On the Evangelization of the Jewish People – The Surprising View of the Pope

In his book Jesus of Nazareth Part II The Holy Father takes up the issue of the Evangelization of the Jewish People and offers a position that I must say quite surprises me. As an obedient son of the Church, I must also say that it is for me somewhat of a corrective position. For the position he annunciates has not been my point of view. I trust the Pope and must now consider how I must amend my prior thinking based on his observations. Yet, truth be told, I am still a bit stunned by what he says.

It is a fact that the Pope has set his reflections outside the Papal Magisterium, for he says in the forward to volume 1:

It goes without saying that this book is in no way an exercise of the Magisterium, but is solely an expression of my personal search “for the face of the Lord” (cf. Ps 27:8).  Everyone is free, then, to contradict me. I would only ask my readers for that initial good will without which there can be no understanding. (Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 1, Forward, xxiv)

Nevertheless, I cannot simply regard him as any sort of theologian with whom I may dispute. He, even when he speculates outside the formal magisterial structures, commands my respect and my soul ought to be teachable even in these matters.

So, with all this in mind let me set forth  what the Pope teaches about the evangelization of the Jewish People and offer a few reflections.

Background – The Pope, in Chapter Two of Jesus of Nazareth (Vol. 2) is reflecting on the evangelical mission of the Church to preach the Gospel to all the nations. The urgency with which the Apostles undertake this mission is related to the teaching of Jesus that the Gospel must first be preached to all the nations prior to his coming (Matt. 24:14; Mk 13:10). Thus, the End Time can come only after the Gospel has been brought to all peoples. The Pope calls this period “the time of the Gentiles” (Cf. Rom.  11:25-26).

During this time, he argues that the principle focus and mission of the Church is ad Gentes (to the nations). For as Paul teaches,  A hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of Gentiles come in, and so, all Israel will be saved (Rom.  11:25-26). For now, the Pope argues, the Church’s priority is, thus, the Gentiles.

Let me allow the Pope to speak:

In this regard, the question of Israel’s mission has always been present….Here I should like to recall the advice given by Bernard of Clairvaux to his pupil Pope Eugene III on this matter. He reminds the Pope that his duty of care extends not only to Christians, but: “You also have obligations toward unbelievers, whether Jew, Greek, or Gentile” (De Consideratione III/1, 2). Then he immediately corrects himself and observes more accurately: “Granted, with regard to the Jews, time excuses you; for them a determined point in time has been fixed, which cannot be anticipated. The full number of the Gentiles must come in first. But what do you say about these Gentiles?. . . …(De Consideratione III/1, 3).

Hildegard Brem comments on this passage as follows: “In the light of Romans 11:25, the Church must not concern herself with the conversion of the Jews, since she must wait for the time fixed for this by God, ‘until the full number of the Gentiles comes in’ (Rom 11:25)….(quoted in Sämtliche Werke, ed. Winkler, I, p. 834).

 The prophecy of the time of the Gentiles and the corresponding mission is a core element of Jesus’ eschatological message. The special mission to evangelize the Gentiles, which Paul received from the risen Lord, is firmly anchored in the message given by Jesus to his disciples before his Passion. The time of the Gentiles—“the time of the Church”—which, as we have seen, is proclaimed in all the Gospels, constitutes an essential element of Jesus’ eschatological message.

….In the meantime, Israel retains its own mission. Israel is in the hands of God, who will save it “as a whole” at the proper time, when the number of the Gentiles is complete….the evangelization of the Gentiles was now the disciples’ particular task…. (Jesus of Nazareth, Vol 2, pp. 44-46).

To be honest this notion is completely new to me. I have never considered the Jewish people a temporarily lower priority for the Church, let alone temporarily exempt from the evangelical mission of the Church. The initial thought of this troubles me. Yet the Pope seems clearly to hold this view, for though he quotes others, he does not critique their views.

I have always considered the Jewish People to be an essential focus of the evangelical mission of the Church, here and now. It seems to me that Paul, as he evangelized went first to the Synagogues and gained whatever converts he could, and then turned to the Gentiles. He speaks of his ministry as bringing good or ill to those who obey or disobey, Jew first, then Gentile (Rom 2:9-10).This, at least, was my thinking and what it was based on.

Yet now, having laid my teaching at the feet of Peter, it appears that I may have “run in vain” (cf. Gal 2:2). The Pope seems to hold, (granted he does not formally teach it), that the time of the Jews is only later. For now, the focus is the Gentiles.

In a way this explains a lot. I have often been puzzled over the low priority given the mission to the Jews in Rome. There even seems to be a certain apologetic opinion among some in Rome, that the Jews should not be “proselytized” and evangleized, and that those who do so, are doing something wrong. Some have even gone so far as to say the Jews are already in a saving covenant (which I do not thing the Pope is saying here).  I have usually presumed such positions were more than influenced by a European anxiety and (an understandable) guilt over the Holocaust that made Church officials anxious to suggest the Jewish people were lacking something, in not having faith in Christ. I never considered a theological basis for the position as the Pope has presented it here.

I have read some rather vigorous discussions about Romans 11 where Paul writes, as already noted: I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved. (25-26).

  1. Some have interpreted this passage to mean that the Jewish People will all be saved ultimately.
  2. Some think it means literally every Jew,
  3. Others think that most Jews will be saved and that “all Israel” is more of a corporate notion than an “every man, woman and child,” notion.
  4. Still others, such as I, have thought that “all Israel” refers to believers in Jesus Christ, both Jew and Gentile. For, it would seem, that Paul defines Israel only as those who accept the Messiah, Jesus. For, in Romans 11 he describes Israel as an olive tree. And unbelieving branches were pruned off (11:20), and believing branches (Gentiles) were grafted in. The pruned branches can be re-grafted, but only if they come to faith in Jesus. Thus, in the end, “all Israel” means believing Jews and Gentiles together in Christ.  And though surely Paul is hopeful that many of the pruned branches will be re-grafted, it has seemed to me that “all Israel” can refer only to true believers in Jesus Christ, Jew and Gentile.

If I understand the Pope however, it would appear that my grasp of Romans 11 (as stated in # 4 above) has been flawed, at least insofar as the position he annunciates. If I interpret him properly, He sees “all Israel” as referring to those Jews who will be saved at the end of the age.

 So here is to me a stunning passage that requires me to carefully rethink how I have understood the matter. This is so even though the Pope does not claim magisterial authority, at least for me, since I respect even his non-infallible teaching and want to give it serious consideration and assent.

Some Questions – And yet I wonder of the practical application of this view and have some questions. Please understand that these questions are not rhetorical, they are actual questions I have because I want to learn.

