Church History: Bad Theology Begets Anti-Semitism :: By Jonathan Brentner

There’s never been a more urgent need for pastors to proclaim Israel’s right to the Land. The war in the Middle East has exposed the cancer of anti-Semitism, and we must not keep silent.

The massive influx of people from Muslim nations explains the anti-Semitic demonstrations in major cities across Europe and the U.S., but why the intense hatred, such as at Cornel University in New York, where Jewish students are forced to hide from danger?

As I explain in Prophetic Observations of the Massacre in Israel, Satan is most certainly the culprit behind the murderous anger directed at Israel and, by proxy, all the Jews living in other nations.

Replacement Theology also contributes to what’s happening on college campuses, particularly in America. Proponents of this doctrine assert that after the people of ancient Israel rejected their Messiah, God turned His back on them and, as a result, replaced the nation with the church. They claim that the church is now God’s kingdom on earth, having inherited the promises that He made to Israel, albeit in a spiritual sense.

How does this doctrine lead to anti-Semitism? During the long history of the church, Replacement Theology has been a breeding ground for it. Today, we see that churches in denominations long immersed in this teaching support the Palestinians’ cause in spite of its desire to destroy the nation of Israel and celebration of terrorism.

The silence of churches concerning Israel’s right to the Land leaves a vacuum that the devil fills with murderous hatred.

The Origin of Replacement Theology

Before the time of Augustine in the early fifth century, the majority of church leaders believed in the literal fulfillment of the entire book of Revelation. Even though writers such as Justin Martyr believed that God was finished with the Jewish people, he asserted that Jesus would reign for a thousand years in Jerusalem and denounced others who did not agree with him on this matter. [1]

Because of his skill as a theologian and writer, Augustine changed everything. Motivated by anti-Semitism along with his fondness for the teachings of Plato, who taught that all matter was evil, he altered the literal meaning of prophecies concerning Israel so that they conformed to his amillennialism, the belief that there is no literal fulfillment of Revelation 20:1-10 nor the restoration of a kingdom to Israel.

His teaching that the church was God’s kingdom on earth appealed to a great many in his day because, earlier, under Emperor Constantine, Christianity had become the official religion of Rome. The church now possessed political power, which made its leaders all the more susceptible to the idea that they now ruled the kingdom once promised to God’s people. The temptation, fueled by Replacement Theology, proved irresistible.

The Reformers

In the centuries leading up to the Reformation, Augustine’s spiritualizing of the texts pertaining to Bible prophecy became the basis for diluting other passages in God’s Word. Soon, the purity of the Gospel and, in particular, the doctrine of justification by faith fell victim to symbolical interpretations rather than the meaning of the words on the pages of Scripture.

Based upon this spiritualization of the biblical text, the Roman Catholic Church made works the basis of one’s salvation and kept its people closely tied to it through sacraments. Its bishops and priests dominated the people, ruling as kings over them rather than as shepherds caring for the needs of God’s people. They maintained their power by not allowing the people to have the Bible in their own language.

The Reformers rejected Augustine’s allegorical approach to Scripture that had led to so much doctrinal error concerning the Gospel. Their principles of sola scriptura and “Scripture interprets Scripture” brought the church back to what the New Testament taught regarding justification and the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Unfortunately, the anti-Semitism of Luther and Calvin kept them from applying their principles of Bible interpretation to future things, especially passages related to the restoration of a kingdom for Israel. They condemned the spiritualization of biblical texts but just couldn’t get to the place of accepting what the words of Scripture revealed about Jesus’ future thousand-year reign and the restoration of a glorious kingdom to Israel.

After the Reformation

The generation following the Reformation, however, began to apply the Reformers’ principles of interpretation to biblical prophecies relating to the Millennium. Dr. William Watson documents this change in an article called “The Rise of Philo-Semitism and Premillennialism During the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.” [2]

Dr. Watson lists forty-five writers and Bible scholars who, from 1585 to 1800, expressed beliefs related to Jesus’ future thousand-year reign over the nations of the earth.[3] He provided quotes from the majority of these biblical scholars who paved the way for the revival of Premillennialism (the belief in a literal thousand-year reign of Jesus based in Jerusalem).

The most well-known of these biblical scholars was Isaac Newton. In 1706, based upon his study of Daniel and Revelation, Newton stated Israel would once again become a nation.[4] Thanks to the literal view of God’s Word championed by the Reformers, Premillennialism became well-established in many Bible-believing churches two hundred years after the Reformation began.

How Did Premillennialism Change the Church’s View of the Jewish People?

Did the revival of Premillennialism affect the church’s attitude toward the Jewish people? Yes, it did.

