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Catholic-Jewish dialogue: contesting the covenants.


Vatican II's "Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions," Nostra aerate #4 (October 28, 1965), ushered in a paradigm shift in Catholic-Jewish relations, according to common agreement. The perennial "teaching of contempt" (1) was seemingly done away with in the expectation of a new beginning of ecumenical hope. Yet, the idea that a clean paradigm shift took place is mistaken, and the core issues brought to light in the wake of Vatican 11 remain theologically ambiguous and problematic to this day. An admittedly reductive summary of the postconciliar discussions as they have evolved over the last forty years may be given under the following two headings:

Covenant: It remains a moot point whether the Mosaic covenant with the Jews is divinely sanctioned, irrevocable, valid to this day, and salvific. (2) Even for those who do take it as salvific, there is still debate as to how this is so. (3) The relationship between the Christic and the Mosaic covenants remains pertinent to the whole Catholic-Jewish (and intra-Catholic) dialogue.

Mission: Related to covenant is the controversial question of whether it is theologically acceptable for the Church to target Jews for mission or to include them at all in its universal missionary mandate. The key issue here is whether the Church enjoys a shared eschatological horizon with the synagogue and, if so, whether it should be in mission with, rather than to, the Jewish people. (4)

I. Stating the Problem

While the budding Catholic-Jewish relationship has largely been driven by ethical and pastoral concerns expressed in dialogical settings, its relation to systematics remains somewhat unclear. As Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, has recently stated, "We are still very far away from a comprehensive Catholic theology of Judaism, including the problem of whether there are one or two covenants. This means that the question of the theological relationship between Judaism and Christianity remains unresolved." (5) This essay seeks to highlight the current areas of ambiguity in this regard and to present possible ways forward.

There are currently four main models employed in dialogical circles to interpret the salvific status of the Jewish covenant. While the taxonomy in use here is my own (as the field remains rather fluid in its covenantal terminology), the basic binary nomenclature of single and double covenants has existed for some time as primarily developed by John T. Pawlikowski. (6) I hope that the more nuanced scheme here proves suitable to categorize the various approaches taken.

The models are as follows:

1. The missional mono-covenant model. ("Mono" here means that there is only one covenant currently in operation in the divine economy.) This model holds that the Christic new covenant totally and irreparably replaces (or supersedes) the Mosaic old covenant. As a result, all the attendant blessings and privileges of the divine-human covenant relationship have been transferred from the Jews to the Christians. Evidently, therefore, the Mosaic covenant is not deemed to be salvific, or in force, in any sense whatsoever. Consequently, it is the inherent responsibility of the Church to missionize the Jewish people.

2. The missional single-covenant model. ("Single" here refers to the idea of a single archetypal covenantal relationship between God and humanity.) Though variants exist, this model generally holds that God entered into a covenantal relationship with Adam, then Noah, Abraham, and Moses, before expanding the relationship in Christ to include all the nations. As such, the universal Christic covenant is seen to include the more particular Mosaic one, which is still recognized as ongoing, though in a subordinate sense. Consequently, this position maintains that the Jewish covenant receives its salvific efficacy through the grace of Jesus Christ, which orders the Jewish people to the Catholic Church ecclesiologically (7) and includes the Jews in the Church's universal missionary mandate (while forgoing any form of proselytism). (8)

3. The nonmissional single-covenant model. (9) Like the missional single-covenant model, this model recognizes the ongoing nature of the Mosaic covenant and likewise locates its (ultimate) salvicity in Christ. However, it differs from the preceding model in that it holds that the Jews possess a unique covenantal status, unlike any other people group, that de facto prevents any Christian mission among them.

4. The nonmissional double-covenant model. This model holds that the Mosaic covenant is both ongoing and salvific on its own terms completely independent of Christ. Christianity and Judaism are thus seen as two parallel tracks to the Age to Come. As a result, mission is de iure ruled out.

In classical interreligious categories, the first position would be denominated as a form of exclusivism, the middle two positions as forms of inclusivism, and the last as a form of pluralism. (10) However, due to the sui generis nature of the Christian-Jewish relationship, namely, that Judaism is the only other religion Christianity recognizes as possessing revealed scripture, these classical categories may be somewhat misleading. From a Catholic perspective, Christian-Jewish dialogue is an ecumenical endeavor categorically different from other interreligious relations. (11) Now, how do these models fare when compared to the Catholic Church's teaching on the Catholic-Jewish relationship since Vatican II?

II. The Counciliar and Postconciliar Teaching, 1965-98

When considering the Catholic position vis-a-vis non-Christian religions in general and Judaism in particular, a strong case can be made that the model adopted at Vatican II and held in continuity since then is what this essay terms the missional single-covenant model. (12) Yet, due to the previously mentioned unique nature of the Catholic-Jewish relationship, controversy continues as to whether this model is appropriate or does full justice to the Catholic-Jewish problematic. In an attempt to address this complex question (among others), the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews was founded in 1974. The commission has produced documents on this subject about once every decade. An overview of these texts and their presuppositional basis, Nostra aetate #4, is now called for.

A. 1960's: Vatican II's Nostra aetate Is Groundbreaking but Does Not Address the Issues of Covenant and Mission

The "Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions," Nostra aetate #4, despite its importance as a text that fundamentally reworked the Catholic-Jewish relationship, in itself says nothing directly or precisely about the Mosaic covenant's ongoing validity, its salvific status, or the question of Christian mission to the Jews. It is interesting, though, that the document does mention "covenant" three times: once in relation to the "bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham's stock," once in relation to the historic fact that the Church received the Hebrew Bible "through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant," and once again in a Pauline citation that includes the words "theirs is the sonship and the glory and the covenants" (Rom. 9:4). The first occurrence is obviously a reference to the Christic covenant and not the Mosaic one; the second is making a straightforward historical statement about the handing down of the Hebrew Scriptures from the past; and the third is probably (though disputably) (13) meant to be interpreted as likewise referring to covenants given in the past (for example, the Abrahamic and Mosaic). Since the declaration does not expound on this issue, one should caution against arguing too much from silence. However, due to the citation's important implications, 1 shall later expand on this topic.

In a nutshell, then, Nostra aetate #4 does not address what has since become the theological heart of the dialogical encounter. Nonetheless, the points it does make offer more than enough substance for general theological discussion. Arguably, the document's principal concerns are (1) to position the Church's own election in the ancient Abrahamic covenant; (2) to herald that, in Christ, Jews and gentiles are somehow reconciled, even if this reconciliation will be fully achieved only on a future "day known to God alone"; (3) to limit the charge of deicide to being applicable only to some Jews at the time of Christ, thus freeing all other Jews from any guilt by association; (4) to denounce all forms of racial Antisemitism; and (5) to recognize "the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews" by holding "biblical and theological studies as well as fraternal dialogues." In other words, Nostra aetate #4 opened the door to dialogue without preempting what the core issues of that (as yet virtually nonexistent) dialogue would become.

Within this still groundbreaking framework, other points more germane to the current study are to be found, even if somewhat opaquely. For example, the text appears to recognize that the Jews continue to enjoy a privileged providential position and locates this in the prior patriarchal blessings ("God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers"). (14) Furthermore, and here we enter the heat of debate, the document's wording can indeed be interpreted as implying that the Jews' "covenants" (in the plural, citing Rom. 9:4) are irrevocable, suggesting that none is abrogated and thus that all are in continuity until today. (15) While acknowledging that this is to enter a hermeneutical spider's web, possibly pitting the meaning of the text against the authorial intention, the argument is worth airing.

The original Latin text inserts a present-tense verb in its translation of Israel's blessings as given in Rom. 9:4-5, that is, "quorum adoptio est filiorum et gloria et testamentum," meaning "theirs is the sonship and the glory and the covenant" (emphasis mine), and surprisingly translating ai diathekai in the singular but still suggesting that these collective blessings continue unabated. The English translation has "covenants" in the plural as does the Novo Vulgata ("testamenta"). If one includes these present-tense "covenants" under the unnumbered "gifts" of which Paul later says that God "does not repent" (Rom. 11:29), the case for continuity is further strengthened. However, that is to go further than Nostra aetate #4 allows. The ambiguity regarding the ongoing validity of Israel's covenants is in the original Pauline text of Rom. 9:4 that Nostra aetate #4 cites but does not elucidate.

To return to our main analysis, however, it may also be deductively argued that, by opening the door to dialogical encounters, the text effectively closes the door to mission. In actual practice there has indeed been no collective Catholic mission to the Jews since this time. (16) Nevertheless, the conciliar text, in its final paragraph to #4, categorically states (though without explication) that all salvific grace flows from the Christ's cross. (17) Thus, the paradoxical tension that has continued unabated during the last forty years is already found here in nuce, that is, the inner tension between covenantal plurality and soteriological particularity.

