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Some Observatons on a Christian Theology of Judaism
C. A. Rijk
The title of this article presents me with an almost impossible task. According to Professor Kurt Hruby from Paris, a true theology of Israel, faithful to the biblical vision, is non-existent in the Church. 1
We all know the history of relations between Christians and Jews: the many dark periods, with some exceptions, in which Jews and Christians lived harmoniously together. Although there have been « dialogue », theological discussions, and occasional amicable conversations, serious, unbiassed theological reflection on this relationship has been rare.
Theological manuals speak about the Old Testament, but never about Judaism after the coming of Christ. The general, widespread conviction of Christian theology seems to be that Jews belong to the Church but refuse to admit it. The words of Cardinal Willebrands at a recent meeting of the Secretariat for Christian Unity: « Christians usually consider Jews either as fossils from the past or as future Christians, but they must be seen as they really are », contain elements for an arduous long-term program. They indicate not only a new, respectful social relationship, not only the elimination of much conscious prejudice, they also point to the task of discovering, in the light of divine revelation, the significance and importance of the Jewish people and their religion today; of discovering Judaism's specific role in salvation history, of studying the relationship between the Church and Judaism.
Undoubtedly, this discovery is gradually being made in recent years. The shocking experiences of the last thirty years have opened many eyes. Movements and organizations have been started to create a new climate of relationship; the reality of the Jewish people has been impressed on the non-Jewish world, a reality which can no longer be denied; Judaism exists as a strong, living, religious entity. This fact has gladdened some people, but has embarrassed and puzzled others. What does this mean? What does this mean for Christians?
Much is happening. Another social climate is being created; in spite of the many problems which still exist, and the growing difficulties of recent years, the Jewish people is really beginning to be accepted in society. Discussions and studies cannot ldeny the fact of Jewish existence, nor end merely by emphasizing its reality; ways must be found for co-existence and collaboration between Israel and the other nations. Theologians in general, however, remain silent, although a small number are really struggling to throw new light on the question. However, for Christian theology, particularly Catholic theology, in the main, Judaism does not yet exist.
In such a situation, it is impossible to give a clear outline of Catholic theology on Judaism. What I want to do is:
1. Indicate some tendencies in the present development of theological thinking, which seem to be creating a favorable climate for Christian reflection on the relation between the Church and Judaism;
2. Against this background, propose some reflections which might be helpful in throwing some light on the mysterious ways of God with his people;
3. Outline a personal essay towards theological reflection on the relation between Judaism and the Church in the plan of God.
I - Elements in Modern Christian Thinking, Favorable to the Development of a Christian Theology on Judaism
When one looks at the history of Christianity up to the twentieth century and its attitude toward Judaism, one has the impression that it was almost impossible to develop a real theology on Judaism. I mean by this, real religious re-flection on God's acting in and through the Jewish people. There are many historical reasons which seem to explain this, such as the deep cleavage beetwen the Church and Judaism about the end of the first century, which led Christianity to separate itself, perhaps too completely, from its sources, at a time when it was confronted with the pagan world. The position of Marcion in the second century is significant in this respect. His attitude was not only a personal opinion but represented a strong tendency in the Church, which, in one way or another, survived for many centuries. Later, the close link between Church and State in medieval « Christian » Europe, made the Jewish people almost automatically outsiders in every respect — outsiders to whom the only possible course seemed to be that of integration and conversion. After the sixteenth century a defensive and apologetic tendency dominated Christian theology, which seemed to be so preoccupied with its inner problems of self-preservation, defense and juridical structure, that there was no time for reflection on a positive attitude towards others.
In our time, the theological tendencies of the Church are changing rapidly. A new openness is creating new possibilites. The Church is developing an awareness of her situation in the world. The Vatican Council indicated several elements of a real renewal in attitude and thinking. In accordance with Pope John XXIII's intentions, the Council was biblical, pastoral and ecumenical, which means that it reflected anew on the origin of the Church so as better to fulfill its mission in the world of today and tomorrow. It emphasized the importance, . not only of theology, but also of the daily reality of Christian life and Christian presence in the world. And this in turn involved careful consideration of the relations between Catholics and other Christians; between Catholics ",and people of other religions and convictions — and this with openness and respect.
It seems to me that two elements in this picture are Hof the utmost importance for the establishment of new relations with Judaism, and for the development of a Christian theology of Judaism:
A. The biblical renewal. This movement is, of course, older than the Vatican Council. The Council explicitly acknowledged and accepted a truly biblical view of the Church and its situation in the world. Christian thinking and theology are clearly becoming more biblical, in the sense that the whole biblical message and revelation are more seriously considered as the vital source of life and inspiration. Now, relations between the Church and Judaism cannot be understood without the Bible. Tenach, the Hebrew Bible, reveals the origin of the Jewish people and its religion. Tenach, together with the New Testament, are the foundation of the Church. In both Judaism and Christianity this biblical message has been transmitted from generation to generation in a living tradition which expressed itself in many forms, such as the Talmud, Midrash, Shulchan Aruch on the one hand, the writings of the Church Fathers, council pronouncements, and catechisms on the other. It is understandable that a sometimes ill-balanced tension between Scripture and Tradition, and a growing cleavage between Judaism and Christianity are reflected in, and sometimes reinforced by, these expressions of Tradition. However, this may be, the new awareness of the permanent importance of the Bible inevitably throws light on the Church's relationship with Judaism. As the Council stated: « Like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and ruled by Sacred Scripture. »2 At this point I should like to take the following observations:
1. Most theologians interested in Jewish-Christian relations have, in general, studied only New Testament texts, and in particular, Romans 9-11. Undoubtedly these studies have helped to broaden the interpretation of Romans, which, for several centuries was limited to discussions on justification between Catholics and Protestants. Nonetheless these studies remain almost exclusively limited to New Testament texts.
