Famous Theologians Who Affirm a Future for Israel
by Michael J. Vlach, Ph.D.
The purpose of this document is to provide quotations from famous theologians who have affirmed some form of a future for the Jews or national Israel. We have also included statements from historians who have made comments about how theologians of a particular era or group viewed Israel’s future. (Please note that we are not asserting that all these men believe the same thing about Israel.)
“It is possible to designate a terminus, because it seems that the blindness of the Jews will endure until all the pagans chosen for salvation have accepted the faith. And this is in accord with what Paul says below about the salvation of the Jews, namely, that after the conversion of the pagans, all Israel will be saved. ‘All’ here does not mean each individual; rather, ‘all’ Jews will be saved in a general sense.”
Thomas Aquinas, “Super Epistolam Ad Romanos”; II.2, available from http://www.tacalumni.org/Aquinas/TOMA_075.txt; Internet. Translation by John Y. B. Hood.
“Paul quotes this passage, (Rom. xi. 26,) in order to shew that there is still some remaining hope among the Jews; although from their unconquerable obstinacy it might be inferred that they were altogether cast off and doomed to eternal death. But because God is continually mindful of his covenant, and “his gifts and calling are without repentance,” (Rom. xi. 29,) Paul justly concludes that it is impossible that there shall not at length be some remnant that come to Christ, and obtain that salvation which he has procured. Thus the Jews must at length be collected along with the Gentiles that out of both “there may be one fold” under Christ. (John x. 16). . . . Hence we have said that Paul infers that he [Christ] could not be the redeemer of the world, without belonging to some Jews, whose fathers he had chosen, and to whom this promise was directly addressed.”
John Calvin, “Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah,” Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. 8, 269.
” When the Gentiles shall come in, the Jews also shall return from their defection to the obedience of faith; and thus shall be completed the salvation, . . . which must be gathered from both; and yet in such a way that the Jews shall obtain the first place, being as it were the first born in God’s family, as Jews are the first born, what the prophet declares must be fulfilled, especially in them; . . . it is to be ascribed to the preeminence of that nation, who God had preferred to all other nations….God distinctly claims for Himself a certain seed, so that His redemption may be effectual in His elect and peculiar nation….God was not unmindful of the covenant which He had made with their fathers, and by which he testified that according to his eternal purpose He loved that nation; and this he confirms by this remarkable declaration, – that the grace of divine calling cannot be made void.”
“Epistle to the Romans,” Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. 19, 434-40.
Iain H. Murray states:
“From the first quarter of the seventeenth century, belief in a future conversion of the Jews became commonplace among the English Puritans.”
Iain H. Murray, The Puritan Hope: Revival and the Interpretation of Prophecy (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1971), 42.
“The Lord saith, All the nations shall be blessed in Abraham: Hence I gather that the nation of the Jews shall be called, and converted to the participation of this blessing: when, and how, God knows: but that it shall be done before the end of the world we know.”
Quote taken from Iain H. Murray, The Puritan Hope, 42.
Dutch Theologians of the 17th Century
J. Van Den Berg points out that many Dutch Reformed theologians of the seventeenth century believed in a future salvation of the Jews or restoration of the Jewish nation:
“. . . for virtually all Dutch theologians of the seventeenth century, ‘the whole of Israel’ indicated the fullness of the people of Israel ‘according to the flesh’: in other words, the fullness of the Jewish people. This meant that there was a basis for an expectation of a future conversion of the Jews-an expectation which was shared by a large majority of Dutch theologians.”
J. Van Den Berg, “Eschatological Expectations Concerning the Conversion of the Jews in the Netherlands During the Seventeenth Century,” Puritan Eschatology: 1600 To 1660, ed. Peter Toon (Cambridge: James Clarke, 1970), 140.
Reformed Theology in the 17-19th Centuries
Willem VanGemeren writes:
“Instead of a fixed position on Israel, Reformed theology shows a remarkable ‘fluidity’ on the future of Israel in the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries.”
Willem VanGemeren, “Israel as the Hermeneutical Crux in the Interpretation of Prophecy (II), Westminster Theological Journal, vol. 46, #2, Fall 1984, p. 255
“. . . the seventeenth century witnessed a dynamic interest in the Jews on the part of Continental and British Reformed theologians who hoped for a large-scale conversion of the Jews and, in some cases, for a restoration of the Jews to Palestine before or after their conversion. . . .”
“Theologians as early as Voetius (1609-1676) fervently hoped for the conversion of the Jews. He believed that the Reformed community must deal responsibly with the Jews by giving itself to prayer, godliness, sound interpretation of the OT Scriptures, and sympathy towards the Jews.”
