Hebrews 8-9 are theologically more controversial than the rest of Hebrews because it appears that the writer of Hebrews says that the Jewish people have been replaced by the Church – the New Covenant has replaced the Old, Jesus’ sacrifice is superior to the old sacrifice. As such, chapters 8 and 9 have been used to teach that the Jewish people are no longer God’s people and the church replaces them completely. This would therefore imply that any promises made to Israel in the Hebrew Bible are either canceled or to be reinterpreted as applying to the Church.
The theological term for this is supersessionism, the church supersedes the Jews as the people of God. For some types of theology, the idea that the Jews have been replaced by the church is an assumption, the proof for which is found here in Hebrews, especially chapters 8-9. The historic view of the church is that it is the new Israel, and all the promises of the Hebrew Bible are fulfilled in the church. The rebuilding of Jerusalem mentioned in the New Covenant passage is therefore re-interpreted spiritually. For example, commenting Jeremiah 31,
The “wall great and high” is of no earthly material; the extension is not one of yards on miles, but of nations and ages; the consecration of the unclean places is but typical of the regenerative force of Christianity, which reclaims the moral wastes of the world, and purifies the carnal affections and sinful tendencies of human nature; and no material city could ever “stand for aye.” Only the kingdom and Church of Christ could satisfy the conditions of such a prophecy. (A. F. Muir, in The Pulpit Commentary: Jeremiah 2:28).
However, when one reads Hebrews without the modern church in mind, the book does not argue that Israel has been replaced, but that the promises made to Israel, including the New Covenant, have their fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah. I find Richard Hays, “We Have No Lasting City,” pages 151-173 in The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009) to be an extremely helpful sketch of the problem. Hays cites his own work as implying that Hebrews is supersessionist, and then shows how a proper reading of Hebrews will show that the book is not actually teaching that the church has replaced Israel.
14 thoughts on “Hebrews and the New Covenant (Part 1)”
please read romans 10 and 11. paul the jews will always be god’s chosen people, and when the right number of gentiles come to christ, heaven will bring the jews to christ as well.
romans asks the question? if romans has been around for 2000 years why have the jews been persecuted by christendom for 2000 years…………………the multiple inquisitions, the head of the last being made pope, who was responsible for a jewish containment that lasted 300 years, and that was similar to the polish ghetto instituted by the third reich.
you are aware that germany was a christian country ( halocaust). it was the first country to receive the bible in its own language(1500’s), given to them by martin luther, their national hero, and the lutheran and catholic churches being their national churches(400 years).
it was the eventual culminated antisemetism throughout christendom(1940’s) that made the halocaust possible.
Not sure you read my original post fully. After the quote representing a Replacement Theology, I said “However, when one reads Hebrews without the modern church in mind, the book does not argue that Israel has been replaced…”
billy graham as one of the last things of his ministry publically repented of being antisemetic throughout most of his ministry.
please excuse my obfuscated reply. i was not disagreeing with you, but was making the point that historically christendom has been known to trump with church docterine what appears to be clearly written in scripture.
i wonder if that has do with “spiral dynamics” human evolvement from his origins of being a caveman or the revealing by the holy spirit, or both.
just as similarly ones understanding of ones neighbor has progressed from the parable of the good samaritan(anyone who treats you well) to everyone else, something that could never have been embraced at the turn of the 20th century, but is embraced now partly because of a century of human evolvement(psychological, religous, and human rights revolutions, etc) and because the world has shrunk to the point that even those on the other side of the planet have much in common with ourselves.
but there is also “there is much i have to tell you which you could not now bear” and “the holy spirit will come to you and show you all truth”
No problem, I didn’t want anyone to think that I was espousing replacement theology.
And I agree “christendom has been known to trump with church docterine what appears to be clearly written in scripture.” Typically we work pretty hard to avoid the fairly obvious teaching of Scripture.
I think the problem is that some people base doctrines on obscure passages of Scripture that are hard to understand. The context has to be considered and we have to remember that Scripture cannot contradict Scripture. Hebrews 6:18 says “it is impossible for God to lie”. God never breaks his promises because “God is faithful” (1 Cor. 1:9). I don’t know if this is related at all, but I don’t really understand Dispensationalism. It seems like the whole idea is based off a small amount of Scripture (Eph. 3:1-6). Or am I misunderstanding it? Anyway, I have yet to be convinced that “Dispensationalism” is biblical and I would love for someone to try and convince me…
Rachel – “I don’t know if this is related at all, but I don’t really understand Dispensationalism.” I am not at all sure you meant to post this here – this is not really a Dispensational issue. And for that matter, to say that Dispensationalism is based off a single passage in Ephesians is not very accurate. I am curious why we thought that the issue of the new Covenant in Hebrews 9-10 was a good place to bring this up.
that’s why i said i wasn’t sure it was related
The old covenant needed to be replaced because it did not apply any more because Jesus came and offered His life as a replacement. We no longer need to offer sacrifices any more.