B. 1970's: The Pontifical Commission's Guidelines Advocates Inclusive Mission (but Forgets the Covenant)

The introductory note to the postconciliar document Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing the Conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate No. 4 (1974) openly states that the document "does not propose a Christian theology of Judaism. Such a theology ... still needs considerable study." Nonetheless, under section I, "Dialogue," reference is made to the "divine mission" of the Church. Here the following points are made: (1) "the Church must preach Jesus Christ to the world (Ad gentes, 2)"; and (2), lest such an inclusive mission "should give offence to Jews," Catholics "must take care to live and spread their Christian faith while maintaining the strictest respect for religious liberty in line with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (Declaration Dignitatis Humanae)."

Here the Jews, while not explicitly targeted, are nonetheless candidly included in the Church's universal mission. Yet, one is struck by the document's failure to address the issue of Jewish covenantal life. (18) By its silence on this topic it essentially avoids any theological discussion (and any possible theological hindrance) to Jewish mission. Guidelines, it may be argued, thus solves the covenant-and-mission paradox only by undoing it. The document strongly upholds the Church's universal missionary mandate but ignores the question of Jewish covenantal legitimacy. So, while Guidelines obviously filled Nostra aetate's lacuna regarding mission, one has to ask whether it has done so responsibly.

For, in fact, it is simultaneously advocating mission while admitting that the Catholic Church still lacks a theology of Judaism. That is quite remarkable.

C. 1980's: Notes Denies the Double-Covenant Model, yet States that the Old Covenant Is Unrevoked

Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church (1985), for its part, seeks to remedy Nostra aetate's other lacuna and turns its attention to the covenantal question. On one level, it does so directly. Section 1.7 expressly denies the validity of two parallel ways to salvation: "Church and Judaism cannot then be seen as two parallel ways of salvation and the Church must witness to Christ as the Redeemer for all." By this frank admission, the nonmissional double-covenant position (that had been gaining ground since the 1970's) (19) is rejected out of hand. Yet, at the same time, the document cites Pope John Paul II's statement (November 17, 1980, in Mainz, Germany) that the Jews remain "the people of God of the Old Covenant, which has never been revoked" (1.3); further on, it boldly declares tout court that "the Church is the new people of God" (IV.2), citing Nostra aerate #4.

Without a doubt, Notes is a theologically dense document--but therein lies the rub. Various statements concerning both covenant and mission are put forward without any systematic clarification on how they all fit together. Furthermore, the possibility of there being two people of God in existence today (one of the continuing old covenant, the other of the abiding new covenant) is certainly raised. In summary, then, Notes appears to continue where Guidelines left off and makes the most explicit statement to date regarding the salvific efficacy of the Mosaic covenant. The covenant in itself, despite its unrevoked status, has none (for Christ remains the Redeemer of all). As a result, the document appears to support the missional single-covenant model.

D. 1990's: In We Remember, the Catholic Church Does Teshuva for Various Forms of Antisemitism

Finally, the most recent document by the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, We Remember. A Reflection on the Shoah (1998) does not address the dual concepts of covenant and mission. Instead, it focuses on deploring Antisemitism (distinguished from anti-Judaism) and denounces any misguided acts that have been committed on behalf of the Church's "sons and daughters." (20) It also dispels any notion of the continuing charge of deicide and puts to rest any lingering form of Catholic negationism. While certainly praiseworthy as far as it goes, in relation to our present concerns, it offers nothing new. (21) We Remember thus seems to have brought the commission full circle, harking back as it does to some of the main issues of Nostra aetate #4 over thirty years before. When the balance sheet is drawn up after thirty-three years of reflection (1965-98), one is left with two main facts: (1) Catholic theology of Judaism stands at a paradoxical crossroads--it offers an unrevoked Jewish covenant but still denies this continuing covenant its own salvicity; and (2), relatedly, the commission's documents, when taken as a whole, present a steady evolution that is generally in favor of the missional single-covenant model.

III. The Struggle to Define a Catholic Theology of Judaism Continues, 1998-2009

In the decade since We Remember, this unresolved dilemma of a Catholic theology of Judaism has led to a heightened tension that today is very palpable. The highlights of the contemporary developments are outlined next.

A. The Rise of the Nonmissional Single-Covenant Model

Kasper has, perhaps more than any other person, been responsible for further developing and providing nuance to what this essay calls the nonmissional single-covenant model. In theological terms, this model partly shares a premise with the missional single-covenant model, which is that the universal source of salvation is found in Christ. However, in practical terms, it also partly shares the premise of the double-covenant model, in that it is against any type of evangelism among the Jews. This model can thus be described as offering some kind of compromise between the two. (22)

In a public speech in May, 2001, responding to the issue of whether Jews are included in the universal scope of the gospel call as contained in Dominus lesus (2000), Kasper said: "Dominus lesus does not state that everybody needs to become a Catholic in order to be saved .... The Church believes that Judaism i.e. the faithful response of the Jewish people to God's irrevocable covenant, is salvific for them, because God is faithful to his promises." This statement was made on the understanding that "God's grace, which is the grace of Jesus Christ according to our faith, is available to all," (23) thus clarifying his single-covenant paradigmatic basis.

In a later address, in December, 2004, on the relationship between the old and new covenants, Kasper offered the most systematic elucidation of his position, which may be summarized as follows: (1) Christian covenantal recognition of Judaism (that the Jews continue in a divine relationship of their own) is now essential for Christian theology; (2) this recognition, however, is to be posited within a historical rather than an eschatological time frame (this is ultimately because "the New Testament sees itself as the eschatological fulfilment and therefore definitive reinterpretation of the Old Testament covenant promise"); (3) while thus waiting for such an eschatological outcome, Christian theology should stress the surplus of promises in the old covenant that are not yet fulfilled in the new (this "balance of promise" still "leaves room for the ... continuing validity of the covenant with Israel"); and (4) in the end, "Israel and the Church will be reunited," while in "the current eschatological interim, two concurrent parts of God's one people ... [are] co-existing as rivals in the positive as well as in the conflict-ridden sense of the word." (24)

The dimension that Kasper newly introduces and emphasizes here is that of "eschatological postponement." This phrase refers to a single sentence in Nostra aetate #4 that mentions the "day known to God alone, on which all peoples will address the Lord in a single voice and 'serve Him shoulder to shoulder' [Soph. 3:9]." By interpreting this "day" as being eschatological, he can circumscribe the call for mission while maintaining a single-covenant framework. Essentially, he is arguing for the problem to be largely taken out of theologians' hands; it should be left up to the Divine to work out the "how" and the "when" of this (new covenantal) eschatological reunion. In the meantime, common history is allowed to remain ambiguous, even "conflict-ridden," though in the sure expectation of an eventual Christian eschatological triumph.

Two other publications that take a similar line are worth mentioning. In 2002, a text claiming to be jointly issued by Catholic bishops in the United States and their Jewish dialogue partners, Reflections on Covenant and Mission, was issued. (25) With regard to the covenant, the Catholic part argues that "while the Catholic Church regards the saving act of Christ as central to the process of human salvation, it also acknowledges that the Jews already dwell in a saving covenant with God." With regard to mission, the position taken is that "the Catholic Church has come to recognize that its mission of preparing for the coming of the kingdom of God is one that is shared with the Jewish people, even if Jews do not conceive of this task christologically as the Church does."

Given this emphasis on the current historical partnership despite the two traditions' significant theological disparities, the document also relies on an eschatological denouement to bring about real reconciliation: "With the Jewish people, the Catholic Church, in the words of Nostra Aerate, 'awaits the day, known to God alone, when all people will call on God with one voice and serve him shoulder to shoulder.'" Reflections thus agrees with Kasper in advocating a nonmissional single-covenant model in which the eschaton becomes a type of deus ex machina that ushers in a divine resolution beyond human reach--ultimately, again though, in favor of the Church (as Christ remains "central to the process of human salvation").

The second publication, produced by the Christian Scholars' Group on Christian-Jewish Relations, a U.S.-based forum, is called A Sacred Obligation. Rethinking Christian Faith in Relation to Judaism and the Jewish People (2002). (26) Though largely a response to the Jewish document Dabru Emet (2001), (27) it makes some remarks pertinent to the current study. Once again, covenantal recognition stands central: "With their recent realization that God's covenant with the Jewish people is eternal, Christians can now recognize in the Jewish tradition the redemptive power of God at work. I f Jews, who do not share our faith in Christ, are in a saving covenant with God, then Christians need new ways of understanding the universal significance of Christ" ([section]6). On the basis of such presuppositions, the missionary question is handled directly: "we renounce missionary efforts directed at converting Jews" ([section]7).

