All in the Family – Christians, Jews, and God

by Michael Forrest and David Palm

Appendix
Selected Bibliography

Since the days of Cain and Abel, a tragic pattern of fraternal conflict and strife has been repeated throughout salvation history. Unfortunately, the relationship between the children of Israel who do not accept Jesus as the Messiah (rabbinic Jews) and those children of Israel who do accept Him (Christians) has been no exception to the familial rule. In the early years, when those who did not accept Jesus were in the relative position of power,
they sometimes severely persecuted the Christians (cf. Acts 8:1–3, Acts 12). According to Fr. Edward Flannery, “Jewish hostility in the early period was…strong, if sporadic.” [1] From the Holy See’s 1998 document, We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, we also read:

At the dawn of Christianity . . . there arose disputes between the early Church and the Jewish leaders and people who . . . on occasion violently opposed the preachers of the Gospel and the first Christians.

As the balance of power changed in favor of the Christians, they sometimes severely persecuted the rabbinic Jews. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has described an “often violent anti-Judaism on the part of Christians, together with . . . centuries of persecution, exile and recurring pogroms.” [2] Jews were sometimes coerced to convert to the Catholic faith in past centuries, although the popes repeatedly rejected this practice.

Evidence of these intense conflicts can be found in some of the extremely combative and even offensive rhetoric occasionally employed in the writings of a few of the early Church Fathers, an early Jewish prayer of “malediction” against Jewish Christians, and certain segments in the Jewish Talmud.

At Vatican II, the Council fathers exhorted the faithful to pursue fraternal dialogue and collaboration in order to overcome centuries of such mutual ignorance and confrontation.[3] Thankfully, the resultant dialogue and collaboration has led to many positive developments, such as a significantly improved rapport among Catholics and Jews. At the same time, certain difficulties have developed. One such area of difficulty involves our understanding of the relationship among Christians, Jews, and God.

Two opposing views of this relationship have arisen in certain quarters within the Church. The first, commonly known as the dual covenant theory, holds not only that the Jewish people retain a special relationship with God (which is true), but also that they have their own path to salvation through Judaism and therefore do not need to be—and should not be—presented with the Gospel and invited to expressly enter the Church (which is false).[4] The second view, extreme supersessionism, posits not only that the New Covenant in Christ superseded the Mosaic covenant (which is true), but also that God is essentially finished with the Jews as a people (which is false).

In recent years, two events in particular have intensified the debate between these camps. The first was the 2002 release of a document by a sub-committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which included a problematic statement that “the Church believes Judaism . . . is salvific for [the Jews].”[5] More recently (and from the opposite pole), Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X made ignorant and offensive statements about the Jewish people and the Shoah (Holocaust). The Holy Father unequivocally repudiated these statements as “intolerable and altogether unacceptable.”[6]

Of these two theological errors, the dual covenant theory is more serious doctrinally because it fundamentally compromises the Church’s Great Commission, given by Christ (cf. Mt. 28:18–20). Additionally, the public advocacy of this theory has created an unwarranted expectation among our Jewish brethren that in turn leads to their understandable frustration each time the Church reaffirms that the Gospel and the Church are for all men. However, it is particularly troubling that extreme supersessionism is frequently accompanied by hostile and un-Christian rhetoric that fosters an attitude of contempt for the Jewish people—an attitude that the Church has entirely rejected (see Nostra Aetate, no. 4, and We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, §IV and V).

The Gospel: Just for the Gentiles?

