Ed. In the Winter 2002 issue of the International Catholic Review, Communio, there are two articles evaluating the document put out by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible.
The first article is by Denis Farkasfalvy, O.Cist. Father is Abbot of Cistercian Abbey in Irving, Texas and Research Scholar at the University of Dallas.
The author of the second article, from which the excerpt below is taken (pp. 744-745), is Roch Kereszty, O.Cist., Adjunct Professor of Theology at the Braniff Graduate School at the University of Dallas.
This excerpt, first included in The Hebrew Catholic #80, is printed here with permission. You may order this volume by sending your request to: Communio, PO Box 4557, Washington DC 20017-0557. Alternately, you may order online at:
“… a sign of God’s eternal and irrevocable election”
by Roch Kerestzy, O.Cist.
One more issue needs to be addressed, the mission of the Church to Israel, which is of crucial importance for Jewish-Christian relations. The document does not deny that the Church’s mission includes Israel, but it lays a subtle groundwork for such a denial. If the Jewish reading 9 and the Christian reading of the Old Testament are “analogous, parallel, and irreducible” (22), the Covenant with Israel and the Covenant established by Christ may constitute also two parallel ways of salvation.10 Therefore we need to reaffirm the perennial conviction of the Church that she has no right to renounce her mission of universal evangelization ‘beginning with Jerusalem to all the nations’ (Lk 24:27). The intention of Jesus, who came directly to seek out only ‘the lost sheep of Israel’ (Mt 15:24), could not have been more clearly expressed in the New Testament, and the Pontifical Biblical Commission should have stated it clearly and unambiguously. At the same time, the Church is aware that God’s Providence allows a large part of Israel to persist in their refusal for the time being ‘until the full number of the Gentiles comes in’ (Rom 11:25). However, even during the time of Israel’s opposition to the Gospel, the Church sees in the continued existence of the Jewish people a sign of God’s eternal and irrevocable election. With St. Paul she considers Israel ‘holy’ (Rom 11:16) and ‘beloved because of the patriarchs’ (Rom 11:28).
Reflecting upon Israel’s resistance, we should ask ourselves if God does not allow it because we have ignored the significance of historic Israel, the noble olive tree into which we Gentile-Christians have been grafted and in whose rich sap we share (Rom 11:17-18). What should we say to the Jews who think that any baptized Jew is a loss for the people of Israel? The cross of Jesus Christ has removed the separating wall between Jews and Gentiles and united us into one body, into his own Body. Should Israel turn to Christ, it seems that its great challenge would be to die to its own separate status and to embrace all humankind in the Church. However, analogously to the individual Christian whose dying with Christ results in a new risen life with Him, an Israel that would die to its own refusal of Christ would be exalted to a new life in Christ. It would not lose its identity but rather discover its own transcendent perfection and dignity. It would look upon its privilege of being the firstborn son of God as a service for all the nations. Its great joy and pride would spring from the fact that ‘the fullness of the world is elevated to the dignity of Israel.’11 Then it would discover in the face of Jesus its own deepest mystery, the face of the eternal Israel of God.
9. Is there just one Jewish reading? The document speaks as if there were one official Jewish position on most of these issues.
10. The document speaks of the Covenant with Israel and the New Covenant as two phases (42), which leaves open the interpretation that each phase may be salvific in its own right.
11. “ut in Israeliticam dignitatem totius mundi transeat plenitudo” (Prayer of the Easter Vigil in the Roman Rite).
Note: “(22)” and “(42)” are section numbers in the PBC document, The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible.