Supersessionism refers to the concept that the [[New Testament]] supersedes the [[Old Testament]]. But it can also refer to
other vaguely related ideas that the [[Church]] supersedes ancient Israel, that the Church fulfills the missions Israel held, or that Christianity brings something new.
The term developed in Protestant scholarship in the
1970's-1980's, and its normal use is to portray traditional Church teachings on these questions, often in a negative light.
== "Supersession" as a simple concept ==
"Supersession" comes from the word "supersede", which means “to set above; to make void or inoperative by a superior authority; to stay, suspend or supplant” <ref> Kendrick Kinney: A Law Dictionary and Glossary, 1893, Callaghan and Company, p. 642</ref> It can also mean to overrule, override, or replace the function of something.
For example, an amendment to a law supersedes the original law,
and a governor's pardon overrules a sentence prescribed by law, and a remodeled home or car replaces the old one. Note that in each of these cases that which is superseded may remain in existence fully or partially.
==="Supersession" in Orthodoxy===
Fr. Evan Armatas of Saint Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church uses it to describe the relative importance of parts of the Bible:
:The New Testament, as we call it, is the last part of the Christian Bible, and we accept both Old and New, although we do believe that the New Testament supersedes the Old... If you do not have the framework that the New Testament supersedes the Old, you’re going to run into some theological problems. People do this all the time. They’ll quote something in the Old Testament to contradict what the Church teaches, and we don’t do that in the Church. In the Church, we keep the hierarchy of the Bible by the way we do it liturgically. Where is the Gospel? On the altar table. Where [are] the epistles and the Old Testament? Out on the side. <ref>Fr. Evan Armatas, "Formation of the New Testament Canon", Ancient Faith Radio. http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/transforminglives/formation_of_the_new_testament_canon</ref>
Pope St. [[Leo the Great]] in his Sermon on the Passion described Old Testament elements as ceasing, or passing into or changing into New Testament ones, noting that ''"the True Sheep had to supersede the sheep which was its antitype"''.<ref>St. Leo the Great, On the Passion, VII. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/360358.htm</ref> The idea of [[Typology]] in the Old Testament prophesying the new one is an important concept in Orthodox theology.
===Clarifying the Church's use of "Supersession"===
Despite the New Testament's precedence, and despite certain Old Testament ritual elements ceasing or changing, the Old Testament continues to have importance
: It remains an important source of learning, as St. Paul writes: ''“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine and for instruction in righteousness”.'' (II Tim 3:16)
[[Maximus the Confessor]] sees the two Testaments as complementary, writing: ''“The Old Testament provides to the knowledgeable man the modes of virtues. The New Testament gives the practical man the words of true knowledge.”''<ref>St Maximus the Confessor, Exegesis of Zechariah 4:1–3</ref>
While the term might describe certain Orthodox views, it is uncommon among Orthodox worldwide, since an exact translation does not exist in Slavic languages. It is also rare in patristic writings.
The term may cause confusion because supersession can refer to a new thing adding onto an older thing that still remains (eg. adding a new provision onto a law), or to an older thing being destroyed in every sense (eg. a law that has been canceled).
=="Supersessionism" as an ideology==
Supersessionism makes supersession into an ideology, or "ism". This ideology is very rarely mentioned by Orthodox writers. Yet it is increasingly discussed by Protestant ones, whose definitions of it vary wildly: from the simple, fundamental belief that Christianity brought "something better" into the world<ref>Rabbi David Novak, The Covenant in Rabbinic Thought, printed in Eugene Korn, Two Faiths, One Covenant p.67</ref> to one where the Church's fulfillment of Israel's role supposedly condemns the Jews as a racial group.<ref>
One Covenant of Grace, Committee on Church Doctrine Recommendation No. 2, Presbyterian Church of Canada, 2011. http:// presbyterian. ca/ wp-content/uploads/ referrals_2011_one_covenant_of_grace_study_document_re_engagement_with_jewish_people. pdf</ref>
===Orthodox Approval of Supersessionism===
Fr. Tonias wrote that St. Gregory of Nyssa would be considered "supersessionist" because he depicted “Moses and other figures of the Jewish Bible as kinsmen, fellow members of Israel, after which the members of the New Covenant should pattern their lives.”<ref>Id.</ref> Fr. Tonias said that the New Testament contained supersessionist language (citing Acts 15:14, 1 Pet. 2:10). He added that "the more refined" discussions in the early church on the topic came from polemics, but that Orthodoxy cannot easily dismiss the views of Justin Martyr and Melito of Sardis because patristic writings are "formative" for the Church.<ref>Id.</ref>
Opposition to Supersessionism===
In the "Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity", Prof. Eugene Pentiuc of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology,
wrote that supersessionism was discernible in Biblical passages<ref>Cited are: Mat 21:33-46, Gal 3:24-5, Rom 10:4</ref>, and that it was especially pronounced in writings about Old Testament Typology. He wrote that "many early Christian writings" portray the New Testament and the Church as superseding the Old Testament and what he calls the "old Israel".<ref>Prof. Eugene Pentiuc, “Judaism, Orthodoxy and”, cited in Fr. John McGuckin The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, p. 356.</ref> The entry claims that supersessionism fueled "anti-Jewish sentiment" and devalued the Old Testament, but that ''"the church as a whole has [kept] the two Testaments in a dialectical unity, in the main avoiding... supersessionism as [a] danger."''<ref>Id. </ref>