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ISRAELOLOGY?

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  July 7, 2012 — 14 Comments

Dispensationalism holds to two foundational, all-controlling convictions: (1) The proper approach to interpreting Scripture is literalism (even in the Book of Revelation!). (2) Racial Israel is the key to prophecy and is forever kept distinct from the church (even into eternity!). If you are a dispensationalist, you will immediately recognize these two issues as near and dear to your heart. Indeed, you probably hold that: “Scofield said it; I believe it; therefore it is true.”

One strange fairly new movement in standard dispensationalism is the arising of a whole new theological locus: “Israelology.” This doctrine seems to have been created by Jewish-Christian Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, who presented it in his 1989 book: “Israelology.” This doctrine has made its way into the Dictionary of Premillennial Theology and The Popular [i.e., non-academic] Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy.

With the arising of Israelology, we are no longer stuck with the boring loci of historic systematic theology: God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Man, Sin, Church, Eschatology. Now we have, effectively, a doctrine of race!

According to Fruchtenbaum: “Israelology refers to a subdivision of systematic theology (unique to dispensational systematic theology) incorporating all theological doctrines concerning the people of Israel — past, present, and future.” (Dictionary of Premillennial Theology [hereinafter, parenthetical numbers refer to pages in this book]], 197). He points out nine concerns or doctrinal points in Israelology.

First, the fact of racial Israel’s election (197). Second, the unconditional nature of four covenants with Israel: Abrahamic, Palestinian, Davidic and new covenant (197). Third, the Mosaic covenant and the Law of Moses (198). Fourth, the remnant of Israel insures there will always be believers in Israel (197–98). Fifth, the distinction between Israel and the church (199). Sixth, the modern state of Israel as a “definite fulfillment of prophecy” (199). Seventh, the remnant of Israel, it is the elect race, and is not the church (199). Eighth, messianic Jews today are “both members of the remnant of Israel and members of the church (199).

Ninth, parts of the “messianic Jewish writings” are “those parts of the New Testament that are especially relevant for and/or addressed to Jewish believers. This includes the gospel of Matthew, written to Jews and addressing Jewish issues, especially God’s kingdom program and how it was affected by the rejection of the Messiah. Furthermore, the first fifteen chapters fo the book of Acts are especially relevant to Israelology…. Of the twenty-one epistles, five were specifically written to Jewish believers: Hebrews, James 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude.” (200)

Though this new doctrine is not promulgated by the more academic progressive dispensationalists, and though not all standard dispensationalists hold to it, this is becoming a major influence in dispensational circles. I highly recommend your studying it to see where dispensationalism stands as a racial system: holding up the ethnic people of Israel as special concern of God’s.

And dispensationalists hold to this racist principle despite the fact that the New Testament repeatedly and powerfully teaches:

“There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him.” (Rom 10:12)

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:13)

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)

“There is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col 3:11)

And why is this? Because of the new covenant which expands the meaning of Israel by breaking down Israel’s distinction:

“Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 and He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (Eph 2:11–12)

No wonder dispensationalists have had to create a new doctrinal locus after almost 2000 years of Christian history: Something has to be done about Paul’s reckless teaching that God has removed ethnic distinctions in his redemptive plan! As for me and my house, we shall follow Paul.

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 80 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

14 responses to ISRAELOLOGY?

  1. William Donelson July 7, 2012 at 6:30

    Thank you for a great read. These verses provide an outstanding outline to share with others as a basis of study.
    The issue is: what is written on the biblical pages verses religious opinions from a man-made system!
    As each verse is studied in its own biblical context, a person should have to face the biblical meaning over against what they may have been taught from a tradition of men. Sadly, far too many sitting in the pews and standing in the pulpits have been taught the ‘company-line’ of their denomination; and therefore keep repeating the agreed on positions of the group they belong to.
    May God open the eyes of the leaders/teachers to the biblical truth; and may He grant them both the understanding and the courage to share what is written on the pages of the Bible, and not just keep repeating the company-line.
    Thank you again, and keep up the fine disciple-making ministry. WBD

