In the first lecture, Dr. McDermott teaches that the Bible is one story, and that God upholds his covenant with the Jewish people to this very day. Was this what you were taught growing up? If not, how will this insight change the way you read the bible going forward?
Growing up, the church that I attended never spoke about the Jewish people or the land of Israel any further than exactly what the Bible says in NKJV. Our pastors specifically did not speak about either of the two, and only ever spoke with me regarding both after I sat down with them after my first trip to Israel in 2017. My pastor only spoke about morality and issues within ourselves, never the Jews or the land unless to quote the scripture. After having a conversation with him about both in 2017, I learned that he did not believe that the Jewish people have an everlasting covenant with God, and that Christians should control Israel, which is wild to think about now that I know better. Dr. McDermott provided very insightful ideas and helped to encourage me to look at the New Testament from a more Jewish perspective. I would like for future congregants at my church to know better than I did, and to know that the Bible isn’t explicitly about them, but I am unsure as to how to go about changing that.
Denise, thank you for sharing. Dr. McDermott provide great ideas and I too would like to share them with my church. My pastors have visited Israel and some have co-lead trips there for our church so I am curious to their views on Israel. You make a great point about looking at the New Testament from a Jewish perspective. Christianity seems to have largely left our Jewish roots behind and this is something I have been curious about for years. I’m not sure how to approach other congregants at your church, but I’ll be praying for God to guide your words as you share!
Love your story and that you pursued asking your pastors more. Christian faith is soooo much more than morality or individual issues. I love that you are continuing to pursue learning more and grappling with these issues. Keep on doing what you are doing!
I think the movement teaching that Israel is no longer important and that Jews are no longer under the covenant is growing. However, I was brought up in a church that believes the Jews are still and always be the people of God and that Jesus Christ will return to Mt. Zion, Jerusalem, and set up his kingdom there. I have firmly believed it as well and will defend the stance because I believe it is the biblical stance.
On the other end, I have many family members and friends who are of the opposite mindset. They don’t understand how God’s continued chosen people could reject Jesus and crucify him and still claim to be chosen. I am very sympathetic to that mindset, but I don’t believe God breaks his promises. Every promise he has made to his people from Adam to Moses has been kept, so I do not believe the Abrahamic Covenant would be any different. Very interested in participating and hearing others’ thoughts.
Jordan, I enjoyed reading your perspective. I too do not believe that God breaks his promises. I lacked instruction in this area and probably would have come down on the opposite side of Dr. McDermott without this course. However, I now recognize that I would not have been able to reason that God breaks his promises, yet still hold that God had broken his covenant with his chosen people. I also think that the movement in teaching that Israel is not important and that the Jews no longer have a covenant with God is growing because of how the State of Israel is portrayed.
I was raised in two different non-denominational churches that never really touched on the subject at all. Other than Genesis, Exodus, Job, Esther, Daniel, and Psalms/Proverbs, I never heard lessons or sermons on the other books of the Old Testament. The only thing I knew about the covenants God had made is that Jesus came to establish a new one. While I do not think I was directly taught supersessionism, I probably would have leaned toward that belief without the knowledge I have gained. So, how will this insight from Dr. McDermott change how I read the Bible going forward? I am now armed with the knowledge to not only be able to see how the New Testament passages from his lectures connect to the Jewish people and the land of Israel, but I can also share this with others. I am much more aware of the word Kingdom as well in the Bible as well as anything that has to do with covenants. Going forward, I have already started find New Testament passages that speak to God’s covenant with the Jewish people and analyze how knowing this effects how I read the passage.
I was taught, and have taught, that the Bible is a collection of 66 books written by over 40 authors over 2,000 years which tells one consistent story, an overarching narrative of God making Himself famous among the nations and expressing His love for His people. In learning to exegete scripture and comparative theology to other world religions and cults, it rationally impossible to understand the texts without understanding the intention of the texts in the time, place and to the people it was written. Veracity of the Scriptures obligates a consistent message and archeological evidence, otherwise Christianity isn’t worth following. It is hard to imagine a Christian faith that lacked this basis, as it raises the question, “who are you worshipping and why?” if there is either an unknowing or intentional lack of understanding of the full story of the Bible.