In his book Dispensationalism Before Darby, Dr. William Watson has a most remarkable quote:

It was not until the Reformation and the publication of the Geneva Bible (1557) and, subsequently, the King James Bible (1611) in England that Christians began to read those Jewish Scriptures for themselves. In doing so, they began to believe once again the promises God had made to the Jews. [5]

Dr. William Watson, who has done an incredible amount of research digging through the writings of Bible scholars in the centuries before and following the Reformation, lists twenty-one authors on page 45 of his book who, from 1584 to 1675, either stated that God’s covenant with the Jews was eternal, encouraged fellow Christians to love the Jews, or believed that Jerusalem would be prominent in the future because of a restored Israel. [6]

The resurgence of Bible teachers adopting Premillennialism, coupled with believers reading the Word of God for themselves, not only changed beliefs regarding the restoration of Israel but also replaced the church’s longstanding anti-Semitism with one of love for the Jewish people. The return to a literal understanding of future biblical prophecy changed the hearts of many church theologians in the decades following the Reformation.

By the early twentieth century, Premillennialism had become the predominant belief in Bible-believing churches across the world and remained so for much of the century. In the early 1900s, Bible scholars such as C. I. Scofield and Lewis S. Chafer predicted that Israel would become a nation again, just as Isaac Newton had done 200 years earlier, and in 1948, it happened. Israel miraculously became a nation in one day, just as the prophet Isaiah said would happen (66:8).

Of course, those in mainline denominations ridiculed their predictions and still held firmly to Replacement Theology even after they witnessed God’s amazing fulfillment of prophecy.

The Resurgence of Replacement Theology

Since the start of the twenty-first century, Replacement Theology has made a comeback, even in churches that once espoused Premillennialism. Although this is not the total explanation for the murderous hatred toward Jews that we see on U.S. college campuses, it contributes to its acceptance, as does the silence of so many in the church who should be openly condemning it.

I see two disturbing trends contributing to the popularity of Replacement Theology:

First, many believers don’t read and study the Bible for themselves. Instead, they depend solely on what they hear from their pastors on Sunday mornings. Many blindly accept Replacement Theology because they haven’t studied Scripture for themselves. As a result, they believe today’s lie that Israel has no inherent right to the Land.

Second, there’s been an influx of amillennial teachers into seminaries that train our pastors. When I attended Talbot Theological Seminary during the 1970s, my professors held firmly to beliefs in Jesus’ thousand-year reign and the pre-Tribulation Rapture. Since then, Talbot has welcomed instructors who claim to be premillennial but don’t believe in a literal Tribulation, Jesus’ thousand-year reign, or the restoration of Israel. I know this to be true.

The resurgence of Replacement Theology has come about from believers not studying or reading the Bible for themselves, along with pastors who accept what they have learned in seminary. This is precisely the opposite of what caused the resurgence of Premillennialism after the Reformation.

To Sum Up

Andy Stanley, one of today’s most popular preachers, encourages the church to “unhitch” itself from the Old Testament. Such advice not only opens the door wide for Wokeism to enter but also promotes Reformation Theology and, with it, a false worldview pertaining to the current war in the Middle East.

Because Replacement Theology, along with its unbiblical offshoots, preterism, and dominion theology, has become dominant in the church, there’s considerable sympathy and even blind support for the Palestinian cause even in churches and seminaries that claim to be Bible-believing. In other places of worship, there’s deafening silence. These things ought not to be!

The attacks against the nation of Israel, as well as the murderous anti-Semitism erupting throughout the world, necessitates that:

  1. pastors boldly proclaim Israel’s right to the Land, which the Bible clearly reveals. To remain silent at such a time as this is to repeat the error of churches in Germany during the last century.
  2. we remember the witness of church history: bad theology begets anti-Semitism, even within the walls of local churches.
  3. believers pray for Israel during this time of suffering and war and, if so led, financially support the people.



I provide a detailed defense of the Pretribulation viewpoint in: The Triumph of the Redeemed-An Eternal Perspective that Calms Our Fears in Perilous Times. I demonstrate, using an abundance of quotes, that the belief in a thousand-year reign of Jesus dominated the church during its first three hundred years. The historic view of the millennium is a literal view of Revelation 20:1-10 that places it between the Tribulation and the eternal state.

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[1] Justin Martyr, “Dialogue with Trypho,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols., Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979), pp. 239–40

[2] William Watson, “The Rise of Philo-Semitism and Premillennialism During the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” Pre-Tribulation Research Center website,

[3] Ibid.

[4] I document Isaac Newton’s belief in the future restoration of Israel in my book, The Triumph of the Redeemed.

[5] William C. Watson, Dispensationalism Before Darby (Navasota, TX, Lampion House Publishing, 2023), p. 13.

[6] Ibid. p. 45.