Interview: Dr. Bill Krewson
Did you know that the church has had a sad history when it comes to the treatment of the Jewish people? Even in the first few centuries after Jesus died, church leaders and other Christians were calling the Jewish people “Christ killers” and other untrue and terrible terms. They were teaching that Israel failed at God’s plan because they rejected Jesus and that God replaced them completely with the church.
This week we welcome pastor and professor Dr. Bill Krewson to the program to talk about a book he has written on a popular church scholar that lived 1700 years ago, Saint Jerome. We’ll hear how Jerome was reaching out to the Jewish people in the midst of this hard time in history when the normal teachings of the day concerning the Jewish people were anti-Semitic.
Steve Conover: The church, in its history, has had a reputation for mistreating the Jewish community. However, there have been bright spots of those that went against the grain. 1700 years ago, St. Jerome was one of those bright spots in the history of relations between the church and the Jewish people.
Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today, I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka.
Chris Katulka: And Steve, you're spot on. The church, in its past, persecuted Jewish people physically. It spread lies about their religious practices, it was called the blood libels, and the church even murdered Jewish people in the past. But today on the program, we're actually going to focus on St. Jerome because Dr. Bill Krewson recently did a whole dissertation, a book called Jerome and the Jews: Innovative Supersessionism, and he highlights how Jerome was an influential theologian who really went against the grain, as you said, and worked to build ties with the Jewish community that he worked with right in Bethlehem.
Steve Conover: Well, we look forward to having Dr Krewson with us. In the news, a French Imam recently said something out of the ordinary about Israel and the Jewish community. Hassen Chalghoumi, currently heading a delegation of French Muslims in Israel, said that anti-Zionism is antisemitism, and blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for incitement against Jews in France and Belgium. Chalghoumi believes anti-Zionism is just a mask to make antisemitism more palatable and polite.
Chris Katulka: The thing that's interesting about this is that Chalghoumi is a French Imam, he's Muslim. And you can see right away, when he talks about the fact that he believes that anti-Zionism is antisemitism, what he's saying is this: "People who hate Israel are actually just trying to use politics to spread lies about the Jewish people." That's called antisemitism, the hatred of Jewish people.
And I actually think this guy is spot on. He is really changing minds, I love that he's leading delegations to Israel to open other Muslims minds about the good that Israel is doing. And I think he's spot on when he says that those who speak negatively about Israel also want to see Israel wiped off the map, and this is just blatant antisemitism. I'll tell you this, the world needs more Hassen Chalghoumis.
Our mission statement is that we are a worldwide Christian ministry that communicates biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people. We really value making sure that the Jewish community knows that they have a friend, that they have someone they can count on here at The Friends of Israel. We want to show the side of the Christian community that loves and supports the Jewish people in good times and in bad times.
You know what, though, there's been moments, actually long moments, in church history where the church kind of failed at being a great representation of Jesus Christ to the Jewish community, to be a witness for Jesus in the Jewish community, to show the love of Christ to the Jewish community. This goes back several thousand years actually. And so that's why today I wanted to bring Dr. Bill Krewson, who is not only one of my previous professors, but a dear friend.
Dr. Krewson is professor at Cairn University School of Divinity in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, and he also serves as a pastor in Chelten, Pennsylvania at the Church of Hope. And I really wanted to bring Dr. Krewson here - I'm going to call him Bill from now on - because he wrote an amazing book, it was your dissertation, called Jerome and the Jews: Innovative Supersessionism, which looks at a figure in church history named Jerome and his unique relationship with the Jewish community back about 1600 years ago. So I think you're going to be blessed, Bill, great to have you on the program.
Bill Krewson: It's great to be here, Chris.
Chris Katulka: This is exciting. What we're looking at is actually your dissertation, right?
Bill Krewson: Yes, but I don't want to scare people away with that. It just means that I learned a lot about this man named St. Jerome and his relationship to the Jewish people, and it's certainly not something that should stay in a dusty doctoral dissertation.
