The Primary Reason Paul wrote the Book of Romans: Antisemitism
The historian Suetonius records that Roman Emperor Claudius banished Jews from Rome in AD 49 because there had been rioting at the instigation of one called Chrestus (“Claudius ‘Iudaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantes Roma expulit” [Claudius 25]) See Guthrie, NTI, p. 393; Cranfield, p. 16. The decree from Claudius was against Jews living in Rome and is referenced in the New Testament (Acts 18:2).
During the period of Jewish believers being absent from the Roman Church, a new and virulent false teaching, known as a heresy, began. This false teaching is known today as Supersessionism by its adherents, although there are many pastors of churches and whole denominations who practice some form of Supersessionism and do not realize their error.
Supersessionism was the first Anti-Semitic teaching of Non-Jewish followers of Jesus.
The initial form Supersessionism took was stating that Israel as a physical nation no longer had any part in God’s current plan/that Israel was now no more important than any other nation, because we have now entered an age when the Kingdom of God is present in each believer. Since Jerusalem is no longer central to worship of God, the nation of Israel is also no longer central to the plan of God.
As the movement expanded beyond Rome it began to take on new and more dangerous forms.
Supersessionism, or Replacement theology, in its fully birthed form declares that the Church, those that believe in the Messiahship of Jesus, have “replaced national Israel, in that it had transcended and fulfilled the terms of the covenant given to Israel, which covenant Israel had lost because of disobedience.” In simpler terms, Christians, or members of the “Kingdom of God,” have taken the place of Israel as the chosen people of God, therefore, Israel, or the Jewish people, have become obsolete, unimportant and have been superseded.
Much of the supersessionist mentality is derived from the misreading of Pauline texts that without their cultural Jewish context seems to convey a sense of entitlement among the growing Gentile population within the Church. Paul uses language like “Abraham’s offspring (Galatians 3.29)” and “Israel of God (Galatians 6.16)” in reference to the Gentile, which has confused many. John Barclay, in his article, “Neither Jew Nor Greek”, attempts to clarify that Paul is “the Fashioner of multiethnic and multicultural communities, which function not to erase but to moderate between differing cultures specificities.”
The ethical dilemma emerges when the supersessionist mentality cultivates division among Jewish believers and lovers of Israel, and Christians, breeding a sense of hierarchy that leads to arrogance and an overarching anti-Semitic worldview. Where this superior mentality can be subtle or can express itself within a spectrum of ways, historically, Supersessionism can be seen contributing to the deliberate disregard for the Jewish population and the exclusion from the church of Jewish believers in Jesus under Roman Emperor Constantine, the feeding of Jews to the lions under later emperors, in the creation of the original Ghettos of Europe in which Jews were segregated from societies for being “Christ Killers,” the expulsion and forced “conversion” to Christianity, murder and expulsion of Jews in Portugal and Spain in 1492, the Pogroms in Russia, the Ukraine and other eastern European nations in the 1800’s, to Hilter’s Germany, which used supersessionist propaganda to convince the Germans and conquered peoples that Jews were the root of all of societies woes, culminating in the final epitaph seen by Jews on the way to gas chambers in Auschwitz, “You killed our God, now we’re killing you!” It can be witnessed to an extreme level within the blatant hatred of the modern organizations such as Westboro Baptist Church, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement on Western College Campuses, and in mainline formerly Biblically conservative Christian denominations like the now liberal Presbyterian Church of America, and the United Methodists who have taken the view that Israel’s Nazi-trained enemies known as the “Palestinians,” are the real owners of the land of Israel.
How Paul Addresses This New Heresy of Supersessionism
The central or primary reason the Apostle Paul wrote the book of Romans is introduced in Romans 1:16, where he states, “For I am not ashamed of the Good News of Messiah, for it is the power of God for salvation to the Jew as a priority (and ongoing primary mission for all believers), and also to the Greek (non-Jew).” His subject is covered in depth in Romans chapters 9-11.
Paul often addresses benefits of being a Jew throughout his letter (1:16; 2:9-10; 3:1-2; 9–11). In doing this, he was combating the Supersessionism movement among the Roman Gentiles to address tones of anti-Semitism which had arisen due the Claudius’ decree.
The blindness to millions of Jews being thrown into concentration camps and killed is an extreme example Supersessionism, although a very valid example, of the supersessionist mentality.
In more practical terms, the anti-Semitic mentality of Supersessionism is more subtle.
Many people may hold a supersessionist belief, yet not even realize it.
When some thought is taken the concept of Supersessionism makes some sense. As Christians, non-Jewish followers of Messiah claim to have Christ and the Jews do not, therefore, the Jews are lacking, and this is true. The New Testament is very clear about this (e.g. John 3.16, John 14.6, Acts 4.12, Romans 6.23, Titus 3.5). The New Testament also uses exclusionary language towards “the Jews” (e.g. Matthew 21.43, Romans 2.29, Galatians 3.7), which can lead many to orient themselves towards a supersessionist worldview no matter how modest.
