The Covenant and the Conversion of the Jews

The Covenant and the Conversion of the Jews

The Hebrew word Berit is used for the word covenant, and it originally meant a shackle or chain. It followed the form of the suzerainty treaty which is imposed on a vassal by an overlord. It was in contrast to a parity treaty which was made between two equal powers. This treaty formula was used in international agreements in the late second millennium B.C.E., especially among the Hittites.

For the Israelites Berit meant that they were bound by an unbreakable union with God. In his love and mercy he had given them commandments to guide them. In return they owed him worship and obedience. In turn God pledges to be their protector, not only from military enemies, but also against sickness and chaos. He assures them of fruitfulness of children, crops and domestic animals.

The Early Covenants

The first covenant on record was made with Noah (Genesis 09:01-17). God promised never gain shall all creatures be destroyed by a flood. In return meat was not to be eaten with the lifeblood in it. This became a ritual law for the
Mosaic covenant. It is interesting to know that the early church retained it for a time (Acts 15:20, 29). The sign of this covenant was the rainbow in the sky.

There are two traditions of the Abrahamic covenant. The first (Genesis15:01-21) from JE promises Abram a son. His descendants also were given title to the Promised Land. The second (Genesis 17) from the priestly tradition changes his name to Abraham, the father of a host of nations, and institutes the rite of circumcision. When Abraham was first called, God promised that “all would be blessed through him” (Genesis12:03).

The Mosaic Covenant

According to the Scripture (Exodus 02:24) this remarkable event is a continuation of God’s covenant with the Patriarchs. There are two version, one from the Southern kingdom (J: Exodus19:21-24).

In the Southern version Moses joined by elders, all eat a sacrificial meal (Exodus 24:01-02, 09-11). God gives covenant laws and many of the rituals (34:10-26). God gives the Decalogue (Exodus 34:27-28).

In the North (E) Moses goes alone without the priests to the mountain (Exodus19:24). God gives the ten commandments (Exodus 20:01-17). The covenant code sums up the major demands of justice (Exodus 21: 11;23:01-19).  Ratification of the covenant (Exodus 24:01-11).

Covenant Renewal
All of the tribes are united under Joshua in their worship of Yahweh. At Shechem they meet to renew the covenant (Joshua 24). Unlike other covenant ceremonies there is no altar here. Joshua erects a large stone under an oak that was in the sanctuary of the Lord. “This stone shall be a witness.”

The Psalmist seals the covenant with these words to David: “I will punish their crime with a rode and their guilt with stripes. Yet my kindness I will not take from him, nor will I belie my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant: the promise of my lips I will not alter” (Psalms 89:33-35).

However Jeremiah wrote: “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (31:31).

What Was the New Covenant?

The Letter to the Hebrews identifies the people of the new covenant as the emerging church (08:07-13), and that the first covenant was abrogated (super-sessionism). Also in two places the institution of the Eucharist shows Jesus saying: “this cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Corinthians 11:25; Luke 22:20). On the other hand in the two other accounts of the Eucharist it shows Jesus eliminating the word “new” (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24). Why? In Matthew Jesus says: “I did not come to abolish in the law but to fulfill it” (05:17). “Were the early believers divided on these issues?

We know that Jesus was a Jew, as was the apostle Paul. The early Church was nurtured in the arms of Judaism. After Judaism ejected the Jesus movement from the synagogue, John’s Gospel was written. It’s there that triumphalism surfaced. “No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:06). The Gospel reflects a great hostility existing between the Church and Judaism which then is amplified in the writings of some of the early Fathers.

Chrysostom called the Jews “wretched.” Augustine attacked the Jews in his writings. During the crusades Jews were called “Christ killers” and were the targets of violence. Luther, the German reformer, was anti-semitic. It is appalling that the Holocaust took place in a Christian nation in the twentieth century.

Among the changes made in the liturgy after Vatican II, the Catholic Church revised the Good Friday rites. In the prayers of the faithful, the eighth prayer was changed from “Let us pray that God will look kindly on the Jews so that they will acknowledge the Redeemer of all, Jesus Christ our Lord,” to “let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant.” The prayer for the conversion of the Jews was removed from the Good Friday rites (1969).

The Torah Saves the Jews!

Since the Council the Church has issued a number of theological position papers that reject super-sessionism and affirm that the Torah is a valid path for the Jews to achieve salvation, that their covenant with God is still valid, and that the Jews of modern times are a direct continuation of ancient Israel. Some Catholic theologians disagree. However, it has been reaffirmed several times by the Magisterium.

In August 2002 the press reported an open disagreement between the Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic Churches on whether Christians should try to convert Jews. The U.S. Bishop’s Committee of Ecumenical Affairs and the National Council of Synagogues, representing Conservative and Reformed Judaism, issued a joint statement that triggered the above dispute.

It recognized the “divinely-given mission to the Jews to witness to God’s faithful love.” Thus, “campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity are no longer theologically acceptable in the Roman Catholic Church.”

Third Isaiah, an ancient ecumenist wrote to gentiles serving the Lord in their way: “Them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer. Their sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar. For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (56:07).

John XXIII greeted visiting rabbis to the Vatican with these words: “I am Joseph your long lost brother.”

"The Covenant and the Conversion of the Jews" is one of the pamphlets on the biblical foundations of the Catholic Church written May 2008 to Nov 2010 by Deacon Paul Carlson of Minneapolis, Minnesota's St Lawrence Catholic Church / Newman Center, a Paulist Foundation. (St Lawrence is the Catholic Church of Southeast Minneapolis and is right in the heart of "Dinkytown USA".)

This blog post is a memorial serialization of those pamphlets written by Deacon Paul Carlson at the request of than Pastor/Director Fr John J. Behnke, who asked Deacon Paul to write brief answers to questions University students often encountered as Catholics.

At couple of weeks before Deacon Paul's death, he said: "If there are any financial gains made from the blog serialization of my pamphlets, please have the money given to St. Lawrence Parish and Newman Center or Paulist Fathers, because what they do is so important." If you can, send memorials to St. Lawrence Parish and Newman Center or Paulist Fathers at 1203 Fifth Street, S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55414. 

Remember Deacon Paul Carlson in your prayers, as well as all the other souls of the faithful departed, who have died in the grace of Jesus Christ.

No comments:

Post a Comment