Supercessionism and engraftment : a theological understanding of the relationship between Church and Synagogue.
The relationship between the church and the synagogue has always been complex. Both as religions and as traditions, Christianity and Judaism are related to each other in ways that make it difficult for them to be merely parallel phenomena. On the one hand, Christianity grew out of Judaism with a claim to the fulfilment thereof, and, on the other hand, in the history of ideas they are intertwined beyond disentanglement. Besides the simple fact that Jesus lived and died as a pious Jew, the church and the synagogue share a common scripture and use common language about God. During its history the church has not always known how to understand this close relationship with the synagogue. For the most part it tried to destroy the relationship, theologically and even at times physically. This attitude of theological anti-Judaism is called supercessionism. It understands the church as superior to the synagogue since the church is the heir of the promises of the Old Testament, especially as they are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The question arose after the horror of Hitler's "Final Solution" whether the church's theological relationship with the synagogue expressed in supercessionism was connected in any way to racial anti-Semitism. For some theologians there was absolutely no link, but for others clearly so. Seeing more than a simple link between secular and sacred anti-Judaism, these theologians went one step further by showing that anti-Judaism had a basis in the church's New Testament. Thus it was impossible to preach the gospel without at the same time attacking Judaism. This paper attempts to show the connection between racial and theological anti-Judaism, by examining in some depth the church's teaching of supercessionism and showing how this teaching has contributed to racial anti-Semitism. This connection is made in order to suggest the need for a new model of relationship between church and synagogue, a model called engraftment, an image that expresses the church's and the synagogue's interrelatedness and equality. But our model, instead of rejecting the New Testament scripture as anti-Jewish, seeks to reinterpret it, especially the teaching of Paul, in order to use it as a basis for renewal.