Inconvenient Truths: Cryptosupersessionism – Dispensationalism’s Sad Legacy

Inconvenient Truths is a series of intermittent postings highlighting concepts calling  for changes in thought and action resisted, deplored, or denounced by some.

Many Jewish Yeshua believers have deep roots in dispensationalism.

Dispensationalism is a theological system which holds that God has worked at different periods of history (dispensations) in different ways, testing humankind as to its faithfulness on different grounds in each dispensation, normally seven in number. According to Charles Caldwell Ryrie, one of its most noted proponents, dispensationalism’s sine qua non is an iron-clad distinction between Israel and the Church, which dispensationalists contend sets them utterly apart from covenant theologians, who are by contrast supersessionists, adherents of replacement theology, holding that the Church is the new Israel, replacing or superseding the descendants of Jacob. But even though they disparage and distance themselves from supersessionism/replacement theology, dispensationalists fail to note how supersessionistic presuppositions are imbedded in their own system, robbing Israel’s chosenness of its substance and meaning.

Defining the term then,

Cryptosupersessionism is an unconscious and entrenched cluster of presuppositions held by those who, even when rejecting supersessionism, assume the expiration or setting aside of those identity markers that formerly applied to the Jewish people, effectively nullifying Israel’s unique chosen status in whole or in part.

Cryptosupersessionism is the more powerful because it is unconscious.   As stated, even those who strongly reject supersessionism can and do evidence supersessionist assumptions, the covert legacy of well-established theological traditions, such as dispensationalism.

Here’s an example of a cryptosupersessionist assumption:  Cryptosupersessionists contend that the Law of Moses/Torah has been nullified, allegedly replaced by the Law of Messiah (Galatians 6) which serves as a substitute standard of righteousness for all Yeshua believers, Jewish and Gentile.  However, if the Law of Messiah replaces the Law of Moses, becoming the uniform standard of righteousness and rule of life for Jewish and Gentile Yeshua believers, how are Jewish Yeshua believers actually rather than simply rhetorically a distinct chosen people?   Clearly, such a position robs Israel’s distinct chosenness of its force.

The issue revolves around this question: what changed with the coming of Messiah?  Those who hold that Torah expired as a covenantal way of life for Jews, who understand Romans 10:4 to be teaching that Messiah is the termination rather than the goal of the Law, hold that Torah, as valued as it once was, has now served its purpose and is expired. It can instruct us morally, but it is no longer mandatory, and need no longer be obeyed by Jews as a covenantal and communal way of life now that Messiah has come.

Especially since E. P. Sanders wrote Paul and Palestinian Judaism, adherents of what is termed “the New Perspective on Paul” have held that the Judaism of Paul’s day was characterized by a cluster of identity markers that distinguished Israel from all the other peoples of the world.  In the writings of proponents of the New Perspective, these identity makers are also called “badges” or “boundary markers,” indicators of Israel’s distinct status in contradistinction to the Gentile nations. Among these are ritual circumcision, food laws, the festivals of Israel, and the sabbath that set the Jews apart from the other nations.

In supersessionism, Israel’s identity as God’s chosen people is overtly transferred to the Church, while in cryptosupersessionism Israel’s identity is effectively nullified with her identity markers treated as expired, no longer significant, only optional or no longer applicable.  While the rhetoric of chosenness may remain, its weight and significance is nullified.

Sometimes, when you meet cryptosupersessionistic Messianic Jews, you may find their Jewishness seems pale and bleached out.

Perhaps now you better understand why.




About Stuart Dauermann

The blog of Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann, teacher, mentor, radio talk show host, denizen of Los Angeles, and a visionary with a long career in Messianic Jewish activism. You can hear Rabbi Dauermann as he hosts Shalom Talk, a weekly radio show, and even listen online at Rabbi Dauermann spends time traveling nationally and internationally, and throughout the year is in Israel as a Scholar in Residence at the MJTI Jerusalem Center. He has plenty to say about Jewish-Christian relations, the need for shalom in the world, and the agenda of Messiah, the Son of David.
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6 Responses to Inconvenient Truths: Cryptosupersessionism – Dispensationalism’s Sad Legacy

  1. “…dispensationalists fail to note how supersessionistic presuppositions are imbedded in their own system, robbing Israel’s chosenness of its substance and meaning.”

    Rabbi… so true. Some time ago I’ve gathered some quotes from some of the earliest and still most influential advocates of Dispensationalism, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer and C.I. Scofield. They clearly show that through the prism of their new fangled theology these men viewed Israel of the past AND the future (that is after the coming of Messiah) as something of lower, earth-bound, fleshly nature and her future glories, while still relatively splendid, as vastly inferior in comparison to the heavenly glories which the Christian Church were to experience in eternity.

    I call this the “Spiritual Replacement Theology”, where although Israel is so “generously” allowed to retain her physical blessings, her spiritual future and the promises of her being drawn spiritually closer to G-d are superseded by another group that views itself as superior to Israel in all respects. Fathers of Dispensationalism on the role of Israel and Jews

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  3. Barry Adams says:

    Jewish believers are not a distinct chosen people in a spiritual sense. Christ has come and God destroyed the temple two millenia ago. There is nothing to be distinct about.

    Spiritual Israel is now — and always was — God’s people who trust in the Messiah for salvation. Jacob is an exemplar of election and all believers, Jew and Gentile, are his spiritual children. Jesus has grafted believing Gentiles into Israel and expelled the physical seed of Jacob who rejected Him. The synthesis is called Christianity and its people are the Church.

    While Jewish believers may feel free to maintain respect for their ethnic heritage, that simply isn’t an explicitly religious issue. Nor do developments in the modern Middle East have direct theological implications. I implore you to abandon this sectarianism and embrace the rich blessings of the orthodox Christian faith.

    • Derek Leman says:

      Careful, Barry Adams. God may replace you as well. I hear the Mormons are far more faithful to their vision of God than Christians. Maybe God will make a New New Testament and elect Mormons. And your interpretation of Romans 11:26-29 is?

      (Note to Mormons: I meant no disrespect in using you as a rhetorical example).

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