Judaism and Christianity
Part I Introduction
This paper is a collection of materials from authoritative sources to help us build a comprehensive view of the wonderful relationship between Judaism and Christianity.
In Part II we have taken a little under two pages from one of the most valuable books dealing with our topic which we can recommend to our readers. It is:
The Mystery of Israel and the Church
Volume I Figure and Fulfillment
Chapter 10, pages 162 — 164
By Lawrence Feingold. The Miriam Press, St. Lewis, 2010.
We strongly recommend all of the three books in this series (together with the fourth in preparation). The following material by Dr. Feingold is set out slightly differently from the book, only to assist our readers in this particular context. (None of the text is changed in any way.)
Part II A Brief Biblical Overview
(Dr. Lawrence Feingold)
God’s Plan For Salvation
God’s plan for the salvation of the human race, from all eternity, centred on the Incarnation and Passion of God the Son, the Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. The Jewish people was chosen precisely for the inestimable privilege of being the people in whom the Messiah — the Word Incarnate — would come into the world, into human history and society; He would be born of a Jewish mother and raised under the Law of Moses. As St. Paul says in Galatians 4: 4: “When the fullness of time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
The coming of the Messiah was the blessing promised to Abraham in his descendants: “In your seed shall all the nations of the earthy be blessed” (Genesis 22: 18). The Jewish people was called in Abraham and progressively formed through numerous wondrous interventions of God to be the people in whom God would become man, so as to redeem mankind.
God’s assigned Role to the Jewish People
The role of the Jewish people was manifold:
1. First, as we have said they were to prepare for the coming
of the Messiah, so that His coming would be long awaited,
ardently desired, and constantly prayed for.
2. They were called also to be witness to God’s entire plan
of salvation, announcing the coming of the Messiah, and giving
solemn witness to the signs of His coming.
3. They were called to live out in their own history
the glorious figures of Christ’s work of salvation, as we saw with
regard Biblical typology.
4. Finally, they were called to receive the Law of Moses.
Three Aspects of the Law of Moses
As we have seen, the Law of Moses has three aspects: the moral law, the ceremonial law, and judicial precepts of the law contained in the Ten Commandments.
The moral law of the Old Testament was never abrogated, and
could never be so. On the contrary, Christ came to fulfill it
perfectly in His Person, and to give us the grace and teaching
we need to fulfill it in imitation of Him.
The ceremonial law was abrogated, however, for it was a
figure that pointed to Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary: the
sacrifices of animals and other offerings point to the perfect
sacrifice of the Messiah, which is their fulfilment. Thus the
ceremonial law, according to God’s eternal plan, was to pass
into a new ceremonial law centring on the seven sacraments
of the Church — divine channels of grace flowing from the
perfect sacrifice of the Messiah.
The judicial precepts of the Old Testament remain as a
model, but are adapted to the needs of different historical
circumstances. Christ does not promulgate new judicial precepts.
This is left to the Church in her cannon law, and to the nations
in their civil codes.
Current Role of the Jewish People
On the basis of these points, how can we understand the current role of the Jewish people in salvation history?
First of all, God’s choice or election of a particular people in
which He would become man can never be revoked. Still
today, the Jewish people have the inestimable honour and
privilege of being the people in which God chose to become
man. He was born of a quintessentially Jewish mother,
circumcised on the eighth day, raised in a pious Jewish fashion,
and brought to the Temple three times a year when He came
of age. He participated weekly in the synagogue, taught and
worked miracles in the streets and market places of Israel.
This honour is still theirs, even if they do not yet recognise Him,
as Joseph’s brothers did not at first recognise Joseph in Egypt.
Secondly, the Jewish people were chosen to be a witness to
Jesus’ coming through their sacred books, their Law, their
traditions, their liturgy, and their history. This is no less true
today than it was before His coming.
Third, all the Apostles and first disciples of Jesus, together
with Mary, the most perfect disciple of all times, were chosen
from the Jewish people. The Church of Pentecost was entirely
Fourth, God is faithful to His promises, even if men are
unfaithful to Him. The Jewish people are still singularly beloved
on account of the Patriarchs and on account of the covenant of
love that He entered into with them. Jesus was born into a
people that prayed for His coming for generation after
Thus we can say that the special role of the Jewish people did not come to an end with the coming of the Messiah, as some theologians maintain, because of two crucial facts mentioned above: God’s fidelity, and that of the Jewish people continue to be a privileged witness to Christ’s coming. This is true even in their unbelief in Jesus, and it will be even more true if they come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, as we believe shall happen before His Second Coming, whenever that shall come to pass.
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In the book by Dr. Feingold, from which we took the above extract, he draws attention to the fact that the questions considered above are dealt with authoritatively in two crucial sources:
1 St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, chapters 9 — 11.
The Church has always stood in awe of the energy with which St. Paul resisted the false arguments of the Judaisers who demanded all people submit to traditional Jewish Law before they could become members of the Church — the Body of Christ. St. Paul never demeans the Law given by God to Moses. However, he will not permit the Judaisers to use (or misapply) the Divine Law in a way which would deny the effectiveness of our being baptised into Christ and becoming members, not just of a congregation, but of the living Body of Jesus our Messiah.
In his book quoted in Part II above, Dr. Feingold provides a magnificent treatment of St. Paul’s Epistle, and we hope readers will purchase the book and study his excellent unfolding of St. Paul’s thoughts.
We offer an older, but still helpful explanation in our on-line work:
2 A brief text of Vatican II, Nostra Aetate,
We produce a portion of this document in Part III below.
