Israel and the Church by Ronald E. Diprose (Waynesboro, GA: Authentic Media, 2004. 281 pp., paper, $16.99)
Diprose is academic dean at the Evangelical Italian Bible Institute in Rome, not a place one might expect a strong scholarly work supporting a premillennial view of Israel. Nevertheless, the subtitle of the book summarizes well the contents: “The Origin and Effects of Replacement Theology.”
Diprose actually addresses two concerns: replacement theology—the idea that the church has replaced Israel as the people of God and what he calls “the new majority view.” The bulk of the book deals with replacement theology while “the new majority” is regulated to an appendix. Diprose admits that replacement theology has been the dominant view within the church since post-apostolic times until the middle of the 19th century (p. 30). However, he does not believe that this theology emerges from Scripture. Chapter two is devoted to a careful analysis of the pertinent Scriptures on the subject and, based especially on Romans 9-11, the author concludes that the New Testament does not teach replacement theology (see p. 67).
It is Diprose’s opinion that replacement theology was developed in the post-apostolic era (pp. 69-98) and was made possible through the combination of an increasing hatred of the Jews and Origen’s allegorical method of interpretation. By 692 a council at Trullo decreed “Let no-one in the priestly order nor any layman eat the unleavened bread of the Jews, nor have any familiar intercourse with them, nor summon them in illness, nor receive medicine from them, nor bathe with them, but if anyone shall take in hand to do so, if he is a cleric, let him be deposed, but if a layman, let him be cut off” (p. 94).
The impact of replacement theology on ecclesiology is the subject of chapter four. Once the church was identified as Israel it followed that a Levitical model of the ecclesiastical order would be adopted, and thus the church’s leadership model increasingly took on Old Testament characteristics (pp. 106, 133-136). This also had implications for the meaning of baptism and the Eucharist which very early became means of salvation (pp. 111, 128).
Replacement theology also changed the eschatology of the church. Prior to Augustine the church was largely premillennial, but Augustine brought together the church and the kingdom in such a way as to make them virtually identical (p. 159). Augustine spiritualized Israel’s blessings and promises in such a manner that it led to discrimination against Israel (pp. 164-167).
Israel and the Church concludes with a discussion of “the new majority view” which teaches that Israel has its own separate covenant and is thus exonerated of the need to believe in Jesus for salvation (pp. 171, 175-192).
Israel and the Church is a well-reasoned, carefully researched polemic for a premillennial understanding of Scripture. I recommend it highly.