As far as the covenant with the Jewish people, I vaguely recall being taught God holds the new covenant with the universal church. The Jewish people and land are important and matter, but not are not particularly special or needing of attention. I would say, and this could be my own interpretation of what was being said, that this is more of an apathetic view – “the people and land matter, but I don’t know what to do about it.” This course has been interesting to revaluate this theological apathy and ask, “Clearly it matters, I’ve never seen it so emphasized as mattering a lot, therefore should I / what do I do about it?”
This did not conflict with my the teaching of my upbringing. I did not understand it fully, however, until I read the book “The Covenant, One Nation Under God: America’s Sacred & Immutable Connection to Ancient Israel” by Timothy Ballard. The Book discussed God’s precedent for making covenants with nations and uncovers the evidence through biblical readings and “heraldry.” Dr. McDermott’s lecture reminded me of the book and caused me to reread portions of it. When Dr. McDermott mentioned Matthew 5:18: “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled,” it made me think about all the ancient promises to the Israelite nation. There are many areas within the law that have not yet been fulfilled. With the Jew’s recent return to the land, and the fact that they are an independent nation, I feel we are witnessing biblical history in proportions we simply do not understand. God truly has not forgotten his people in Israel and has great things in store for our future.
Thinking about it now, I was always taught that God had fulfilled His covenant with the Jewish people through Christ, and that modern Jews did not accept or believe in this fulfillment. It was never presented so much as God turning His back on the Jewish people, but rather just a difference in opinion. However, a friend’s father, of a different Christian denomination from myself, was the first to present to me the idea that God still upholds His covenant with the Jews to this day. It was the first time I distinctly remember thinking that God “has a plan,” so to speak, for the Jews in the modern world, and that God desires to continue to uphold His covenant with the Jews even 2,000 years after the death and resurrection of Christ. Going forward, reading the Bible must, for me, be about reading the story of salvation history through both Christian and Jewish lenses–that these can both coexist.
Growing up, I was taught exactly what Dr. McDermott believes—that God’s covenant with the Jewish people still stands. My parents felt a strong affinity for the Jewish people and were very supportive of the state of Israel. This that was informed largely by their reading of the Old Testament and knowledge of God’s covenant and love for the Jewish people. This course’s lesson on the history of antisemitism within Christian history was deeply sobering. While I knew this was a problem in church history, I did not grasp the breadth and scope of the issue. Silly as it sounds, my first exposure to antisemitism in Christianity was Fiddler on the Roof when a Russian official refers to Jews as “Christ-killers”. The phrase struck me as bizarre and horrifying, and when I learned more about antisemitism in Christian history, it was even more so. Bad theological ideas such as supersessionism undoubtedly fostered antisemitic feelings and actions. As Christians, our Biblical understanding of the Jewish people and the Holy Land matters. We must get this right.
The topic was largely avoided in the non-denominational church I grew up in. There were various opinions but no clear position from the elders/pastor, perhaps partly due to the church being founded by Messianic Jews decades earlier. However, the church I have attended for the last several years had a prominent supersessionist on staff who preached numerous times on his field of study: the book of John. For a different reason, the church has new eldership and pastors and is vague on its current position, unlike priorly with being clear in its belief that the church superseded the Jews. About seven years ago, I wrestled with the idea of supersessionism and the impacts of that theology. Through prayer & reading scripture has helped me conclude that supersessionism is antithetical to sound teaching. This has impacted how I read the Bible and my interfaith actions, and I believe it has made me a stronger ally to the Jewish community.
