged New Testament of the Christians. He also rejected the nasty, wrathful, 'God' of the Old Testament, in contrast to the forgiving God of the New Testament. In his dualistic thinking, the people (the Jews) and the god (Yahweh) of the Old Testament represented the evil physical world and the people (the Christians) and the God (Jesus) of the New Testament represent the good spiritual world.

To Marcion, Paul was the only apostle worth considering and he chose Luke as the only reliable gospel. But he didn't leave it there. As the gospel of Luke contains many Scriptures at odds with his dualistic views, he got out his scissors and snipped away. Out went all references to the Old Testament, such as the nativity narratives; in fact out went the first three chapters entirely! So, in his 'gospel', Marcion presented to his followers a Jesus with absolutely no back story!

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation)

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