  1. Does this mean that it is always wrong to seek Jewish converts?
  2. Or does this position of the Pope simply explain why the mission field of the Jewish people has been meager? (For, as Paul says, a hardening has come upon them for a season until the full number of Gentiles enters).
  3. While it is possible to understand a corporate conversion of the Jews at the end of the age, what of the Jews today and yesterday? Are they included in this notion? What will come of them?
  4. Are the Jewish People today in an operative covenant with God that we as Catholics ought to recognize (as some suggest in quoting Rom 11:29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable)?  Or did the Old Covenant end with the destruction of the temple? (as others suggest in quoting Hebrews 8:13 which says, By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear)?

Well, enough said, you need not, dear reader, follow me all the way as I think out loud. But in a brief couple of paragraphs the Pope has managed to powerfully question the way I have thought. I still have questions but I am willing to be taught. Perhaps some of you have wrestled with this already and have something to offer to the discussion. Above all, I am sure the Pope would be happy to know that his book has us thinking, discussing and praying.

76 Replies to “On the Evangelization of the Jewish People – The Surprising View of the Pope”

  1. When I read the first volume of Jesus of Nazareth I had just finished Bonaventure’s Collations on the Six Days, on which young J. Ratzinger had written a book. The ideas of Bonaventure, especially his theology of history, seemed present in that volume. The Trinity is always present in every phase of history, and God has a plan for the grand scheme until Jesus’ coming.

    I haven’t read the second volume of Jesus of Nazareth yet, but I wonder if this same idea inspires the Pope’s sentiments about the Jewish people as a collective. His first volume contained a lengthy section on the conclusions of Rabbi Neusner, who may have influenced Ratzinger to believe that collective conversion is fraught with obstacles at this particular point in history, but later (after Christian unity? after greater Jewish political stability? after greater Jewish unity or Jewish development of doctrine?) would be a more acceptable time.

    I’m assuming that the Pope didn’t discount individual Jewish conversions to the Catholic faith, or deny the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, nor the need for Christians to work for unity and peace in a global way, which might make the pathway more straight and smooth.

    1. Yes, I think you are right, discovering what the Pope means by “all Israel.” Is it just the collective as you describe it? WHat of individual Jewish conversions, and should we seek them, how much, and so forth are all a bit under-defined.

  2. Thank you for this thoughtful post. I also have several concerns with the idea that we are not to target Jews for conversion.

    1. Judaism is believed to be transfered along the line of the mother. If I were to one day discover that my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother was Jewish, then my children and I would, according to some definitions, also be Jewish. Surely this doesn’t mean I am not to have my children baptized and raise them as Christians, does it? And suppose I had a friend who is an atheist but whose maternal grandmother is Jewish so she is technically Jewish too. Is she also not supposed to be a target for conversion to Christianity since she is under the Old Covenant, even though she doesn’t believe it herself? So it is better to let her remain and atheist than to encourage her to join the Church?

    2. Although it is not common, people can also become Jews by converting. I know of people who have converted to some of the more liberal forms of Judaism (I hate to say this but to me it seems like they do it mostly because they think it is “cool” and “unique”). Orthodox Jews are not going to accept their conversions as authentic but Reform Jews are. So which group is right and are they Jewish or not? And even if they did become Orthodox and all Jews accepted them as Jewish, if they were baptized then the Church still considers them Christians. So what are they and should we not encourage them to be faithful to their baptismal promises and have a conversion back toward Christianity?

    3. Orthodox Jews live an intensly strict and moral life, much more than most Catholics, and I admire them greatly. I don’t think I ever quite understood the phrase, “I am not worthy to receive you under my roof” until I had a friend who is an Orthodox Jew in my home one time because I was almost afraid that something was going to go wrong or I would do something that I wasn’t supposed to do. However, many more liberal Jews (obviously not all) live secular lives according to what our culture demands. It is hard for me to believe that they are better off left alone in a state of objectively serious and perpetual sin simply because they are Jewish than to encourage them to be have their sins forgiven through baptism and to lead a more moral life through the guidance of the Church.

    1. All very good questions. It is too bad that the Pope is speaking here more in passing and does not develop the implications more. Perhaps at some point in the future he will.

  3. @Laura K. I too have read Jesus of Nazareth and Bonadventure six days. There are so many theological points that I don’t know where to begin, but I must say I think you have sumed it up correctly. I haven’t had a chance to read Jesus of Nazareth II. Hopefully, in the future Msgr. Pope will blog on other points in the book.

  4. “the Church must not concern herself with the conversion of the Jews” does not mean “the Church must not work for the conversion of the Jews”. In Spanish we say “has de ocuparte, no preocuparte” (“you have to work on it, not to concern about it”). These are great times for a friendly and sensible evangelization to Jews. There are hundreds of thousands of non practicing Jews in the ex-Soviet Union, many are migrants in Israel, many are already Christians or willing to be, Also in USA, Jews disappointed by the fall of Marxism (a Jew messianic heresy) are looking to a Messianic view of life, as ever… and the true Messiah, Jesus, has to be preached to them. If you preach and they do not convert, no problem: let God do his time, do not concern… but work for the evangelization of all peoples, also the Jews.

  5. In my humble opinion, I think that Pope Benedict is being misunderstood here. Yes, the Jews will come in at a later time, but by “Israel” he means Jews in a corporate sense, then there may be many thousands of Jews who come into the Church here and now, even while Israel as a whole remains outside of the Church. I do not think that the Hebrew Catholics would say they are disappointed at having been brought into the fold, nor do I think it would be prudent to say that Jews should not be evangelized individually at this time. In fact, as the Old Covenant is not salvific, I fear that it would be negligent not to evangelize the Jews to bring them into the New Covenant before death.

    Furthermore, what if that time for the conversion of Israel is now? What if our evangelization now is the means God intends to use? What if by not evangelizing them, we ostracize or alienate them? It seems to me that we must evangelize individuals, whether Jew or Gentile, but that, as St. Bernard said, we need not worry about the conversion of the whole people of the Israel yet, as that will happen at a time of God’s choosing. I don’t think St. Bernard was referring to the individual evangelization of Jews. I think that, in a time when whole nations were still converting, St. Bernard was telling the pope that he should focus on Gentile nations rather than the people of Israel, but this doesn’t mean that the Church should not evangelize the Jews to make individual converts. I also don’t see any disharmony between this interpretation and what the pope suggests.

    I am, gratefully, the great-great-grandson of a Hebrew Catholic. I’m sure I would have been Catholic anyway if not for her conversion (every branch of the family is Catholic), but I am honored to know that the people of Israel makes up some small part of my heritage.

  6. My husband, who is Jewish, was received into the Catholic Faith at the Easter vigil four years ago. I have seen the transformation in his life and it has been truly amazing. While I do not think individual Catholics have any call to convert the Jewish people as a “collective” I do think it would be a tragedy not to hope for, pray for, assist, and at times, invite, someone we love and are close with, to a relationship with Jesus. Always it is the work of the Holy Spirit, but I believe my deceased mother’s prayers for my husband and my sons’ prayers for the last twenty years for their father led to the dramatic moment when he bowed his head and the waters of Baptism poured over hi

    1. Anne, you have expressed the spiritual truth as I see it. God bless you and the “convert”.

    2. Yes, I think your distinction is a good one and thanks for the story of conversion. I will say that I have heard of some Jewish converts to Cathoilicism who say they had a hard time being taken seriously when they reported to Catholic parishes. I wonder if this sort of thinking is behind that? Perhaps, if we distinguish between the collective and the individual we will avoid such unfortunate treatment of those who seek to enter.