  2. Michael Ross July 7, 2012 at 6:30

    Great article! When I first became a Christian I believed all the dispensationalist dogma (that was all I heard) but was delighted to hear the other side that God is not a racist. He created and loves all His races equally. In ancient times He chose the Hebrew people, a captive people, brought them out of captivity, gave them their own land and blessed them that they might be a blessing to the world. It was and is His purpose to bless the whole Earth. When the Church gets on the same page as ourGod and His Christ, the Prince of Peace and stop preacing racial hatred the world will begin to move toward racial harmony and world peace (Isaiah 2:2-4). Great article! I will share it withall my dispensationalist friends at church.

  3. So would you then say that gender distinctions have been done away with? You use Gal 3:28 to show that there is no longer racial distinctions, but what about gender? Isn’t there roles based in the church on gender? Or do you change your hermeneutic to fit your theology when it comes to racial distinctions but not gender? I’m rather curious to know

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. July 8, 2012 at 6:30

      In the NT the covenant sign is no longer applied solely to males as was circumcision. Females receive baptism just as males do (Act 16:15), though baptism takes over for circumcision (Col 2:11-12). Gal 3:28 is speaking of redemptive standing in the kingdom, not ecclesiastical function. For the same Paul says that elders should be husbands (1 Tim 3) and that he suffers not women to teach men (1 Tim 2). Your beef is with Paul who informs us that the wall of partition separating Jew and Gentile has been forever abolished. He writes in Eph 2:11-22:

      “Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands — remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”