Indeed, when taken as a whole, A Sacred Obligation appears to straddle the border between the nonmissional single-covenant approach (salvation ultimately via Christ) and the nonmissional double-covenant approach (salvation independent of Christ). The document's emphasis is more evidently on the side of Jewish covenantal recognition, and conversely it somewhat downplays and certainly questions the issue of christological universality. This stress on one part of the equation at the expense of the other remains, however, rather unfortunate as it again reveals, at least to this author's mind, an (ultimately futile) attempt to solve a paradox by unravelling it. Nonetheless, in recapping this section, Kasper's statements, Reflections, and A Sacred Obligation all show how far the discussion went in the early part of the previous decade in the quest for a Catholic theology of Judaism that tried to give as much theological space as possible to the Jewish other.

B. The Return of Missional Mono-Covenantalism

Such developments, of course, have not gone unopposed. Indeed, the reaction has been strong enough to cause a resurgence in support for the other end of the covenantal spectrum and to raise the topic of actual covenantal abrogation within a framework of Christian replacement theology. One of the leading proponents of this view (until his passing on December 12, 2008) was Avery Cardinal Dulles. In 2002 he argued that "Christ 'abolishes the first [covenant] in order to establish the second'" and that therefore Christian evangelism inevitably has to include Jews. (28) This position denies any ongoing covenantal recognition and is thus to be categorized as a form of supersessionism. (29)

This perspective was further confirmed when Dulles commented on Paul's writings concerning Israel: "He [Paul] does not mean that Israel is already saved by adherence to the Sinai covenant," and that, since the Hebrew Bible promises all point to Christ anyway, the Church must patiently wait for empirical Israel "to recognise Christ and be saved." This hope for Israel's conversion appears to be historically grounded, as within his writings there is no hint that mission should be postponed until the eschaton. The double-covenant advocates also come under his critique, for, while acknowledging that "God has a special providence over Israel ... it would be a mistake," he wrote, to nonetheless think "that there are two independent covenants, one for the Jews and another for Christians, running on parallel tracks to the end of history." In a February, 2008, essay, Dulles advocated the same replacement, mono-covenantal model. (30)

In a similar vein, the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger published a work in 1998 that can also be read as both missional and supersessionistic. (31) He wrote of the death and resurrection of Jesus "in which Christians see the Passover mystery of Israel fulfilled and brought to its final theological depth." (32) This is theologically necessary because "Israel's history in the Old Testament continually appears to be a history of the broken covenant." (33) Based on such a premise of absolute fulfillment, "there can be no question of setting the Old and the New Testaments against each other as two different religions; there is only one will of God for men, only one historical activity of God," (34) and within such a framework "the Sinai covenant is indeed superseded." (35)

Both Dulles and Ratzinger, by their mutual stress on the broken (and apparently permanently abrogated) nature of the Mosaic covenant, appear to have taken the step of crossing the boundary markers separating inclusivism from replacement theology. Ratzinger's repeated emphasis on the word "one" and his use of the term "superseded" strongly suggest, at least at first sight, that he has moved toward the missional mono-covenant position. However, a fuller reading of his work shows that he actually played the Mosaic covenant off against both the Abrahamic and Christic covenants, with the Mosaic's being completely fulfilled in the Christic, which in turn runs in deep continuity with the Abrahamic. (36)

So, we have a very nuanced approach that seems to advocate the full absorption of the Mosaic covenant into the new covenant. (37) The difference in practice between absorption and revocation is, however, hard to discern, and the transient nature of the Mosaic covenant in itself remains accentuated. This position means, in fact, that Ratzinger looks to the Abrahamic covenant rather than to the Mosaic in terms of contemporary Jewish identity, a point to which we shall return below. In any event, it seems that he is content to play at boundary crossing. The argument can certainly be made that vis-a-vis Judaism he appears to feel most at home looking over the fence of missional single-covenantalism and occasionally carrying out forays into the missional mono-covenant camp (see the discussion below in III-D on the revised Good Friday prayer).

To pause at this point, it is worth reflecting that the current Pope Benedict XVI and Kasper, both Germans, are arguing for rather different positions on the covenantal spectrum. This certainly reveals a clear disparity in vision at the top echelons of the Catholic Church on a very important theological matter.

It may not be surprising, then, that the latest developments on this topic are really nothing more than extensions of these two competing (Germanic) positions. First, there has been a further evolution of Kasper's model as mentioned previously; second, there has been the recent (2008) crisis surrounding the papal revision of the Good Friday prayer of the (pre-Nostra aetate) 1962 Roman missal; and third, in 2009, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (U.S.C.C.B.) revised its catechism regarding the Catholic-Jewish relationship and produced "A Note on Ambiguities Contained in Reflections on Covenant and Mission." These developments, to be looked at below, serve only to underline the contemporary tensions that remain to be satisfactorily resolved if a coherent Catholic theology of Judaism is to be achieved.

C. The Further Development of the Nonmissional Single-Covenant Model

One of the ablest Catholic theologians to offer a response to Dulles and Ratzinger by further systematizing Kasper's position is Philip A. Cunningham. In a 2005 essay, he noted that "Nostra Aetate did not settle all the relevant questions about our theologies of Jews and Judaism in relation to the Church. In fact, it is more accurate to say that its rejection of earlier 'orthodoxies' created a new and unprecedented context in which more questions were raised than answered." (38) He is thus acutely aware that a kind of uncharted theological sea is under cautious navigation since Vatican 11. His own response to this situation is to emphasize both the eschatological and soteriological dimensions of the Christian/Jewish relationship, dimensions that he sees as operating somewhat inversely to each other. That is, while Christian/Jewish reconciliation is to be postponed until the eschaton, soteriological recognition, based on covenantal recognition, is to be immediate. As a result, Jews are said to be already in a saving covenant with God.

Cunningham further wrote that "the Jewish 'no' to Christ is not something that will change in historic time," (39) and that only through current "dialogue and mutual understanding" will Christians come to discover "right soteriological belief." (40) "Right soteriological belief," one of the key components to Cunning ham's approach and obviously aimed against supersessionism, includes the association of the Christic Logos with God's prior historical covenanting with Israel.

He commented that, "from a Christian perspective, the divine Logos, whom Christians believe is incarnated in Jesus Christ, must participate in Israel's covenanting with the One God whom Christians understand to be Triune." (41) By his use of the present participle "covenanting," he is suggesting that Christ is historically connected to both the ancient and contemporary covenantal life of the Jews and, moreover, that such a relationship is salvific. Cunningham thus follows through on Kasper's nonmissional single-covenant position: "This approach 'leaves the Jews alone as regards attempts at conversion.'" (42)

Where Cunningham goes beyond Kasper, however, and adds a unique contribution of his own is his refusal to see the eschaton in any way as a form of Christian triumphalism or as an ultimate Christian vindication. Rejecting the idea of Christianity's finally being proved right, a stance he calls "soft supersessionism," (43) Cunningham noted that "both Judaism and the Church will, in a sense, be superseded in the Reign of God. The practices of both traditions will be supplanted in the Age to Come, e.g., Catholic sacramental life will be rendered obsolete by life in God's direct presence." (44) From this perspective, "the Jewish 'no' to the Gospel [is] also part of the divine plan," for "their 'messianic hope is not in vain,'" and thus if such a hope is to be realized, it "must depend on perceiving [messianic] 'traits' mediated in the Jewish tradition." (45) Cunningham makes two substantial points here: (1) common (postbiblical) Judaism does not simply exist de facto, as a stubborn thorn in the flesh of Christianity; rather, God, de lure, has willed it for its own sake', and (2) the eschaton itself, when it comes, will perform what one may call a "double supersessionism," openly superseding the claims of both traditions in the truth of "ultimate Reality." (46)

D. The Good Friday Prayer Controversy: Is Prayer for Conversion "Mission"?

On July 7, 2007, Benedict XVI issued his "motu proprio" (Summorum Pontificum) that eased restrictions for priests, in certain circumstances, to use the Roman missal of 1962 that includes a prayer for the conversion of the Jewish people (see appendix, with relevant texts bolded). This "motu proprio" came into force on September 14, 2007, as a Forma extraordinaria, though the 1970 Roman missal remains the Forma ordinaria of the Eucharistic Liturgy. (47) In light of the controversy created by it, especially in Jewish circles, (48) further changes were announced on February 6, 2008, that removed some references deemed offensive to Jews, such as "the veil on their hearts," their "blindness," and their "darkness." Nevertheless, the revised form still holds that (traditional) Catholics should pray for Jews to recognize Christ as universal savior, coupled with the hope that one day "all Israel will be saved," that is, become Christian. (49)

On April 4, 2008, the Vatican Press Office released a communique that contained the following: "The Holy See wishes to reassure that the new formulation of the Prayer, which modifies certain expressions of the 1962 missal, in no way intends to indicate a change in the Catholic Church's regard for the Jews which has evolved from the basis of the Second Vatican Council, particularly the Declaration Nostra Aetate." (50) Despite these assurances, and even given the fact that traditional Catholics form a very small minority within global Catholicism, this promulgation has created a situation wherein one can argue that the Church is now simultaneously promoting two diverse theologies regarding the Church and the Jews.

Moreover, the 2008 missal can easily be interpreted as advocating that the Church is the New Israel, being completed as all peoples enter, with no reference being made to any type of ongoing Jewish covenantal life. The 1970 missal, to the contrary, prays for the Jews' continuing "faithfulness to [God's] covenant," and within that covenantal framework it prays for the arrival of full redemption. Admittedly, this could be read as being eschatologically supersessionist in intent, implicitly implying that the fullness of redemption means becoming Christian. Yet, that has to be read into the text, not read out of it as it stands. In any case, there is a marked contrast between the two missals. The 2008 prayer is openly conversionary and apparently covenantally supersessionistic, while the 1970 prayer grants theological recognition and is nonmissional. Based on the premise of lex orandi, lex credendi, the Catholic Church would here appear to be struggling with two diverse belief systems. (51) It certainly raises the troublesome spectre of a house divided against itself and the equally bothersome issue of the emergence of a church within the Church.

E. Does the United States Catholic Catechism Remove the Eternal Validity of the Mosaic Covenant?

In 2006 the U.S.C.C.B. published the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, which contained the following paragraph regarding the Church's relationship with the Jews:
 The Catholic Church also acknowledges her special relationship to
 the Jewish people. The Second Vatican Council declared that "this
 people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the
 gilts he makes nor of the calls he issues." (LG, no. 16) When God
 called Abraham out of Ur, he promised to make of him a "'great
 nation." This began the history of God revealing his divine plan of
 salvation to a chosen people with whom he made enduring covenants.
 Thus the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through
 Moses remains eternally valid for them. At the same time,
 "'remembering, then, her common heritage with the Jews, and moved
 not by any political consideration, but solely by the religious
 motivation of Christian charity, she [the Church] deplores all
 hatred, persecutions, and displays of anti-Semitism levelled at any
 time or from any source against the Jews." (Second Vatican Council,
 Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian
 Religions [Nostra Aetate, NA], no. 4) (52)

The sentence that caused some consternation is italicized above. Two years later, in a mail ballot, the bishops voted 231-14, with one abstention, to change the controversial sentence. The subject had already been considered at the bishops' June, 2008, meeting in Orlando, Florida, but at that time had failed to obtain the two-thirds majority needed for any alternation. The new version changed the contentious sentence to the following: "To the Jewish people, whom God first chose to hear his Word, 'belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ'" (53)

On August 27, 2009, the U.S.C.C.B. issued a press release stating that it had received a new recognitio (approval) from the Vatican for the amended text. (54) According to the "Talking Points" distributed to the bishops in explication of the proposed change, a key reason given for the modification was that "[t]he prior version of the text might be understood to imply that one of the former covenants imparts salvation without the mediation of Christ, whom Christians believe to be the universal savior of all people." (55)

Two points need to be raised here. First, the old version of the catechism clearly makes an argument for the continuity of the Mosaic covenant. Given the counter-argument that such continuity may cause theological misunderstanding, it is significant that the catechetical text does not say that the Mosaic covenant is salvific. It simply says that the covenant is "eternally valid" (in the context that all God's covenants within history are said to be "enduring") and that its validity specifically applies to the Jews ("for them"). Even the new version supports this ongoing validity by its present-tense translation of Rom. 9:4, "to them belong ... the covenants." The distinction I am making here from a Christian perspective between what is valid and what is salvific may need more theological unwrapping. It is well attested by both Jewish and Christian Bible scholars that, while gentile believers in Christ were not called to Torah observance per se, many believing Jews for centuries after Christ continued to keep the Torah as complementary to their faith in Christ. (56) It has been argued elsewhere that while the orthodox among them did not view the Torah as salvific, that being the exclusive role of the Christ, they certainly viewed it as "eternally valid" as a covenantal way of life. (57) The fact that the Church became overwhelmingly gentile in its demographic composition--and later even legislated against the Torah observance of the circumcised believers in its midst--does not change this original ecclesiological reality. (58) Though extremely complex, this is a topic worthy of further study and debate for its relevance regarding the relationship between the covenants. (59)

Second, the issue raised in the "Talking Points" highlights that the real quandary facing the bishops is whether and how Christ can be seen to mediate salvation through the Mosaic covenant. This, of course, brings us face-to-face with all the matters surrounding the various covenant models mentioned at the beginning of this essay. Fr. James Massa, executive director of the U.S.C.C.B. Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, underlined the paradox the bishops face when he reiterated, in an interview with Catholic News, that Church teaching holds to the following two propositions: (1) The Jewish people "are in a real relationship with God based on a covenant that has never been revoked; and (2) "All covenants with Israel find fulfillment in Christ, who is the savior of all." (60)

Salvific particularity within covenantal plurality thus remains at the heart of the question. As Massa's statement demonstrates, though, the question is now becoming: Which covenant has never been revoked, the Mosaic or the Abrahamic? Note the previous reference to "a covenant" and the equally vague "one of the former covenants" in the talking-point citation. While it is clear that the dilemma centers around the Mosaic covenant, the U.S.C.C.B. has in fact attempted to shift the focus away from that covenant to the Abrahamic one in terms of defining contemporary Jewish identity from a Catholic perspective. We saw previously that Ratzinger had strongly advocated this trend in his own work.

The press release regarding the revised catechism states that "Catholics believe that the Jewish people continue to live within the truth of the covenant God made with Abraham, and that God continues to be faithful to them." (61) Unfortunately, nothing further is said on this transfer of focus from Moses to Abraham. (62) It is noteworthy that John Paul II also referred to the Abrahamic covenant as being "irrevocable," in his Sydney speech of November 26, 1986. (63) As we have seen here, however, the new catechism continues to speak of "covenants" in the plural as belonging to the Jewish people (Rom. 9:4), which rather undermines this one-sided stress on the Abrahamic alone. Paul's text simply does not allow us to reduce Jewish theological identity to Abraham.

In fact, John Paul II in his 1980 Mainz speech talked of Jewish identity in explicitly Mosaic terms when he appealed for dialogue between "today's churches and today's people of the covenant concluded with Moses," which he stated is "unrevoked" ("von Gott nie gekundigten Alten Bundes"). (64) In like manner, both the first and second editions of the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994, 1997) relate in paragraph 121 that "[t]he Old Testament is an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture. Its books are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value, [cf. DV 14] for the Old Covenant has never been revoked." (65)

It should be noted that the only Christian Bible reference to the old covenant is in 2 Cor. 3:14, where the context makes clear that the reference is to the Mosaic covenant and not the Abrahamic one. (66) Trying to equate any reference to the old covenant as referring exclusively to the Abrahamic or to God's covenantal relationship with the Jews in general has to deal with this text. It would appear that the dust has far from settled on this issue. The revised catechism can still be read as supporting the ongoing continuity of all Israel's covenants.

F. "A Note on Ambiguities" Opens the Door to Double Fulfillment

The last development that we shall deal with is the U.S.C.C.B.'s publication "A Note on Ambiguities Contained in Reflections on Covenant and Mission" and the conference's follow-up clarification on Catholic dialogue with Jews. (67) Issued June 18, 2009, and revised October 13, 2009, about seven years after Reflections on Covenant and Mission was published, the document makes the points that (1) the Catholic part of Reflections is the work of an advisory group to the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S.C.C.B. and is not an official statement by the latter; (2) "[t]he section representing Catholic thought contains some statements that are insufficiently precise and potentially misleading" (p. 1); (3) Catholic belief actually affirms that Jesus Christ "fulfills both in history and at the end of time the special relationship that God established with Israel" (p. 2); (4) the old covenant primarily prepares for the coming of Christ; (5) Reflections "fails to account for St. Paul's complete teaching about the inclusion of the Jewish people as [a] whole in Christ's salvation," which is certain to come about, though the Church does not know when or how this will be (p. 3); and (6), until that time the Church will continue to proclaim "the truths of the Gospel in love" while respecting human freedom (p. 3).

The document clearly puts the emphasis back on mission. Indeed, it appears to take a similar line to the revised Good Friday prayer in that it expects the Jewish people collectively to enter "Christ's salvation," which entails entering the Catholic Church. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the original June version of "A Note on Ambiguities" triggered an alarmed reaction from several rabbis that prompted the release of the amended October text as summarized previously. The amendment consisted in the removal of two sentences from paragraph 7, the last of which read "[t]hough Christian participation in interreligious dialogue would not normally include an explicit invitation to baptism and entrance into the Church, the Christian dialogue partner is always giving witness to the following of Christ, to which all are implicitly invited." (68)

As we have seen throughout this essay, according prominence to mission necessarily has implications regarding the status and role of the Jewish covenant. Despite the removal of the two problematic sentences, the missionary tone of "A Note on Ambiguities" is still evident. The quotation on p. 2 from the "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation" (Dei Verbum), no. 15, is symptomatic of this. It states: "The principal purpose to which the plan of the old covenant was directed was to prepare for the coming of Christ, the redeemer of all and of the messianic kingdom, to announce this coming by prophecy, and to indicate its meaning through various types."