      1. I’m an RCIA catechist. In the past I have instructed a Hindu and a Muslim. I would LOVE to have a chance to catechize a Jew, especially one active in his traditional faith. What a gift that would be.

  7. Msgr., I think you give far too much weight to the Pope’s “authority” in this case. Not only is he not exercising his infallible teaching authority, but he is not even exercising his fallible teaching authority. He’s not writing as pope – he’s writing as any other person. That’s why he * explicitly* says that everyone is free to contradict him. If one wishes to give particular weight to his opinions out of respect for him as a talented and reliable scholar, then that is one thing. However, to say that this is “non-infallible teaching” to which you ought to give “assent” is to ascribe to something which is non-magisterial a magisterial character and to risk falling into a wide range of errors. It’s even a self-defeating approach – for if one were to give assent to his writing, then one must give assent to his statement that one need not give assent.

    I, for example, disagree with his opinion on the dating of the Last Supper. I think its fairly easy to demonstrate that the Last Supper was on Thursday evening and to explain the alleged problems with the Gospel of John and the Synoptics that he cites. However, it’s hardly the most important issue in the world and so it’s not worth spilling too much ink over.

    Whether or not to evangelize Jewish people is, on the other hand, an entirely different matter. It *is* important, for the eternal destination of souls is at stake. If the pope were saying that we ought not to evangelize Jews, I would disagree with him. There are enough documents which *are* exercises of the Church’s Magisterium to which we *are* bound to give assent which make it very clear that it’s necessary to evangelize the Jews. Perhaps the strongest is Unam Sanctam, the famous document of Boniface VIII which specifically states that Jews (and pagans and any other non-Catholic) cannot be saved unless they give submission to the Roman Pontiff – that is, unless they become Catholic. It goes so far as to teach that even one dying as a martyr but refusing to submit to the Pope cannot be saved! Of course, through the development of doctrine we now clearly understand that an explicit submission to the pope is not required but rather a moral submission. Thus, a Jew who does not obey the Holy Father because he does not know God requires it of him can still be saved. Benedict XVI himself, in the person of Cardinal Ratzinger, explained that it is only through Christ that any person can be saved in Dominus Iesus. Others could be cited.

    Now, I am not entirely sure that the Holy Father saying that we must not evangelize Jewish people. The quote from Bernard, for example, does not say that they ought not be evangelized, but that Pope Eugene was excused – either from the obligation to try to evangelize them, or from the responsibility of having some success in it, the quote does not make clear which – because the Jews could not come around until some later fixed time. Brem’s quotation is similar.

    I know that over the years, I have read many Jewish converts to the faith fight passionately against the idea that we ought not evangelize Jews. One example is this letter by Rosalind Moss, a Jewish convert: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2002/0210fea1.asp . I have even seen quotes like St. Bernard’s being considered a type of anti-Semitism, insofar as to fail to reach out to Jews denies them the chance to give them the riches of Christ and of their savior. St. Ambrose famously said that if you have the ability to feed a hungry man and you do not, that you have slain him. How much more is this true when the food in question is the Bread of Life?!

    1. Yes, Shane, I don’t discount what you say regarding the question of authority and I think you are free to raise the questions you do. I also have doubts about his conclusion on the dating of the last supper. However, what I mean to say is that for me, a priest and man under authority, I think I have a special obligation to be as open as I can to understand what he is saying and incorporate it into my understanding. I too do not think he is saying not to evangleize them at all, but he DOES seem to place it at a lower priority than I have ever heard before.

      Thanks for the link to the This Rock article.

      1. Msgr:
        Being under authority or not you are it seems to me under no obedience to give any credit to Ratzinger’s thesis (please note it is NOT the pope’s thesis). I am reminded of the late medieval pope, whose name escapes me, that while pope, put forward as an individual theological opinion that the sainted dead did NOT enjoy the beatific vision. I am very glad the theologians of his day did not consider themselves bound by some obedience to listen to the hypotheses of an educated theologian with no authority.

  8. We must pray for Pope Benedict. The Holy Father ought not to teach a “new” doctrine, which this most certainly is, even as a private theologian. He is the visible head of the Church. His duty, the Church’s duty, as he himself affirmed, while still Cardinal, in his great speech before the conclave, is to pass on the sacred deposit of Faith as given to the Apostles by Our Savior. I do not think we need any more books from Christ’s Vicar. We need a commander, who will incite a new missionary fervor, to all men. The pope is right in that Europe needs to be re-evangelized. Perhaps, that would be a good start. I do not think that the great Jewish converts of more modern times, some of whom are canonized, appreciate this idle speculation. I do not think the Hebrew Catholic society appreciates it. But, then again, if the true Faith is not necessary for salvation, why bother?

    I am certainly not one to put the Bible above the Church that gave us the Bible. But, on this question, we ought to stay loyal to tradition and the word of God:

    And he said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned. (Mary 16:15)

    Therefore I said to you, that you shall die in your sins. For if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sin. (John 8:24)

    But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)

    1. Yes, what I take from your comment is that it feels a bit odd to read a book from a sitting Pope wherein he claims no special authority and is to some extent expressing private opinions. Is it really possible for a pope to do this? That is a central question. Is the pope ever able to act a private theologian? Surely his role makes this difficult.

  9. Sorry for the lengthy response, Msgr. Pope, but you make so many points and I wish to reply as fully as I can.

    A. Although Benedict’s non-magisterial writings may instruct our souls, we still need discernment in these matters. This series on Jesus is “solely an expression of [his] personal search”, and not necessarily the results of that search. I would avoid describing these books as “what the Pope teaches”. It’s more like what he’s pondering out loud. We are permitted to disagree with his observations.

    B. The Apostles considered their fellow Jews to be “mission territory”. They were instructed by the Lord to be “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Their first preaching was done to Jews who were in Jerusalem for Pentecost. (cf. Acts 2) These Jews were the first “converts” (if that is the proper term to use). To hear St. Peter preach it, the House of Israel was collectively (but not solely) responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus, a point he makes a few times in Acts (cf. 2:36), and so he calls them to repentance and baptism.

    C. Paul distinguishes Israel from ‘Israelites’ when he says: “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” (Rom 9:6) God has called people to Christ “not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles.” (Rom 9:24) Paul sought to “magnify [his] ministry [to the Gentiles] in order to make [his] fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.” (Rom 11:13-14) Some Jews are branches broken off the olive tree of God’s people, and some remain connected. Some broken branches will be reunited.