2. The so-called Old Testament constitutes a widespread problem among Christians which may be presented in this way. Christians are still striving to understand the message of the Old Testament for themselves. Since the Council a greater number of Old Testament texts are read in the liturgy with the result that Christians are by degrees coming face to face with the whole Bible. There have always been scientific, technical studies on the Old Testament, but they have thrown too little light on its practical significance for Christians. In general, the Old Testament is seen exclusively as a preparation for, and introduction to, the New Testament. But as the Vatican Council dogmatic constitution on Divine Revelation pointed out: « the principal purpose [so, not the exclusive purpose] to which the plan of the Old Covenant was directed was to prepare for the coming both of Christ the universal Redeemer, and of the messianic kingdom... »3 The last part of this sentence refers to the establishment of the messianic kingdom, which, according to our Christian conviction, was already fulfilled in Jesus, but still remains to be fulfilled in the world at large. This means that the Church is not synonymous with the Kingdom of God, and that the Old Testament remains a permanent message for Christians too. But, how difficult it is ;to express the meaning of the Old Testament for Christians is shown, for instance, by the articles in Concilium No. 10, 1967. And, in general, the Old Testament is considered exclusively in function of the New. It may be observed here that the period which experienced the greatest obstacles to understanding Judaism was precisely (or coincided with) the period when the Old Testament played no active role in Christian thought.
3. In this context, a few words on the permanent value of Tenach may be added. The whole Bible can be called « gospel » — good news — because it throws the light of God's Spirit on human history (cf. Ps. 39:10; 95:2; Is. 40:9; 60:1). The whole Bible reveals God and man, God's intentions and man's response. According to the modern exegetical, more anthropocentric approach, we can say that God revealed himself to Abraham and his descendants, or that Abraham and his stock, under the inspiring presence of the Lord, became clearly conscious of the guidance of the one true God in their history. In their covenant relationship with God they discovered increasingly who God is, how he acts, and who man is. Their knowledge and understanding developed in and through everyday experience. Thus, they knew that man is created by God in his image and that he has been made the master of creation. They knew that this creation and the history of man was incomplete, but that man had been given a task to achieve, to complete creation and history, always as the collaborator of the Lord who must be revered as God, and who always opens up new prespectives for the future. This task of man, then, is one of re-creation, of redemption. The exodus from Egypt and Babylon became symbolic for humanity, which, according to Israel's conviction, is on the way to paradise, to a new world and a new heaven; the people is always under the judgment of the Lord, to whom it must be faithful through the fulfillment of the commandments. Infidelity is punished; exile is a punishment; but the final word is ever one of consolation and the vision of a new future. In this sense, the people always has a messianic role to play for the salvation of the whole world.
According to our Christian faith, Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, and his disciples were given the task of accomplishing his work in the world, always following his example of absolute love and faithfulness to God, always acting in his Spirit. When seen in this way, it is clear that the whole of the Bible keeps an essential and permanent value for all Christians. And this view will necessarily have a favorable effect on Christian-Jewish relations, as well as on Christian thinking about Judaism.
B. A second element which I want to mention as indicative of a new possibility for the formulation of a theology on Judaism, is the Church's new awareness of her relations with non-Christian religions.
It is remarkable how often in discussions on Judaism and Jewish-Christian relations, the question of relations with non-Christian religions is brought up. It is as though a vague awareness that whoever touches Israel touches the whole world; it means a knowledge of, or belief in, universalism, the link between Israel and the nations.
After much discussion, the Vatican Council placed the question of relations with Judaism into the broad context of world religions, although clearly indicating the specific link between the Church and Judaism. The importance and implications of this approach have not yet been fully studied, but the opening paragraphs of this Vatican Council document should be recalled here for the clear way in which the new attitude of the Church towards other religions is stated. Although as far back as the Church Fathers and writers of the first Christian centuries such as Justin Martyr, all the truths in non-Christian religions were attributed to the Word of God who enlightens every man, « through the centuries missionaries often adopted the attitude that non-Christian religions were simply the work of Satan, and the missionaries' task was to convert from error to knowledge of the truth ».4
The Council took a positive stand when it declared « God's providence, his manifestations of goodness and his saving designs extend to all men 5, against the day when the elect will be united in that Holy City ablaze with the splendor of God, where the nations will walk in his light ».6 «.From ancient times down to the present, there has existed among diverse peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human life; at times, indeed, recognition can be found of a supreme Divinity and of a supreme Father too. Such a perception and such a recognition instill the lives of these peoples with a profound religious sense ». And the Council continued: « the Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in these religions. She looks with sincere respect upon those ways of conduct and of life, those rules and teachings which, though differing in many particulars from what she holds and sets forth, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men... The Church therefore has this exhortation for her sons: prudently and lovingly, through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, and in witness of Christian faith and life, acknowledge, preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these men, as well as the values in their society and culture ».7
It seems to me that these texts are important for a better understanding of relations between the Church and Judaism, because in them the Church acknowledges the values of other religions which she also desires to promote. This attitude, must therefore be translated into concrete dialogue and collaboration. Hence the following points may be observed:
1. During the Vatican Council the Church expressed, without naming it explicitly, the biblical concept of what is termed « general revelation », or « cosmic revelation ». Tenach and the New Testament proclaim God the Father and Creator of all men. But creation is a continuous activity; the « preservation » of creation means, in fact, a permanent, active, dynamic presence of the Lord to all men, who are called to collaborate as images of God in the transformation and re-creation of the world and history. This divine, creative activity necessarily includes revelation, or even is revelation.' This revelation vaguely perceived by the nations and peoples, comprises God's loving, helping and saving action through events, the seasons, and internal illumination of mind and heart. World religions are the human, partial, often confused answers to this active presence of the Lord? The followers of these religions are saved, not in spite, of but through and because of the values of their religion.
