"Hermeneutical Jew"— Compassion or Antisemitism? Part 3
Augustine and Eschatology (End Times)
Augustine—along with modern-day theologians Gary Burge, John Stott, and C.E.B. Cranfield—does believe in an end-time awakening of the Jewish people (Romans 11:26) but has no place for a revived land of Israel. At least in Augustine's defense, Israel was still scattered. Modern theologians must make the case that the New Testament does not affirm the land promises to the Jewish people in light of the fact that the Jewish people now reside in the Promised Land. Also, he sees the Jews as converting to something new—joining them in Christendom versus continuing to live as Jews (like the Apostles).
There's no question that Augustine perceived things that his predecessors had missed in Romans 11. The Jewish people are a witness people, even in unbelief. The nation of Israel is possibly the greatest proof that the God of Israel is alive. What nation has been separated from its geographical homeland for 2,000 years only to be regathered? There is no precedent for such a thing. Israelis and Jewish people, in general, have won an absurd number of Nobel Peace prizes in relation to our tiny population.
My point here is not that Jews are better, but that despite our unbelief, God continues to work through the Jewish people. As Paul said, "the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable" (Rom. 11:29) when teaching on Israel.
Here is where Augustine misses it. He glosses over Romans 11:11. It states three things:
1. God has not rejected Israel.
2. Israel's rejection of Yeshua has resulted in mass Gentile salvations.
3. The Gentiles are in debt to Israel for this (Rom. 15:27), and therefore they should seek to provoke Israel to jealousy.
Sadly, the historic Church got the provoking part right but missed the part about making the Jewish people jealous. Paul's idea here is that Gentile believers, through their godly witness, would cause Jewish people to want to be re-grafted into their own tree. "For God is able to graft them in again." (Rom. 11:23b). He is clear in verse 22 that he expects kindness towards Israel if the Gentiles were to enjoy God's kindness.
Reading Church history in light of Paul's exhortations towards love and kindness is shocking. The Church was correct to point out Israel's blindness to Yeshua (Rom. 11:25) but could not perceive her own blindness in failing to see God's hand on unbelieving Israel (Rom. 3:1-4, 11:29). They did not get God's heart that Paul reveals in Romans 9:1-5, where he said he would go to hell if it meant that the Jewish people would be saved.
Missing these crucial elements in God's plan led to the harsh judgment of Israel by the Church and the creation of Augustine's "Hermeneutical Jew." The creation of the "Hermeneutical Jew" led to centuries of violent, murderous antisemitism. Thank God that modern scholarship is more and more viewing Romans 9 through 11 through the lens of God's heart and plan for Israel.