At first reading, "A Note on Ambiguities" appears to take this statement as supporting the idea that the old covenant was fulfilled by Christ at his first coming. Yet, perhaps this is too premature a read. Just before the Dei Verbum citation, reference is made to the fact that Jesus Christ has a role of double fulfillment vis-a-vis God's "special relationship" with Israel (see the previous point 3), a double fulfillment that includes a historical as well as an eschatological aspect "at the end of time." One could therefore justly apply such a double-fulfillment idea to the old covenant, since it arguably embodies a key part of that special relationship as the constitution of Israel's national identity.

In light of this, the previously quoted text "that Jesus Christ 'fulfills both in history and at the end of time the special relationship that God established with Israel'" may be read as actually supporting the old covenant as ongoing, since neither the messianic kingdom in its fullness nor the related second coming of Christ (together forming the second and eschatological part of Christ's double fulfillment) has taken place. (69) It could even be said that any hermeneutic that advocates absolute and total fulfillment in the past severely undermines the need for Christ's return and for the conclusive establishment of the messianic kingdom. (70) Seen from this perspective, the old covenant can still be regarded as "prepar[ing] for the coming of Christ ... and [for the coming] of the messianic kingdom." Until this fullness occurs, the old covenant can still be said to render meaning to these future realities through its assorted types. (71)

In any case, the "Statement of Principles for Catholic-Jewish Dialogue" published on October 2, 2009, follows in line with the press release concerning the revised catechism by focusing on the Abrahamic covenant, rather than the Mosaic one, as "unrevoked." (72) Without repeating ourselves here, this raises the same issues as were previously discussed regarding the downplaying of Jewish identity in Mosaic terms. Where to now?

IV. Covenants in Conversation: Is There a Way Forward?

This essay has highlighted the current incongruity regarding the interrelationship of the covenants and the missional implications for the various positions taken. Is there a way to move beyond the seeming impasse? Undoubtedly, many elements from the wide spectrum of opinions offered here will show themselves indispensable to future theological constructions. In drawing to a close, let me offer some pointers.

First, I think that the distinction between legitimate "mission" (referring to the totality of the Church's witness) and illegitimate "proselytism" (referring to coerced conversion) is now a given. However, the further distinction between "mission" in general and targeted "proclamation," referring to an invitation to baptism, needs more standardization. (73) These distinctions are theologically and dialogically important, and it is of interest that the four models put forward at the start of this essay all use the term "mission." In light of our findings, then, it may be of benefit to divide them further along "proclamatory" and "nonproclamatory" lines. The missional mono-covenant model would be proclamatory, the nonmissional single- and double-covenant models nonproclamatory, while the missional single-covenant model would be in a gray zone, with a tendency to proclaim, though without targeting the Jews in a collective way.

Second, my own analysis suggests that the Christian-Jewish relationship is, at its very heart, paradoxical. That insight, I believe, needs to become a starting point rather than a terminus for further theological reflection. Doing justice to the Christian-Jewish relationship surely means going beyond the theological reductionism on which most of the various (non)"missional" and (mono-/single/double-) covenant positions are based. For, in seeking to be logically consistent and ironing out all apparent contradictions, they run the danger of no longer being theologically orthodox. Simply put, to banish paradox may well be to welcome the heterodox. (74)

The "missional" covenantal models, usually understood as embracing various degrees of proclamation, all emphasize Christian mission at the expense of the Jewish covenant. On the other side, the nonmissional double-covenant model emphasizes independent salvicity at the expense of undeniable covenantal interrelatedness. All fall into the trap of playing off "covenant" against "mission," rather than seeking justly to integrate the two in some kind of comprehensive paradoxical formula. In this sense, the nonmissional single-covenant model, represented by the Kasper-Cunningham trajectory, seems most promising as offering an integral way forward.

Indeed, it is the only model (and one still in the making) that grants genuine integrity to the covenants while seeing them as historically building upon and complementing each other, instead of replacing or overly disassociating from each other. In this perspective, salvation history is understood more as a cyclical spiral than a purely linear development. Each covenant renews and transforms that which has gone before, so as to create a spiral of discontinuity within an overarching continuity. To the same extent that the covenants complement each other, a question of mission with the other rather than mission to the other becomes important. Yet, given that complementarity is not identity (it is a spiral, not a circle), there will always be a certain discontinuity that allows for voluntary movement between the covenants.

This essay has presented an overview of the current mise en scene of contemporary Catholic-Jewish dialogue, has highlighted several of the current theological obstacles, and has put forward some ideas for further reflection. Based on this, I hope that some fruitful avenues may be explored in the theological, logical, dialogical, and hermeneutical encounters between Christians and Jews.

Comparison of the Roman Missals of 1962, 1970, and 2008

 1962 Forma ordinaria 1962 Forma ordinaria

Oremus et pro ludceis: ut Deus Let us pray also for the Jews:
et Dominus noster auferat that almighty God may remove
velamen de cordibus eorum; ut the veil from their hearts; so
et ipsi agnoscant Iesum that they too may acknowledge
Christum Dominum nostrum. Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us
(Oremus. Flectamus genua. pray. Let us kneel. Arise.
Levate) Ommpotens sempiterne Almighty and eternal God, who
Deus, qui ludcaos etiam a tua dost also not exclude from thy
misericordia non repellis: mercy the Jews: hear our
exaudi preces nostras, quas prayers, which we offer for
pro illius populi obcxcatione the blindness of that people;
deferimus; ut, agnita that acknowledging the light
veritatis tuce lute, quce of thy Truth, which is Christ,
Christus est, a suis tenebris they may be delivered from
eruantur. Per eumdem Dominum their darkness. Through the
nostrum Iesum Christum filium same Lord Jesus Christ, who
tuum, qui tecum vivit et lives and reigns with thee in
regnat in unitate Spiritus the unity of the Holy Spirit,
Sancti Deus: wer omnia soecula God, for ever and ever. Amen.
soeculorum. Amen.

 1970 Forma ordinaria 1970 Forma ordinaria

Oremus et pro ludais, ut, ad Let us pray for the Jewish
quos prius locutus est Dominus people, the first to hear the
Deus noster, eis tribuat in word of God, that they may
sui nominis amore et in sui continue to grow in the love
fcederis fidelitate proficere. of his name and in
(Oratio in silentio. Deinde faithfulness to his [God's]
sacerdos:) Ommpotens covenant. (Prayer in silence.
sempiterne Deus, qui Then the priest says.)
promissiones tuas Abrahce Almighty and eternal God, long
eiusque semini contulisti, ago you gave your promise to
Ecclesice tuce preces Abraham and his posterity.
clementer exaudi, ut populus Listen to your Church as we
acquisitionis prioris ad pray that the people you first
redemptionis mereatur made your own may arrive at
plenitudinem pervenire. Per the fullness of redemption. We
Christum Dominum nostrum. ask this through Christ our
Amen. Lord. Amen.

 2008 Forma extraordinaria 2008 Forma extraordinaria

Oremus et pro ludaeis. Let us also pray for the
Ut Deus et Dominus noster Jews: That our God and
illuminet corda eorum, Lord may illuminate their
ut agnoscant Iesum Christum hearts, so that they may
salvatorem omnium hominum. recognise Jesus Christ is the
(Oremus. Flectamus genua. Savior of all people. (Let us
Levate.) Omnipotens sempiterne pray. Kneel. Rise.) Almighty
Deus, qui vis ut omnes homines and eternal God, who desires
salvi fiant et ad agnitionem that all people be saved and
veritatis veniant, concede come to the recognition of the
propitius, ut plenitudine truth, propitiously grant
gentium in Ecclesiam Tuam that, as the fullness of all
intrante omnis Israel salvus nations enters your Church,
fiat. Per Christum Dominum all Israel may be saved.
nostrum. Amen. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

(1) The "teaching of contempt" is a comprehensive phrase popularized by the Jewish-French history prolessor Jules Isaac relating to the historic Christian teaching of supersessionism (replacement theology) that was endemic to Christian homiletics, liturgy, and catechetics.

(2) Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Chrisnan Bible (West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, 2001), [section]42, highlights this tension. On the one hand, it states that "It]hose [cultic] institutions are now abrogated to make way for the sacrifice and priesthood of Christ (Heb 7:18-19; 10:9)," while, on the other hand, it argues that "'Israel continues to be in a covenant relationship with God, because the covenant-promise is definitive and cannot be abolished." For a clear stance on the ongoing covenant validity of the Jews, see Consultation of the National Council of Synagogues and the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Refections on Covenant and Mission, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (US.C.CB.), August 12, 2002, [section][section]13, 22, and 26 (available at, and the resultant debate around this document discussed below.