2. According to this view, « revealed religion » in Judaism and Christianity is in the midst of and linked with the other world religions, the more explicit answer of the people whom God chose to listen to his more explicit, more clearly expressed revelation. It should be observed that this view in no way minimizes the uniqueness of divine revelation in Judaism and Christianity. What it does mean is that revelation in Judaism and Christianity is regarded as the explicit expression or revelation of the one God who, as omnipresent Creator, is vaguely perceived by the whole of mankind. This, of course, has immediate implications for the validity and legitimate value of Judaism. I am not saying that this is the best or the most direct approach to the relationship between Judaism and the Church, but that this approach, after many centuries of stagnation, might be favorable to the development of a Christian theology on Judaism. It is interesting to notice that the Church recalls her positive link with Judaism at the very moment when she is confronted anew with world religions and is trying to re-define her own attitude towards them. It could be an indication of a kairos, a God-given moment of grace for a deeper understanding of her own nature, and a distant preparation for the final Kingdom of God. In this context, it is amazing how little is said on Judaism in books on world religions in which Judaism is still often non-existent, or, at best, thought of as « belonging to Christianity ». Much thinking is still necessary to develop these ideas on revelation and religions, as well as the Church's place and mission in this situation. In a very good article, Gregory Baum has pointed out the complexity of the question, and the diversity of views expressed during Vatican Council II.10
3. It is a unatter of common knowledge that the Vatican Council's declaration on the attitude of the Church towards other religions has been criticized by various people and for different reasons. During the Council there were many discussions about the text of the Declaration and where to place it. The first draft, prepared by a commission of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity under the direction of Cardinal A. Bea, spoke about relations between the Church and Judaism. Long discussions changed the text considerably and led to the final one on the attitude of the Church towards other religions. Nevertheless, the fourth paragraph concerning the relations with Judaism remained the longest and most important section of this Declaration. But the setting and the context of this paragraph had changed fundamentally. Many people regretted this change, and saw in it the suggestion that Judaism was being considered only as one of the many world religions, and that the Catholic Church had abandoned the conviction that Judaism is the revealed religion, of which the Church believes Jesus to be the fulfillment. This idea seemed to be reinforced by the change of its place among the other Council documents. As a separate paragraph the first draft was incorporated with the document on ecumenism, together with the text on religious freedom. Then it was suggested to move it to the constitution on the Church, and finally it became a separate declaration, as was also the case with the constitution on religious freedom. From this, it is clear that there was much uncertainty among the Church leaders as to the place and the significance of Judaism. This fact, in itself, is not amazing after many centuries of opposition and oblivion. The main point in this long story is probably, that large sections of Christian theology and Church thinking have become increasingly Christ and Church-centered, in this way replacing a more theocentric, christological view.
This is a regrettable situation, because it does harm to historical theological thinking, and therefore to a more biblical view of relations between the Church and Judaism. On the other hand, it was the first time that the Church officially approached this question in a positive way. A new thinking was inaugurated. Furthermore the declaration on the relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions makes it clear that the relation between the Church and Judaism is absolutely specific and unique (cf. par. 4). Andfinally, the fact that the revelation made to the Jewish people is linked to world religions, has a sound biblical basis.
What happened during the Council was, however, more than a church-political manoeuvre or a compromise dictated by embarrassment. Put before the very new — although as old as the Church, but overlooked — question of serious reflection on the relationship between the Church and Judaism, the Council Fathers slowly grew in new awareness of the relationship between Israel and the salvation of the nations, a basic dimension of salvation history. They expressed their conviction in this Council declaration which shows every sign of a new thinking and a fresh approach.
II - Some Reflections on Jewish-Christian Relations Against the Background of Biblical Renewal and of New Contacts with World Religions
Characteristic of the renewal in Christian thinking is a sense of reality. Growing aversion is noticeable to:a theology which would be only the elaboration of an abstract system of truth, the exclusively speculative reflection on revealed aspects of the deepest reality. Theology is becoming more and more realistic; there is talk of social theology, political theology." This movement in theology is no doubt a reaction against the abstract way in which religious reality was dealt with in some icenturies. But it is more than this. It indicates that theologians and Christians in general, have become more aware of the fact that God acts in historical events; that theology is, indeed, reflection upon the dynamic presence of the !Lord, who continues to reveal himself in history; who, therefore, wants us to read and interpret the signs of the times. As a theologian recently remarked during the congress of Concilium in Brussels, theology has left the university and has become part of the reality of daily life. If this is true, and if this attitude finds its expression in a new approach to the Bible, transmitted in a living tradition as a permanent source and rule of life, in a new openness towards other religions and, in general, to reality, then the following remarks may be helpful as indicative of development in Christian thinking about Judaism.