The dual covenant theory seems to have primarily developed in reaction to the Shoah and from a misconstrual of the esteem the Church has expressed for Judaism since Vatican II. Advocates of this theory contend that “dialogue, not conversion, should be the Catholic goal in relations with Jews.”[7] As evidence for this view, passages from Vatican II documents that acknowledge the elements of truth and goodness found in other religions (such as Nostra Aetate, no. 2; Ad Gentes, no. 18; and Lumen Gentium, no. 16) as well as passages from various documents that recommend respectful interreligious dialogue (such asDialogue and Proclamation[8] and The Attitude of the Church Towards the Followers of Other Religions[9]) are commonly cited. It is also typical to find prominent mention of a frequently misunderstood statement about the Old Covenant that John Paul II made to Jewish leaders privately in Mainz, Germany, in 1980. However, neither these nor any other authoritative Church document has ever taught that the Jewish people already possess their own salvific covenant with God and therefore should not be presented with the Gospel and invited to expressly enter the Church.

The Scriptures, the Fathers, and the Magisterium consistently testify that the Good News of Jesus Christ and His Church is for all men—Jew and Gentile alike.

For instance, speaking to Jews, Jesus said, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5) and “Go . . . and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19).

St. Paul, himself a Jew, wrote, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). At the synagogue in Pisidia, St. Paul preached the Gospel boldly: “Let it be known to you therefore, brethren, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him every one that believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38–39).

St. Justin Martyr states in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, “We do not trust through Moses or through the law” because there is “a final law, and a covenant, the chiefest of all, which it is now incumbent on all men to observe,” and “law placed against law has abrogated that which is before it, and a covenant which comes after in like manner has put an end to the previous one.”[10]

Since Vatican II, in continuity with magisterial teaching such as the Council of Florence (1439) and Mystici Corporis (1943), the Church has consistently reaffirmed the universality of the Gospel and the Church.[11] In Lumen Gentium (1964), the Church affirmed that God “chose the race of Israel as a people” and “set up a covenant” with them, instructing them and making them holy. However, “all these things . . .were done by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect covenant” instituted by and ratified in Christ (no. 9). In Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism (1985), we read that the “Church and Judaism cannot then be seen as two parallel ways of salvation and the Church must witness to Christ as the Redeemer of all.”[12]

Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio (1990), reminds us that “dialogue does not dispense from evangelization” and that the possibility of salvation for “followers of other religions . . . by Christ, apart from the ordinary means he has established does not thereby cancel the call to faith and baptism which God wills for all people . . . the Church is the ordinary means of salvation . . . she alone possesses the fullness of the means of salvation” (no. 55).

And in Dominus Iesus (2000), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states, “There is only one salvific economy” (no. 12), and “God has willed that the Church founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity. . . . The certainty of the universal salvific will of God does not diminish, but rather increases the duty and urgency of the proclamation of salvation and of conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ” (no. 22).

Additional powerful evidence that the Gospel is for Jews and Gentiles alike comes in a much more personal form—the witness of Jews who have wholeheartedly embraced their Messiah and His Church through the millennia. These include Our Lady, the Apostles, Alphonse Ratisbonne, St. Edith Stein, the Lehman brothers (who became priests), Rabbi Eugenio Zolli (former head rabbi of Rome), and most recently, all of our Jewish brethren who belong to the Association of Hebrew Catholics.[13]

These Jewish men and women would no doubt strongly object to the notion that anyone has no need of the Messiah or the gifts He so graciously bestowed upon the Church for our salvation—the sacraments. As Roy Schoeman, a well-known speaker, author, and convert from rabbinic Judaism, wrote:

[To refuse to share the Gospel with Jews] deprives them of the opportunity of knowing the fullness of the truth of revelation; it deprives them of the incomparable joy and consolation of the intimacy with God achieved only though the sacraments; it deprives them of the eternal salvific benefits which flow from the Church and the sacraments. And most ironically, it deprives them of the true honor and glory of their own religion, of their own identity—of being part of the people and the religion which brought about the salvation of all mankind, the people through whom God became man, the
people related to God in the flesh. (“Letters to the Editor,” Inside the Vatican, June-July, 2003)

God has given man one sure path to salvation, and that path is through the definitive and universal covenant in Jesus Christ by means of His Church. It is a serious error to direct anyone away from that sure path, regardless of the intention.

