Should the Church Evangelize Israel? A Response to Franz Mussner and Other Sonderweg Proponents -- By: Michael G. Vanlaningham
TrinJ 22:2 (Fall 01) p. 197
Should the Church Evangelize Israel?
A Response to Franz Mussner and
Other Sonderweg Proponents
* Michael G. Vanlaningham is Associate Professor of Bible at the Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois.
The Holocaust and revival of the state of Israel have sparked renewed interest in the theological status of the Jewish people. In the wake of the Holocaust, some scholars have ventured to present a new approach to the apostle Paul’s view of the spiritual condition of the Jewish people which avoids the anti-Semitism frequently ascribed to exclusivistic Christianity. This new approach is called “bi-covenantalism” or the “two covenant” theology.1
A second approach to Jewish salvation in Paul is labeled the “Sonderweg” controversy. It is argued that the Jews need Jesus Christ, but the future conversion of all Israel that Paul presents in Rom 11:25–27 takes place at the time of the second coming of Christ, when the Lord himself comes from heaven, is seen by Israel, preaches the gospel to the Jews, and they are converted. All of this takes place apart from the missionary endeavor of the church. The term “Sonderweg” means “special way,” referring to the unique manner of Israel’s salvation vis-à-vis that of the church.2 Franz
TrinJ 22:2 (Fall 01) p. 198
Mussner3 and Otfried Hofius4 agree that the future salvation of all Israel is inseparably bound with the Parousia. They believe that Israel will not, and cannot, be saved before seeing the descending Christ and hearing the gospel proclaimed by him. Only then will the nation be able to exercise faith in her Redeemer and be saved.
The primary purpose of this article is to examine the approach taken by Mussner and those who follow him. The procedure will be to summarize what the Sonderweg proponents say about the key passages upon which they build their understanding of the relationship of Israel’s salvation to the second coming (especially Rom 11:1–24, 25–27; Matt 23:39; Acts 3:19–20; and the narratives of Paul’s conversion in Acts), and to show the weaknesses of their exegesis and conclusions.5
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