by Pastor Ken Garrison (ret.)
Recently a Catholic synod led by Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros declared that the promise made by G-d to Abraham and his descendants to give them the land of Israel was abolished by Jesus. Specifically, Archbishop Bustros declared that “For Christians, one can no longer talk of the land promised to the Jewish people…. There is no longer a favored people, a chosen people; all men and women of every country have become the chosen people,.” Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, “Catholic Cleric; Jesus Cancelled Biblical ‘Chosen People’, Arutz Sheva, October 24, 2010. Almost 2000 years after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem… behold, the Jewish people are still with us…and have…become a vibrant nation state.
This position affirmed by Archbishop Bustros is a simple restatement of the ancient Catholic Church position of replacement theology which is a faulty interpretation of the Bible and it has been demonstrated to be historically incorrect. When G-d initiated the beginning of redemptive covenants with Abraham, He promised Abraham (i) blessing; (ii) global ministry and (iii) the land of Israel (G-d made Abraham and his descendants special stewards of the land). These promises were eternal.
“I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant to be G-d to you and to your descendants after you.” (Genesis 17:7)
It is difficult to understand how Archbishop Bustros could misinterpret such simple words as “descendants” and “everlasting”.
Later the Jewish people had sinned so grievously that G-d was about to allow the Babylonians to drive them out of the land of Israel. Even under such circumstances G-d declared the eternal nature of His relationship with the Jewish people.
“Thus says the L-rd, Who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The L-rd of hosts is His name; If this fixed order departs from before Me,” declares the L-rd, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever.” Thus says the L-rd, “If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,” declares the L-rd.” (Jeremiah 31:35-37)
Beyond these references, we have bold affirmation of the same thing made in the New Testament by none other than the Apostle Paul and, believe it or not, written to the mother church which Archbishop Bustros serves.
“I say than, G-d has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” (Romans 11:1)
Lest we mistake who Paul is talking about, later in the same dissertation, he identifies his subject as those who are seen as “enemies of the gospel” so we know that he was not speaking of Christians as descendants of Abraham.
“From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of G-d’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of G-d are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:28-29)
Therefore we declare that the position advanced by Archbishop Bustros is Biblically inaccurate.
Historically speaking, the statement is equally absurd. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD/CE, when the doctrine of replacement theology was advanced by the so-called “Church Fathers” like Tertullian and Origen, any observer might think that the descendants of Abraham were being eliminated from the human community, at least, as a national entity. We now live almost 2000 years after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the partial exile of the Jewish people living in the land at that time. Behold, the Jewish people are still with us and even more amazing is the fact that they have, once again, become a national state, indeed a vibrant one. Their continued existence and the ingathering leading to statehood in 1948 is one of the most astounding miracles of our age.
One of the surest signs of a religious system in “rigor mortis” is its inability or unwillingness to recognize error in its system of thought and to make corrections in accordance with obvious Biblical and/or historical reality. The Roman Catholic Church as reflected in the statement of Archbishop Bustros is demonstrating this sad characteristic.
Finally, Archbishop Bustros declared that “all men and women of every country have become the chosen people”. From a Christian perspective, this “state of being chosen” may be considered correct if we think in terms of individuals being reconciled to G-d.
Chritianity, however, focused on the Kingdom of G-d which is G-d’s means of providing reconciliation to the nations of the human community. In this ministry, the nation of Israel stands at the center of the process. G-d’s election of Israel stands. Their right to the Land of Israel stands. Indeed, there is no real hope for peace within the human community until the Kingdom is realized and this will not occur unless and until the Jewish people live in and control Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the surrounding areas.
They serve the human community by being the gatekeepers of the Kingdom (Remember G-d’s promise to Abraham that he would become a blessing to all the families of the earth). This is why G-d made Abraham and his descendants stewards of the land in the first place. They have been the “chosen people” since the time of Abraham: they are now the “chosen people” and they will always be the “chosen people”. I am one Christian who is eternally thankful for their faithfulness in this capacity.