Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sorry St. Paul, We've Written Off Your People (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of "Sorry, St. Paul, We've Written off Your People." This provides a somewhat lengthy scriptural context for the proof-text used by the Vatican. It could easily be expanded but the Bear doesn't want to tax his readers too much. The entire New Testament is an argument against the New Jew View.

St. Paul had been what some might call a "fundamentalist Jew." He persecuted Christians until Jesus dramatically appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He was given a personal revelation of the elements of the faith, and went out preaching before consulting with the other apostles. No one confronted his brother Jews more than St. Paul, or wrote more about the uselessness of the Law for salvation.

Read what he wrote about the salvation of Jews:

We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, 16 yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified.
(Galatians 2:15-16 RSV.)

St. Paul also surprisingly wrote that it was Jesus who was the ultimate beneficiary of the promises -- covenants -- made to Abraham. "Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, 'And to offsprings,' referring to many; but, referring to one, 'And to your offspring,' which is Christ." (Galatians 3:16 RSV.)

Yet Paul also mocked Jews' reliance on their special relationship with God, and the Law, and dismissed the value of circumcision. "For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. 29 He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God." (Romans 2:28-29 RSV.)

St. Paul was saddened and perplexed that his fellow Jews had not accepted Christ. They are stumbling over the rock of Christ and attempting to pursue salvation through works of the Law. There is certainly no hint that Jews had their own way without Christ.
What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued the righteousness which is based on law did not succeed in fulfilling that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it through faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall; and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.
(Romans 9:30-33 RSV)

Gentile Christians were likened to wild olive branches that had been grafted onto a tree with Jewish roots. Jewish branches had been broken off by God because of their unbelief in Christ. This does not sound good for the Jews, unless they believe.
If you do boast, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 You will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.
(Romans 11:18-21 RSV.)

In fact, St. Paul's heart  was broken by the prospect of Jews not being saved. He writes that Jews are missing the whole point of Christ in salvation. Are these the words of a man who believes Jews need not come to Christ?
Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified. 
(Romans 10:1-4 RSV)

Paul quotes Moses as saying God will use "a foolish nation," i.e. the Gentiles, to make the Jews "jealous." He quotes Isaiah saying God has been found by those that did not seek Him, while the Jews have been disobedient. However, Paul is certain God has not rejected His chosen people, but retained a remnant. "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." (Paul had a more optimistic view for the end.) But even the remnant was of grace, not works.
Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, "I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry." 20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, "I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me." 21 But of Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people." 
1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 "Lord, they have killed thy prophets, they have demolished thy altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life." 4 But what is God's reply to him? "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. 
Paul echoed  the words of Christ. "Jesus said, 'For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.'" (John 9:39 RSV.) He hoped that the entry of Gentiles into a special relationship with the Father would make the Jews jealous, and incite them to become Christians. Their full inclusion would bring even greater blessings.
7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it sought. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written,"God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that should not see and ears that should not hear, down to this very day." 9 And David says,"Let their table become a snare and a trap, a pitfall and a retribution for them; 10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs for ever." 
Does this sound like people who are perfectly fine just the way they are?
11 So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 
(Romans 10:19-11:14 RSV)

Why does St. Paul think his brethren need to be "saved" if their Judaism were sufficient?

Finally, here is where get we the proof-text for the New Jew View, "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable." (Romans 11:29.) As so often, the Church quotes scripture partially or out of context. But that little verse must be read in context, which is why the Bear has burdened you with lengthy quotes.

God is ready to be merciful, even though for now they are "enemies of God." (Why did he think that?) Paul thought that the Jews had been "hardened" until the full number of Gentiles had come in." Then he envisioned all the Jews being saved, but it is clearly in the context of the gospel. Paul sees disobedience in the Jews' rejection of the gospel. If they were fine being Jews, why would Paul care whether they converted or not?

The immediate context suggests while they are disobedient as far as the Gospel goes, God still loves them for the sake of their forefathers, "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable." The Bear isn't so sure this is about covenants at all. Their proof-text may merely be a recognition that the Jews remain the chosen people and nobody should write them off. This makes perfect sense in a passage about how they are currently enemies of God.
Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, 26 and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob"; 27 "and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins." 28 As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. 30 Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. 32
(Romans 11:25-32 RSV)

According to St. Paul, himself a Jew, Jews have remained disobedient. (This was not addressed in the new document.) What does Paul mean by "all Israel will be saved?" It is dangerous to try to create dogma out of something that only appears in a single verse. And St. Paul has always been notorious for throwing curve balls, as St. Peter warns. (2 Peter 3:15-17 RSV.) Certainly it was his wish, and it gives us hope that someday Jews will cease being disobedient and accept Christ. Certainly St. Paul, himself a Jew, could envision no other way.

Conclusion

"The Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed toward the Jews." So says the new document on the 50th anniversary of Nostrae Aetate. A rabbi joined Cardinal Koch at the press conference. We can still witness to Jews individually, as long as we do it with humility and sensitivity, and don't mention the Holocaust. (The Church's opinion of its pewsitters seems to get lower every day.) 

But already the document is being spun to ban all proselytization. Joseph Seivers, a professor at Rome's Pontifical Biblical Institute and member of the commission that produced the document said it "should be read as an exhortation to individual Christians not to seek Jew's conversion," in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. And some Jews have already criticized it because it does not explicitly state Judaism is a salvific faith, i.e. a separate means of salvation that does not need Christ.

How we avoided that is indeed a welcome mystery.