Chris Katulka: That's right. First of all, who is Jerome? Could you share with us about that?
Bill Krewson: Yeah, Jerome was an early Christian leader. He was born about 300 years after Jesus' death. Now think about that. When we think about being a Christian, we can look back on 2000 years of church history. He could only remember 300 years, which is a really short window of time. He grew up, he was a rebellious teenager like most of us were, and he came to faith in Christ, and he wanted to give himself to a full time, dedicated life. And back then, many men and women gave up traditional families, and they served the Lord in monastic communities, which meant he gave up getting married and he gave up secular employment. He just wanted to study the Bible, pray, and help other people do the same.
Chris Katulka: Interesting. What was the relationship like, at that time, between the church and the Jewish community, theologically and even as they related with one another?
Bill Krewson: Yeah, that's a great question because in the year roughly 350, which is when he's born and his early life, the church has had almost 300 years of becoming gentile. The church was born in a Jewish womb, in the Book of Acts you see that. But, as more and more gentiles believed in Jesus, sadly they became anti-Jewish in their way of thinking about who they were as Christians. So you could call it the gentilization of the church. It began in the 100s, it got even developed more in the 200s, and this was the air that Jerome breathed in the 300s.
Chris Katulka: And this was embedded in the culture and the church culture at that time. How did that get worked out, what was the relationship like? If you had to put some flesh to it, what would a relationship be like between the Jewish community and the Christian community? Was there one?
Bill Krewson: If there was a relationship, it was a fractured relationship, and you can see it. Obviously, we can't go back and figure out what the average Christian said or did, but the leaders wrote things that we have today. And sadly, when you read the way they wrote and talked about Jewish people, we would call it antisemitism at its worst.
Chris Katulka: Which is the hatred of Jewish people.
Bill Krewson: Yes, and with language that today would make us blush. They were called the “Christ-killers”, and they were considered rejected by God and replaced by the new Israel, the true Israel, which was the Christian Church.
Chris Katulka: And this is called replacement theology at its core.
Bill Krewson: Yes. What we call replacement theology means that the Christian Church totally replaces the Jewish people in God's program. The fancy way to say that is supersessionism.
Chris Katulka: How does that word get tied up into replacement theology?
Bill Krewson: It's basically the same, but just like we would say the iPhone 10 supersedes the iPhone 8, it replaces it, it supersedes.
Chris Katulka: So it's better now in some way, right,?
Bill Krewson: Right.
Chris Katulka: But that's a wrong way of looking at the Scriptures, and actually in your dissertation, in your book, I love the way that you kind of build this bridge with Jerome. Because Jerome has an interesting relationship with the Jewish community, he kind of stands in between. Can you tell us, doesn't Jerome make his way to Bethlehem?
Bill Krewson: Yes. Actually, the reason I wrote the book was because Jerome did something that hardly anybody was doing in his time, namely reaching out to Jewish people, not as best friends, but at least reaching out to them, in three ways. Number one, he said it's the Jewish Bible written in Hebrew that is the Christian Bible.
Chris Katulka: That's right.
Bill Krewson: And so he translated it into Latin, we call it the Latin Vulgate, from the original Hebrew, and you say, "Well, what else was there?" Well, there was a Greek translation called the Septuagint that all the other Christians thought was the God-inspired Old Testament.
Chris Katulka: And he got a lot of flack for that too, didn't he?
Bill Krewson: Oh, he did. But he kept going.
Chris Katulka: He kept moving forward. I mean, we're talking about ... He interacted with major Christian leaders in the church like Augustine, right?
Bill Krewson: Exactly.
Chris Katulka: And they did not like the fact that he was using the Hebrew Scriptures, right?
Bill Krewson: Right, that was a pollution. "How dare you go back to the vile Jewish documents?"
Chris Katulka: Tell me too, you called it Hebrew Truth, I believe, in your book.