Israel—Irrelevant?

Jesus Christ defeated death and opened the gates of heaven for man, and He created the Church as His universal sacrament of salvation (see Catechism, nos. 637, 776, and 1019). The New Covenant in Christ has superseded the Mosaic (or “Old”) covenant. The term “supersession,” which was first used by an Anglican minister, has subsequently been used by some Catholics to describe this truth.[14] It appears in no magisterial texts; yet, as originally used, it does accurately describe Catholic teaching. However, over time, variations of this doctrine have appeared, including an extreme version that has made its way into certain Catholic circles.

Extreme supersessionism goes well beyond the teaching of the Church by positing that the Jews, as Jews, no longer possess any special relationship with God; they play no further special role in God’s design for man’s salvation; and the Church has entirely replaced the role of the Jewish people in every way in regard to the Scriptural promises and eschatology related to Israel. Generally, the same citations from Scripture, the Fathers, and the Magisterium noted above are used to support extreme supersesssionism. However, as with the dual covenant theory, the import of select quotes and terms is exaggerated, while the import of quotes and terms that contradict the theory is ignored or minimized.

For example, extreme supersessionism emphasizes scriptural and magisterial terms that convey discontinuity between the Mosaic covenant and the New Covenant (like “revoked” and “abolished”) to the virtual exclusion of scriptural and magisterial terms that convey continuity between the covenants (like “fulfilled”). In so doing, extreme supersessionism effectively adopts a false “either/or” approach, rather than a “both/and” approach that preserves the theological tension regarding Christ’s relationship to and impact on the Mosaic covenant.[15] Avery Cardinal Dulles has commented on this tension:

All these texts [that refer to the abolishment of the Old Covenant], which the Church accepts as teachings of canonical scripture, have to be reconciled with others, which seem to point in a different direction. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, teaches that he has come not to abolish the Law and the prophets but to fulfill them, even though he is here embarking on a series of antitheses, in which he both supplements and corrects certain provisions in the law of Moses. In a passage of great importance, Paul asserts in Romans that the Jews have only stumbled. They are branches broken off from the good olive tree, but are capable of being grafted on again, since they are still beloved by God for the sake of their forefathers, whose gifts and call are irrevocable.[16]

While the manner in which to resolve this theological tension is currently an area of legitimate investigation and inquiry, the Holy Father seems to have personally resolved it by distinguishing between the enduring, underlying substance of the Mosaic covenant and its external, provisional form. The specific, external form of the Mosaic covenant—such as the legal prescriptions and the temple sacrifice of animals—was indeed abolished with the
commencement of the New Covenant. But the underlying substance—from the moral precepts to the foundational principles of sacrifice and worship—is fulfilled and transformed by Christ. In and through Christ, the Mosaic covenant is thus actualized and subsumed into the New Covenant.

While Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Benedict XVI wrote:

In this Torah, which is Jesus himself, the abiding essence of what was inscribed on the stone tablets at Sinai is now written in living flesh, namely, the twofold commandment of love. . . . To imitate him, to follow him in discipleship, is therefore to keep Torah, which has been fulfilled in him once and for all. Thus the Sinai covenant is indeed superseded. But once what was provisional in it has been swept away, we see what is truly definitive in it.[17]

In regard to the relational bond between the Jewish people and God, the magisterium has made clear that the Church became spiritual “Israel” with the commencement of the New Covenant in Christ.[18] But, contrary to extreme supersessionist theology, this does not therefore mean that God is finished with “Israel according to the flesh”—the Jewish people.[19] Indeed, while it is undeniable that a Jew who embraces the New Covenant is most fully united with God, it is also undeniable that His love and concern for the Jews, as Jews, perdures in the New Covenant—it was not extinguished. As St. Paul and the Church have unequivocally affirmed, the Jewish people remain dearly loved by God, “for the sake of the fathers [of Israel]. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (cf. Rom. 11:28; Nostra Aetate, no. 4). In this powerful affirmation of God’s irrevocable love and concern for the Jewish people, St. Paul is specifically referring to Jews who have not accepted Christ or His Church.[20]

This abiding love for and special relationship with God’s earthly first-born, the Jewish people (cf. Ex. 4:22), is evidenced in several ways.