The anti-Semitic position of Supersessionism does not come to surface for the simple reason of belief. Beliefs by themselves are more or less passive, leading to at most a heated discussion. The issue is when the supersessionist belief manifests itself as a mentality to disregard the importance of Israel within the sovereignty of God.
Furthermore, this leads to an arrogance that presumes Christians are God’s exclusive children that operate within a superior alliance with Christ. Therefore, it is not anti-Semitic to believe that the true way to God is through Christ alone, yet, it is anti-Semitic to be apathetic to the Jewish position and to write them off as irrelevant to God’s plan for salvation. It is also anti-Semitic and, frankly, unbiblical, to dismiss the centrality of Israel to the plan of God from the start of Genesis to the last chapter of the Book of Revelation.
The truth of the matter is that Christians are not the exclusive children of God, quite the opposite, Christians are made “part of the Commonwealth of Israel,” (Ephesians 2:11-22). This “Commonwealth of Israel” is also known in the New Testament as the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16), and “The Kingdom of God,” and the “Kingdom of Heaven” as preached by Jesus.
When Jesus used the expression “kingdom of God,” which is based on Old Testament passages such as these, Jehovah is King (1 Sam 12:12; Ps. 24:10; Is. 33:22; Zeph. 3:15; Zech. 14:16-17). He rules over Israel (Exod. 15:18; Num. 23:21; Deut. 33:5; Is. 43:15). He rules over the earth or the creation (2 Kings 19:15; Is. 6:5; Jer. 46:18; Ps. 29:10; 47:2; 93; 96:10; 145:11, 13). He possesses a royal throne (Ps. 9:4; 45:6; 47:8; Is. 6:1; 66:1; Ezek 1:26). His reign is ongoing (Ps. 10:16; 146:10; Is. 24:23). Rule or kingship is His (Ps. 22:28). It is primarily God’s special relationship to Israel that is in view here as the Son of David is said to sit on Jehovah’s throne (1 Chron 17:14; 28:5; 29:23; 2 Chron 9:8; 13:8). When Israel was overrun by the nations, a longing existed that one day God would reestablish his rule on behalf of his people and show his comprehensive sovereignty to all humanity (Gentiles). After all, God had committed himself to David concerning a dynasty of duration (2 Sam. 7:13). It is here that the hope of a future kingdom of God, made not with hands, came to be contrasted with the kingdoms of men in Daniel 2 and 7. It is in the context of such expectation that Jesus used the term “kingdom of God.” What was hoped for was something that had existed in the past, but only as a mere glimpse of what had been promised–a rule to come involving total peace for God’s people. In sum, Kingdom hope by the time of the Apostles is driven forward by the vision of the fullness of God’s rule showing up one day. It was to this hope that Jesus preached. And what he and the Apostle Paul and the other New Testament writers expressed is a GREATER ISRAEL that includes Non-Jews who love Jesus.
This does not mean that the land and nation of Israel are unimportant. It in fact established the importance of the physical land and people of Israel!
Paul’s Chastisement of Non-Jewish Believers who deny the importance and centrality of Israel in God’s current plans
It in this context, and it is to this underlying problem of Supersessionism that Paul directly addresses Gentile Christians in Romans 11:11-25:
“11 I say then, have they (Israel) stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. 12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!
13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. 15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
16 For if the first fruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.”
20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness,[a] if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Where Non-Jewish Christians Went Wrong & The Solution
What Gentile believers in Jesus in the early days of the Roman church did not grasp, and what has continued in the Western Church for nearly 2000 years, is the missing link of Israelology (and a second one should also be noted, Remnant Theology, understanding of which is severely lacking in the majority of churches—see the appendix for details).
The study of Israelology offers much insight for all believers. For example, Israelology shows how both the Church and Israel have a present and important role now. The Church is called, as the early apostles and Christians were, to share the gospel message with the Jewish people as one of the many nations included in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), but to do it as a priority (Romans 1:16).
Also, our view of Israel informs our view of the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament. Israelology examines how the early church dealt with the practice of Judaism and advocated the reading and studying of the Old Testament Scriptures in order to understand the New Testament’s high view of Israel in these, the last days.
A final, important result of the study of Israelology is a deeper respect for contemporary Jewish people. Growing anti-Semitism in the West and the Islamic world often casts Israel in a highly negative light. However, a proper, biblical view of Israel notes God’s high view of Israel present and Israel future. Christians are called to show love to the people of Israel and to pray for them (Psalm 122:6).
Israelology is an often-neglected study among Christians and pastors, perhaps because of preconceived beliefs related to the end times or replacement theology (Supersessionism). However, all Christians are called to study to show themselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15). Our study must include what the Bible teaches about Abraham’s people and the land God promised them (Genesis 12:1-3).
Those who lack in their study of Israelology overlook, dismiss, deny or reinterpret the clear teaching of Paul which clarifies that he preached the Gospel to Gentiles (Non-Jewish people), in order that Jews would be jealous for Messiah being revealed in Gentiles (Romans 11:11). In Romans 11, Paul also makes it clear that Gentile followers of Messiah who become arrogant against Israel (that Israel is not part of God’s ongoing plan in the world), are “boasting against the natural branches (Israel),” and are in danger themselves of being “cut off” from God.
