Monday, May 28, 2012

What About Esther 8:17?

All Christians agree that God made promises to Abraham and to his descendants. Christians disagree on who exactly are Abraham’s descendants.

Dispensationalists insist that the only true heirs of these promises are the blood descendants of Abraham. While the blessings of these promises extend to the entire world, God must fulfill these promises for ethnic Jews.

Because Dispensationalists define Israel/Jew strictly according to blood, the categories of Israel/Jew are fixed from conception. You either have Jewish blood or you do not.

No one can ever change their genes. Once a Jew, always a Jew.

For Dispensationalists, religion plays no role in determining who is Jewish. An atheist Jew is still a Jew and therefore, an heir of the promises. A Gentile convert to Judaism is not a Jew and therefore, is not an heir of the promises.

The problem with this paradigm is that it does not fit the Scriptures. Even in the Old Testament, Israel was not a fixed entity based strictly upon blood. Israel was ALWAYS subject to grafting and pruning.

From the beginning, unbelievers were pruned out of Israel and lost their inheritance. Ishmael, Esau, Saul, Absalom, and countless others were cut off from the promises because of unbelief.

From the beginning, believing Gentiles were grafted into Israel and became heirs of the promises to Abraham. Rahab and Ruth are the preeminent examples, but entire groups of people were grafted into Israel: Abraham’s household servants and the Egyptians who fled during the Exodus.

Also, as a result of the events of the book of Esther, a large number of Persians became believers and were grafted into Israel. Look at how the Bible describes this in Esther 8:17:

“And in every province and city, wherever the king's command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them.”

These Persians “became Jews.” These Persians were grafted into Israel and became heirs of the promises to Abraham.

When it comes to Esther 8:17, Dispensationalists abandon their “literal” hermeneutic. They cannot accept this text at face value.

If you want a classic example of eisegesis, ask a Dispensationalist to explain Esther 8:17. They will go through tortuous gyrations to avoid the obvious implications of this text, namely, that converted Gentiles were grafted into Israel, even in the Old Covenant.

When Paul penned Galatians 3:29, he was not inventing a new truth. Grafting and pruning are not exclusively New Covenant principles. Paul was explaining a concept that operated in Old Covenant, as illustrated by many Old Testament texts, including Esther 8:17.

So, whenever you find yourself listening to a Dispensationalist wax eloquent about how Gentiles cannot inherit the promises to Abraham, simply ask, "What about Esther 8:17?"

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Was Sammy Davis, Jr. a Jew?

Dispensationalists insist that the promises made to Israel must be fulfilled for the ethnic descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Israel of promise is strictly a matter of blood. Religion plays no role whatsoever in determining whether someone is a Jew who will inherit the promises.

I have been cataloguing the numerous problems with defining Israel/Jew strictly by blood. See here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here!

Interestingly, Dispensationalists stand alone in restricting the definition of Israel to ethnicity. Even Modern Judaism defines a Jew as any person who meets one of two criteria: 1) born of a Jewish mother; 2) a convert to Judaism. Thus, Modern Judaism allows for the in-grafting of Gentiles. Dispensationalism does not.

For example, Sammy Davis, Jr. famously converted to Judaism in the 1960’s. Davis was not a Jew ethnically, but he became a Jew religiously. Modern Judaism recognized Sammy Davis, Jr. as a Jew, but Dispensationalists did not. According to Dispensationalists, Sammy Davis, Jr. was not an heir to the promises because he was not an ethnic Jew. Thus, Sammy Davis, Jr. had no right to the land.

This disjunction puts Dispensationalists in an awkward political position, of which they show little awareness. While Dispensationalists support the modern nation of Israel, they fail to recognize that this nation contains a mixture of ethnic Jews and converted Gentiles. According to Dispensationalists, these Gentile converts are not Jews, and they have no right to the land.

Do Dispensationalists make a distinction in their support of the modern nation of Israel? Do they support only those who are blood descendants of Abraham?

According to Dispensationalists, the Promised Land no more belongs to these Gentile converts than it does to the Palestinians. Dispensationalists call for the removal of the Palestinians – where are the calls for the removal of Gentile converts to Judaism?

Dispensationalists demand virtually unconditional support for the modern nation of Israel, but if they were consistent, Dispensationalists would demand the removal of ALL non-ethnic Jews from the Promised Land, including Gentile converts to Judaism.

For Dispensationalists, neither the Palestinians, nor Sammy Davis, Jr., have a right to the land.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

1 + 1 = 3

Dispensationalists believe that God made promises to ethnic Israel, to Jews who are blood descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God planned to bless Gentiles and the world, but he still owes promises to ethnic Jews.

This is the most fundamental tenet of Dispensationalism. However, it is a presupposition that presumed and never proved.

In recent posts, I have explored some of the problems of defining Israel strictly by blood. Dispensationalists seem blissfully unaware of these difficulties.

You will search Dispensational works in vain for any serious discussion of how to define Israel. Over and over again, you will only find bare assertions about promises made to ethnic Israel.

Yet, defining Israel was never strictly a matter of blood. It was always a matter of religion. Blood was a factor, but it was not the factor.

From the very beginning, there was always pruning and grafting. Apostates were pruned out of Israel. Believing Gentiles were grafted into Israel. It was never about the blood. From the beginning, it was always about religion.

When Dispensationalists insist that God made promises to ethnic Jews, they are making a critical, foundational error.

It is such a basic, simple error, that non-Dispensationalists have a hard time taking Dispensationalism seriously. This is not because Dispensationalists are stupid. Yet, they have made an elementary mistake.

It is like a brilliant mathematician who thinks he has solved a complex equation, only to be shown by a colleague that he has made a simple arithmetic mistake on page one.

When Dispensationalists continuously insist that God still owes promises to ethnic Jews, all I hear is 1+1=3.

Lately, Dispensationalists have ratcheted up the rhetoric, with charges like “supercessionism,” “replacement theology,” and “anti-Judaism.” I find none of these compelling in the least. They all depend upon defining Israel strictly by blood.

But 1+1≠3.