    As for your questions:

    1/2. Benedict’s stance (if it is aligned with the quotes he provides) would seem to say that it is not wrong to seek Jewish converts, but that it is not as pressing a matter as Gentile converts. Perhaps he is of the opinion that we would not see massive Jewish conversions to Christianity without a truly massive witness of Gentile conversions.

    3. I’m sure there were Jews dying in Paul’s day, dying without having accepted the Gospel as it was preached to them. If Jews (and other non-Christians) have nothing to lose by dying before accepting the Gospel, I really do not see what the big fuss about evangelization is in the first place. Paul writes about those who have died “in Christ” (e.g. 1 Th 4:16), and I think a distinction must be made between those who die “in Christ” and those who die outside of Christ. Long story short: we don’t know what happens for each of these unbelievers in the final moment of life, but we can try to reach them while they are living.

    4. If one takes the perspective that Paul and his contemporaries thought that Jesus would return and the Final Judgment would take place within a few years, then that leads to one interpretation of the old covenant becoming “obsolete” and the whole of Israel being saved: it would mean that the old covenant would be obsolete when the world ended and the new covenant was enjoyed in heavenly bliss, when all of Israel was converted just before this. But if Paul and his contemporaries were not so sure that everything would come to an end within their lifetime, then “all of Israel” means not every single Israelite/Jew, but those who truly “belong to Israel”, and that the old covenant would be definitively ended by the destruction of the Temple.

    The letter to the Hebrews, at the end of the “Hebrew Hall of Fame” (chapter 11), says that these faithful ancestors of the Israelites “though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” The old covenant, as good as it was, was meant to lead the Israelites to “something better” apart from which they would “not be made perfect.” I think the two-covenant hypothesis cannot stand up to biblical scrutiny.

    1. An interesting interpretation of # 4 I had not thought to link it to a possibly imminent return but have thought it referred to the destruction of the temple. As to your initial observation I will repeat my answer just above, is it really possible for a pope to act in a purely personal or private manner? I guess it’s technically quite possible, but at an interpersonal level, I have a hard time just saying he’s “wrong” even if he gives me permission to do this. I think you are correct in noting our right to say that in this case, but subjectively I have a hard time doing that.

  10. On another note: I would love to know how Eastern Christianity (Catholic or Orthodox) has addressed the question of Jews and conversion over the centuries.

  11. Pope Benedict needs to clarify that only those Jews at any time of history who have an invincible (without fault) ignorance of the truth of Christ will have the possibilty of salvation. What I think the Pope is referring to is that there should not be a comprehensive institutional effort ( as was once done by the Mendicant orders during the Medieval period) by the Church to convert the Jewish nation as a corporate entity.

    Therefore, according to the Pope, “conversion” of the Jews will happen on God’s time not ours. It is an interesting and deeply scriptural and eschatological concept. That is why we should not forget that modern Judaism is the spiritual descendant of the Pharisees for whom Jesus had harsh words.

    The Pontiff is keenly aware of the theological tradition involving the prophectic necessity of a Jewish Anti-Christ. Pope Benedict recently beatfied John Henry Newman who said: “Hence, considering that Antichrist would pretend to be the Messiah, it was of old the received notion that he was to be of Jewish race and to observe the Jewish rites (Newman, Cardinal John Henry. Lecture 2. The Religion of Antichrist. Copyright © 2004 by The National Institute for Newman Studies).” This same traditional teaching was espoused by various theologians and/or Doctors of Chucrh such as Saint Jerome, Saint Ambrose, Saint Irenaeus, Sulpitius Severus, Francisco Suarez et al.

    But this clearly does not mean that the Jews will never recognize the Messiah. We all hope, together with our Jewish brothers and sisters, that they will recognize the Messiah either before or after the Second Coming. What our faith experience tells us is that it will be the man perfect in his humanity, and perfect in his divinity.

  12. What I am unable to get away from is Peter’s Pentecost proclamation to the Jews of Jerusalem: “‘Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.’ And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.'”

    Peter appears to imply that the promise to the Jews is intact, but that its fulfillment requires a response. The NT is crammed with references and warnings to this effect, beginning with the Baptist sounding the alarm: “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Jesus also was liberal in his warnings, in multiple parables, that expectations were about to be overturned.

    The parable of the Prodigal Son is only the last in a series of Biblical presentations of older sons being supplanted by their younger brothers. All the tension and sorrow of Judeo-Christian relations is foreseen in a few words: “Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.'”

    I am no theologian, but see nothing in Scripture suggesting that the Jews are not to be invited to “enter the feast” as a matter of principle (whether it’s opportune to present the Gospel to a people who’re not receptive is another matter, of course). We can infer from Paul that perhaps the majority of the Jews will remain unbelieving till the end, suffering from a sort of blindness and hardness of the heart. In this alienation from God of a people specially beloved by him, I perceive a type of fallen humanity as a whole, resisting the Divine Mercy.

  13. Benedict is simply wrong here. Jews were the first targets of evangelization in the Gospel and New Testament, not the last. If he is simply “thinking out loud” in this book, he ought to be cognizant of how his “out loud” thinking will be interpreted – perhaps he should have kept it to himself. If the pope isn’t speaking as the voice of the Church, he ought not to speak at all, because he just confuses people.

  14. Which Jews are saved or will be saved? I guess we can ask that same question about which Jews of the Old Testament were/are saved when the Israelite nation followed God and the Law then followed the various Baals and false gods then followed God, etc., during the various times of Israelite history.

    I wonder if the answer to that question of the Jews before Jesus will be the answer to the question about the Jews after Jesus.

  15. Since there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, and this is defined, it would seem to exhibit a great lack of charity to fail to try to bring any individual Jew into the barque of Peter outside of which no one can be saved. The Council of Florence taught specifically that Jews (and pagans, heretics, and schismatics), if they were not joined to the Church before death (and that may happen in ways known only to God at that last moment) could not be saved.

  16. Believe it or not, Jews were once Gentiles; Abraham was not a Jew. Therefore, if we are not to evangelize Jews, then God was wasting His time for 2,000 years? Of course not. If the Jews are not called yet to the truth, why did God come as a Jew? Why were the Apostles Jews? Was Judaism just a pit stop for them? Of course not. ALL are called to the Truth.

    Terminology is important here: The word “conversion” means turning away from something. For serious sinners, conversion describes the process of turning away from sin and toward God. But for my Jewish friends who will soon be baptized into the Catholic Church, it is a peace in knowing that the Church validates and ratifies what came before it in its heritage of the Jewish faith. Without that, they did not feel “complete”.

    H. Brem should know better than to take a snippet of Sacred Scripture to support her argument. I am no biblical scholar but I do know that that is not something one should ever do without giving context. Read Romans 11:11-24 to get a better understanding of Romans 11:25. St. Paul makes it clear to the Gentiles that the branches broken off can again be grafted in: “And they also, if they do not remain in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in AGAIN.” (v. 23)

    It is not for us to take our hand off the plow and only plow the fields we choose. God wants all fields plowed.