  4. Larry J Jenkins July 8, 2012 at 6:30

    I went through almost 30-years of Dispensational Indoctrination, the first 6-years was intensive Bible College, afterward teaching every Sunday the theories of Dispensationalism I believed to be Scriptural. It was during the next 24-years of study that caused me to one by one call in question the theories and doctrines I was taught during my first 6-years. After spending almost 8-years with Dr. Morey, he helped me to see through the difficulties plaguing me. In the beginning I struggled with his book on ‘Jewish Apocalypticism’ writing him a 13-page paper saying he failed to deal with the foundational passages in the OT. Since then I have studied enough to know both Dispensational and Reformation theories on Israel have missed the mark with Dispensationalism being a failed attempt to correct errors argued in this article.
    I will truthfully confess I have read nothing from Fruchtenfaum or anyone teaching the ideas of Israelology, which appears to be another failed attempt to correct Reformation errors, by twisting overlooked biblical teachings. The 9-doctrinal concerns in this article become a series of ‘red herring’ attacks to a series of biblical teachings beginning with Israel’s election, the proper context for the Abrahamic, Mosaic and New Covenants. Then there is the failure to acknowledge the distinction between the people and nation of Israel, not addressed in this article or by a highly recognized Dispensation teacher like MacArthur. Then there is the Reformation and Dispensational confusion on the ‘Church’ which is more theorized than biblical. When we come to the modern State of Israel, a nation with no biblical purpose unless the New Covenant was not fulfilled by our Lord Jesus, we would also have to say the apostles were wrong in their understanding of the OT prophets or that modern theologians are confused about ‘the elect race’ and ‘the Church’ along with Dispy errors on ‘Messianic Jews’ being the remnant of Israel.
    Finally the confusion about what a Gentile was is more than if you’re not a Jew you must be a Gentile. The word means nation and whither or not I’m of the Jewish race, the fact is I’m not a nation, I’m a individual descending from many peoples that lead back through several languages to Babel and through one or two sons to Noah. As I read the blessings of God to Abraham it is clear to me than the largest majority of people living today descend from Abraham which eventually became a multitude of nations to fill our world today. Once you conclude only 13-million people living today descend from Abraham then you have become a theological racist showing your ignorance to the blessings for Abraham, Ishmael, Esau and Jacob. If the descendants of Jacob have not become a multitude more than the descendants of Ishmael, Esau, Ham or Japheth then God failed to be faithful to His promises. When theologians reject God’s promises to the physical descendants and seek a spiritual fulfillment it reveals their presuppositional biases and lack of faith in God’s Word to see the progressive revelation truth He revealed.
    The ethnicity of Israel and the confusion to what a Gentile is has complicated the confusion leading to the debate between the errors within both Reform and Dispy presuppositions. First there is the possibility that the handmaids of Leah and Rachael were not of the same ethnicity as Jacob, Leah and Rachael. Second in reference to all those coming out of Egypt not being of one race, they were referenced as being a mixed multitude that could be seen amongst the leadership of the children of Israel; between the wife of Moses and his sister. The point being they did not become a nation until after being slaves to the Egyptians for a few generations. All Egyptian slaves were pagans with no restrictions to marry non-Israelites. Theologians on both sides have developed unbiblical presuppositions to conclude that Israel was of one racial identity. The biblical presupposition is supported with non-biblical primary source information from Jewish leaders 150 BC who believed the Romans and Greeks were descendants of the northern tribes of Israel. It was after the Maccabean revolt that an invitation was sent out from the High Priest of Jerusalem to unite Greek and Roman people into a confederacy that existed in years past, all being the descendants of Abraham. This invitation to return to Israel to sacrifice the ‘Feast of Israel’ was for them to bring their cattle and sheep to sacrifice a great feast, but the primary purpose was for them to bring their armies to help the Jews defeat their enemies. Now honestly when did you hear that taught in your Western Civilization class? For this reason we should better understand what Paul was saying in Romans 10:12; 1Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28; and Colossians 3:11. No the New Covenant does not expand the meaning of Israel; it’s a false presupposition that leads us to twist Israel’s distinction from one extreme to another extreme.
    Once you get your presupposition straighten out from the extremes of Reformation and Dispensational error the Ephesians 2:11-22 passage is extremely helpful to support the biblical presupposition. As for the final paragraph of this article it is clear in Scripture that God decommissioned the possibility of a continued ethnic continuance when He said through Jeremiah 31:27 prior to his prophecy of the New Covenant that the seed of Israel would be disseminated throughout all the existing nations to produce the promises made to Abraham without spiritualizing His promises away. In this way the unconditional promises to the seed of Israel (being that the nation no longer exists) can transfer those promises to a multitude of nations without negating promises to those God foreknew.

  5. Kevin Evans July 8, 2012 at 6:30

    Excellent read. I think this message is both timely and relevant for the church in the U.S. But Dr Gentry knows full well that he going up against a formidible group (Dispensationalists) that has the listening ear(s) of powerful lobbyists who are all the way up in Congress and the Senate. Anyone who would dare say that the Gentile/Jewish church is the Israel of God (Galatians 6 :15 – 16?) would quickly be accused of teaching Replacement Theology. I think it was John Hagee who said that such theologians and Bible teachers have been anointed with demonic oil from Satan. In a word, there is no tolerance in the Dispensationalist camp for persons who do not endorse Israelology. In fact, Stephen Sizer and Gary Burge are now being labeled antisemites by Christian Zionists.

    • Hagee and other Dispensationalist Zionists are Judaizers who worship the modern state of Israel and the Jewish people. They are the real replacement theologians for they believe that thew New Covenant will be replaced with the Old Covenant, along with a rebuilt temple and blood sacrifices. The Holy Land, the Holy City, and the Holy Temple have all been fulfilled in the Holy One. To be concerned with a land or a temple is to chase after Old Covenant types and shadows that have been fulfilled in Christ.

  6. Kevin Evans July 9, 2012 at 6:30

    Larry Jenkins’ post is very confusing. What is your point, sir? I am confused. You say a lot of things but failed to give us your mean point in a nutshell.