First, God continues to call forth the “first-fruits” or a “remnant” of the Jewish people to explicit faith in Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 11:5). St. Paul cites his own conversion and the conversion of some of his contemporaries as proof that “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew” (Rom. 11:2). And, indeed, there have been Jewish entrants into the Church through Baptism ever since.

Second, according to Scripture and Tradition, in the “last days” the “first-fruits” or “remnant” mentioned above is expected to blossom forth into what is commonly referred to in the Church as “the conversion of the Jews.” This expectation is supported by multiple passages of Scripture,[21] no less than twenty-one of the most prominent patristic witnesses, an extensive line-up of medieval witnesses, four Popes, and at least fourteen Doctors of the Church.[22] Additional attestation may be found in the Catechism (no. 674), the 1909 and 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, and a multitude of renowned modern Catholic scholars ranging from Lapide to Lagrange.[23] While there are relatively minor variations amongst these witnesses, there is no disagreement that in the last days there will be an unusual and significant conversion of the Jewish people to Christ and that this conversion will be a sign of His Second Coming.[24]

Third, implied in the above-named prophecy is an assurance that God will not allow the Jewish people to perish from the face of the earth—He will preserve their existence. If they do not exist, they cannot convert. No other ethnic group has such an assurance.

Fourth, and perhaps as a practical evidence of the previous point, is the current existence of the Jewish people in the face of such prolonged and extreme adversity, an adversity that culminated with the horror of the Shoah. As then-Cardinal Ratzinger noted:

The way that this tiny people, who no longer have any country, no longer any independent existence, but lead their life scattered throughout the world, yet despite this keep their own religion, keep their own identity; they are still Israel. . . even during the two thousand years when they had no country. . . There is something more than historical chance at work. . . . Israel remains—and shows us something of the steadfastness of God.[25]

Fifth, the second Person of the Holy Trinity—our Savior—will forever be a Jew. He was born of a Jewish woman whom we exalt as the Queen of Heaven. And the Church herself is built on twelve Jewish men—the Apostles—who will sit in judgment with Christ. The Gentiles, cut from the “wild olive tree,” have been grafted on to “the holy stock of the Hebrews”—the cultivated olive tree, Israel.[26] “Spiritually, [Christians] are all Semites.” [27] As Catholics, we receive the glorified Body and Blood of the Jewish God-man at every Mass. These profound realities create a bond between the Jewish people, God, and the Church that, while not salvific by itself, is nonetheless special and enduring. They are not merely “in the past,” as extreme supersessionism would have it.

Sixth, unlike other non-Christian religions, rabbinic Judaism “is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant” (Catechism, no. 839). To the extent that rabbinic Judaism adheres to the enduring principles and teachings that have been subsumed into the new and eternal covenant in Christ (for example, principles of morality), that “response” is faithful and true. Conversely, to the extent that rabbinic Judaism is at odds with those enduring principles and teachings (for example, the identity of the promised Messiah), that “response” is not faithful and true.[28]

Two other issues common to extreme supersessionism deserve mention. First, proponents of extreme supersessionism often evidence a significant double standard by judging Jews much more harshly for not expressly entering the Church than they do our Protestant brethren. Historically speaking, the Protestants of today are far closer in time to the fathers of their schism than are the Jews to theirs.[29] Therefore, there is certainly at least equal excuse for today’s Jews for not expressly entering the Catholic Church as there is for Protestants. And while the rigorist who is focused on followers of Judaism may argue that at least Protestants “accept Christ,” one may counter that rejection of the Church is also rejection of Christ (Lk. 10:16). As such, perhaps both of these religious communities ought to be given the benefit of the doubt as a whole, charitably assuming basic good will on their part rather than a fully-informed, bad will.

