Toby Sumpter on Romans 11 and the Jews

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been finding myself ideologically further and further away from the Moscow, ID, crowd, but I still idly follow some of what they put out. Here’s one example. Recently, Toby Sumpter wrote an article explaining his perspective on the place of the Jews in the New Testament era. Frankly, I think he’s wrong. Sumpter gives five principles, so let’s take them one by one. (I recommend you read these side-by-side.)

1. Mass Conversion

Sumpter argues that Romans 11 describes a mass conversion of the Jews at the end of this age. He frames this as opposed to James Jordan’s preterist argument that this mass conversion has already happened. Here’s the problem I have with this whole discussion though: what mass conversion? I hear people mention this all the time, citing Romans 11. But I’ve looked up and down in Romans 11, and I can’t find it.

The only way you might be able to get it is if you interpret “all Israel” in verse 26 to mean all of ethnic Israel, but that runs afoul of what Paul has already said. First of all, it is self-evident that not all ethnic Israel will be saved. That’s what the hardening is all about. But also, who is the true Israel? It is those who have the faith of Abraham. So, it seems to me that all Israel refers to the fullness of the believing Gentiles along with the fullness of believing Jews. In other words, all Israel is the church. As I read it, this view makes sense of Romans 9-11 as a whole. It also has the support of many throughout church history to boot.

2. The Covenant with Hagar

Next, Sumpter talks about how the Jews are under the covenant with Hagar (Gal. 4:22-26). I think there are probably two ways to interpret that passage. First, you might say that the covenant with Hagar is the Mosaic covenant. In fact, Paul pretty clearly says that it is. But is the Mosaic covenant still in effect? No! It has been replaced by the New Covenant. Alternatively, you could read the covenant with Hagar to refer to the Covenant of Works, particularly if you buy a brand of republican a la Kline or certain Baptist theologies. Personally, I don’t go that direction, but the broader point remains the same.

The covenant with Hagar is not some special Jews-only covenant. If I’m right in saying that it’s the Mosaic covenant (just as Paul describes), then it has been completely fulfilled in Christ’s New Covenant, which unbelieving Jews are expressly cut out of. The Mosaic covenant is an artifact of redemptive history and has no force. In other words, the Jews are not in covenant with God in any special way, and to read Galatians 4 as meaning that completely misses the point of the passage. (It’s worth noting that Sumpter talks about the Old Covenant passing away, so I’m presuming he’s making the case for a distinct “Hagaric” covenant.)

3. The Continuing Existence of Covenanted Israel

Sumpter’s view:

Third, to the extent that you have a people that identify with the Old Testament, looking to the promises to Abraham and the Torah-law, you have a Jewish people with veils remaining over their eyes, just as Paul described them in the first century (2 Cor. 3:14-15).

The main problem I have with this is that “identifying” with certain ethics and aesthetics does not mean your identification is true. The fact of the matter is that while modern Jews may read the Old Testament, they do not, in fact, look to the promises of Abraham and the Torah. Instead, they fundamentally misunderstand these things. If you ask any modern orthodox Jew what Abraham was promised, they’ll probably give you a Zionist answer: Abraham was promised land and offspring. But Paul disagrees. The Law brings entirely different challenges. How do you honor the Law without a temple or a king?

Modern-day Judaism would be completely unrecognizable to a Second Temple Pharisee. Rabbinic Judaism experienced immense development after the fall of Jerusalem. It’s not as if Christianity just split off from Judaism and started doing its own thing. Instead, Judaism splintered into several pieces, and Christianity and rabbinic Judaism were just two of those pieces.

Of course, the Jews still exist as a people group, but the point is that they are not the same people group that we’re dealing with in the first century. They have a completely different worldview and religious outlook. Contra Sumpter, it seems that their genetics may very well be their strongest tie back to the Second Temple era.

4. Current Situation

Sumpter points to several good things about modern-day Jews. Here, I will simply agree, but I do not believe they are good because of any remaining covenant.

5. Do Jews Envy Christians?

James Jordan is right here: Jews are not envious of Christians. We don’t have anything they want. Our relationship with them is just like our relationship with any other religious group. Sumpter counters this by pointing to past conversions of Jews to Christianity, but that really misses the point. Even when conversions were happening at a higher than average rate, there was never a significant mass movement, and it certainly wasn’t related to jealousy. You could possibly make an argument for that happening in the second half of the twentieth century, but we must not misconstrue a very small subset of Jews doing something for a significant movement among them.


I say all this to say that I don’t really have a strong opinion on the Israeli State. It has just about zero impact on my family, my church, or my community. I’m not biting my nails waiting for prophecy to be fulfilled, and I’m certainly not trying to force any prophetic fulfillment (which is ultimately what I think Zionism is). Frankly, you probably shouldn’t have a strong opinion either. Honestly, I find all these arguments from Christians defending Israel to be a bit labored. Particularly among political conservatives, there’s this knee-jerk desire to support Israel, but I’m wondering how many of these people have really thought through it. On the other hand, I do think the political angle is legitimate. You can make a solid case for defending Israel in the interest of American political goals. However, I get uncomfortable when you start lacing that case with Bible verses.

But this is where the rubber meets the road. My position, in addition to being biblically and historically grounded, allows me to pray for the Jews and for Israel without any pretense. My prayers for them are the same as my prayers for any other nation, that they would grow in a knowledge of the truth, that they would turn to God. I pray that violence would end and that justice would be achieved. I pray that innocent life will be guarded, and I pray that the Church in Israel and Palestine will flourish and expand. At the end of the day, I think that desiring those things for Israel pretty much covers my bases, and I can do it without any self-righteous hand wringing.