Growing up, I was taught to focus on the New Testament only and for the longest time, I didn’t even read the Old Testament. It wasn’t until I was older that I started to realize that the Bible is one big story, that each book should not be taken on its own as we cannot truly get the full picture of the gospel this way. Although I always personally had a soft corner for Jews, as I knew that they were/are God’s chosen people, I never really thought much about the fact that God upholds His covenant with them to this very day. Reflecting on it now, that makes absolute sense because our God is a God that keeps His promises. We believe in the same God as the God of Abraham and if God made a promise to the Jewish people way before Christians even came into the picture, it would make sense that He would keep that covenant. If we don’t believe that, then it will be hard for us to justify the character of God as a righteous and just. Knowing this now will help me read the Bible through a different lens – now emphasizing the importance of the relationship that God had and continues to have with the Jewish people.
I had a very strict Christian upbringing. At a very tender age, I got to understand the importance of the Jewish people, and their role in bringing salvation to mankind. I was blessed to have learnt about God’s covenant with the Jewish people, and I think the fact remains God still holds that covenant till this day. This course has also shifted my understand with respect to the Anti-Semitic roles played by some great Church Leaders and Religious influencers, like Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. I think it is important that every Christian read some of these lectures or even take a peek at some of Dr. McDermott teachings to better understand the significance of the Jewish people, and why it is important that we stand against every form of hatred against them and support them in every respect.
I agree with your statement. I’ve made a decision to not only revisit this particular course but to also share it when needed. Dr. McDermott’s teachings can give you a new lens when reading the bible. Some perspectives are hard to understand but with such teachings, it becomes easier to connect dots.
Growing up, life was not complete without prayer and going to church. Moreover, my community is one that prays a lot. In Congo, the majority of the population in all parts of the country are Christians. Today, I am a strong believer in Christ not only because of what’s read but because of what he has done for me. Looking back, I never had any replacement for the word of God. I grew up knowing that God still upholds his covenant with the Jewish. Not only that, his promises will be fulfilled whether the heavens and the earth are no longer there. Only recently did I realize the reality of things. I am a devoted Christian but had no idea of programs like this. Even though I knew what was going on, I never cared that much. Many people today are in the same shoes and the hardest part is that you cannot convince them otherwise. After adding more to what I knew, I am going to share the gospel with strong faith and will have more clarity of the word when conversing with different people.
I attended Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Anglican churches growing up but don’t recall a sermon or study that emphasized the covenant God has with the Jews. What mattered to us was the “New” Covenant and converting others to Christianity so they can experience the “full story of redemption.” When I first visited Israel in 2017, some of my other classmates were particularly interested in the land itself for, what seemed like, greater spiritual reasons than I did. In hindsight, they did given their understanding of the covenant God has and is keeping with the Jewish people. Due to the lack of discussion in my past about the Jews/their covenant with God, I have had an unquenchable desire to understand the Jewish faith and practices. When I read the Old Testament, I like reading commentary from Rabbis so my understanding is all the more rich.
I had a similar experience! My church never spoke about the Jewish people or the land of Israel any further than what was said in the scriptures. Honestly, my church also negated discussing the fact that Jesus himself was actually Jewish. I also have had my understanding of the Bible transformed when learning about the everlasting covenant with the Jewish people and how that impacts my own relationship with God. Thank you for sharing this!
I loved your response to this question. It was so thoughtful and profound in the way you explained the principle of God upholding his covenant with the Jewish people. I am similar to you because I was also taught about the importance of Jesus and his crucifixion. That story had more value than anything because Jesus’s death changed Christianity because it is this story that changed humanity and the way in which we interact with each other. When I read the Bible, I will read the book with an open mind and also educate myself more about the connection between Jesus and his connection to humanity.
I agree with your statement that you believe many felt a disconnect of the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith. I’m going to be honest and say that I never truly understood this idea until I got to college and started learning about my faith in a Bible study group. I feel that my church never wanted to emphasize the Hebraic roots because that would raise more questions for the congregants and my church… tended to keep topics to personal morality and not how our morality came to be. Thanks for your insight!