Additionally, proponents of extreme supersessionism often demand that Jews enter the Church, only to then treat them with suspicion and hostility once they do so. As one traditionalist Catholic commentator expressed it, unfortunately, some of our Catholic brethren “seem less interested in attracting Jews to the Church than in shaking their fists at them.”[30] Perhaps this unwelcoming posture suggests that the story of the Prodigal Son is being replayed with the sons in reversed roles (cf. Lk. 15:11–32).

For Our Salvation

While the Church continues to grapple with certain nuances in the relationship among Jews, Christians, and God, she has never taught the dual covenant theory or extreme supersessionism.

Catholics may confidently embrace several complementary truths about the Jewish people. Jews share a common spiritual patrimony and relationship with us that is entirely unique (cf. Nostra Aetate, no. 4). Unlike other non-Christians, their faith “is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant” (Catechism, no. 839).[31] They also retain an irrevocable and special relationship with God because of their forefathers, a relationship which continues to be evidenced in several important ways. Yet, this relationship is not salvific by itself; it finds its ultimate fulfillment in and through Jesus Christ and His Church. Thus, the Gospel and the Church are for all men—Jew and Gentile alike.

In order to avoid becoming a stumbling block, we must share the Gospel with humility, respect, patience, wisdom, and understanding.[32] As our first Pope wrote, “In your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1
Pet. 3:15). The exercise of these virtues is particularly vital when sharing the Gospel with our Jewish brethren. May the Lord grant us each the grace to effectively use our particular gifts for the benefit of every soul He desires—whether Jewish or Gentile. And may that joyous day soon arrive when the Jewish people are most fully grafted back into their own olive tree alongside their Gentile brethren.

Endnotes

[1] Fr. Edward Flannery, The Anguish of the Jews (Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1985), pp. 31–32, 49–52, 104–106.

[2] Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, “Judaism’s Way to Salvation,” The Tablet, March 29, 2008.

[3] Cf. Nostra Aetate, no. 4, and Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing the Conciliar Declaration “Nostra Aetate” (n. 4).

[4] Advocates of the dual covenant theory do not necessarily deny that all salvation comes through Jesus Christ. For instance, some contend, “If Jews are in
covenant with the God whom Christians understand to be Triune, then they are in relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit, and are related to the saving power of Jesus Christ, even if that is not how Jews experience the relationship” (John T. Pawlikowski, Philip Cunningham, and Mary C. Boys, “Theology’s ‘Sacred Obligation’: A Reply to Cardinal Dulles,” America, October 14, 2002. Available online at http://www.bc.edu/research/cjl/meta-elements/texts/cjrelations/resources/articles/BoysCunnPaw.htm). However, such individuals still contend that Jews do not need to be (and should not be) presented with the Gospel and invited to enter Christ’s Church because they are already saved within Judaism.

[5] Reflections on Covenant and Mission (Consultation of the National Council of Synagogues and The Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, August 12, 2002. Available online at http://www.bc.edu/research/cjl/meta-elements/texts/cjrelations/resources/documents/interreligious/ncs_usccb120802.htm). This document was never approved by the bishops of the United States and has been removed from the USCCB website.

Subsequent to the submission of the present article for publication in Lay Witness, the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine and Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs issued A Note on Ambiguities Contained in Reflections on Covenant and Mission (June 18, 2009. Available online at http://www.usccb.org/bishops/covenant09.pdf). In this note, the bishops stated unequivocally that Reflections on Covenant and Mission “is not an official statement of the [USCCB],” that some theologians have mistakenly “treated the document as authoritative,” and that this has “proven problematic because the section representing Catholic thought contains some statements that are insufficiently precise and potentially misleading.” The note also affirms that “[RCM] should not be taken as an authoritative presentation of the teaching of the Catholic Church” and that it could “lead some to conclude mistakenly that Jews have an obligation not to become Christian and that the Church has a corresponding obligation not to baptize Jews.” The document concludes, “The fulfillment of the covenants, indeed, of all God’s promises to Israel, is found only in Jesus Christ. By God’s grace, the right to hear this Good News belongs to every generation. Fulfilling the mandate given her by the Lord, the Church, respecting human freedom, proclaims the truths of the Gospel in love.”