Part III Vatican II, Nostra Aetate
The Second Vatican Council produced a very significant declaration: Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, referred to by the first two words of its Latin text, Nostra Aetate. It has remained important as a document guiding the rediscovery by the Church of its Jewish roots as well as its ongoing relationship with the Jewish people. We recommend a careful reading of the text below, and a periodic return to it from time to time, in order to assimilate its teaching.
As the sacred synod searches into the mystery of the Church, it remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham’s stock.
Thus the Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God’s saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. She professes that all who believe in Christ — Abraham’s sons according to faith (Galatians 3: 7) — are included in the same Patriarch’s call, and likewise that the salvation of the Church is mysteriously foreshadowed by the chosen people’s exodus from the land of bondage. The Church, therefore, cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles. (Romans 11: 17 — 24). Indeed, the Church believes that by His cross Christ, Our Peace, reconciled Jews and Gentiles. making both one in Himself. (Ephesians 2: 14 — 16).
The Church keeps ever in mind the words of the Apostle about his kinsmen: “theirs is the sonship and the glory and the covenants and the law and the worship and the promises; theirs are the fathers and from them is the Christ according to the flesh” (Romans 9: 4 — 5), the Son of the Virgin Mary. She also recalls that the Apostles, the Church’s mainstay and pillars, as well as most of the early disciples who proclaimed Christ’s Gospel to the world, sprang from the Jewish people. . . . God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues — such is the witness of the Apostle (see Romans 11: 28 — 29). In company with the Prophets and the same Apostle, the Church awaits that day, known to God alone, on which all peoples will address the Lord in a single voice and “serve him with one accord”. (Zephaniah 3: 9.). [See Isaiah 66: 23. Psalm 65: 4. Romans 11: 11 — 32.].
Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues.
True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ (see John 19: 6.); still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ.
Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.
Besides, as the Church has always held and holds now, Christ underwent His passion and death freely, because of the sins of men and out of infinite love, in order that all may reach salvation. It is, therefore, the burden of the Church’s preaching to proclaim the cross of Christ as the sign of God’s all-embracing love and as the fountain from which every grace flows. (Vatican II, Nostra Aetate — with our emphases.)
Part IV A Final Word
A number of very fine declarations, books and lecture series followed the proclamation of Nostra Aetate. Fortunately there is now an extensive range of excellent material to guide further study in this important and fascinating area.
We close with quotations from six prominent Christians:
Theologian: Fr. Louis Bouyer
“Judeo-Christianity cannot be considered a transitory phase of abolished Christianity, forever surpassed by pagano-Christianity, which would have triumphed over it. The Christian synthesis must always be renewed by renewing its contact with the primary and, in a sense, definitive expression of the Gospel, in the categories and forms of Judaism.
Judeo-Christianity, as Paul and Peter recognised and proclaimed, remains forever the mother form of Christianity, to which all other forms must always have recourse. It is therefore a weakness for the Church that Judeo-Christianity, from which it was born and from which it cannot free itself, no longer subsists in her except in tracings. It can be believed that she will not reach the ultimate stage of her development except by rediscovering it — fully living in her”. (Quoted in: The Hebrew Catholic, #73, page 13.)
“Christians of Gentile stock, latecomers to the Church, owe to the Jewish people from whom God chose the Christ, His blessed mother, and His first and fervent followers, An admiration tinged with envy; we owe them our admiration, which is radically incompatible with contempt, aversion, hatred, in short with anti-Semitism. Then, to this admiration we must join an everlasting gratitude toward those first Jews who by grace entered the new faith and were given the mission of carrying with them to the Church the sacred patrimony of the Jewish people, notably its most cherished treasure, the Law and the Prophets.” (“The Mysterious Destinies of Israel.”)
Nostra Aetate, 4 — Pope Paul VI (1965)
“(Thus) the Church of Christ acknowledges that according to God’s saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. She professes that all who believe in Christ — Abraham’s sons according to faith — are included in the same Patriarch’s call, and likewise that the salvation of the Church is mysteriously foreshadowed by the chosen people’s exodus from the land of bondage.”
Pope St. John Paul II
“The Jewish religion is not ‘extrinsic’ to us, but in a certain way is ‘intrinsic’ to our own religion. With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.” (At the Synagogue of Rome).
Cardinal Ratzinger: Now Pope Benedict XVI
“The faith witnessed in the Bible of the Jews, is for us not a different religion but the foundation of our own faith.” (The Heritage of Abraham — December 2000).
Extract from Evangelli Gaudium
Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, 24 November 2013.
Relations with Judaism
247. We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (see Romans 11: 29). The Church, which shares with Jews an important part of the sacred Scriptures, looks upon the people of the covenant and their faith as one of the sacred roots of her own Christian identity (cf. Romans 11: 16 — 18). As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1: 9). With them, we believe in the one God who acts in history, and with them we accept his revealed word.
248. Dialogue and friendship with the children of Israel are part of the life of Jesus’ disciples. The friendship which has grown between us makes us bitterly and sincerely regret the terrible persecutions which they have endured, and continue to endure, especially those that have involved Christians.
249. God continues to work among the people of the Old Covenant and to bring forth treasures of wisdom which flow from their encounter with his word. For this reason, the Church also is enriched when she receives the values of Judaism. While it is true that certain Christian beliefs are unacceptable to Judaism, and that the Church cannot refrain from proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Messiah, there exists as well a rich complementarity which allows us to read the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures together and to help one another to mine the riches of God’s word. We can also share many ethical convictions and a common concern for justice and the development of peoples.