    1. Yes, Romans 11:25 has to be understood in the light of the whole Chapter. I also agree that we have to be careful to use the word “conversion” carefully.

  17. I think the Pope is simply saying that the Church does not have a mission towards Jews (collectively) in the same way that she has a mission towards the gentiles. I don’t think that it excludes helping Jews to convert on a case-by-case basis. Ironically, the Pope’s book is also directed towards Jewish people — and it can be taken as an tool to help in their understanding and conversion to Christianity.

    1. You may be right here though it is difficult to know exactly since the Pope is speaking of this topic in passing and does not develop it fully. Maybe the Pope should blog instead of write books. Then we could post comments and questions! 🙂

  18. I have never considered the Jewish people a temporarily lower priority for the Church,

    Nor do I think the Pope is suggesting that. It is possible that God has some purpose for the people of Israel.

    The Pope’s writings are interesting and also cause me to re-think this matter.

    My own opinion has been less theological, though maybe one that brings me to the same practical place as the Pope. Given Western history (not just the Holocaust, but the whole, long and sad history of Christian anti-semitism), I feel it is prudent not to have a specfic program of conversion for the Jewish people. Obviously, the Church has a general call to all people to come to a full life in Jesus Christ.

  19. A very interesting discussion. I, too, am suprised by the Pope’s words. But like you, Msgr. Charles, I am willing to review my thinking. I would just add a couple of (mostly unrelated) observations:

    1. St. Lawrence of Brindisi, a Doctor of the Church, carried out an extensive and deliberate mission to the Jews (and was apparently well-liked by them). He had a lot of individual successes, but not whole-scale conversions.

    2. Given that Jesus says that Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled, might the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel mean that the time of the Gentiles is now fulfilled?

  20. Dear Msgr. Pope,

    Have you read Roy Schoeman’s “Salvation is From the Jews”? It is a tremendous book and he as well as all the other converts from Judaism in the Church’s history have burned with great zeal for their Jewish brothers and sisters to accept Jesus, the Messiah, and therefore not change religions but become fully Jewish. Catholicism is the crown of Judaism as it fulfills the law and the prophets. One needs Jesus Christ to be a true son of Abraham and thus a son of the promise.

    Anyway, I suggest the book as it may help you to flesh out the nuance of the Church’s position that certainly admits that after the time of the Gentiles all Israel will be saved but that Jewish people still need to be evangelized as there is no other salvation except in the name of Jesus.

    Peace to you.

  21. Mgr, I fear you are proposing ultramontane ideas here. Whether he is writing as a private theologian or not, he is only assisted (not inspired) and protected from error under very very specific circumstances (I’m sure you’ve read Pastor Aeternus from Vatican I but it’s worth looking again). It’s very dangerous to say that he commands more authority than he does – what if the next pope oks condoms in a homily?

    Even if he is speaking as Pope we must maintain our traditional understanding of the levels of the magisterium, this being a statement of (if at all magisterial) the ordinary magisterium, which must be in continuity with the tradition of the Church. We’ve lost a clear understanding of the ordinary/extraordinary magisterium which means we treat anything that comes out of Rome or the Pope as authoritative and de facto infallible. And we can’t say it’s de facto in continuity or it’s traditional simply because it is the Holy Father saying it.

    You are too quick to assume that what you previously thought was wrong. What we have gleamed in your post here about what you ‘previously’ thought is the traditional teaching of the Church here. The Holy Father has suggested an innovation here which does not command an assent of the mind and will unless it is clarified and shown to part of the traditional deposit of faith.

    I hate to say that. It makes me feel a bit sick to have to disagree with the Holy Father. But this disagreement is based on a selfish thing like wanting to use condoms etc, this is based on the magisterium. St Paul might have ‘withstood him to his face here’.

    1. Can I also add that I love the Holy Father and wish to be in communion with him and will give my assent of the mind and will to anything that I must in order to stay that way.

    2. Ah thanks for your remarks here. I haven’t heard the word ultramontane in a long time. I suppose you are right in general. My concern here is more personal. As a priest, in particular I strive to be in communion with my Bishop and the Pope not just in some grudging sort of way, but in a wholehearted way so that I share their priorities and to a large extent their vision. Hence, I am saying here that I struggle a bit with what I have read. I understand what you say intellectually, but at a personal level it is sometimes harder to sort out. I did quote the words of the Pope where he indicates exactly what you say, namely that we are free to disagree with things in the book. However, as I have noted in other comments, I am not sure how easy it is for a pope to “merely express his personal search” and have all the faithful easily be able to detatch and think of him differently for a moment. It’s sort of like my Father saying to me, “Don’t think of me as your father, for the sake of this conversation. Think of me as one of your drinking buddies and talk to me like that.” Perhaps I could intellectually understand my father’s request but it would be hard and awkward to exceute in practice. Does that make sense? I think you propbaly understand since you “feel a bit sick” to have to disagree with the Pope.

      I understand and also appreciate your image of Paul here as well.

      1. Thank you for your response. It is perhaps imprudent of me to make my opinions known in this forum: I should instead seek a clarification from the Holy See on this matter. I shall write to the CDF.

  22. The End-Time is the Age of the Messiah, Age of the Church, the age from the Resurrection to the Parousia.

    It is Protestant theology that the End-Time is the end of the world or the time immediately before the last day.

  23. I did research on this topic a few years ago in a graduate paper in a class on Vatican II. In fact, the pope’s position does not surprise me at all; several of the Council Fathers at the time of Nostra Aetate. I usually would not quote myself in a blog post, but in this case it might be apropos to quote one relevant part of my paper:

    “Given the role of the Church as the ‘universal sacrament of salvation,’ one might expect the Fathers of Vatican II to have encouraged attempts to bring Jews into the Catholic Church, but this did not happen. In an attempt to determine the reasons for this, it must first be noted that nowhere in the text of Nostra Aetate are efforts to invite Jews to baptism forbidden. However, a look at the history of the text shows that the Council Fathers replaced a text that spoke of ‘the union of the Jewish people with the Church’ in favor of the current text precisely to avoid giving ‘the slightest hint that the confession of a future unity is a hidden call to proselytize the Jews.’

    “Various [Council] Fathers gave various reasons for reticence to call for Jewish conversions to the faith. Archbishop John Heeanan said that the many historical injustices that had been done to the Jews made them apprehensive that such a call would constitute a ‘demand that they give up their religion.’ Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle cited ‘memories of persecutions, sufferings, and the forced denials of all the truths that a Jew loves with sincerity and good faith’ and eschewed ‘that type of proselytism that for centuries assaulted [the Jew’s] rights and personal dignity.’ Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro stated that God’s way of bringing the Jewish people into Christianity was unknown, and therefore the council did not speculate on how God would bring it about, nor did it suggest manmade programs to do so. Archbishop Arthur Elchinger said, ‘[I]t is simply impossible for the Jews to conceive that their passing over to the Gospel of Christ would be no defection but true fulfillment.’

