In all our recent discussions of supercessionism in connection with Carter’s book, a thought occurred to me: in none of the “classical” theories of the atonement (i.e., on the nature and meaning of Christ’s saving work) does it actually matter that he’s Jewish. In Irenaeus, Gregory of Nyssa, Anselm, and Abelard alike, everything would’ve gone fine if he’d belonged to any nation or none. The Christ-event is not connected to the covenant with Israel, but skips straight back to the “universal” problem of Adam’s sin or bondage.
At most, there is an extrinsic or superficial connection between Christ and the Jews, i.e., he had to be a Jew because it was predicted in so many ways — so that Christ’s Jewish identity becomes a kind of empty tautology (he’s a Jew because it was predicted that he would be!) and Jewish identity as such doesn’t “matter” aside from its connection to Christ (they predicted Christ so that he would be predicted!). This structure isn’t integrated into the logic of any of these thinkers’ accounts of why Christ had to become human, so that the reference to the Jewish people feels like a historical relic that can easily be set aside to get to the main point.
(And since I was developing my own “sketch” of a contemporary atonement theory in Politics of Redemption from out of this trajectory, I am largely guilty of the same thing.)
I think that this might open up a promising area of research for a theological account of race, insofar as it is in atonement theory that you really start to see the notion of humanity as a race — whether in the ransom or penal-substitutionary theories, the logic of the argument depends on all human beings being biologically related (whether to pass on the “legal status” of enslavement to Satan or to pass on the “defective gene” of original sin). In fact, one early version of my dissertation proposal was focused specifically on connecting this notion of the “human race” with the concept of “species-being.” And one could also note that as the West became more and more exclusively focused on original sin as a failing of the body, they also began to associate the “curse” of the Jews with physical defects (such as inadequate blood that requires them to occasionally drink a Christian baby’s blood, etc.) — so that the Jews do provide the paradigmatic example of “the other race,” and this conception developed directly out of a set of theological concepts taken to a certain extreme.