Specific theologians who held to a future restoration of Israel according to Van Den Berg include: Gisbertus Voetius (1589-1676), Johannes Hoornbeek (1617-1666), Andreas Essenius (1618-1677), Jacobus Koelman (1633-1695), and Johannes Coccejus (1603-1669), and Herman Witsius (1636-1708).
Van Den Berg, 141-48.
“Nothing is more certainly foretold than this national conversion of the Jews in Romans 11.”
Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1, Banner of Truth Trust, reprint, 1976, 607.
“The second great event, which, according to the common faith or the Church, is to precede the second advent of Christ, is the national conversion of the Jews. . . . That there is to be such a national conversion may be argued. . . from the original call and destination of that people.
As the rejection of the Jews was not total, so neither is it final. First, God did not design to cast away his people entirely, but by their rejection, in the first place, to facilitate the progress of the gospel among the Gentiles. and ultimately to make the conversion of the Gentiles the means of converting the Jews. . . . Because if the rejection of the Jews has been a source of blessing, much more will their restoration be the means of good. . . .The restoration of the Jews to the privileges of God’s people is included in the ancient predictions and promises made respecting them…
“The future restoration of the Jews is, in itself, a more probable event than the introduction of the Gentiles into the church of God.”
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 3, James Clark & Co. 1960, 805; A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Presb. Board of Pub., 1836, 270-285 passim. Now Published by Banner of Truth Trust.
Charles H. Spurgeon
“I think we do not attach sufficient importance to the restoration of the Jews. We do not think enough of it. But certainly, if there is anything promised in the Bible it is this.”
From first volume of Sermons, 1855, as cited in Iain Murray, The Puritan Hope, 256.
“The day shall yet come when the Jews, who were the first apostles to the Gentiles, the first missionaries to us who were afar off, shall be gathered in again. . . . Matchless benefits to the world are bound up with the restoration of Israel; their gathering in shall be as life from the dead.”
Cited in Murray, 256.
C. E. B. Cranfield
“It is only where the Church persists in refusing to learn this message, where it secretly-perhaps quite unconsciously-believes that its own existence is based on human achievement, and so fails to understand God’s mercy to itself, that it is unable to believe in God’s mercy for still unbelieving Israel, and so entertains the ugly and unscriptural notion that God has cast off His people Israel and simply replaced it by the Christian Church. These three chapters [Rom. 9-11] emphatically forbid us to speak of the Church as having once and for all taken the place of the Jewish people.”
C.E.B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, in The International Critical Commentary, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: T & T Clark Limited, 1979) 448.
George E. Ladd
“The New Testament clearly affirms the salvation of literal Israel.”
George Ladd, “Historic Premillennialism,” in The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views, ed. Robert G. Clouse (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1977), 28.
“. . . the unfinished role of Israel in salvation history is also recognized (cf. Rom. 9-11).”
Karl Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity. Trans. William V. Dych (New York: Seabury Press, 1978), 338.
“There can be no question of God’s having finally rejected the people of his choice-he would then have to reject his own election (11.29). . . . Israel’s promises remain Israel’s promises. They have not been transferred to the church. Nor does the church push Israel out of its place in the divine history. In the perspective of the gospel, Israel has by no means become ‘like all the nations.'”
Jürgen Moltmann, The Way of Jesus Christ: Christology in Messianic Dimensions. Trans. Margaret Kohl (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990), 35.
“At the same time this early Jewish-Christian hope for the revival of the nation of the twelve tribes binds Jesus into a unity with his people which Gentile Christians must not destroy.”
“There is therefore no contradiction between the definition of the essence of the New Testament church as the people of God and holding to Israel as the object of God’s irrevocable gift of grace and calling.”
Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, trans. John Richard De Witt. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 360.
“If we keep in mind the theme of this chapter [ Rom. 11] and the sustained emphasis on the restoration of Israel, there is no other alternative than to conclude that the proposition, ‘all Israel shall be saved’ is to be interpreted in terms of the fullness, the receiving, the in-grafting of Israel as a people, the restoration of Israel to gospel favour and blessing and the correlative turning of Israel from unbelief to faith and repentance. . . . In a word, it is the salvation of the mass of Israel that the apostle [Paul] affirms.”
John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 99.
“There is, however, a future for national Israel. They are still the special people of God.”
Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 1053.
“I affirm the conviction that Rom. 9-11 teaches a future large-scale conversion of the Jewish people.”
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 861.