The Ancient Christian Roots of Some Modern Anti-Zionism

According to a doctrine espoused by some of the earliest Christian thinkers, Jesus’ life and death brought an end to Jews’ identity as the chosen people, now replaced by the Christian church. To this idea, known as supersessionism or replacement theology, St. Augustine added what was later called the “teaching of contempt”—that Jews are condemned to suffer for their rejection of Jesus and complicity in his death. These doctrines were renounced by the Vatican and by most Protestant denominations following World War II. Yet, writes Jon D. Levenson, they have resurfaced, in modern guise, in anti-Zionist rhetoric. Take for instance, the decision of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to endorse divestment from Israel in 2004:

The gross double standard [at work in such condemnations of the Jewish state] suggests that the loudly professed moral concerns of the Presbyterians (and other Protestant groups that have passed similar resolutions) do not fully account for their anti-Israel actions. What, then, does account for them?

To answer this, we must return to [the Presbyterians’] 1987 statement renouncing the teaching of contempt. In its sixth affirmation, the statement makes the claim that the book of Genesis

indicates that “the land of your sojournings” was promised to Abraham and his and Sarah’s descendants. This promise, however, included the demand that “You shall keep my covenant” (Genesis 17:7-8). The implication is that the blessings of the promise were dependent upon fulfillment of covenant relationships. Disobedience could bring the loss of land, even while God’s promise was not revoked. . . .

[I]f we read Genesis 17 as the Presbyterian statement does, we have a ready explanation for [this] double standard: the legitimacy of China, Iran, North Korea, and other malefactors does not rest upon fidelity to a covenant with God. Israel’s does. . . .

Liberation theology has [also] long had a problem with Jewish particularism. Consider the liberationists’ penchant for interpreting the poor and oppressed as the beneficiaries of one of their favorite biblical events, the Exodus. That the God of Israel is especially concerned with the vulnerable and eager to protect them is exceedingly easy to document. [But] what links the beneficiaries of God’s intervention in the Exodus is something very different: descent from a common ancestor. . . .

When the poor and oppressed replace the people Israel as the beneficiaries of the Exodus, an idea, or social norm, has replaced a flesh-and-blood people. It then becomes possible for any group that can be made to fit into that idea or to benefit from that social norm to be the new Jews. This is the replacement theology secularized, or supersessionism without the church—and it swiftly opens the door for the old anti-Judaism to reappear in a post-Christian culture—not in the mouths of theocratic reactionaries but in those of free-thinking progressives. Les extrêmes se touchent.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, History & Ideas, Jewish-Christian relations, Liberation theology, Supersessionism

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

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Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin