Soft and Hard Supersessionism
Supersessionism takes many forms. If the term is used exclusively to refer to a variety of replacement theologies (as in, the New Covenant renders the Old null and void; the Quran is the one inspired divine word such that the Old and New Testaments are deprived of authority; the teachings of Bahaullah supersede all others; etc.), the tip of an iceberg only is described.
The larger reality is that replacement and displacement are universally deployed strategies of religious and doctrinal development. Christianity “baptizes” and supplants pagan practices in the celebration of Christmas. Judaism endows originally non-religious activities with a religious meaning in the celebration of Purim. New tradition inevitably displaces old tradition even if the old is retained. A vital religious tradition will, by definition, replace competing tradition in its environment with an alternative of its making (Hanukkah thus becomes an alternative to Christmas), and displace tradition within its own matrix by retaining and transcending said matrix in a larger unity (e.g. Mishneh Torah and Shulchan Arukh over against precedent tradition).
Avowedly tradition-less traditions (an oxymoron, I know) replace and displace as well, but lack a vocabulary to describe what they do. Avowedly tradition-bound traditions continuously abrogate precedent tradition, but the emic vocabulary used to describe the dynamic conceals rather than reveals the extent of what takes place.
Examples of soft supersessionism include: the New Testament, which, correctly understood, retains and transcends the Old; the Mishnah and the Talmuds, which retain and transcend, in halachic and aggadic terms, the contents of the Tanakh.
Jewish and Christian scholars now agree that the historical sense of the contents of the Tanakh/Old Testament (in whatever iteration) is of exegetical interest apart from the resignified sense of same reflected in subsequent Jewish and Christian tradition. Of course, not all Jewish and Christian scholars subscribe to this consensus.
Inklings of a positive valuation of the historical sense of the writings which came to be included in the Tanakh/Old Testament apart from and even against or in tension with subsequent resignification thereof are detectable throughout the history of Jewish and Christian interpretation. Respect for and an interest in the historical sense of the text and the history of the text’s appropriation in subsequent tradition is modeled by two commentaries:
Childs, Brevard S. Exodus. A Critical Theological Commentary. OTL. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1974.
Tigay, Jeffrey H. Deuteronomy. The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation [and] Commentary. JPSTC. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996.
I argued in the body of this essay that it is possible for Christians to adopt a position like that of James as reported in the New Testament whereby the preaching of Moses and the preaching of the gospel, independently of each other, are understood to have a permanent place in the divine economy.
I also argued that Judaism on the one hand and Christianity on the other are supersessive in the soft sense with respect to the inherited literature that now forms the Tanakh/Old Testament (in whatever iteration). That is, they transcend and retain (not supplant, not consider null and void) the historical sense of said Tanakh/Old Testament. A description of the historical sense of said literature is the core vocation of the discipline of Tanakh/OT studies in our day.
The bibliography related to the subject at hand is immense. The following list features titles which describe competing Jewish and Christian self- and “other”- understandings in antiquity. Crisscrossing particularisms and universalisms characterize Judaism and Christianity from inception. Both God and the devil, of course, are in the details.
Becker, Adam H. and Reed, Annette Yoshiko, eds. The Ways that Never Parted. Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. TSAJ 95. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003.
Boyarin, Daniel. Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity. Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.
Cohen, Shaye J.D. The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.
Chilton, Bruce, and Neusner, Jacob. Judaism in the New Testament: Practices and Beliefs. London: Routledge, 1995.
Donaldson, Terence. Judaism and the Gentiles: Patterns of Universalism to 135 CE. Forthcoming.
Donfried, Karl P., and Richardson, Peter, eds. Judaism and Christianity in First-century Rome. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.
Dunn, James D. G. The Partings of the Ways: Between Christianity and Judaism and Their Significance for the Character of Christianity. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1991.
Dunning, Benjamin. “Strangers and Aliens No Longer: Negotiating Identity and Difference in Ephesians 2,” HTR 99 (2006) 1-16.
Feldman, Louis. Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.
Kloppenborg, John S., and Marshall, John W, eds. Apocalypticism, Anti-semitism and The Historical Jesus: Subtexts In Criticism. JSNTSup 275. JSHJ 1. London: T. & T. Clark. 2005.
Knowles, Melody, Esther Menn, John Palikowski, and Timothy J. Sandoval, eds. Contesting Texts: Jews and Christians in Conversation about the Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.
Kugel, James L. The Bible As It Was. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997.
Neusner, Jacob, Frerichs, Ernest S, and McCracken-Flesher, Caroline, eds. “To See Ourselves as Others See Us.” Christians, Jews, “Others” in Late Antiquity. Scholars Press Studies in the Humanities. Chico: Scholars Press, 1985.
Nickelsburg, George W. E. Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins: Diversity, Continuity, and Transformation. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2003.
Richardson, Peter, and Granskou, David, eds. Anti-Judaism in Early Christianity. Volume 1. Paul and the Gospels. Studies in Christianity and Judaism / Études sur le christianisme et le judaïsme 2. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1986.
Schwartz, Seth. Imperialism and Jewish Society: 240 B.C.E. to 640 C.E. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.
Segal, Allan F. Rebecca’s Children: Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World. Cambridge: Harvard: University Press, 1986.
Stanton, Graham N., and Strousma, Guy G., eds. Tolerance and Intolerance in Early Judaism and Christianity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Gabriele Fassbeck provides an excellent and more broadly representative bibliography.