Justin, I really enjoy your perspective. While overall I believe that Jews are still God’s chosen people and Christ will reign from Mt. Zion, I don’t actually know what that looks like in reality. Does God’s covenant with Abraham mean that Jews will make it to Heaven? Or does it mean that he will protect them and provide for them while on earth? I like your idea of Divine Mystery and I think the practicality of all of this is definitely a divine mystery. Thanks for sharing.
I think it is great that even your church taught this, even if it wasn’t described as a covenant. I do think that even if the church teaches sound theological and biblical principles, it is up to the parents to take the reigns and instill those values into their children. I believe this is the case in anything. A lot of Sunday-goers, but don’t teach their kids the value in those principles. I appreciate your mom and I am sure you do too for teaching you the importance of Israel and its relevance to culture and to theology today.
Thank you, Ana. When I first visited Israel I felt such a great love for the people there and was astounded by their devotion to God. I couldn’t help but wonder how different I could be in my Christian faith if I showed forth my devotion as disciplined as the jewish people. I have such respect for their devotion to the sabbath day, specifically. I heard once that “because the Jews keep the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews.”
Hi Dominic, I really appreciate your comment. It reflects strongly to my upbringing as well as a Catholic. It’s interesting that you mention liturgy as a source of inspiration for this topic. I find that many prayers, texts, and other traditions capture this idea that God is continuing His covenant with the Jewish people in the midst of Christianity. I usually understood it as a fulfillment of the covenant, but now I see that there are many examples of fraternity with the Jewish people as perhaps co-heirs to this covenant with God.
Hi Dominic, thanks for the write-up. I think it is important that we Christians who have gotten a clearer understanding of the importance of the Jewish people, go out of our ways to shift the mindset of others. I think most of our church leaders are preaching anti-Semitic messages without even knowing the implications of what they are doing, as such it is incumbent upon us to provide those necessary corrections and insights where necessary.
Abigail, that’s a great point you bring up about using the same texts for opposing arguments when it comes to Israel. I think you’re exactly right in saying that there is much more biblical evidence for God maintaining and upholding covenants than there is in God breaking His covenant with the Jewish people. But it gives plenty of food for thought in thinking about ways we can look at the Bible in pro- and anti-Jewish ways. As leaders, we have to be prepared for arguments that may use similar evidences but radically misinterpret them.
Thanks for sharing about your background. Your Mom’s perspective sounds like that of a lot of people I know. The good thing about the heightened interested in prophecy among Evangelicals that seemed to peak a view years ago (in my observation) is that it fostered a appreciation for the Jewish people and the state of Israel and an interest in America’s foreign policy in the Near East. Overall, I think that is a helpful development.
This is such an excellent point. The incorrect idea that God would break a covenant with the Jewish people actually teaches a false understanding of who God is. If God were to break his promise, it would imply that he is not consistent and is untrustworthy. This is a dangerous lie. Thankfully, God does abide by his covenants, is unchanging, and is trustworthy–towards the Jewish people and all of us.
Hi Marina, I appreciate the write-up. I think as you clearly stated it is important that we be careful with the sorts of messages we listen to, whether from influential Christian leaders or not, as some of these men are preaching and teaching anti-Semitic messages without even having a second-thought of the implications of their teachings. I do see the need for everyone of us who have gained such insight to go about clearing some of these common misconceptions of the Jewish people, and as well educate others about their significance in line with scriptures.
I agree with your reply. When looking at the Lord’s work in the lives of people in general, you’ll find that God has been fulfilling his promises, which is why it almost seems like he’s not even there. When it comes to the Jewish people as you stated, God has really done tremendous things when it comes to him fulfilling and proving that he is God. Moreover, he has transformed many atrocities that faced Israel into success. Many nations, Kingdoms, and Empires have been forgotten by what Israel has faced. However, Israel has always emerged victorious. There is no better explanation than the work of the mighty God in protecting his covenant with Abraham and the people of Israel.