(3) See John T. Pawlikowski, Christ in the Light of Christian-Jewish Dialogue (New York: Paulist Press, 1982; Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2001 ).

(4) Reflections on Covenant and Mission, [section][section] 20 and 24

(5) Walter Cardinal Kasper, "Paths Taken and Enduring Questions in Jewish-Christian Relations Today: Thirty Years of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews," in Philip A. Cunningham, Norbert J. Hofmann, and Joseph Sievers, eds., The Catholic Church and the Jewish People Recent Reflections from Rome (New York: Fordham University Press, 2007), p 10.

(6) Cf. John T. Pawlikowski, What Are They Saying about Christian-Jewish Relations? (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), pp. 33-68; idem, Christ in the Light of Christian-Jewish Dialogue, pp. 9-35.

(7) Cf. the "Dogmatic Constitution of the Church," Lumen gentium (November 21, 1964), [section]16. where this is explicated.

(8) "Proselytism" here means attempting forcibly to persuade a person to accept one's religion by methods contrary to human dignity. [t is thus to be distinguished from "evangelism" as a legitimate means to spread the gospel. See Francis Cardinal Arinze, Building Bridges: Interreligious Dialogue on the Path to Worm Peace (New York: New City Press, 2004). It should be added that none of the models advocates proselytism thus understood.

(9) This is my nomenclature for the position held by, e.g., Cardinal Kasper and Philip Cunningham (see III-A and C, below). According to Kasper, given the fact that "mission, in its proper sense, refer[s] to conversion from false gods and idols to the true and one God," it "cannot be used with regard to the Jews, who believe in the true and one God" (emphasis his). Nonetheless, a nonmissionary stance still allows Catholics to testify to their own faith through the following acts: "presence and witness, prayer and liturgy . catechesis, dialogue and social work." See Walter Cardinal Kasper, "Dominus lesus," delivered at the seventeenth meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee, New York, May l, 2001: at http://www, texts/cjrelations/resources/artictes/kasper_dominus_iesus.htm.

(10) For an overview of these three common approaches to the Christian theology of religions, see Alan Race, Christians and Religious Pluralism (London: SCM Press; Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1983); and Paul F. Knitter, Introducing Theologies of Religions (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2002).

(11) Within the wider Christian forum it remains a disputed question whether Judaism belongs within the rubric of "Christian ecumenism" or within "interreligious relations" proper. The World Council of Churches, e.g., has chosen the latter, while the Vatican has opted for the former, as the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews comes under the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

(12) Lumen gentium [section]5: "the Church... receives the mission to proclaim and to spread among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God and to be, on earth, the initial budding forth of that kingdom"; [section]13: "All men are called to belong to the new people of God .... It follows that though there are many nations there is but one people of God, which takes its citizens from every race . . All men are called to be part of this catholic unity of the people of God .... And there belong to or are related to it in various ways, the Catholic faithful, all who believe in Christ, and indeed the whole of mankind, for all men are called by the grace of God to salvation"; [section] 16: 'Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their lathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues."

"Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church," Ad gentes (December 7, 1965), [section]7: "all must be converted to Him [Jesus Christ], made known by the Church's preaching, and all must be incorporated into Him by baptism and into the Church which is His body.'"

"Declaration on Religious Freedom," Dignitatis humanae (December 7, 1965), [section]1: "We believe that this one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus committed the duty of spreading it abroad among all men."

Pope John Paul II, "The Redeemer of Man," Redemptor hominis (March 4, 1979), [section]14: 'because man--every man without any exception whatever--has been redeemed by Christ, and because with man--with each man without any exception whatever--Christ is in a way united, even when man is unaware of it."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997), [section]19647 'The Old Law is a preparation for the Gospel"; [section] 1967: "The Law of the Gospel 'fulfils,' refines, surpasses and leads the Old Law to its perfection": [section]768: "As the "convocation' of all men for salvation, the Church is in her very nature missionary, sent by Christ to all the nations to make disciples of them."

"Declaration "Dominus lesus" on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church" (August 6, 2000), [section] 14: "It must therefore befirmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith that the universal salvific will of the One and Triune God is offered and accomplished once for all in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God"; [section]21: "it is clear that it would be contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her, even if these are said to be converging with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of God" (emphases in the original)

(13) The Greek of Rom. 9:4 is missing a verb in reference to this list of privileges that are enumerated in a relative clause. Transliterated, Rom. 9:4 includes the words "on ... at diathekai," which, when translated, reads "theirs ... the covenants." By inserting a verb in the present tense, e.g., "theirs are the covenants," the argument can be made that the covenants continue to this day and are thus unabrogated. The New Jerusalem Bible, however, translates the phrase in the past tense-"theirs were the covenants"--and so does the concluding message of the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, "Let Us Approach the Table of the Word of God" (October, 2008), IV[section] 14: "These are a way of dialogue with the chosen people, 'who were adopted as children, the glory was theirs and the covenants; to them were given the Law and the worship of God and the promises' (Rm 9:4), and they allow us to enrich our interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures with the fruitful resources of the Hebrew exegetical tradition." However, since Paul begins the verse of Rom. 9:4 with a present-tense verb, "oitines etsin israelitai'" ("who are Israelites"), it seems reasonable to assume that the following expressions are likewise to be taken as present-tense realities

(14) This is not the first time we come across the idea of ongoing Jewish election; it was already referenced in Lumen gentium [section]16. However, on both occasions the remark is fleeting and rather obscure

(15) See note 13 above and see also later for the recent discussion on this issue regarding the US.C.CB.'s revised catechism

(16) Cf. Tommaso Federici, "Study Outline on the Mission and Witness of the Church," presented at the 1977 meeting in Venice of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee; available at texts/cjrelations/resources/articles/Federici.htm This work epitomizes the argument for a nonmissional position based on the idea that mission and dialogue are interchangeable. The relationship between them remains problematic, of course Various Vatican documents in the 1990's generally attempted to subordinate interreligious dialogue to being a dimension of, not a replacement for, mission. E.g., the encyclical letter of John Paul II, Redemptoris missio (1990), no. 55, stated that "[i]nter-religious dialogue is a part of the Church's evangelizing mission. Understood as a method and means of mutual knowledge and enrichment, dialogue is not in opposition to the mission ad genres; indeed, it has special links with that mission and is one of its expressions. This mission, in fact, is addressed to those who do not know Christ and his Gospel, and who belong for the most part to other religions.... In the light of the economy of salvation, the Church sees no conflict between proclaiming Christ and engaging in interreligious dialogue. Instead, she feels the need to link the two in the context of her mission ad gentes. These two elements must maintain both their intimate connection and their distinctiveness; therefore they should not be confused, manipulated or regarded as identical, as though they were interchangeable." The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Dialogue and Proclamation (1991), no. 2, likewise states: "Proclamation and dialogue are thus both viewed, each in its own place, as component elements and authentic forms of the one evangelizing mission of the Church. They are both oriented towards the communication of salvific truth." In this document, no. 8 defines "evangelizing mission" as "the mission of the Church in its totality," while its specific kerygma of the lordship of Jesus Christ it terms "proclamation." Such proclamation does include "an invitation to a commitment of faith in Jesus Christ and to entry through baptism into the community of believers which is the Church" (no. 10). However. the document is clear that "interreligious dialogue is an integral element of the Church's evangelizing mission" and not part of conversionary-oriented proclamation per se (no. 38). Even so, no. 41 states, "The teaching of the Council must nevertheless be borne in mind: "All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church, and to embrace it and to hold on to it as they come to know it' ([Dignitatis humanae] 1)." Such nuances and tensions have not always been respected by Catholics or understood by Jews and have caused controversy with some Jewish dialogue partners. See the issues regarding "A Note on Ambiguities Contained in Reflections on Covenant and Mission" later. In any case, these examples give general support to tile claim that the Church favors the missional, single-covenantal model.

(17) "[T]he cross of Christ as the sign of God's all-embracing love and as the fountain from which every grace flows."

(18) The most Guidelines can say is that '[t]he history of Judaism did not end with the destruction of Jerusalem but, rather, went on to develop a religious tradition [that] is still rich in religious values" (III). There is a big difference between recognizing religious values and recognizing covenantal continuance.

(19) See Monika Hellwig, "Christian Theology and the Covenant of Israel," Journal of Ecumenical Studies 7 (Winter, 1970): 37-51; Rosemary Ruether, "An Invitation to Jewish-Christian Dialogue: In What Sense Can We Say that Jesus Was 'The Christ'?" The Ecumenist, vol. 10, no. 2 (1972), pp. 17-24; idem, Faith and Fratricide (New York: Seabury, 1974); and Michael B. McGarry, Christology after Auschwitz (New York: Paulist Press, 1977).