    “So, it must be granted that in ‘reading the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel,’ the Council Fathers were concerned not to put in Nostra Aetate any statement that would call for the conversion of Jews en masse.”

    It seems to me that the pope’s judgment, in this matter, is more in line with the judgment of those Council Fathers who spoke of God bringing Israel into the Church in his own time than with the logic of those Council Fathers who merely believed evangelization of Jews to be inopportune. Nonetheless, I see this as the Pope taking one legitimate theological option while not ruling out the other (for example, would anyone suppose that, if the Pope embraced Molinism in the matter of predestination he would be outlawing Thomism, or vice versa?). For a recent example of a prominent theologian taking a somewhat different view, one only need to look at the writings of Avery Cardinal Dulles (http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=2550). I will say for myself that I do not find the Holy Father’s reasoning in this matter convincing, but I would love to enter into dialogue with those who do, and I – of course, submit my judgment to that of Holy Mother Church.

  24. Msgr. – I am pleased to say that I agree with your interpretation and was very disappointed on reading the Pope’s version. As a convert from Anglicanism in my search for the fullness of truth and one of those truths was the infallibility of the Pope. I believe that with all my heart. But! On this matter I have to disagree. The reasons are supplied by many others on this post that agree also.

  25. I know that this person has fallen in disfavor with many but I still must say he has the correct grasp on this subject.
    I will not mention any names but a hint. R.S.

  26. I believe Pope Benedict misinterpreted Romans 11:25-26 because he is unaware of a surprising context unveiled by Biblical scholarship. See http://j.mp/f91uJ2 which explains this context.

    In sum, “Israel” = 12 tribes. The remnant in Paul’s day consisted of Judahites (i.e., Jews, e.g., Jesus), Benjaminites (e.g., St. Paul), and Levites (e.g., St. John the Baptist).

    The other tribes were assimilated among the Gentile nations following the Assyrian conquest of Israel (circa 722 BC). Yet, the prophets foretell time and time again that God will reunite all the tribes under the Davidic Messiah with the Gentiles.

    How will he reunite the 12 tribes (once divided in 930 BC) if 9/12ths are no longer retrievable? By bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles. When the Gentiles come under the reign of the Davidic King in the New Covenant, guess who’s among them? Descendants of Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Zebulun, etc.

    So, when “the full number of the Gentiles come in, all Israel will be saved.”

    Paul is speaking about his ministry and the result it is bringing about… not some cryptic prophecy of a future mass conversion of the Jews.

    Carson Weber

  27. Monsignor, I just wanted to say thank you for this article. In a time where prideful rejection of authoritative teaching characterise the majority of those who consider themselves to be educated, it is heartening to see in your work the very remedies to a world in turmoil – obedience and humility.

    I feel as though you’ve taught us by example the manner in which we should grapple with difficult teaching that doesn’t necessarily align with what we’ve always thought we knew.

    I was touched by this and truly grateful.
    I truly hope you’re the pebble that sets off an avalanche.

  28. My apologies for the second post – I just wanted to add something more directly applicable to the subject matter at hand. This is not an educated opinion – just a musing.

    We owe a debt of gratitude to the Jews in many ways. They help to keep what is preserved in the Old Testament ever-present as time marches on. It is through them that God’s covenants have been given to us. It is from their number that Jesus Himself arose. They truly are God’s firstborn son among nations.

    Considered in the broader context of the economy of salvation, it is our responsibility to pray for the Jewish people, even if we are not to actively seek their conversion. I don’t believe this stands in opposition to what the Pope has written. In the fullness of time these prayers will be answered.

    Perhaps those who have not yet encountered God in any real sense can benefit from having custodians of both the old and the new covenants living those covenants out in the here-and-now?

  29. I am so very happy the pope stated up front that this is not an “exercise of the Magisterium”. There are too many unanswered questions. What is a Jew? Does it mean practicing Jews or anyone born of a Jewish mother. Most Jews I know are non-practicing. They are very much like Christmas, Easter and maybe a smudge of ash on Ash Wednesday Catholics. The words of Christ are pretty harsh about such people. What does being saved as a whole mean? Are individual Jews not to be judged? What does “the full number of the gentiles” mean? Is there a moment to come when all the gentiles who will become Christians have become Christians, and then no more?

    This is certainly not the thinking of the Church before Vatican II. The Church’s mission to convert Jews has been unfruitful, with some notable exceptions, but so has the conversion of the Islamic nations and Buddhists and most oriental religions. Surely lack of progress on the part of the Church is not an indicator that they ought not be approached with the truths about the Saviour.

    Perhaps the better way to investigate the question is to look at the abundant body of work that has been issued over the past 2,000 years. Yes the pope is the pope, and he is the pope by the will of God, but other popes have made mistakes about non-infalable matters.

  30. Thank you for this post, Msgr. Pope. I was also struck by reading these passages from the book, and was unsure what to make of them. I think you expressed the issue very well, which stimulated a very helpful discussion in the comments.

  31. Has anyone asked: what about Jews who have converted? Do we tell them we made a mistake? What about Jews who want to be part of the Church? Do we turn them away?

    Maybe all the Jewish people as a whole will convert at some later time, but what about the Jews now, who face the particular judgment in 10, 20, 50 years? Do they not deserve Jesus Christ?

    And what about the many Jews who converted in the Early Church? The Apostles, St. Paul himself!

    I am glad this idea of the pope’s is not with magisterial authority, since after reallty praying about it and thinking about it, I cannot reconcile the seeming “niceness” of the idea with the horrific uncharitableness (as I see it) towards Jews of in any way denying or deferring the Gospel from them!

  32. Who are we to question not only a renouned theologian as Ratzinger (respected even by separated brothers) but also quotes from saints!!!

    With the exception of some few great comments, most are wrong.

    The Word of God is very clear on this milestone. The jews as a whole collective will convert together in the end of times (after 2411 according to St. John Bosco). The veil on the jews, that doesn’t properly allow them to see the Light of the World, does not mean that individual conversions will not occur (check St. Benedicta of the Cross), especially among jews with some gentile blood, but considering scarse resources, God wants us to focus on the other peoples who did not receive the Gospel yet (Africa, Asia): according to St. John Bosco their self inflicted intergenerational curse (due to sin) is over: read about the conversion numbers in Africa: awesome!

    Yours in the Heart of the Holy Family
    F. Nazar

  33. Hello Msgr. Pope:

    You wrote: “There even seems to be a certain apologetic opinion among some in Rome, that the Jews should not be ‘proselytized’ and evangelized, and that those who do so, are doing something wrong. Some have even gone so far as to say the Jews are already in a saving covenant… I have usually presumed such positions were more than influenced by a European anxiety and (an understandable) guilt over the Holocaust that made Church officials anxious to suggest the Jewish people were lacking something, in not having faith in Christ.”

    Perhaps you’ll find this interesting and amusing (depending on your perspective). It illustrates the reality of confusion on the issue.

