On the Chosen Status of the Jews
What Does Vatican II Really Say About the Old Covenant?
BY Michael Forrest and David Palm
November 7-20, 2010 Issue | Posted 10/29/10 at 4:52 PM
Perhaps the most significant evidence in its favor is to be found in Section 16 of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic constitution on the Church, which says:
“Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the people of God in various ways. There is, first, that people to which the covenants and promises were made, and from which Christ was born according to the flesh (Romans 9:4-5): In view of the divine choice, they are a people most dear for the sake of the patriarchs, for the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance (Romans 11:28-29).”
Here, the Council Fathers explicitly apply the divine choice to the Jewish people as a whole, to “those who have not yet received the Gospel.” They cite Romans 11:28-29 as the scriptural authority for this teaching. “Divine choice” is, of course, simply another way of stating that the Jewish people are still “chosen” by God. Similarly, Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate (Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions) states in Paragraph 4:
“Even so, the apostle Paul maintains that the Jews remain very dear to God, for the sake of the patriarchs, since God does not take back the gifts he bestowed or the choice he made.”
A footnote on this passage refers to Romans 11:28-29 and Lumen Gentium. Again, the Council Fathers singled out the Jews and directly applied Romans 11:28-29 to them in the present tense. This is echoed also by the citation of the same biblical text in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (839).
And although not magisterial, the Holy Father (then-Cardinal Ratzinger) has stated that the Jewish people are still “chosen” by God:
“Q: God has not, then, retracted his word that Israel is the Chosen People?
A: No, because he is faithful.” (God and the World, p. 150)
However, while the Jewish people have a special relationship with God because of the Patriarchs, this relationship is not salvific in and of itself. The Church has also affirmed that there are not two salvific covenants — one for Jews and one for Gentiles.
All men, Jew and Gentile alike, need Jesus Christ and his Church. In Lumen Gentium (1964), the Church affirmed that God “chose the race of Israel as a people” and “set up a covenant” with them, instructing them and making them holy. However, “all these things … were done by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect covenant” instituted by and ratified in Christ (No. 9). In Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism (1985), we read that the “Church and Judaism cannot then be seen as two parallel ways of salvation and the Church must witness to Christ as the Redeemer of all.”
Michael Forrest is a Catholic speaker, apologist and catechist. His articles have appeared in several Catholic periodicals.
David Palm, a convert to Catholicism, holds a M.A. in New Testament studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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