(20) See especially sections ill and IV in We Remember, where Nostra aetate #4 is cited or referred to regarding "erroneous or unjust interpretations of the New Testament regarding the Jewish people and their alleged culpability" and where the "Church ... deplores hatred, persecutions and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at any time and from any source."

(21) Mission is not mentioned in We Remember, and "covenant" appears only in the following sentence, where it is stated that the Jews are "a people called to witness to the one God and the Law of the Covenant" (IV).

(22) Walter Cardinal Kasper, "The Relationship of the Old and New Covenant as One of the Central Issues in Jewish-Christian Dialogue," essay presented at the Centre for the Study of Jewish Christian Relations, Cambridge, U.K., December 6, 2004: at cjrelations/resources/articles/Kasper_Cambridge6Dec04.htm He continued, "The One Covenant theory [our missional single-covenant model] stands in danger of either claiming Judaism for Christianity or making Christianity into a sort of reformed Judaism, thus obscuring either the particularity of Judaism or the uniqueness and universality of Jesus Christ. The Two Covenant theory [our double-covenant model] ... runs the risk of considering the two as totally independent entities. It must therefore on the one hand play down the Jewish roots of the church while on the other hand tailing to do justice to the universal Christological claim."

(23) Kasper, "Dominus lesus."

(24) Kasper, "The Relationship of the Old and New Covenant."

(25) Reflections on Covenant and Mission. Subsequent quotes are taken from this text. See discussion at III-F below on the mislabelling of this document.

(26) At meta-elements/sites/partners/csg/Sacred_Obligation.htm.

(27) Dabru Emet (Speak the Truth) is a document produced by the National Jewish Scholars Project. Among its notable statements are the following: Jews and Christians worship the same God, and Nazism was not a Christian phenomenon. As a text, it also postpones the resolution of the relational tensions till the Age to Come. Dabru Emet is available at

(28) Avery Cardinal Dultes, "Covenant and Mission," America, October 21, 2002; available at article.cfm?article_id=2550. All subsequent Dulles quotes in this paragraph are taken from this text.

(29) Michael Vlach, "Variations within Supersessionism," reading given at the Evangelical Theological Society, 2007; available at

(30) Avery Cardinal Dulles, "'Who Can Be Saved?" First Things (February, 2008); available at article.php3?id_article=6126. He wrote that it is the responsibility of Christians to share their faith with all others and that "'Jews can be saved if they look forward in hope to the Messiah and try to ascertain whether God's promise has been fufilled." For, "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved' (Acts 4:12),'" since "'the gospel ... is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises " This position has most recently been taken up by Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, "Judaism's Way to Salvation," The Tablet. March 29, 2008, where he argued that gentiles and Jews should have "a twofold catechumenal way to prepare for the same baptism in the one Jesus"; available at

(31) E.T.: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Many Religions--One Covenant. Israel, the Church, and the World (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1999).

(32) Ibid., p. 29.

(33) Ibid., p. 56.

(34) Ibid., p. 57 (emphasis in original).

(35) Ibid., p. 70.

(36) Ibid., pp. 54-60.

(37) Ratzinger wrote of the Torah of the old covenant's being transformed into the Spirit of the new covenant. This slightly more liberal tendency that stresses continuity is seen in other places, e.g., ibid., p. 104: "God's providence ... has obviously given Israel a particular mission m this "time of the Gentiles.'" What this presumably positive mission is, though, he did not specify. In another work, Milestones. Memoirs, 1927-1977, tr. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1998 [orig.: Aus meinem Leben: Erinnerungen (1927-1977) (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1998)]), pp. 53-54, Ratzinger wrote: "I have come to the realization that Judaism ... and the Christian faith ... are two ways of appropriating Israel's scriptures, two ways that in the end are determined by the position one assumes with regard to the figure of Jesus of Nazareth. The scripture we today call Old Testament is in and of itself open to both ways." Again, what this "both ways" means in practice is not elucidated. Further, in his 2005 letter to Kasper celebrating forty years since Nostra aetate, he wrote: "On this anniversary, as we look back over lout decades of fruitful contacts between the Church and the Jewish People, we need to renew our commitment to the work that yet remains to be done. In this regard, from the first days or" my Pontificate and in a particular way during my recent visit to the Synagogue in Cologne, I have expressed my own firm determination to walk in the footsteps traced by my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II" (available at letters/2005/documents/hf_ben-xvi_let_20051026_nostraaetate_en.html). One wonders whether John Paul 11 would recognize his steps' being followed m the revision of the Good Friday prayer and the (January, 2009) process of reconciliation started with the Society of Saint Plus X, including lifting the excommunication against Richard Williamson (though done in ignorance of the latter's outspoken negationist views and now dependent on his renunciation of the same). For a good overview of Benedict XVI's position, see Marianne Moyaert and Didier Pollefeyt, eds., The Covenant Never Revoked: Remembering the Conciliar Courage to Dialogue (Leuven: Peeters, 2009). Also see Didier Pollefeyt, "The Church and the Jews: Unsolvable Paradox or Unfinished Story?" in Neville Lamdan and Alberto Melloni, eds., Nostra Aetate: Ortgins, Promulgation, Impact on Jewish-Christian Relations, Christianity and History Series of the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies in Bologna 5 (Berlin: LIT-Verlag, 2007), pp. 131-144.

(38) Philip A. Cunningham, "Reflecting on the Reflections," panel discussion sponsored by Boston College's Center for Christian-Jewish Learning and the Theology Department, titled "Should Catholics Seek to Convert Jews (If Jews Are in True Covenant with God)?" February 9, 2005; available at texts/center/events/cunningham_9Feb05.htm.

(39) Cunningham, "Reflecting on the Reflections," p. 1.

(40) Ibid., p. 2.

(41) Ibid., p. 4.

(42) Ibid., citing Michael S. Kogan.

(43) Ibid., p. 11, citing David Novak

(44) Ibid, p. 11.

(45) Ibid. Cunningham is here citing and making reference to the Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, II,A,5[section]21. It reads "Jewish messianic expectation is not in vain. It can become for us Christians a powerful stimulant to keep alive the eschatological dimension of our faith Like them, we too live in expectation. The difference is that for us the One who is to come will have the traits of the Jesus who has already come and is already present and active among us."

(46) Ibid.

(47) Letter of Benedict XVI to the bishops on the occasion of the publication of the apostolic letter "Motu proprio data," Summorum Pontificum on the Use of the Roman Liturgy prior to the Reform of 1970, [section][section]5, 7; available at http://www hf_ben-xvi_let_20070707_tettera-vescovi_en.html.

(48) Cf. Abraham H. Foxman (nationai director of the Anti-Defamation League), "'Latin Mass Cause for Concern," originally published by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. July 11, 2007; available at He wrote, "The wider use of the Latin Mass ... could even set in motion retrograde forces within the church on the subject of the Jews, none of which are in the interest of either the church or the Jewish people."

(49) See Appendix. The 1962 Latin text is from the typical edition of the Roman missal, pp. 173-174; available at missale62.pdf. The 1970 text is from the official ICEL 1973 English translation; the 2008 text, from L'Osservatore Romano, February 6, 2008. E.T. of the 2008 text is by Fr. Reginald Foster, O.C.D, as in Robert Mickens, "Pope Orders Change in Tridentine Prayer for Jews," The Tablet, February 9, 2008, p. 29.

(50) Available at

(51) In an attempt to heal this breach, Kasper has made some remarks defending this prayer as simply reflecting the faith of the Catholic Church. See his "'Das Wann und Wie entscheidet Gott," m Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 21, 2008 Rabbi David Rosen, who from 2005 until 2009 headed the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, said on this issue: "'It is a disappointment. While I appreciate that the text avoids any derogatory language towards the Jews, it is regrettable that the prayer explicitly aspires tot Jews to accept the Christian faith, as opposed to the text in the current universal liturgy that prays for the salvation of the Jews in general terms." He continued: "All I can hope for is that, through further dialogue, the full implications of the Second Vatican Council's affirmation of the eternity of the Divine Covenant with the Jewish people might lead to a deeper understanding of the value of Torah as the vehicle of salvation for the Jewish people." See Ruth Gledill, "Jewish Regret at Pope's 'Missed Opportunity' in Rewritten Prayer," TimesOnlme, February 6, 2008; at ece. Note the assumption by a Jewish leader that Nostra aetate #4 affirms "the eternity of the Divine Covenant with the Jewish people." As we saw previously, that is to extrapolate a certainty from ambiguous data.

(52) Pp. 130-131, my emphasis. Both the old and the new versions of the text are available at mediatalk/backgrounder_recognitio.shtml.

(53) Rom 9:4-5; of. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 839.

(54) U.S C.C.B, "US. Bishops Get Vatican "Recognitio' for Change in Adult Catechism": available at

(55) Nancy Frazier O'Brien, "Bishops Vote to Revise U.S. Catechism on Jewish Covenant with God," Catholic News Service, August 12, 2008: available at _vote_catec.shtmt.