[6] Cindy Wooden, “Pope Says Holocaust Denial is ‘Intolerable . . . Unacceptable,’” Catholic News Service, February 12, 2009, http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0900668.htm.

[7] John T. Pawlikowski, Philip Cunningham, and Mary C. Boys, “Theology’s ‘Sacred Obligation’: A Reply to Cardinal Dulles.”

[8] Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, “Dialogue and Proclamation: Reflection and Orientations on Interreligious Dialogue and the Proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” May 19, 1991. Available online at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia//pontifical_councils/interelg/documents/rc_pc_interelg_doc_19051991_dialogue-and-proclamatio_en.html.

[9] Secretariat for Non-Christians, “The Attitude of the Church towards the Followers of Other Religions: Reflections and Orientations on Dialogue and Mission,” May 10, 1984. Available online at www.melbourne.catholic.org.au/eic/pdf/art-Interfaith-attitudenonchristian.pdf.

[10] St. Justin Martyr, chapter 11, Dialogue with Trypho, trans. Marcus Dods and George Reith, from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885. Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/01282.htm.

[11] See Appendix for selected quotations.

[12] Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church. Available online at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/relations-jews-docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_19820306_jews-judaism_en.html.

[13] Rabbi Zolli took the name “Eugenio” in honor of Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII, because of the Holy Father’s efforts on behalf of the Jewish people during World War II. See also Honey from the Rock by Roy Schoeman, which relates the stories of 16 Jews who “find the sweetness of Christ.”

[14] In 1870, A. S. Thelwall of the Church of England used the term “supersession” to describe Tertullian’s views on the Old Covenant as expressed in his treatise An Answer to the Jews (available online at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0308.htm.)

[15] This over-emphasis on discontinuity stands in contrast to the guidelines promulgated by the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews: “When commenting on biblical texts, emphasis will be laid on the continuity of our faith with that of the earlier Covenant . . . without minimizing those elements of Christianity which are original. We believe that those promises were fulfilled with the first coming of Christ. But it is nonetheless true that we still await their perfect fulfillment in his glorious return at the end of time” ( Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing the Conciliar Declaration “Nostra Aetate” (n. 4)).

[16] Avery Cardinal Dulles, “The Covenant with Israel,” First Things, November 2005, http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=256.

[17] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, the Church, and the World, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1999), pp. 70–71.

Avery Cardinal Dulles also echoed this view in “The Covenant with Israel”: “We may say that the Old Covenant is in a sense abolished while being at the same time fulfilled. The law of Christ gives a definitive interpretation to the Torah of Moses. Yet the ancient rites retain their value as signs of what was to come. The priesthood, the temple, and the sacrifices are not extinct; they survive in a super-eminent way in Christ and the Church.”

This view may also be found in the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s document The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, the preface of which was written by then-Cardinal Ratzinger: “Paul mentions more than once the covenant-law of Sinai, he contrasts it with the covenant-promise of Abraham. The covenant-law is later and provisional (Ga 3:19–25). The covenant-promise is prior and definitive (Ga 3:16–18).
From the beginning it has a universal openness. It finds its fulfillment in Christ.” (no. 41, emphasis added. Available online at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/pcb_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20020212_popolo-ebraico_en.html).

[18] Lumen Gentium, no. 9; Nostra Aetate, no. 4; Ad Gentes, no. 5; Redemptoris Mater, no. 25; Mulieris Dignitatem, no. 20.