Because Israel disobeyed God, He said that He could not use them like He wanted to use them. He was not just going to use them any more. Now, we have the church that God uses. God now allows everyone to come to Him freely. We no longer have to offer sacrifices like the children of Israel had to. The old covenant was fulfilled in Jesus. I do not think that the church has replaced Israel, but I do think that God is working through the church and not necessarily Israel any more.
Jessica-“The old covenant needed to be replaced because it did not apply any more because Jesus came and offered His life as a replacement.”Then,”I do not think that the church has replaced Israel, but I do think that God is working through the church and not necessarily Israel any more.” I think that I will side with Nick Schippers on this one. The new covenant was intended for the house of Israel, so to say that the new covenant replaces the old covenant and that God doesn’t work with Israel anymore because they failed him seems to be a bit of a oversimplification. “‘The time is coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.'”(Jer. 31:31) This is the verse that Hebrews 8:8 echos, and in the context of the new covenant speak it only concerns the house of Israel and Judah. Which begs the question, are we Israel? If you say no, then the new covenant language doesn’t apply and shouldn’t be considered. If you say yes then, the new covenant should be viewed through the lens of the old covenant.
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”(Jer. 31:33)
This verse again is addressed to Israel, telling them that the Law that they have and memorize and treasure will be written on their hearts. Later in verses 35 and 36 he makes the statement that no sooner will the sun, moon, and stars pass away than will Israel cease to be his people. I would be wary when we use language, such as, “God abandoned Israel because they failed their end of the covenant”, mostly because the covenant was an everlasting one that could only be renewed, not abandoned all together, and only with the people of Israel.
Clearly the Jewish people were not to be replaced by the church. The new covenant was to be made with the nation of Israel. “The time is coming declares the Lord when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel” (Hebrews, 8:8b). Now whether that covenant was to begin immediately would be the question. I believe the covenant was made by the Lord on behalf of the nation of Israel. Yet the time is yet to come when the nation of Israel will respond to God. The church is most definitely the primary focus and vessel to shine the light of the Lord to all the nations. The reality of the new covenant was missed by most Jews. The nation of Israel has fallen in somewhat of a comatose state. “Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary” (Hebrews, 9:1). Much of the traditional ritualistic forms of worship to God brought a great amount of conflict. Christ’s sacrifice simply could not be accepted from the outset.
I think the important thing to understand here is that Jesus came to FULFILL the Law. Jesus did not come to REPLACE the Law, but to finish it. Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice IN the Law which made the Law complete.
P. Long- I do think that this topic does have some bearing on the theology of Dispensationalism. Dispensationalist believe that Israel is set aside in this economy. Through this, there has to be some kind of believe in the placement of Israel. Covenant theology traditionally downgrades Israel because Many of them believe in this kind of change in the state of Israel. Though this isn’t the Crux of Dispensational theology, I do believe this has some effect on how they get to their conclusions.
The placement of Israel, or the Church for that matter, is a lesser argument here. The essential replacement seems to be of those administering to the covenant Law, the Levitical priesthood and Christ. John is right in commenting Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law. Stepping back a chapter in Hebrews, the writer states that the Levitical priesthood is unfit for the task in that perfection could not be attained, and as such is set aside along with the Mosaic Law. Jesus essentially establishes a new priesthood in himself. His priesthood is permanent and makes intercession; he is unstained, and exalted above the heavens (Heb. 7:24, 26).
I can see where some grounds may be to propose this supersessionism, because of the concentration of the setting aside of or failure even on Israel’s behalf. But the issue at hand is in the fulfillment of these covenants, the making of atonement for men if you will. In such a task does the Church have no pace. We are members of the covenant, recipients even, but not administers. Israel was unfit to make perfection through the Mosaic Law, thus Jesus brought about a better covenant in his ability to make perfect through his own sacrifice and was able to fulfill the Law in a single sacrifice once for all.
“However, when one reads Hebrews without the modern church in mind, the book does not argue that Israel has been replaced, but that the promises made to Israel, including the New Covenant, have their fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah.” -P.Long
I don’t debate this point at all. Many of the people posting above me have quoted from Jeremiah of the New Covenant with Israel. It is obvious in Scripture that there is going to be a New Covenant established in which Christ will be the final, complete sacrifice for all sin. The question that this brings me to, then, is can we read this book without the Church in mind? Hebrews is clearly written to Christians. Granted, many, if not most, of them were Jewish Christians, but Christians all the same, and as such, were members of the ‘modern church’. I don’t know exactly what the implication here would be, but I don’t think it wise to remove the church from a section of scripture that was written to members of the church, no matter to whom the original promise was made. Christ was the ultimate sacrifice, who came ‘not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.’ All the same, most of the Jews of the time rejected this message, and are still waiting for the messiah to come. There must be a sense that the church is involved, at least in some sense, and as such, I don’t think it is wise to ‘read Hebrews without the modern church in mind.’