1. One has the impression that the difficulties in Jewish-Christian relations have increased in recent years, especially after the Six Days War of 1967. Many political and politico-religious ideas and tendencies have influenced and complicated these relations. There has been a slowing-down in contacts and dialogue; much criticism of silence; accusation of lack of understanding and involvement, followed by increasing discussions and an ever widening field of opposing tendencies. But this very fact indicates that the question of Judaism, and particularly its essential link with Israel, is being taken more seriously than ever before. This is seen in the more serious studies and talks. It means that friendly social talks between Christians and Jews without real involvement in history are soon going to be things of the past. This may be a new positive development.
2. The Vatican Council document on relations between Jews and Christians was certainly not the best possible declaration, but it was a good and quite revolutionary starting point. In the six years since its promulgation, a rather interesting development is noticeable in Christian awareness of Jewish reality. A certain number of documents and guidelines, issued by bishops' conferences or other Church bodies in different countries, show an evolution in thinking, which again may be of importance for the future of this relationship. Let me mention just a few points.
a. One of the criticisms of the Vatican document was that the Jews were spoken of in Christian categories, and no understanding was shown for the way in which Jews think, or how they see themselves. It is a general rulefor any contact between people that, first and foremost, the other must be accepted as he is, not as we should like him to be, nor according to an idea that we cherish. These later documents show development in thinking in this area. The Council encouraged studies and dialogue; several sets of guidelines give ;more details on this point and emphasize reciprocity. They explicitly exclude all forms of proselytism, which means that the religious faith and convictions of the other must be sincerely respected.
b. Sometimes it would seem that Jewish-Christian relations are important only in countries where Jews and Christians live together. Reflection on Nostra Aetate and the actual situation of the Church in the world has made it clear that it « concerns the Church as such, since it is in searching into its own mystery that it comes upon the mystery of Israel. These relations therefore, touch the Christian conscience and Christian life in all its aspects (liturgy, catechesis, preaching, etc.), in all countries where the Church is established, not only in places where it is in direct contact with the Jews. » 12 This means that the field of interest is as large as the Church itself.
c. Many of the later documents emphasize the permanence and the vitality of religious values in Judaism. Jews and Christians can learn much from one another, and thus deepen their respective faiths and tradition. Social collaboration is considered a task of primary importance because the two religions, based on divine revelation, have a conception of the dignity of the human person and of the world, which can contribute considerably to the creation of a society of liberty, peace and justice. A recent remark of Yves Congar (slightly adapted because he was speaking of collaboration among Christians) points out the importance of such collaboration. « It has become evident that common involvement in the service of the world in the name of justice, covenant and charity, is a very efficient way of understanding one another, even on the theological level. » 13
d. Finally, experience and reflection have brought to the fore the significance of Jewish-Christian relations for Christian unity. The unity cannot be attained without returning to the sources of Christianity, and it is precisely confrontation with Judaism which leads Christians to reflect upon the origin and the sources of their faith.
To conclude, I think it legitimate to say that the influence of a renewed approach to the Bible, a new openness to reality, and particularly to other religions and to Judaism is beginning to create a climate favorable to the elaboration of a Christian theology about Judaism.
After these remarks which indicate the background of a Christian theological view of Judaism,14 I should like to make some more precise observations concerning the permanent validity of Judaism:
1. If, as has already been observed, according to Christian theology the world religions are means of salvation for the nations, the Jewish religion is even more so. There can be no doubt that the books of Tenach and the whole Jewish tradition look towards the coming of the messianic age, the Kingdom of God. And, if Christian faith and theology proclaim the coming of Jesus as the Messiah and the Kingdom of God, they state that the messianic age is only fulfilled in the person of Jesus. It has its beginning in the Church, but there is still much room for expectation and preparation for the final Kingdom. It is well known that the fundamental Christian attitude as expressed in the New Testament, is determined by an eschatological tension concerning not only the return of Jesus in glory, but also by a real involvement of Jesus' disciples in history to prepare for that final Kingdom. The words of Peter, for example are very definite in this respect, when they exhort Christians to live « in holiness and godliness, awaiting and hastening the coming of the day of God ».15 The Jewish tradition and religion based on Tenach look explicitly to this final realization of the Kingdom of God. Throughthe Bible and liturgy God continues to address the Jewish people, to speak his word to them, a word which is always both active and saving. Thus, Judaism, considered as it is in itself, is witness to the permanent presence of the Lord. It is, without any doubt, a legitimate world religion with great values for the whole world. There is, of course, the question of the exact meaning of the relation between the Church and Judaism with regard to messianism, but more on that later. Here it is necessary to recognize, also from a Christian theological viewpoint, the permanent value and validity of Judaism in itself. It is not my intention to enumerate these values now; they can be found in writings on Tenach and the continuing Jewish tradition. There may be special significance in the words of Pope Paul when, on April 19, 1968, he addressed the participants of the Congress of the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament, which brought together Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic scholars: « The three families, Jewish, Protestant and Catholic aqually hold it (the 'Old Testament') in honor. They are, therefore, able to study and to venerate these sacred books together ... It is fortunate that the initiative for this joint study has been taken... this is an authentic form of ecumenical work indeed. » 18 He then !went on to enumerate the immense value of the books of Tenach.
2. The constancy of the permanent validity of Judaism is fundamentally based on God's fidelity to the world and to his people. Emil Brunner has rightly observed: « There is one God, one message, one revelation, one Word, one covenant. » 17 Whatever we may think about the infidelity of the people of God, the Lord remains faithful. The distinction of two Gods, one of the Old Testament, and the other who reveals himself in the New Testament, is absolutely unacceptable. There is one God and one Creation, and, therefore, one revelation and one salvation history. In this context it may be useful to dwell for a moment on the meaning of the new covenant as it is announced by Jeremiah 31:31-33.