    I was at a conference a couple of years ago where a number of prominent Jewish converts to Catholicism spoke, including Rosalind Moss and Roy Shoeman. One of the speakers was a Franciscan priest from Israel who, when he was a Jew, went to the local Catholics and said, “I’m Jewish and would like to be Catholic.” They responded that he didn’t need to do that, he was fine as a Jew, in a saving covenant, as you say. So he went to the local Episcopalians/Anglicans and said, “I’d like to be Episcopalian.” They said, “Fine.” and received him in. He then went to the Catholics and said, “I’m Episcopalian and would like to become Catholic.” The Catholics said, “Fine.” and received him in.


  34. I am not American so perhaps we have different standards….In your first paragraph you have “annunciates” for what I think should be “enunciates’ and later under Background you had “principle” for what (again – i think!) should be “principal”.

    I suspect you are much too busy to read over what you write????

  35. Apologies!! I just checked my dictionary and your “annunciates” is spot on!! i stand by the other comment!

  36. I had been taught that the Jews were the chosen people therfore God did indeed have another plan for them. I’ve never given it any other thought nor did I have any doubt

  37. Dear Msgr. Pope,

    I read your reflections with great interest.

    There is an essential difference between the individual Jew who enters the Church and the Jewish people as a whole. The Catholic and Jewish communities have long been regarded as mutually exclusive, Judaism and Catholicism as mutually exclusive religions. The individual Jew can change his community and change his religious identity: he can decide to be a Catholic rather than a Jew. But the Jewish People as a whole cannot change their communal identity or change their religion, for that would eliminate the Jewish People. When St. Paul prophesied that the Jewish people as a whole will join the Church, he probably had the Church in Jerusalem in mind, which, in his time, was a Jewishly observant Christian community (Acts 21). What he envisioned was that it will someday include not only a small proportion, but the entire Jewish People. He did not foresee the Jewish people abandoning Judaism for Catholicism, or relinquishing their historical identity to become Catholic. Rather, he prophesied that the Jews would someday be moved by the Holy Spirit to see that Christian faith made them better Jews, and that they would participate in the Church as a way of rededicating themselves to their own traditions in the Spirit of the Son, who said (Matt. 5),

    [17]”Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.

    [18] For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
    [19] Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

    But that, won’t happen, St. Paul tells us, until all the Gentiles have entered the Church. Why one should depend upon the other is not at all clear. It seems that there are two possible explanations: Either the presence of the Jewish People in the Church would, for some mysterious reason, interfere with the evangelization of the Gentiles, or the sanctification of the Gentiles by universal participation in the Church is a necessary prerequisite for the collective participation of Israel in the Church. St. Paul , I think, suggests the latter when he writes, “[15] For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? “ (Romans 11)

    Life from the dead is a new order of (spiritual) life not merely the revival or renewal of life as it was lived before. What will that new order of spiritual life be? A perfect reconciliation of the Law of Moses with the Law of Grace, obligatory and voluntary service to G-d, external forms and interior devotion, reverent fear of the Transcendent Father with perfect love for His Abiding Presence among us. Both Catholics and Jews strive to resolve these polarities, and the potential and the encouragement to do so exists in both traditions (there are many loving Jews, and many Catholics eager to fulfill G-d’s commands), but, that having been said, the Jewish tradition is rather more inclined to emphasize obedience and reverent fear before the Transcendent Father, while Catholicism is rather more inclined to emphasize loving devotion to G-d through the abiding Presence of His Son.

    The Jewish People will not be reconciled with the Church until man is capable of reconciling these polarities, for until a human being can acknowledge that G-d’s Justice is His Mercy, that His Law articulates His Love, that the awesome mystery of the Transcendent Father is inseparable from the unfathomable Love revealed through His Incarnate Son, the New Covenant cannot be perfectly reconciled with the Old Covenant. And that may well be impossible so long as mankind still includes people who live unaware of both G-d’s Law and His Love: Gentiles who have not entered the Church. Indeed, it may well be that the early Jewish Christian community was so short lived because mankind, steeped in paganism, was not yet capable or worthy of having such a community in its midst, a community possessed of so perfect a grasp of the unity of things Divine that it could resolve such apparent opposites into a perfectly integrated way to G-d.

    The Jewish People will enter the Church when they become aware of the Christian Truth which, as St. Paul says, has been withheld from them. That’s a gradual process. It begins when a religious, traditional Jew receives the grace to see beyond historical animosities and the apparent contradictions of religious teachings, and, daring to trust intuitions which only the Holy Spirit could bestow, discovers the treasure of Catholic faith and the contribution it makes to his Jewish faith and practice.

    What can the Church do to cooperate with the Spirit that has illumined him?

    1. Eliminate unnecessary obstructions to his spiritual journey. Avoid representing Catholicism as a negation of Judaism, avoid praising the Truth of Catholic Faith by making negative comparisons to Judaism which, in any case, ring false to any devoted Jew.

    2. Teach the continuity of Jewish and Catholic faith from a Catholic perspective.

    3. Model the perfections of spirit and charity which Catholic faith promotes.

    4. Acknowledge the difficulties that a religious Jew, a Jew whose Catholic devotion represents a reconciliation of the two faiths, may have with certain forms and teachings of the Church which were adapted without taking his covenantal faith and obligations into account. Be open to the possibility that a religious Jew will practice Catholicism in a way which, in certain inessentials, may be distinctively his own. Be available to observant Jews to help them formulate the rule of that practice, making it possible not only for the individual Jew to join the Church, but for Catholicism to become a form of Judaism as the New Covenant is observed within the framework of the Old.

    G-d bless,
    Richard Reinhardt

    1. Thanks for this informational answer. A lot of good material here both to ponder and to model. I had not thought of some of the texts in the ways you use them but your use of them seems quite reasonable. G-d bless.

  38. It seems to me that “Israel” is analogous to “the mystical body of Christ”. As Christians we routinely read the Old Testament as the preparation, through the ups and downs of history, for the Incarnation. Jesus then is in fact “israel”, that is he in himself represents corporately the truly “chosen ones”, set up high on the mountain to be the light of the world which cannot be hidden. He himself represents Israel’s vocation which is already prefigured in Abraham’s call. An excellent trilogy I red which throws further light on your questions is by N.T. Wright: “The New Testament and the People of God”, “Jesus and the Victory of God” and “The Resurrection of the Son of God”. And one of the best books I red regarding the primacy of the pope is “the Bishop of Rome” by J.M.R. Tillard, O.P.

  39. There seems to be a lot of discussion about the Jews being the chosen people of God and I believe that they certainly were. My question is: What were they chosen for? Was it not basically to bring Christ into the world. Is not.Christians have now replaced the Jews as the chosen. That is a wonderful thing; but are we not also chosen for a special purpose. Not because we are loved by God anymore than anyone else but for the purpose of spreading the good news to the world.

