Israel and Christian Theology Some Effects of the New Majority View -- By: Ronald E. Diprose

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 10:1 (Summer 2001)
Article: Israel and Christian Theology Some Effects of the New Majority View
Author: Ronald E. Diprose

Israel and Christian Theology
Some Effects of the New Majority View

Ronald E. Diprose1


A generation before the infamous Dreyfus trial prompted Theodor Herzl in 1896 to write his Zionist manifesto The Jewish State: An Attempt at a Modern Solution to the Jewish Question and to convene the first World Zionist Congress in Switzerland the following year, Carlo Antonio Zanini debated with representatives of the Jewish community in the public library of Mantova, Italy. At that time the majority of Christian theologians subscribed to the view that the Church had totally replaced Israel in redemption history. Zanini did not share this view. Rather he espoused a minority evangelical view based on Scripture.2 Central to the understanding of Zanini was the following threefold conviction: 1) Israel remains God’s elect people and, as such, will return to live as a sovereign nation in the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; 2) Jesus the Nazarene is the Messiah prophesied by the Hebrew prophets; and 3) the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles is possible only through faith in the atoning work of Jesus.

Marco Mortara, the chief Rabbi of Mantova, dedicated his Passover discourse in 1868 to addressing the issues raised by Zanini. The Rabbi’s response echoed some of the recommendations made by Jewish Rabbis who had met at Vienna earlier that same year. These included recommendations to remove from Jewish liturgy all reference to the coming of a personal Messiah and to avoid all talk of a return to the promised land.3 Although Zanini’s Jewish interlocutors at Mantova showed no sympathy with the idea of Israel returning to the land of her fathers, the Christian evangelist lived long enough to see a significant part of world Jewry change its mind on this point. Before the close of the nineteenth century Zanini was also able to document the presence of five hundred Messianic Jews living in the territory now known as Israel.4 Moreover he was himself instrumental in leading some members of the Italian Jewish community to faith in Yeshua as Messiah and Savior.5

Much has happened since the close of the nineteenth century. In particular the faith of Evangelical Christians such as Zanini, that Israel would regain Statehood, has been vindicated, against all human odds. On the other hand, the second and third points to which Zanini drew the attention of his Jewish interlocutors, that Yeshua is the long awaited Messiah o...

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