This text is much used in Christian milieux as a proof text of the establishment of the new covenant in Jesus. In itself this is correct. But we should not overlook the true meaning of the text. Jeremiah makes it clear that a new situation will come into existence, not because God is changing, but because a change will take place in the people. God remains faithful to his one covenant, but the newness will be in men. We believe that in Jesus this newness was indeed realized, that he really and entirely fulfilled the covenant in the deepest sense of the word. Thus, he inaugurated the new era; but this does not mean that all the followers of Jesus fulfill the covenant, nor that God has retired from those who do not, or did not, follow Jesus in this newness. God does not terminate his unique covenant.
3. It is certainly unnecessary to recall here the meaning of old and new in the Bible." But it may be observed that: a) the categories « old » and « new » belong to both Old and New Testament thinking, and that the New Testament authors, while believing in the newness realized in Jesus, speak about a newness still to come,19 thus indicating the real eschatological tension of the Church; b) that when the New Testament books speak about the New Covenant, the authors use the word kainos which means « renewal » of the reality which existed before, and not neos, which would mean « another » convenant, which had not existed previously; c) that old and new belong to the reality of the history of God's people at all times. And, although a final and fundamental newness in history was realized in Jesus, according to Christian faith, the basis remains God's everlasting faithful presence in history, which is still on the way to final accomplishment, of which the dimensions are not yet known.20
4. A last remark concerns Jesus and Tenach. In my opinion the text of Matthew 5: 17, « I did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them », should be taken seriously.
Not only in that Jesus, according to our Christian faith, did in fact fulfill the convenant with God in an exceptional and surprising sway, but, also that he did not abolish it. I mean by this that, although the majority of his people did not accept him as the fulfillment of the Word of God, their covenant relationship with God, his promises and gifts, were not terminated but continued to forward the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecies in the final establishment of the kingdom of God in the whole world and in all of mankind.
III - A Personal Essay Towards Theological Reflection on the Relationship between Judaism and the Church in the Plan of God
In this third section I will try to express some ideas which may be of value to Christian theological thinking on the mystery of Israel.
First of all, it should be kept in mind that St. Paul places this relationship between the Church and Judaism into the broad context of the salvation of the Gentiles; moreover, he calls it a mysterion, meaning a still hidden dimension of divine salvation history. But it is a mystery which should be lived with, which should belong to the deepest concern of Christian thinking and acting. In actual fact, this mystery has just been neglected. It has not played a role in Christian thinking and attitude, We may, perhaps, say it has been translated by « conversion », but that is not a very good translation of mysterion.
1. Although the Church finds its direct historical origin in the Jewish people of the first century, and its basic expression in the New Testament books, she knows that she is essentially linked to the experience of the whole of the covenant people. This conviction is shown by the honor officially accorded to the books of the Hebrew Bible as the inspired Word of God, which means that the Church wants to be faithful to the whole of divine revelation, as expressed in the whole of the Bible. Jesus is recognized as the Messiah and Son of God, but not independently of the tradition and the Bible of his people. This points to a possibility that in the course of history, because of opposition, controversy, and apologetic attitudes, values of the Hebrew Bible were neglected in Christian thought and life.
2. We have already seen the essential eschatological tension and task which are basic to both Christian and Jewish existence. Jesus, according to Christian faith, is the true Messiah, but apart from the necessarily one-sided expressions in history of this messiahship, Jesus himself has pointed out that there is still much to be done, and much to be revealed. « The Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things ».21 « I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. » 22 This means, I think, that Jesus, who spoke these words, and John kvho wrote them down, were convinced that not all the dimensions of Jesus' messiahship had yet been revealed; that, as Gabriel Moran has rightly observed, this ongoing revelation continues even in the world to come, since there is a permanent relationship between the transcendent God and human persons — the human community. The relationship between the Church and Judaism must be seen in the light of the full revelation and realization of the messianic kingdom.
3. Relations between the Church and Judaism must be studied and lived in a truly ecumenical, deeply respectful spirit. This is clear from the Vatican declaration on this relationship, and from the context in which Jewish-Christian relations are being developed. It is also clear that the Church wants us to develop this relationship in the eschatological perspective. The Council document, looking towards the future, states: « In company with the prophets and the same Apostle (Paul), the Church awaits the day, known to God alone, on which all people will address the Lord in a single voice and serve him with one accord ».23
After these remarks, and against the background of 'what has already been said, I will now try to develop some thoughts about this relationship between the Church and Judaism.
1. The New Testament does not give a clear answer; in fact, it suggests three different views on this relationship: a) the Church is, in a special way, the continuation of Judaism; b) the Church is a break with, and opposed to, Judaism;24 c) the Church is the fulfillment of Judaism, especially in Matthew, Hebrews and, in a large measure, St. Paul.25
Therefore, we cannot simply speak in terms of continuity or discontinuity. Both are true. There is continuity, there is a break, and there is fulfillment. But all are aspects of a continuing history of salvation. As long as the final Kingdom of God has not been established on earth, God acts in an explicit way through Israel and the Church. The 'word of God is still addressed to Israel; Israel still receives the gifts of God, because « the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable ».26 And, although the majority of the Jews did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah, this people remains not only dear to God — for its election, beloved by God — but its negative attitude, and non-recognition of Jesus as the Messiah, « means riches for the world and for the Gentiles ».27 If the Bible is really to be a permanent source of faith and life, if the message of the Bible remains a daily actuality, then relations between the Church and Judaism should always be considered in this wide context, in the deep perspective of the complete salvation of the whole of mankind. The Church of Jews and Gentiles, in recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, is well aware of still being on the way to the final realization of the Kingdom. She knows that in Jesus the Kingdom has indeed arrived, has indeed been realized, but this realization, this newness, in a way this absolute newness, is not the final term, but a new, unfathomable dimension of the ongoing divine action in human history. Therefore, in the relations between the Church and Judaism we shall always encounter three elements — continuity, fulfillment, and discontinuity — but call play a role in the preparation of the final Kingdom of God in a new heaven and a new earth. Thus, it seems to me, that God acts through the permanent value of the Hebrew Bible and Jewish tradition, as well as through both Old and New Testaments and Christian tradition, in order to establish his Kingdom fully.