Within Romans 11.11-24, Paul illustrates the structure and relationship of Jews and Christians with a metaphor of an olive tree. Paul explains that Gentile Christians are like “wild olive shoots” (v17) that have been grafted among the “natural branches” (v.21) into the Patriarchal “rich root” (v17). This is made possible because that some of the natural branches have been pruned, which has made room for the wild shoots to take their place.
Like their modern Supersessionist counterparts, the Romans Gentile Christians in Romans 11.11-24, Paul is speaking to Christians who arrogantly and pridefully perceive their hierarchy among God’s plan for salvation. Paul urgently seeks to show these Christians who have been boasting, that God is actually not and will never be done with Israel as the chosen people, that Israel is still special and “the apple of His eye”(Zechariah 2:8). Furthermore, Paul adds that Gentiles need to approach the very subject of superiority among the Jews, especially Jews who believe in Jesus, with great humility and Godly fear because they too, even with greater ease, could be pruned from the olive “tree of Abraham.”
Here is but one of MANY of examples from both Testaments concerning God’s ongoing plans for Israel,
“FOR BEHOLD, in those days and at that time when I shall reverse the captivity and restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations and will bring them down into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, and there will I deal with and execute judgment upon them for their treatment of My people and of My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations and because they have divided My land.” [Joel 3:1-2]
God clearly states in multiple places throughout the scriptures, that God uses the way the Gentiles treat Israel as a nation as a method to Judge the Gentiles. Pastors and others who deny the place of Israel in God’s current plan for the world right now are taking a clear stand against God and his stated purposes for Israel in both the Old and New Testaments.
I could go on and on about how even the USA has been judged per incident by how the leadership of the USA has treated modern Israel. There is clear evidence of natural disasters in direct relation to how Israel is treated (see the clear documentation in the book: Eye to Eye: Facing the Consequences of Dividing Israel, by investigative journalist, William Koenig).
In William Koenig’s book he covers:
- The ten costliest insurance events in U.S. history
- The twelve costliest hurricanes in U.S. history
- Three of the four largest tornado outbreaks in U.S. history
- The two largest terrorism events in U.S. historyAll of these major catastrophes and many others occurred or began on the very same day or within 24-hours of U.S. presidents Bush 1, Clinton and Bush 2 applying pressure on Israel to trade her land for promises of “peace and security,” sponsoring major “land for peace” meetings, making major public statements pertaining to Israel’s covenant land and /or calling for a Palestinian state.
Are each one of these major record-setting events just a coincidence or awe-inspiring signs that God is actively involved in the affairs of Modern Israel? Yes, they are.
In this book, Bill Koenig provides undeniable facts and conclusive evidence showing that indeed the leaders of the United States and the world are on a collision course with God over Israel’s covenant land.
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (Zechariah 12:9)
Chapter 1: Historical Basis for Israel’s Right to Its Land (including maps)
Chapter 2: The Error of Replacement Theology (names, organizations and statements)
Chapter 7: U.S. Catastrophes and Events: 2005 U.S. Administration: President George W. Bush (Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Wilma and their connection to Israel)
Chapter 8: Major U.S. Catastrophes & Events in Perspective (from 1991 to the present)
Chapter 13: U.S. Presidents & Middle East Leaders Involved in “Peace” Process and the Consequences (U.S. Presidents from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush)
Chapter 14: Strange Parallels to Rabin and Sharon’s Political Endings
There is little doubt that, as a Jew, Paul (among every other patriarch of the faith) would be saddened that Christians today still hold to a false theological mentality like Supersessionism. Many Christians hold to the idea that Jews are somehow the others, and that Israel in its current form is somehow equally or even of lesser importance than other nations of the world. Concerning Jerusalem and Israel, God speaks very clearly in Ezekiel 5:5 when he says,
“Thus says the Lord GOD: This is Jerusalem. I have set her in the center of the nations, with countries all around her.”
God warns us in Joel 3:2:
“I will gather the nations of the world
into the valley of Jehoshaphat.
There I will judge them
for harming My people, My special possession,
for scattering My people among the nations,
and for dividing up My land.”
If you don’t think these verses and so many others like them speak about physical Israel’s ongoing purpose on the planet in our times, then you are missing a full understanding the times we live in, and the truth the Bible speaks about such things.
Israel and Jerusalem have and will continue to be the center of God’s plan for the world, because this is the very place He will live and reign with His chosen King, Messiah, for eternity. As a matter of fact, all believers in Messiah, those who are both Jewish and Gentile, will live in a very real city called, New Jerusalem (Revelation 21), which will sit in a very real existing nation called, Israel, proving again that Israel is not like the other nations of the earth, but stands apart and has a special inheritance unique and reserved only for itself.
God’s covenant with Abraham was an unbreakable, eternal covenant, and God promises to bless those who bless his descendants (Numbers 24:9, Genesis 49:9, Genesis 12:3).
No other nation is given this promise!