    • Kevin,

      You are NOT alone !!!….Larry J Jenkins loves writing compounded sentences w/ jumbled thoughts…..LJJ, kindly try to simplify or modify your sentences into simple ones that spells out your point/s….

  7. Lewis H. Seaton III July 10, 2012 at 6:30

    It must be terribly disconcerting to see the premillennial construct being fulfilled daily. “All roads lead to Rome,” and we keep getting closer every day.
    Luther couldn’t quite let go of his Catholic background in his view of Communion. Likewise, the Reformers didn’t reform their old Catholic view of Israel. Like Sarah, who thought she needed to give God a little help fulfilling His promise by “reinterpreting,” the early Catholics, who saw Israel as destroyed and their nation as non-existent, figured God could not possibly mean ethnic Israel could ever be the recipients of God’s blessing again. No, all those promises must simply be spiritual. Then we can say they were fulfilled!
    But guess what? BOTH of God’s promises to Israel are fulfilled — that He would scatter them, and that he would bring them back. Now watch the rest unfold, and, oh — remember not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together AS YOU SEE THE DAY DRAW NEAR!

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. July 10, 2012 at 6:30

      That verse you cited about the day drawing near was written 1900 years ago, nineteen centuries ago. It was written in a book sent to Jewish Christians who were apostatizing back into Judaism. They were being told that the day was drawing near for the judgment of God upon Israel, with the destruction of the temple in AD 70. We see this clearly in: Heb 8:13 “When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” That occurred in AD 70 just a few years after the writer of Hebrews sent out his letter demonstrating the superiority of Christ over Moses and Christianity over the sacrificial system in Judaism.

  8. Hi Ken!

    As I have written last May 21,2012 on my FB account: “For the last 30 years,I have observed that the people who have penchant for speculative prophecy have come from the camp of Pre-Trib, Dispensational Premillennialism or sometimes popularly known as the’Pre-Trib RAPTURE doctrine’. And its a mixed bag of Academic guro, televangelist & loose cannons. They publish hypersensationalized ‘prophetic’ books & sell to the tune of 15 million copies (Hal Lindsey’s, The Late Great Planet Earth-1970) & 60 million copies for Tim La Hay’s “Left Behind” series. Added to my ‘low-to-mid- profile’ list of prophetic book sellers are: Jerry Falwell, Edgar Whisenant( 88 Reasons why Rapture is in 1988), Harold Camping(1994 & 2011), Chuck Smith-pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California (End Times,1978), John Hagee & even John Walvoord (one of the “big 3″, w/ Charles Ryrie & Dwight Pentecost) of Dallas Theological Seminary-the bastion of Dispensationalism”.

    And now with the publication of Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s book:”ISRAELOLOGY”, it is expected to strengthen the defense of PreTrib Dispy and unfortunately may lead to the continuing leak & flow of rivers of speculative prophecies & endtime guess works out from the cracked Dam of Biblical Hermeneutics. That is why need more dedicated theologians like Ken Gentry, Gary Demar of AV, Jerry Johnson of the Nicene Council, Sam Storms of Enjoying God Ministries, Doug Wilson of Credenda & others who never wobble to stand on their ground & raise up arms against the tide of Dispensationalism and plug the crack & holes of the Dam of Biblical Interpretation.

    More power to you Ken & thanks for the this enlightening write-up.

  9. I have a question. In trying to have integrity in our work, especially when critiquing another position, we should present the opposite view the way they would. Although I’m definitely not dispensational, I know some pastors who wouldn’t agree with saying that “literalism” is correct but rather “historical grammatical literal” interpretation. Do you think you are misrepresenting some dispensationalist? Or at least putting them all in one box?

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. July 24, 2012 at 6:30

      Joel:
      Thanks for your question. On occasion I have heard others mention this concern. Please check tomorrow’s blog (July 25, 2012). I will answer your question. Thanks for reading and interacting!

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