[19] Rom. 9:3–5; 1 Cor. 10:18. Additionally:

“But this does not mean that there is nothing more to be said about . . . ‘Israel according to the flesh’” (Many Religions, One Covenant, p. 69).

“Hand in hand with this belief goes the other, that Israel still has a mission to accomplish today” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2002), p. 149).

“We also know that while history still runs its course even this standing at the door fulfills a mission, one that is important for the world. In that way [the Jewish] people still has a special place in God’s plans” (Ibid., p. 150).

“If such a dialogue is to be fruitful, it must begin with a prayer to our God, first of all that he might grant to us Christians a greater esteem and love for that people, the people of Israel, to whom belong ‘the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs are the patriarchs, and from them comes Christ according to the flesh, he who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen’ (Romans 9:4–5), and this not only in the past, but still today, ‘for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable’ (Romans 11:29)” (Cardinal Ratzinger, “The Heritage of Abraham,” L’Osservatore Romano, December 29, 2000).

Question: “God has not, then, retracted his word that Israel is the Chosen People?” Cardinal Ratzinger: “No, because he is faithful” ( God and the World, p. 150).

“They are still Israel, the way the Jews are still Jews and are still a people, even during the two thousand years when they had no country” (Ibid., p. 148).

“It is in God’s hands, of course, just in what way, when and how the reuniting of Jews and Gentiles, the reunification of God’s people, will be achieved” (Ibid, p. 150, emphasis added).

“This means that all nations, without the abolishment of the special mission of Israel, become brothers and receivers of the promises of the Chosen People; they become People of God with Israel through adherence to the will of God and through acceptance of the Davidic kingdom” ( Many Religions, One Covenant, p. 28, emphasis added).

[20] God has an irrevocable love and concern for Israel according to the flesh because of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not because of Israel’s righteousness. Therefore, that bond is not broken even by their failure to expressly accept the Messiah and His Church. Evidence of this dynamic may also be found in Deuteronomy 9:4–6: “Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land’; whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land; but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Know therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people.”

[21] Rom. 11:12, 15, and 25; Lk. 13:35/Mt. 23:39; Lk. 21:24; Hos. 3:5; Deut. 4:30; Is. 59:20; Mic. 2:12; Mal. 4:5–6.

[22] Jacob Michael, Never Revoked by God: The Place of Israel in the Future of the Church (Lulu, 2006,http://books.lulu.com/content/448192); http://www.sungenisandthejews.com/Addenda_and_Bio.html; and http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/theology-of-prejudice.html.

[23] See also The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible:

“[St. Paul] emphasises that ‘God has not cast off his people’ (Rm 11:2). Since ‘the root is holy’ (11:16), Paul is convinced that at the end, God, in his inscrutable wisdom, will graft all Israel back onto their own olive tree (11:24); ‘all Israel will be saved’ (11:26)” (no. 36)

“God does not abandon [Israel]. His plan is to show them mercy. ‘The hardening’ which affects ‘a part of’ Israel is only provisional and has its usefulness for the time being (11:25); it will be followed by salvation (11:26). Paul sums up the
situation in an antithetical phrase, followed by a positive affirmation:

‘As regards the Gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors; for the gifts
and the calling of God are irrevocable’ (11:28–29).

Paul views the situation realistically. Between Christ’s disciples and the Jews who do not believe in him, the relation is one of opposition. These Jews call the Christian faith into question; they do not accept that Jesus is their Messiah (Christ) and the Son of God. Christians cannot but contest the position of these Jews. But at a level deeper than opposition there exists from now on a loving relationship that is definitive; the other is only temporary.” (no. 81)

