For the rest of the blog posts in this series, go here.
In the previous part of this series we looked at how the theology of Christian Zionism, which claims that the Jewish people must return to the land of Israel before the second coming of Christ, is very young. Its roots are found in the 16th century and its developed form didn’t appear until the 19th century. However, most Christian Zionists don’t view this as a problem, since they believe that this was not the birth of the theology but its resurrection – Christian Zionism was the original church teaching about the role of Israel, and the Puritans and Dispensationalists simply rediscovered it.
However, the early church did not believe in Christian Zionism. None of the church fathers, neither any anonymous early Christian writings, argued that the Jewish people must return to Israel before the second coming of Christ. On the contrary, they were supersessionists, teaching that Christ had fulfilled the covenant with and promises to Israel and that these now belonged to His followers, the church.
The non-existence of Christian Zionism in the early church is rather indesputable, even most Christian Zionists themselves acknowledge this. They claim that the apostles believed in Christian Zionism, but that it was immediately lost. I call this “The Men in Black Theory”. Just as the movie agents use their neuralyzer to erase people’s memories, Christian Zionism was suddenly deleted from the collective mind of the whole church right when the final pages of the New Testament was written.
I mean, I myself believe in some stuff that has been lost in church history for quite a long time: believer’s baptism, personal Pentecostal experience, pacifism, etc. But all these things existed to some extent in the early church. Zionism didn’t. Even Clement and “Barnabas”, who were disciples to the apostles themselves, were supersessionists. Either the apostles didn’t view Zionism as something very important to teach, or they simply didn’t believe in it.
Christian Zionists often try to explain the Men in Black phenomena with ethnicity. Since most of the early church leaders were Gentiles, they ignored the Jewish roots of Christianity and changed the theology about Israel, they claim. But this theory has a very negative view on the church fathers and other early Christians, that I simply cannot agree with. These guys studied the Scriptures really hard and were eager to defend the teachings of the apostles against their heretic opponents. Would they just ignore a main apostolic teaching and change the Christian doctrine just because of their ethnicity?
Furthermore, supersessionism is not an anti-Jewish theology, as Christian zionists often claim. On the contrary, supersessionist Christians identify themselves with Israel and the Jewish people. If the church fathers abandoned Zionism because it was Jewish, why didn’t they abandon the Old Testament as well, as Marcion did? Why did they become Christians in the first place? The church fathers defended their Jewish roots and identified themselves with God’s Israel, just as the apostles did.
But this idea about supersessionism being non-Jewish and even antisemitic is a popular misconception. Hence, I am going to tackle that issue in the next part of this series.