The fundamental reason for this conception is God's fidelity to his covenant, to human history, to his people, and to his revelation. In this context, I will quote the words of the late Cardinal Bea. Once asked what he thought about the meaning of the survival the Jewish people, he answered: « One of the aspects is that through the Jewish Jpeople, the Old Testament remains a permanent message, otherwise it might have become a dead letter ». These words also indicate a program of listening and learning for the Church which wants to be faithful to the whole of divine revelation, in order to work faithfully towards the Kingdom as God wants it to be.
2. Thinking along the lines of continuity and fulfillment in the eschatological perspective does not deny the difference, even the discontinuity, between Judaism and the Church, but for a Christian who would base his thinking on Scripture and divine revelation, it is not permis-sable to act as though the meaning of Judaism and Jewish religion had come to an end with the coming of Jesus, and as though Judaism were a fossil from the past.
In recent writings the differences between the Church and Judaism have been called a schism in the one people of God. The coming of Jesus, then, caused a split within the covenant people, and, since then there have been two parts of the one people of God, moving side by side towards the final and glorious coming of the Messiah.28
Greater precision is certainly needed in this matter. W.D. Davies has connected this problem with the dogmatic spirit of Christianity as against the halachic spirit of Judaism: « There is a Christological factor, however, expressed in Christianity which is non-negotiable even with another faith, just as there is a centrality of Torah in Judaism which is non-negotiable. The dogmatic development of Christianity, in short, remains as the barrier to reducing the relation between the two faiths to a mere schism. It is part of wisdom to recognize this. But this, in itself, is not the tragedy of the history of the relations between the two faiths. Rather is it that the spirit of the Halakah demanded by both has not been more truly pursued by both, so as to make possible within their dogmatic difference, mutual tolerance, respect, learning, and even affection ».29
Here several remarks can be made. Judaism and Christianity have both known development, often in opposition and in polemical attitude to one another. After the separation at the end of the first century, they became two separate world religions, but both remained based on divine revelation and continued to develop its thought and life each in its own way. At a time when we are beginning to realize anew the essential links by which the Lord of history binds us together, we are becoming more aware of the biblical basis of our existence and of the common expectation of the eschatological tendency of divine activity in history.
It is worthwhile dwelling for a moment upon the way in which the Vatican Council struggled to elucidate the reality of the people of God. As is well known the Council once more used the biblical concept « people of God » to express the reality of the Church. This necessarily brought up the question of relations between Israel as the people of God, and the Church as people of God. The Church is called « the new people of God ».3D But then, what about the « old » people of God? The texts do not make this clear. But the dogmatic constitution on the Church, speaking about the Jews of today, states: « Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the People of God (i.e. the Church). In the first place, there is the people to whom the covenants and the promises were made, and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.31 On account of their fathers, as regards the election, this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts he makes, nor of the calls he issues ».3' The declaration on the relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions speaks (after the coming of Christ) about « the Jews » and not about « the Jewish people », or « the people of God ». But in the expensio modorum it is clearly stated that the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity in doing so « in no way intends to decide in what sense the Jewish people, according to the words of the dogmatic constitution De Ecclesia, no. 16, remains the beloved people by election, on account of their fathers ». This means, according to the Vatican Council, that they remain the elect people, but the exact meaning of this must be probed further.
We cannot speak merely of a schism; Jews as well as Christians are people of God. The difference between them consists fundamentally in the realized eschatology in Christ which has created a unique situation. Christians are linked to, are baptized into, this eschatological event, but they must extend its meaning and its historical dimensions to the whole of human history, in time and space. Jews, on the other hand, remaining faithful to their revealed heritage, and being thus a blessing for mankind, witnessing to the « not yet » of the entire messianic age, force Christians to become more vividly aware of the dimensions of the final eschatological event. If, in this way, both Judaism and Church play a role in God's history with mankind, a necessary tension will exist between them; a tension such as that existing between the « not yet » and the « already », but both are on the way to, and in the perspective of, the final fulfillment. Considered in this way, there is, on the other hand, an urgent need for a positive relationship between Judaism and the Church on the basis of divine revelation itself; a relationship, in which, through real respect, mutual knowledge, and learning, an eschatological but thoroughly historic dynamism moves history towards its accomplishment.
3. An essential point in this dialectic relationship is the fact that Judaism is, first of all, a people — a people with a revealed religion linked to a country — while Christianity is a religion, linked neither to a country nor to an ethnic group. Here, of course, the tension between particularism and universalism plays a role. But, from the very beginning, Judaism has always had a universalistic tendency. Particularism does not necessarily exclude universalism; both belong essentially to salvation history. God does not save mankind in general; he saves this man, this people and, through this man, this people, he reaches all others. It means that there is a salvation history. History is always concrete. Salvation history and divine revelation take place in the concrete world, through and in events.