Bill Krewson: That's what Jerome says, that's his phrase. He says, "I go back to the Hebrew Truth." And he kept saying that, and eventually he persuaded the whole church.
Chris Katulka: Did he really?
Bill Krewson: Yeah.
Chris Katulka: So that was one thing, he translated, you said there were two other things as well?
Bill Krewson: Yes. The second thing he did was write commentaries, Bible commentaries. When he wrote commentaries on Old Testament books, not only did he refer to earlier Christian commentaries written in the 200s and the 100s, but he went back to Jewish rabbis who also commented on, let's say, the Book of Genesis, and quoted them in preference to the Christians. And, boy, did he get flack for that too.
Chris Katulka: So first he's translating the Hebrew Scriptures, which no one else is doing in the church at that time for the most part. And then, at the same time, he is using Jewish sources for understanding the Old Testament, and using Jewish sources to understand how to better read the Old Testament, is that true?
Bill Krewson: Exactly. Not just using them, but preferring them over Christian ones as well.
Chris Katulka: Wow. What was the last one?
Bill Krewson: He actually moved from what we would call the Roman Empire in the west to the Roman Empire in the east. He left Constantinople and founded a monastery in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, and that's where he did the bulk of his writing and translating.
Chris Katulka: Overall, how would you say Jerome was influential in building that bridge between the Jewish community and the Christian community that just didn't exist at that point?
Bill Krewson: I think the first thing was that somehow he learned and saw that the Jewish people were not totally rejected and cut off. Because in his commentaries he looks to Romans 11 with hope that someday all the Jewish people will be saved when Jesus returns. He says that time and time again, and I think it was because of that future hope that it gave him a present bridge to build to Jewish people where they taught him Hebrew. They loaned him books and scrolls, and they helped him understand what they thought the Old Testament meant.
Chris Katulka: Didn't he show priority to Bethlehem as well? He really came to love Bethlehem.
Bill Krewson: He looked at Bethlehem almost like the new Jerusalem compared to the city that was only five miles away in his day. And there were other dynamics going on, he disagreed with other church leaders in Jerusalem and so forth. But he translated into Latin a Bible Atlas that was written 100 years before. It's an alphabetical listing of all the places that Eusebius had actually written to help Christian pilgrims find their way around the Holy Land.
Chris Katulka: We had just done an episode not too long ago that stemmed from your book, actually, on Christian pilgrimage in Israel dating back to this period, how people were making their way into the Holy Land, and that there were actually even maps to help them get around from place to place.
My guest today is Dr Bill Krewson. We're talking about Jerome, St. Jerome from about 16, 1700 years ago, and his impact on the Christian community and on the Jewish community. When we come back from our break, we're going to continue our discussion. Bill's going to talk about innovative supersessionism, so don't leave when you hear that word, because you've got to hear what it means. That's his term that he uses in his book. But then we're going to ask the question, "So what? What does this mean for us today?" So be sure to stick around.
We've been learning today about Jerome, an influential early church scholar. When Jerome ministered, one of the earliest accepted teachings in church history was that the church had replaced Israel, which is called replacement theology. Sadly, replacement theology still remains in the church today. The roles of Israel and the Church in God's program for humanity have been a point of fervent disagreement.
Steve Conover: Well, why is there so much confusion? The answer is life-changing, and you can find it in the Bible. In Dr. Michael Vlach's book, Has the Church Replaced Israel, find out what God has revealed to humanity. With this resource, you can trace the development of replacement theology, the New Testament passages concerning Israel's future, and the biblical evidence for God's plan for the salvation and restoration of Israel. To order your copy of Has the Church Replaced Israel by Dr. Michael Vlach, visit foiradio.org, that's F-O-I radio.org, or call our listener line at 888-343-6940 that's 888-343-6940.
Chris Katulka: Bill, in your book Jerome and the Jews, you use the phrase "innovative supersessionism." Can you smooth that thing out for us, and help us understand what it means?