  40. This is a very interesting subject. It seems the Holy Father is not teaching anything new about the Jews conversion to Jesus-Christ only after the ‘times of the Gentiles are fulfilled’. The Church Fathers St. Augustine,
    St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, St. John Damascene, Pope St. Gregory the Great, Theodoret are among others of this oppinion and have extensively written on the subject. Many Later Saints and Cornelius a Lapide are also of this oppinion. They also refer to the Jew’s conversion as being made by the prophet Elijah who is to come before the Judgment to preach and give explanation of Scripture to them. Please read St.Augustine’s ‘City of God XX.29, also St. John Chrysostom’s Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew HOMMILY LVII. Here is part of what Theodoret says: ‘Paul insists that only a part of Israel has been hardened, for many of them believe. He thus encourages them not to despair that others will be saved as well. After the Gentiles accepted the gospel, the Jews would believe, when the great Elijah would come to them and bring them the doctrine of the faith. The Lord himself said as much: ‘Elijah will come and will restore all things.’ And here is part of St. Thomas Aquinas in ‘Commentary on Epistle to the Romans: ‘The blindness of the Jews will endure until the fullness of the gentiles have accepted the faith. And this is in accord with what the Apostle says below about the salvation of the Jews, namely, that after the fullness of the nations ave entered, ‘all Israel will be saved’, non individually as at present, but universally.’…
    My view on the subject is that while it is wonderful that Jews are occasionnally converted and welcomed in the Universal Church of Christ, the time for the accomplishement of the prophesy about their conversion as a whole has not yet come since we first have to get busy spreading the good news to the world. For now I don’t understand the full meaning of this but I put my trust in God’s word and part of it is a mystery.

  41. Richard Reinhardt has some penetrating comments. All of the Jews who believed that Jesus (Yeshua) was the Messiah in Paul’s time were orthodox Jews and kept the Law of Moses and the Abrahamic rite of circumcision, as James says to Paul in Acts 21:20. James (Ya’aqov), the brother of Jesus and head of the Church in Judaea, was a most strict orthodox Jew. In Acts 15, he along with Peter (Kepha) and the council, decreed that Gentile believers need not keep the Law of Moses or become circumcised. The leadership of the Church was in Jewish hands. The pressing problem was the mission to the Gentiles under Paul. Today, the leadersip of the Church is in Gentile hands. A pressing problem is now, because of the Pope’s new book, the question of the mission to the Jews. In light of the Acts of the Apostles, it would seem that a similar solution should be adopted in regard to the Jews. They need not stop circumcision nor keeping the Law of Moses (see Acts 21:20). They did not do so under James in the beginning, and they need not do so now. Matthew 5:17-19, as Richard pointed out, is a propos here. In the Gospel of Matthew, which was written for Jewish Christians, Jesus does not abrogate the Torah and the Prophets. His mission is limited to the Jews only (Matthew 15), and so is that of the Twelve (Matthew 10) in the beginning (see also Galatians 2, where the Twelve have an apostleship to the Circumcision, while Paul and Bar Nabas have an apostleship to the Uncircumcision, to Gentiles).

    Because the Church, nearly 100% Gentile, has moved away from this view, it has made conversion to Christianity for a Jew equivalent to apostasy. Moreover, how can a Jew who recites the Shema every day
    and belongs to the religion of Jesus himself be asked to accept the Trinity and a Messiah-God untaught by Moses and the Prophets? (And the New Catholic Encyclopedia and many other authorities today admit that
    the doctrine of the Trinity is nowhere to be found in the Hebrew Bible.)

    I agree with you, Charles, that the pope’s view on mission to the Jews by the Church is jolting–and non-traditional teaching. In fact, it is a novelty. Perhaps he is aware of the hurdles or stumblingblocks I mentioned–
    and many more could have neen listed.But is the answer abandoning witness to the Jews or changing the
    Church’s view concerning Jewish Christianity? Must Jews change their view of God to be saved? Must they
    forsake circumcision and the Torah of Moses? James (Acts 21:20) would not approve of this, and
    he was the brother of Jesus, he was the bishop of the Church in Jerusalem and Judaea. (See Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, wherein he mentions that he knew of Jewish Christians in his day who practised circumcision and kept the Torah of Moses and that he did not refrain from fellowship with them provided that they did not require Gentile Christians to do so. See also Augustine, Contra Faustum XIX.17, where he says
    that Jewish Christians should not be prohibited from keeping the Torah.)

  42. After surfing the Internet further on this subject, I see that what Pope Benedict XVI is proposing is exactly what
    ‘Reflections on Covenant and Mission’ proposed in 2002. This was a document of Catholic bishops and Jews, and in it the Catholic bishops stated that ‘campaigns targeting the Jews for conversion’ were no longer to be considered theologically acceptable. The National Catholic Register organized a forum and asked several eminent Catholic leaders for comment. The full text of their responses were posted and can be read at ‘Should Catholic Evangelization Target the Jews?’@Search here on the Internet. This excellent critique and discussion at a very high level adds salt and tang to the good discussion here. I recommend that all participating here consult this before posting. Much of what they say cannot be improved.

    See further the PDF article by a former World Council of Churches secretary ‘Learning Christology Through Dialogue with the Jews’ here on the Internet. He is on the side of the pope and the bishops of the above document (who do not represent the US Conference of Catholic Bishops). He argues that Jesus has been for Christians (Gentile Christians) ‘Christ’, but this ‘Christ’ has not meant, and does not mean, ‘Messiah’ in the Jewish sense. In other words, ‘Christ’ is a transliteration of a Greek term, which while technically the equivalent of ‘Mashiach’/Messiah, has been, and is, in actual fact a word that does not convey this meaning in its Jewish sense to Gentile Christians or to Jews. (Analogously, ‘baptism’ is a transliteration that does not convey the meaning that the translation ‘immersion’ does.) Provocatively, he says that Jesus is the Christ (for Gentile Christians), but that he is not, and has never been, the Messiah which Jews can accept. For he was not a king upon David’s throne, and he did not deliver Israel from the Romans. On the contrary, the Romans destroyed the Temple, slaughtered the Jews, and forced them into an almost two thousand year exile. For this reason, he advocates that Gentile Christians continue to preach ‘Christ’ to Gentiles, but not to Jews. (The New American Bible in a note on Luke 24 says that ‘the concept of a suffering Messiah cannot be found in the Jewish scriptures or in extra-biblical Jewish writings prior to the Christian era.’ In other words, the Christian concept of a suffering and dying Messiah who was destined to rise again from the dead was an innovation which has no support from the Hebrew Bible. The Jerome Biblical Comentary article on New Testament Titles of Christ by David Stanley agrees. See also the article on messianism by Raymond Brown in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary.)

  43. If you are successful at converting all the Jews to Christianity, you will have completed Hitler’s work – genocide to the Jews. Why do you feel such hate to the Jews that you want to completely destroy them?

    1. What an odd and excessive point of view. I suppose the follow up question would be why do you presume that to evangelize someone is to destroy them? Are you some sort of antiChristian bigot?

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