The Bear predicts that the greatest scandals of the coming years will involve interfaith and ecumenism. Jorge Bergoglio's leftism is not the only agenda. The more permanent threat is the gradual relinquishment of the Churches claims to exclusivity, and advancement of a kind of the unity of all mankind. The barque of Peter seems rudderless and floating down the current of our age.

7 comments:

  1. Magnificent. Really.

    God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that should not see and ears that should not hear, down to this very day.

    Christians tend to be ignorant of the animus Rabbinic Judaism has borne towards them from the beginning. We are ignorant rubes, even idolaters, to have fallen for the Nazarene's con job. It might also be surprising for Christians--accustomed to seeing Jews strongly represented in academia and other cerebral occupations--to see just how poor the quality of Jewish apologetics often is. The article I linked yesterday (about the cessation of the Yom Kippur scapegoat miracle around AD 30) is a great example of the kind of circular reasoning they engage in: Well, since we know that Jesus was a fraud, it follows that there must be another explanation. Therefore the Christians are wrong. Which seems like a perfect illustration of St. Paul's point.

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    1. I think the more complete view from scripture really demonstrates how deceitful this document is, which is really a comment on its drafters. Rest assured there were many hands in that mess. They took one ambiguous proof text and ignored a mountain of evidence contrary to their desires, did a bunch of theological hand-waving and crammed it down our throats.

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  2. The Bear will forgive me if I restate an opinion I had recently offered on Fr. Hunwicke's wonderful blog, "Mutual Enrichment", viz.:

    If the Jews are not to be evangelized and thus run the individual risk of damnation for all eternity, who ultimately will have worked the gravest harm to the Jewish race: he who ended their temporal lives in the ovens of National Socialism or he who would risk consigning their eternity to the fires of Hell?

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    Replies
    1. [Bear gets on his hind legs] The Bear respectfully invites the Court to consider the possibility that our Church no longer teaches that Jews, at least, need become Catholics in order to avoid the flames of Hell. In such a case, "the ovens of National Socialism," as the Court so eloquently phrases it, were far worse of a crime than failure to evangelize. I invite the Court to take judicial notice of the new document "Gifts and Calling." While non-magisterial, it clearly represents the position of the Church, and flatly states that while Jews, like everyone else, are saved through Jesus Christ, they do not have to accept him or believe in Him. Thank you.

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    2. Now do sit down, Bear. Let's have a modicum of decorum here. Your histrionics are wasted here.

      Surely counsel, you are aware that the clear history of legislative intent and the subsequent public implementation thereof for several thousand years carries controlling weight in such a matter.

      One must refer to the Law Giver's foundational formulations and subsequent history of the law before any radical interpretation or novelty may be entertained by the court.

      You bear the burden of proof here, Bear, and that onus is not merely a preponderance. No. Since lives are at issue here, eternal that is, you must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that your client possesses the authority to set millennia of black letter doctrine on its head.

      And furthermore, the nest time you rise to make a plea without having first secured the court's permission...(fill in the blank).

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    3. I apologize for any breach in decorum. It was certainly not the intent of counsel to show any disrespect to this Honorable Court. Counsel admits to an incomplete familiarity with the protocols of Your Honor's courtroom, for which he accepts full responsibility. He will remedy that at the earliest opportunity by consulting with local counsel, and thanks the Court for it's patience, particularly by allowing a Bear to appear.

      Counsel concedes that the document in question is not controlling authority, as it is not magisterial. Nonetheless, counsel suggests that this Honorable Court considers the entire trend of the last 50 years, the milepost of Nostrae Aetate, which is controlling authority as a conciliar document. "Gifts and Calling" is, at least to the eye of counsel, merely the logical conclusion of Vatican II, and the great interfaith accomplishments of St. Pope John Paul II and his successor Pope Benedict XVI. Our reigning Pontiff's views are well known. With all due respect, this Honorable Court should not dismiss the last Church council, and the ordinary magisterium of the last three Popes.

      Indeed, Your Honor, it seems apparent to counsel that the authority upon which the Court relies is no longer authoritative. It represents the best efforts of good churchmen to grope toward the truth. And it was sufficient for its time.

      But these are new times, Your Honor, and your pre-Vatican two authority has been overruled or diminished. Can this Honorable Court imagine a single prelate who would agree with extra ecclesiam nulla salus? The Court will be familiar with the principle of "disuetude." Most of the black letter law upon which this Honorable Court relies simply no longer has any power. It has been allowed to die, and has been replaced by a more welcoming, merciful Church where doctrines are flexible and must be understood in the context of each person's place in their life.

      Finally, counsel cannot help but invite the Court's attention to the insensitivity of diminishing the Holocaust by comparing it to Hell. Holocaust, Your Honor, Holocaust. Counsel believes he need say no more, and thanks the Court for its kind attention.

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    4. Ah! If indeed that authority, its laws, and decrees, upon which the Court now relies is without force or effect, then what has become of that very same authority which formerly in the name of absolute Truth and in the furtherance thereof accepted substantial monies in virtue of tuition payments for schooling, bequests, etc. throughout the years and in acceptance of which compensation publicly taught and asserted that the Truths it proclaimed were unchangeable?


      It appears to the Court that there is an identifiable and distinguishable class of persons here (if Bear's assertions are accurate) who have been financially disadvantaged, if not bilked, through detrimental reliance either by that earlier authority or this alleged latter authority and such class would seem to be entitled to restitution of tuition monies, gifts, bequests, made in good faith to the earlier authority.

      Delete

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