In Christianity, religion and faith are sometimes considered primarily as a doctrine, but then the danger arises that faith may become too separated from life; that it may become an abstract set of truths. Faith is, first of all, the expression of a real, existential covenant between God and man, which involves the whole of life, individually and in community. While Christians are becoming more realistic, more seriously involved in history, we are at the same time being confronted with renewed evidence of Jewish peoplehood in the existence of a state of their own. There have been discussions about the religious dimensions of the link between the Jewish people and the land of the Fathers, but much thinking still remains to be done. It is not my intention to discuss this problem at length, but one thing is sure, the link between people and land belongs to the self-awareness of the Jewish people, and if we want to take our relationship seriously, this link must be thoroughly studied.33 We must ask ourselves what this link, based on the revelation in Tenach, means in the plan of God, and what, therefore, it means for us Christians. This question touches many difficult social, political, historical problems, among others, but this must not prevent us from giving it serious consideration. I venture to suggest that the open and religious study of this phenomenon may help us to realize better the realistic and historic character of divine revelation, and thus overcome the unnatural separation of life and faith; the tendency of modern theology to emphasize the involvement of the faithful in social and political realities,34 may provide a point of contact with Jewish thinking, thus creating a better understanding between Jews and Christians. This may promote a deeper, common involvement in the preparation of tile Kingdom of God on earth. Furthermore, this reflection on salvation history may have an impact on several aspects of Christian theology, e.g., the concept of redemption and messianism, of which, some dimensions revealed in Scripture may have been overlooked, through over-spiritualization.
4. This more « worldly » approach to revelation and salvation underlines the human, horizontal aspects of revealed religion. This has, no doubt, something to do with today's secularization tendencies, and with the efforts to make faith more relevant to people today. However, this tendency should not neglect or minimize the divine character of revelation and its tremendous and incomprehensible riches as manifested by the Lord to His people and which reached its culmination in Christ. There may be a difference in emphasis, or rather, there is a search for a more complete, more total understanding and expression of divine revelation in human history. In order to collaborate truly with the Lord for the establishment of his Kingdom, it does not suffice to stress the importance of human and worldly values because, basic as they are, they are touched by the divine, dynamic presence. The Lord wants us, in his Spirit, to transform history and the world into a paradise in harmony with his ideas.35 Revealing himself as the one, transcendant God, who brings salvation to his people, and who, in Christ, shows the glory of his own Son, the Lord prepares his people and all mankind for the final revelation when « all peoples will serve him with one accord »,3b and « God will be everything to everyone ».37 In this sense, God is indeed the future of man.38 Here again, we find a meeting point between Judaism and modern theological thinking. Dialogue with the long Jewish experience of living real history in faith in God, might help us to realize more clearly both the horizontal worldly, and the divine vertical dimensions of salvation history.
5. One more point on relations between the Church and Judaism must also be considered briefly.
It is sometimes suggested that the Church has a priestly, and Judaism a prophetic character. According to this view the sacrifice of Jesus assumes the central place; liturgy and spirituality express and celebrate this faith; the clergy, as a special, separate class, is responsible for the ministry of sacrifice. This implies that this leading group in the Church has a tendency to be traditional in outlook, to maintain structures and institutions, since it must preserve what has been transmitted. So the conclusion could be that the Church leaders and clergy tend to lose the eschatological, prophetic tension and awareness, especially when, as sometimes happens, the Church is identified with God's Kingdom. Judaism, on the other hand, is then seen as the people which looks to the future, which is always dissatisfied with the present and conscious of the divine promises concerning the world to come. It is a people of the future, les pélérins de l'absolu, which bears witness to the prophetic, critical message and promises.
In studying the history of the Church and Judaism, one can indeed get this impression. The question is, whether this is all that can and must be said about the nature of the Church and Judaism. The actual renewal of the Church is beginning to awaken Christians to some forgotten aspects of the Christian and biblical message. Already the fact that the Vatican Council once more emphasized the title « people of God », implies a consciousness of moving in an eschatological perspective. Furthermore, many Christians today, in opposition to an over-emphasis on institution and structure, want to stress the prophetic task of the Church. This, they say, would be a more faithful answer to biblical revelation which should always be the actual source of Christian life. Professor Haarsma in a recent article 39 argues that the ministry itself has an essential prophetic aspect, because the ministry of the sacrifice, which cannot be separated from the ministry of the Word, is essentially aimed at the eschatological realization of the Kingdom. The celebration of Jesus' mysterious sacrifice of love is intended to sanctify the faithful and to inspire their efforts to re-create the world. The ministry of the sacrifice also played an important role in biblical Judaism. In rabbinic Judaism it has almost disappeared, at least in this form. Can the question be asked, in what way biblical Judaism and its sacrificial ministry have a meaning for the development of Judaism? At any rate, the reality of Church life and of Judaism being what it is, would a reciprocal contact and influence not contribute to deepening and strengthening the understanding and the fulfillment of the revealed message?
The above are a few thoughts on the way in which a Christian theological view of Judaism could be developed. Much work, study and dialogue are still necessary, but it seems to me that this time of research, of renewal and of openness offers a very important starting point for a true, deep understanding between the Church and Judaism.
