Posted by: Ken Brown | February 19, 2009

Replacement Theology and the Return of the King

I’ve mentioned that I’m working on a thesis on the Temple in the Gospel of John, and one of my major interests is with the “replacement” theology that pervades much of the literature on the subject (so, you know, don’t steal what I’m about to say ;)). Most previous studies and commentaries view Jesus as the replacement of the Temple, the Torah, Moses and a variety of other Jewish figures and institutions. In older studies especially, this is often part of a broad supersessionist approach that emphasizes contrast and polemic in comparing Judaism and Christianity.

A growing number of scholars have come to question this supersessionist approach, and now emphasize Jesus’ continuity with and “fulfillment” of his Jewish predecessors, but replacement remains the default view in most studies, and polemical overtones often appear even in those that emphasize fulfillment. For a variety of reasons, I think this paradigm distorts our understanding of John’s–very Jewish–Gospel and distracts from his more central Christological and Theological purposes. I’ll be exploring those reasons in my thesis and don’t want to detail them just yet, but yesterday I was struck by an analogy that, I think, captures very well John’s point as I understand it, and may be of wider interest [Updated, see Hugh’s comment]:

Imagine a king went away on a journey and left an emissary a regent to govern in his stead. The regent is charged with reminding his people of the king’s wishes and keeping them expectant of his eventual return. The regent does his job well, but when the king finally does return, it is in a manner that no one expects, and most do not recognize him as the king at all. At that point, the king’s regent is, technically speaking, no longer necessary–no one needs to ask the regent about the king’s wishes because they can now ask the king directly–but since the regent is one of the few who knows the king’s true identity, he does continue to serve as a “witness” to that fact, valuable to those who have come to trust the regent but are not yet convinced that this late-comer is truly their king.

Now as far as the regent continues to do his job well, he becomes in a sense “obsolete,” for those who do listen to him and recognize their king no longer “need” the regent, but he is not thereby “replaced” by the king, for he is and always was the king’s agent. Thus, it is not a case of supersession, as when one king replaces another, for the king and his regent have always been in different categories. The regent always was a mere “witness” to the king’s identity and purposes, so this is not some new change in his role after the king returns; it is rather the fulfillment of the role he was charged with from the beginning.

Such is how, I believe, John views Moses, the Torah and the Temple. As the incarnation of the one God of Israel, Jesus does not replace those “predecessors” (after all, he thinks Jesus, as the logos, predates them), nor is their status as “witnesses” (John 5) a demotion from their previous roles. Instead, John seems to be saying that this is the purpose they have always served. Jesus is not a new Moses, a new Torah or a new Temple, but the divine king to whom all three have always pointed.

Update: See this post for more.



  1. This is a great post, and I believe points me in a better direction when discussing Israel and the Church. It has been a subject lately on my own blog.

    I hate to say it, but I left the Incarnation out of the entire thing.

  2. […] Jesus Christ, Law, prophets, replacement theology, supercessionism by Polycarp The blogger at C. Orthodoxy has posted a timely post ( timely because of here and here), saying, Such is how, I believe, John views Moses, the Torah […]

  3. […] Lord of the Rings-The Steward and the King Inspired by this post (and ready to take a break from my thesis), my wife and I rewatched the Lord of the Rings trilogy […]

  4. […] Brown presents Replacement Theology and the Return of the King posted at C. Orthodoxy, saying, “Tolkien’s epic provides a brilliant analogy for the […]

  5. Hal Lindsey “The Road to Holocaust”
    Replacement theology did it’s damage already.

  6. Unfortunately true. One can only hope that we might avoid repeating the same mistakes–and sometimes I wonder how well we’ve really learned the lesson…

  7. some thoughts on “replacement theology”

    “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
    -His righteousness was not by the flesh but by faith

    “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.”

    -in fact when the Jews of his time tried to claim the blessing of Abraham Jesus reproached them
    “39They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.
    40But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.
    41Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.
    42Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
    43Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
    44Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”

    -in fact to God there is no fleshly race but a spiritual race of people that his promise is to, through faith
    28There is neither JEW nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
    29And if ye be Christ’s, THEN ARE YE ABRAHAM”S SEED, and heirs according to the promise”

    -but there is an idea of what the Christ denying Jews now should be called in the Bible
    22″Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son”

    -you can not support the father and not the son! that is what many people forget now when they say we must support Israel to gain God’s favor. That really makes no sense…support the ones who deny the son and you will be blessed??
    No where did Jesus commission us to “support Israel ” no where does he say that we have to “support their wars”. In fact Jesus commissioned us to Preach the good word and spread the news about the kingdom of heaven.

    one more quote on the matter-
    “Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:
    YET YE HAVE NOT KNOWN HIM; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.
    56Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
    57Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
    58Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.

    REMEMBER Jesus himself said his kingdom is not of this world and that is part of the reason that the Jews of his day then and the Jews of today will not accept him as Messiah. They expected an earthly king. we are waiting for a NEW JERUSALEM coming down from heaven…not one FORMED THROUGH THE FORCE OF BOMBS AND GUNS BUT ONE THROUGH THE SWORD OF JESUS’ MOUTH. The one that forms the kingdom through guns and bombs is the antichrist…remember he establishes his throne in Israel .

    Pretty powerfull picture of Jesus here as the risen KING of KINGS and LORD of LORDS

    “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
    12His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
    13And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
    14And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
    15And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
    16And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND
    17And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God;
    18That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.
    19And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.
    20And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
    21And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

    And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. (and no more ISRAEL OR JERUSALEM )
    2And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
    3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
    4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

    in closing I just want to say that there are some Jews that in the end will see Jesus as their Messiah and be powerfull Evangelists in the end times(as revelations states) but NO WHERE does the bible say that we are saved through grace AND OUR SUPPORT OF ISRAEL. You can not deny the SON AND HAVE THE BLESSINGS OF THE FATHER THAT IS FALSE.

    Jesus and the father are one
    “Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?”

    the hour is approaching where you will not have another chance to confess him with your lips and accept him in your heart and be saved.

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