[24] Dual covenant proponents generally seem to acknowledge this eschatological expectation; however, they erroneously interpret it as a reason to deny that the
Church’s Great Commission currently extends to Jews. To them, Jewish entrance into the Church is solely a matter of the “last days.” The USCCB’s recent document A Note on Ambiguities Contained in Reflections on Covenant and Mission specifically addresses this error, stating that “Jesus Christ as the incarnate Son of God fulfills both in history and at the end of time the special relationship that God established with Israel” (no. 5). Bishop Lori, chairman of one of the committees that promulgated the Note, further amplified this point by stating that the Church does not “fail to witness to [the Jewish people] her faith in Christ, nor to welcome them to share in that same faith whenever appropriate,” and “we see [the New Covenant in Christ] as fulfilling God’s plan for the salvation of all peoples, bothnow and at the end of time” (emphasis added, http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2009/09-141.shtml ). Thus, the entrance of Jews into the New Covenant in Christ is both a current matter of interest to the Church and an eschatological one.

[25] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, God and the World, p. 148.

[26] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Many Religions, One Covenant, p. 32. St. Augustine to Faustus the Manichean, Bk 9 2,Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers (NPNF) Vol. IV, p. 176. St. Augustine, Sermons, XXVII, 12 in NPNF, Volume VI, p. 345. Romans 11:17–24. See also The Root of Romans 11.

Also, in The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, the Pontifical Biblical Commission stated, “The New Testament never says that Israel has been rejected. From the earliest times, the church considered the Jews to be important witnesses to the divine economy of salvation.

She understands her own existence as a participation in the election of Israel and in a vocation that belongs, in the first place, to Israel, despite the fact that only a small number of Israelites accepted it
” and “In the Letter to the Romans, Paul makes clear that for Christians who have come from paganism, what is involved is a participation in Israel’s
election, God’s special people. The Gentiles are ‘the wild olive shoot,’ ‘grafted to the real olive’ to ‘share the riches of the root’ (Rm 11:17, 24). They have no need to boast to the prejudice of the branches. ‘It is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you’” (emphasis added).

[27] Pope Pius XI speaking to a group of German pilgrims on September 20, 1938, quoted in Robert Martin, Spiritual Semites: Catholics and Jews during World War II (New York, NY: Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, 1983), p. 18.

[28] Dei Verbum, nos. 15–16: “[The books of the Old Testament], though they also contain some things which are incomplete and temporary, nevertheless show us
true divine pedagogy. . . . God, the inspirer and author of both Testaments, wisely arranged that the New Testament be hidden in the Old and the Old be made manifest in the New. For, though Christ established the new covenant in His blood (see Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25), still the books of the Old Testament with all their parts, caught up into the proclamation of the Gospel, acquire and show forth their full meaning in the New Testament” (emphasis added).

And Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing the Conciliar Declaration “Nostra Aetate” (n. 4): “An effort will be made to acquire a better understanding of whatever in the Old Testament retains its own perpetual value (cf. Dei Verbum, 14–15)” (emphasis added).

[29] “Schism” is used here in the broad sense.

[30] Christopher Ferrara, “Cardinal Kasper and the Good Friday Prayer,” Remnantnewspaper.com, March 5, 2008.

[31] It should perhaps also be noted that modern, rabbinic Judaism differs from the Judaism of Christ’s day in some significant ways. For instance, the Jewish Temple was destroyed in AD 70, and the Old Testament sacrifices commanded by God subsequently ceased. Judaism has also added writings to the Old Testament scriptures that they consider to be holy—the Talmud. However, unlike the Old Testament, the Church does not recognize the Talmud as being either inspired or inerrant. Additionally, today there are several different sects of Judaism, for instance: Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Humanist, and Reform. Between and even within these sects, beliefs and practice vary significantly. (See http://www.jewfaq.org/movement.htm and

http://judaism.about.com/od/denominationsofjudaism/p/branches.htm
.)

[32] Cf. Dignitatis Humanae, no. 2: “This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.”

Michael Forrest is a Catholic speaker, apologist, and catechist. His articles have appeared in several Catholic periodicals. He and his wife, Paula, have four children.

David Palm, a convert to Catholicism, is a husband and father of four. He holds an M.A. in New Testament Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and works professionally as an electrical engineer.