I am aware of the fact that in this article I have not dealt thoroughly with certain questions. First, I have not examined in detail all the Church documents which, in one way or another, touch this relationship. But I have developed my own ideas on the basis of some clear, official statements of the Church, in the spirit of Vatican Council II, with the help of some contemporary theological thinking. 40
Another question which should be examined more closely is the exact meaning of some New Testament texts. A certain interpretation of these texts, as we know, has done much harm to a religious understanding of God's mysterious plan of salvation. Antisemitism has made use of texts from the Bible to create misunderstanding, distance and hatred. Modern scholarship is engaged in clarifying many points, not by explaining away difficulties, but through a better understanding of the author's attitude, the spiritual climate of his time and situation, and the limited value of some personal opinions. We may, perhaps, say that New Testament texts, in particular, have too often been interpreted as a kind of dogmatic statement, without taking into account the personal feelings and experience of the author, and the literary character of his writings 41 On the other hand, several texts, and, even more, the background tendencies and religious attitudes, which were self-evident to New Testament authors, and which had an impact on the understanding of relations between Jesus and his followers, and the Jews who did not accept him as the Messiah, must still be seriously studied. A great task lies ahead for theologians, exegetes, historians, and sociologists. Many difficulties must still be faced; difficulties arising from some « traditional » views, from a certain resistance and lack of theological flexibility and from the deep reality of Jewish-Christian relations themselves. However, one has the impression that a new openness in official Church documents and in an increasing number of Christian thinkers . deeply involved in studying the significance of a rapidly changing world, offer new possibilities for developing a Christian theology of Judaism. It will be unprecedented in Christian history.
1 L'Ami d'Israël, 1968, p. 81.
2 Dei Verbum, 21.
3 Ibid., 6.
4 W. ABBOTT, The Documents of Vatican II, New York, 1966, p. 662.
5 Cf. Ws 8:1; Acts 14:17; Rm 2:6-7; I Tm 2:9.
6 Cf. Rv 21:23f.
7 Cf. ABBOTT, op. cit., p. 661-663.
8 G. MORAN, Theology of Revelation, London, 1967.
9 Cf. J. DANIÉLOU, Les saints païens de l'Ancien Testament, Paris, 1955.
1° G. BAUM, « The Doctrinal Basis for Jewish-Christian Dialogue », The Ecumenist, Vol. VI, No. 4, pp. 145-151.
11 For the attitude of Prostestant theology which, in general, is more reserved, or even negative, with regard to world religions, see e.g. L. NEWBIGIN, L'universalisme de la foi chrétienne, Geneva, 1963. We cannot deal with this question here.
12 Information Service of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, No. 9, 1970-71, p. 19.
13 Concilium, No. 54, 1970, p. 13 (French edition).
14 The words of Bonhoeffer, quoted by G. VON RAD, Old Testament Theology, London, 1965, p. 338, are apposite: « We are again thrown back to the initial stages of understanding ».
15 II P 3:12.
16 Osservatore Romano, April 20, 1968.
17 In BERNARD ANDERSON, The Old Testament and Christian Faith, New York, 1969, p. 263f.
18 Cf. « Kainos » in Theologisches Wôrterbuch zum Neuen Testament; also L. DEQUEKER, « Pourquoi les chrétiens lisent-ils encore l'Ancien Testament », Collectanea Mechliensia, No. 3, 1969, pp. 329-341.
19 Cf. Rv 21:1.
2° Cf. also G. MORAN, op. cit. M Y1 Jn 14:26.
22 Jn 16: 12f.
23 Zp 3:9; Is 66:23; Ps 65:4; Rm 11:11-32.
24 Several texts in John's Gospel, 'and other first century texts.
25 W.D. DAVIES, « Torah and Dogma; a Comment », Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 61, 1968, pp. 87-105.
26 Rm 11:29.
27 Rm 11:12.
28 Thus P. DÉMANN, Les Juifs, Paris, 1960, and, from another standpoint, Rosenzweig.
29 Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 61, 1968, p. 105.
3° Cf. the Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to non-Christian Religions, ABBOTT, p. 666.
31 Cf. Rm 9:4f.
32 Rm 11:28f; cf. ABBOTT, p. 24.
33 Cf. the Declaration of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1970.
34 J.B.METZ, D. BONHOEFFER and others.
35 « Behold I make all things new » (Rv 21:5); cf. also Is 43:19.
36 Zp 3:9.
37 I Cor 15:28.
38 E. SCHILLEBEECKX, God the Future of Man, London, 1969.
39 « Kerkelijk ambt als prophetisme » (The Church's Ministry as Prophecy) Tijdschrift voor Theologie, Vol. 10, 1970, pp. 179-202.
40 For a detailed and precise study of Church documents in this respect, see the interesting dissertation of MONIKA HELLWIG Proposals Towards a Theology of Israel as a Religious Community with the Christian, Washington, 1968.
41 Cf. W.F. ECKERT, W.P. LEVINSON, M. STSHR,
Antijudaismus in Neuen Testament? Munchen, 1967;
J.M. OESTERREICHER, « Deicide as a Theological Problem », The Bridge, Vol. V, New York, pp. 190207.
Dr. Cornelius Rijk has been director of the Vatican office for Jewish-Catholic relations (Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity) since 1966. Fr. Rijk received the doctorate in theology from the Gregorian University and the licentiate in Scripture from the Biblicum, and taught Scripture in Warmond„ the Netherlands, before coming to Rome. He has published books and articles in French, Dutch, and English.
The article we present under the title « Some Observations on a Christian Theology of Judaism » was first given as a lecture under the title « Towards a Theology of Israel » at the Convocation at the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies, Seton Hall University, (New Jersey, U.S.A.), October 25-28, 1970.