(56) On the Torah observance of Paul and the early Jewish Christians, see Mark D. Nanos, The Mystery of Romans: The Jewish Context of Paul's Letter (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996); idem, "The Myth of the 'Law-Free' Paul Standing between Christians and Jews," Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations, vol. 4, no. 1 (2009), pp. 1-21; idem, "Paul and Judaism: Why Not Paul's Judaism?" in Mark D. Given, ed., Paul Unbound: Other Perspectives on the Apostle (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009), pp 117-160; and David J. Bolton, "Who Are You Calling 'Weak'? A Short Critique on James Dunn's Reading of Rom 14,1-15.6," in Udo Schnelle, ed., The Letter to the Romans (Leuven: Peeters, 2009), pp. 611-623. On the piecemeal and slow "parting of the ways" between Christianity and Judaism, see Judith Lieu, "'The Parting of the Ways': Theological Construct or Historical Reality?" Journal for the Study of the New Testament, vol. 17, no. 56 (1994), pp. 101-119; Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed, eds.. The Ways that Never Parted Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 95 (Tabingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001); Peter J. Tomson, "'De dynamiek van het christelijk-joods conflict, 50-150 AD," Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift, vol. 62, no. 4 (2008), pp. 284-298; James D G. Dunn, The Partings of the Ways between Christianity and Judaism and Their Significance for the Character of Christianity (London: SCM; Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1991); idem, ed., Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, AD 70 to 135, Second Durham-Tubingen Research Symposium on Earliest Christianity and Judaism, Durham, September, 1989 (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck 1992); Paula Fredriksen, "What 'Parting of the Ways'? Jews, Gentiles, and the Ancient Mediterranean City," in Becker and Reed, The Ways that Never Parted, pp. 35-53, esp. p. 38: "to conceptualize relations between ancient Jews and Christians in terms of a "Parting of the Ways' is to misconstrue the social and intellectual history of Judaism [and] of Christianity ... at least up to the seventh century, and possibly beyond"; and Adele Reinhartz, "'A Fork in the Road or a Multi-Lane Highway? New Perspectives on the 'Parting of the Ways' between Judaism and Christianity," in Ian H. Henderson and Gerbern S. Oegema, eds., The Changing Face of Judaism, Christianity, and Other Greco-Roman Religions in Antiquity, Judische Schritten aus hellenistisch-romischer Zeit 2 (Gutersloh: Gutersloher Verlagshaus, 2006), pp. 280-295

(57) See Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik, eds., Jewish Behevers in Jesus. The Early Centuries (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007): and Matt Jackson-McCabe, ed., Jewish Christianity Reconsidered: Rethinking Ancient Groups and Texts (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2007).

(58) For an overview of the treatment of Jewish believers, see my essay "'Lest We Remember? Supersessionism and Memory: The Difficulty in Transferring Theological Recognition from Short- to Long-Term Memory," delivered at the conference "Memory in a Memory-Less Age," Centre for the Study of Jewish Christian Relations, September 7-9, 2008, Cambridge, UK. Key essays here are Solomon Grayzel, "'Jews and the Ecumenical Councils," The Jewish Quarterly Review, new series vol. 57 [the 75th anniversary volume of the J.Q.R] (1967), pp 287-311; idem, "The Beginnings of Exclusion," The Jewish Quarterly Review, new series 61 (July, 1970): 15-26

(59) Paul's relationship to the Torah and that of his communities is part of my interdisciplinary doctoral project at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven on "New Perspectives on Paul and the Jews."

(60) O'Brien, "Bishops Vote to Revise U.S. Catechism."

(61) U.S.C.C.B., "U.S. Bishops Get Vatican 'Recognitio' |br Change in Adult Catechism," August 27, 2009; available at comm/archives/2009/09-174.shtml.

(62) As the press release said, the catechism "is a catechetical text rather than a theological textbook." Yet, since the Abrahamic covenant, which is reaffirmed in several places throughout Genesis 12-22, includes circumcision and the promise of the Land, one wonders if Abraham is really an easier substitute for theological study and dialogical relations with the Jews than Moses.

(63) "Where Catholics are concerned, it will continue to be an explicit and very important part of my rnission to repeat and emphasize that our attitude to the Jewish religion should be one of the greatest respect, since the Catholic faith is rooted in the eternal truths contained in the Hebrew Scriptures, and in the irrevocable covenant made with Abraham. We, too, gratefully hold these same truths of our Jewish heritage, and look upon you as our brothers and sisters in the Lord" ("Address of John Paul 11 to the Representatives of the Jewish Community," Sydney, Australia, November 26. 1986; at john_paul_ii/speeches/1986/november/documents/ hf_jpii_spe_19861126_com- ebraica-sidney-australia_en.html).

(64) Pope John Paul II, "Treffen von Johannes Paul II: Mit Vertretern der Judischen Gemeinde," Mainz, November 17, 1980; available at http://www.vaticanva/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/ 1980/november/documents/hf_jp_ii_spe_19801117_ebrei-magonza_ge.html.

(65) Though the immediate context is dealing with the divine inspiration of Hebrew Scriptures, the choice of words is remarkable. It seems unlikely that "Old Covenant" is a synonym for the "'Old Testament" scriptures, for one does not talk of revoking divine scriptures but of fulfilling them. The original Latin text makes this clear: "Eius libri divinitus sunt inspirati et valorem servant permanentem [cf. Concilium Vaticanum II, Const. dogm Dei Verbum, 14: AAS 58 (.1966) 825] quia Foedus Vetus nunquam est retractatum." "Foedus Vetus" is not a reference to the scriptures per se but to the old covenant contained in those scriptures

(66) In 2 Cor. 3:7-18, Paul is explicitly comparing his ministry of the Spirit with Moses' ministry of the letter. Paul's argument appears to be that "'the veil" and the "ministry of condemnation" that are associated with the old covenant are removed in the new but not that the old covenant itself is abolished.

(67) "A Note on Ambiguities Contained in Reflections on Covenant and Mission" is available at http://

(68) The response to the rabbis by five USC.CB. bishops regarding this proposed change is available at

(69) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos 671,782, and 2816.

(70) See my essay (in Dutch) that touches or. this issue as concerns Romans 9-11: "'Paulus en Israel--Een mysterie in twee delen," Collationes. Vlaams Tydschrift voor Theologie en Pastoraal, vol. 39, no. 1 (2009), pp. 43-56.

(71) Roy H. Schoeman, in his Salvation Is from the Jews: The Role of Judaism in Salvation History from Abraham to the Second Coming (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius, 2003), p. 353, proposes something similar in defending neither supersessionism nor double-covenant theology but a "third alternative--that as the Old Covenant was brought to fruition by the New at the first coming, so will the New Covenant be brought to fruition by the Old, by the return of the Jews at the Second Coming." One is also reminded of Kasper's reference to the as-yet-unfulfilled surplus of old-covenant promises, mentioned previously.

(72) US.C.C.B., "'Statement of Principles for Catholic-Jewish Dialogue": at http://www.uscch. org/seia/StatementofPrinciples.pdf.

(73) See note 16, above.

(74) For a profound study on the meaning of paradox for the Christian faith, see James Anderson, Paradox in Christian Theology: An Analysis of Its Presence. Character, and Epistemic Status (London: Patemoster, 2007).

David J Bolton (Christian) received ala Upper Second Class Arts degree and a Master in Theology from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland He completed a Master of Theology and Religious Studies and a Master of Advanced Studies in Theology and Religion (2006), both summa cum laude (first class) at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. Since 2006, he has been a doctoral candidate. funded by the Research Council KU Leuven, in Christian/Jewish relations and Pauline Studies, expecting to receive his PhD. in 2010 in 2005-06, he wets a salaried leader of the Goed Nieuws Christengemeente, now part of the Association of Vineyard Churches Worldwide During 2004-05. he assisted Prof Dr Reimund Bieringer ita the Biblical Studies Dept at Leuven. He has worked in sales, customer service, and marketing for several organizations, and taught in both Romania (1996) and France (1993-94). He presented papers at nearly a dozen international conferences throughout Europe during 2007-09, primarily on various aspects of Paul's theology and/or Christian-Jewish dialogue, and he has organized three conferences in Louvain. His articles have appeared in 2009 in Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations and in Collationes. Five book chapters are forthcoming during 2010: two others appeared in 2009 in C. Brabant and M. Moyaert, eds., Worstelen met her Woord (Pelckmans): and U. Schnelle, ed. The Letter to the Romans (Peeters). His reviews have appeared in the Louvain Journal of Theologo, and Canon Law and the Journal of Empirical Theology Since January, 2009. he has been student editor-in-chief and lead writer for the Alumni International Newsletter, Theologv@KULeuven
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Date:Jan 1, 2010
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