Bill Krewson: It's a way of saying that Jerome built bridges to his Jewish friends and the Jewish community in ways that were new and unproved in his day, in the 300s.
Chris Katulka: So, baseline, he was doing something different in Christian culture at that time.
Bill Krewson: Right, even though he believed that the church replaced Israel.
Chris Katulka: That never went away for him.
Bill Krewson: No it didn't. But somehow, it seeped through that God was not finished with the Jewish people. And even though one day all Israel will be saved, you could say that, even now, the Jewish people serve God and God's people in ways that are yet unexplored.
Chris Katulka: So here we go, this is the big question. All of your research, all of the knowledge that you gained in writing this book, putting all the pieces together, which was really, really well done, what does this mean for the Church today? How do we take what we've learned about Jerome and apply it to the Church today as well?
Bill Krewson: We've come a long way in 1700 years, right? The major world event that changed everything in this regard is the Holocaust. If you look on one extreme, many quote "Christians" in Christendom say now, because of the Holocaust, "We cannot say that the Jewish people are any different than we are as Christians," and there is a 180 on supersessionism. So it's actually a dirty word in mainline Protestant and Catholic circles.
On the other hand, there are still some Christians, and even evangelical Christians, that would hold Jerome's view. Maybe with less meanness, but they would still say, "Yeah, the Jewish people forfeited their opportunities when they rejected the Gospel, and the Christian Church is the new Israel. Period, end of statement."
My view is that there's a middle view, there's a middle way here, and it's the way that Paul sees it in Romans chapters 9, 10, and 11 where he has a broken heart, as a Jewish man, for his Jewish friends. He wants them to know Jesus, but he also knows that they still represent God's faithful promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And that promise is wrapped up in the faithfulness of God.
Chris Katulka: So ultimately, in the end, what you're saying is that there's a middle road, there's an understanding that the covenant promises to Israel still matter.
Bill Krewson: Right. 100 years ago, someone who was not a Christian wrote this little poem that I've not forgotten. "How odd of God / To choose the Jews. But not so odd / As those who choose / The Jewish God / And hate the Jews."
So this ambivalence that many people have of, "Well, I want to believe in Jesus, I want to believe in the New Testament." Do they realize that Jesus was Jewish, and the New Testament was largely written by Jewish men? We have a Jewish faith, and I've said, "Everything about me is Jewish except my body. I have a Jewish heart.
Chris Katulka: That's right.
Bill Krewson: And so I want to be able to have Paul's impulse of loving Jewish people. Why? Well first of all, they're created in God's image, but secondly, God chose them in perpetuity to bring his Shalom, his peace, his reconciliation to the world.
Chris Katulka: Yes, I love that passage in Romans where it talks about the idea that, through their rejection, Romans 11, "reconciliation has come to the world". But the idea that, "What more is yet to come with their acceptance, their belief in the coming Messiah, Jesus, their belief, but life from the dead?" There is still this great anticipation yet to come.
Bill Krewson: That's right. And that's why in Romans 11 Paul says, "Even though the Jewish people may not believe in Jesus as a nation now, they are still loved on account of the Patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable."
Chris Katulka: I think we should end it there, Bill, what do you think?
Bill Krewson: Well, the story goes on, but I wish I had more time.
Chris Katulka: I know, and we'll have to do it again, but for our listeners, we've been talking with Dr Bill Krewson. Where can our listeners get your book, if they're interested?
Bill Krewson: You can Google the title, Jerome and the Jews. It's available online on Amazon or your book purchaser of choice.
Chris Katulka: That's great. Thank you very much for being on the program with us today.
Bill Krewson: Thanks so much.
Steve Conover: Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: A few days ago, I went to Bethlehem to visit an injured Arab friend. All of his family and friends were there. At first, the conversation was about general matters, but then someone remarked, "When God created Eve, he deceived and desecrated Adam by putting him to sleep and robbing him of his rib to make a woman. Apparently, already back then God was on the side of the Jews."
