A Jewish Repair For A Free Church Vision: Repairing Restitutionist Hermeneutics With Peter Ochs
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Over the course of his research on the New Testament and early Christianity, the late Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder developed a provocative thesis that the historic Jewish-Christian schism was not historically inevitable. Yoder argued that it might have been possible for Jews and Christians to remain together as one people despite a difference of faith regarding the significance of Jesus Christ. While many found Yoder’s thesis refreshing, not all were convinced that it was without its significant theological problems. Peter Ochs, a Jewish pragmatic philosopher, was invited to respond to Yoder’s claims through commentary included in a posthumous publication of essays which contained Yoder’s provocative claims. Ochs argued that Yoder’s thesis perpetuated a form of Christian supersessionism, a Christian teaching that states that the Church has replaced Israel as the people of God. This thesis seeks to expose the roots of Yoder’s supersessionism for the purposes of repairing/reforming Yoder’s vision for the Church and the Church’s relation to the Jews. The argument of the thesis is that Yoder’s particular appropriation of a restitutionist perspective on Christian history, as a fundamental hermeneutic, is the root of his supersessionism. I demonstrate this to be the case through engaging two key essays in which Yoder treats the significance of the restitutionist perspective for his theology. After demonstrating this, I critically re-evaluate Yoder’s restitutionist hermeneutic with the help of Ochs among several other supporting authors in order to suggest specific ways that inheritors of Yoder might carry forward key elements to his thought without repeating his supersessionist mistake.