Israel and the Church: Continuity, Discontinuity, or Something of the Two?

haysIn his influential study on intertextuality, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of PaulRichard Hays argues the apostle Paul’s hermeneutic is “functionally ecclesiocentric rather than christocentric” (xiii). In a series of essays, he shows how the apostle applies Old Testament texts to the New Testament church, and in so doing he questions the commonly held assumption that Paul wrote with a Christocentric approach to the Old Testament.

In comparison to the Gospels, especially Matthew and John, Hays shows that Paul is much more reticent to cite messianic prooftexts. Rather, writing to local churches who are comprised of the eschatological people of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11), he applies the Old Testament scriptures semi-directly to the church. I say semi-directly, because the old covenant scriptures only apply through the mediation of Jesus Christ, a point Hays goes on to affirm: “christology is the foundation on which [Paul’s] ecclesiocentric counterreadings are constructed” (120).

For Hays, his aim is to observe the hermeneutical principles at work in Paul’s letters. My question is more systematic. What does Paul’s method of interpretation say to us about the relationship between Israel and the Church? Debates rage between Dispensationalists who make a clear division between Israel and the Church and Covenant Theologians who have ostensibly replaced Israel with the Church. Thankfully, these hard divisions have been revised in recent years—Progressive Dispensationalists see more continuity between Israel and the Church (even as they retain a unique place for Israel), and Covenant Theologians like Richard Gaffin and Anthony Hoekema have centered Old Testament promises in Jesus Christ and his new covenant people. Still, the debate continues: how should we relate the testaments? Continue reading

Israel On Your Mind?

Sitting in Dr. Russell Moore’s Systematic III class and then again in his Eschatology class, I became convinced from the Scriptures that Israel is not just a what, but a who.  And that who is Jesus Christ. 

Today, with Israel in the headlines and  just returning from the “Promised Land” himself, Dr. Moore summarizes his thoughts on the future of Israel.  It is a snapshot of the biblical theology that was presented in those classroom lectures–a biblical theology of God and his people that unifies all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10), the True Israel of God.   Whether you are Dispensational, Covenantal, or agnostic in terms of all things eschatological, it is worth a look.

Anyone thinking through these matters–eschatology, the nature of the church, the future of Israel, and how evangelicals have debated these things over since Scofield–should consider Moore’s arguments.  Reading his book on the subject would be a great place to begin, The Kingdom of Christ.   Similarly, another great chapter on this subject of the identity of Israel is Stephen Wellum’s chapter on the covenants in Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in ChristBoth are excellent.

Thankful to be a co-heir with Christ, the True Israel, and I hope that he too is on your mind!

Sola Deo Gloria, dss