I did not understand the logic of this statement. Soon the people became more excited, and I could not get in a word. Sensing the fanaticism and bitterness, I decided to leave, but the head of the house became hostile and prevented me from going. I said, "I came here to visit a fellow worker who was injured, and you treat me like this? Shame on you. This is not at all in the Arab tradition of hospitality to a guest." My words apparently had a sobering effect on them, especially when I said in Arabic, "God is one, and he is for all people without exception."
When God created mankind, there were no Jews, no Arabs, no other nationalities. But when man sinned, he soon learned to hate others and to kill. People began to spread lies about each other and despise each other. For instance, you have been told that Jewish people have horns and tails, but you live among us and you can see that we're the same kind of people as you are. In fact, we are your relatives through Abraham.
Over time, the children of Abraham began to hate and persecute one another. They lacked mercy and compassion until the time came when the Father in heaven sent his salvation into the world. And where did that happen? Right here in this little town of Bethlehem. Here was born the one whom you call Isa and the Jews call Yeshua, and all the world knows that Jesus, this Jesus brought to all people forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation, and he taught us to love one another.
The eldest man present remarked, "How amazing. I thought the Jews hated Jesus, but you defend him. Are you really a Jew?" I replied, "Yes. We who believe in Jesus are completely Jews. I came to see you because Jesus put love into my heart and told me to come see you. Jesus told us how to love our enemies."
One of the men said, "We all respect you for what you believe, but we cannot agree with one thing. This Isa was a prophet, but Mohammed was the greatest of all prophets." I showed them from the Scripture that the Lord Jesus Christ was the one promised in the Old Testament. I explained that the New Testament tells us how he brought love into the world, in contrast with the Quran which says in Surah 190, "Hate your enemy. Kill him wherever you find him." They looked at each other perplexed and could not answer me.
I then read John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The eldest man began to cry. He walked over to me, embraced me, kissed me, and said, "Thank you very much. You taught us a great lesson today. We have so much to learn, especially about love. This is so strange to us."
Steve Conover: As we close today's program, I want to remind you to purchase a copy of Dr. Michael Vlach's book, Has the Church Replaced Israel?. Go to foiradio.org, that's F-O-I radio.org, or call us at our listener line at 888-343-6940. Again, that's 888-343-6940. Chris, any closing thoughts before we leave today?
Chris Katulka: Yeah. We've been talking about the fact that the church has had a past that really persecuted Jewish people, and I think it's important for us to look back on church history so that today, as evangelicals who are Bible-believing Christians, we can look back on what happened in the past so that we don't make those mistakes again, so that we can look forward and understand what the Bible says. God has a future for Israel and the Jewish people, and we stand on those promises. They're biblical promises.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione, co-written by Sarah Fern and Jesse King, Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold, and our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. I'm Steve Conover, Executive Producer. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide Christian ministry, communicating biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people.
Has the Church Replaced Israel?
By Michael J. Vlach
One of the earliest accepted teachings in church history was that the church has replaced Israel, which is called replacement theology. The roles of Israel and the church in God’s program for humanity are still a point of fervent disagreement. Why is there so much confusion?
In Dr. Michael Vlach’s book Has the Church Replaced Israel?, find out what God has revealed to humanity. With this resource you can trace the development of replacement theology, the New Testament passages concerning Israel’s future, and the biblical evidence for God’s plan for the salvation and restoration of Israel.
Apples of Gold: With an Arab Family in Bethlehem
Zvi went to Bethlehem to visit an Arab coworker who was not well. As he was visiting, many of the man’s friends and family were talking about Jewish people in an anti-Semitic way. Feeling uncomfortable with their words and actions, Zvi went to leave. The elder of the home stopped him and refused to let him leave. Hear what happened next when Zvi spoke to him in Arabic.
Zvi’s story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s book, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available at our online store.
More stories from Zvi are also available in his book, “The Best of Zvi,” available at our online store.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.