Just like when you dive deep into water, pressure builds when you dive deep into the Bible. Perhaps the most pressing, difficult and ignored issue in the Body of Christ today is Christian antisemitism. In other words, nearly 2,000 years of historical hatred, persecution and ambivalence toward the Jewish people. It hurts the mind to wrestle with how quickly the church went from Acts 2, where almost 3,000 Jews believed in Jesus, to Romans 11 where the Apostle Paul gives a stern warning to a predominantly Gentile church in Rome to be humble towards Israel and not forget their Jewish roots!
“If the church would have paid attention to Paul’s warnings in Romans 11, history would have been very different.” - Anonymous (When The Cross Became A Sword, location 259, Kindle)
How a diver enters the water is critical, especially when diving from a great height. Like I said above, we are diving into the Bible through 2,000 years of tragic antisemitism. If we don’t enter the pages of Scripture from the correct angle, we’re going to seriously injure ourselves. If you’ve ever been diving, then you probably know one of the worst and most painful ways to enter the water is a belly flop. Regarding the reading and interpretation of Scripture, there are two big belly flops:
Deicide - believing “The Jews” killed Jesus
Replacement Theology - believing God has transferred His promises to the nation, land and people of Israel to the Church
Regarding Deicide, we need to keep in mind what Jesus said about His life in John 10:18, "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” Jesus was the One true God incarnate. Remember, as He was being arrested, before being tried and crucified, Jesus said, "Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so (Matthew 26:53-54)?” Jesus willingly went to the cross. Unfortunately, Jews in general were seen as responsible for Jesus' death and persecuted by Christians for it for nearly 2,000 years. Thankfully, after the Holocaust, the Catholic Church published Nostra Aetate in 1965 as part of the Vatican II Council:
"In this document the Church proclaimed that ‘what happened in (Jesus’) passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.' Further, the Nostra Aetate says from now on, 'the Church… decries hatred, persecution, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone (A Prayer To Our Father, pg. 170-171).'"
The Lutheran World Federation followed suit almost 20 years later in 1982 and proclaimed that Christians, "....have been impoverished by an understanding of the Bible that minimizes our Jewish roots. We find new vitality in the faith as we rediscover how Jewish the Bible is and recall that Jesus and his disciples were Jews (Ibid, 171)."
We cannot put the blame for Jesus' death on any particular individual or people group. Jesus died for the sin of the entire world, and He did it willingly:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17, ESV).
The key way to read and study the Bible, and avoid an interpretive belly flop, is to read and study it literally.
To read the Bible literally means to read the words with their usual or ordinary meaning, as fact and free from embellishment, exaggeration, metaphor or allegory. In other words, reading the Bible as being about real people, places and events. This is understandably difficult because the Bible contains embellishment, exaggeration, metaphor and allegory! However, when we read and study the Bible, we must start with a literal interpretation unless the text itself indicates otherwise. Replacement Theology is a prime example of interpreting the text non-literally. The word "Israel" appears in the Bible over 2,000 times. The word "Jerusalem" appears over 700 times. The word "Zion", referring to Jerusalem, appears over 150 times. Each time these words appears, they are referring to a real person, people, nation, place or land. Yet, Replacement Theology tends to take each of these instances, especially in the Older Testament, as allegorical (i.e., a symbolic or fictional generalization) and referring to the Christian Church.
A contextual reading of the entire Bible, with an eye on language, history and culture and starting with a literal interpretation, is the best way to dive into God’s Word.