Friday, August 27, 2021

  • Friday, August 27, 2021
  • Elder of Ziyon
From Religion News Service:
Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has written a letter to Pope Francis conveying its “distress” at comments he made suggesting Jewish law, as written in the Torah, is obsolete.

The letter, first reported on by Reuters, was sent by Rabbi Rasson Arousi, chair of the Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel for Dialogue with the Holy See. Arousi was referring to a homily Francis made during a general audience on Aug. 11.

In that homily, or sermon, the pope reflected on the Apostle Paul’s views in the New Testament that the Torah does not give life.

Speaking of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, the pope said: “It does not offer the fulfillment of the promise because it is not capable of being able to fulfill it … Those who seek life need to look to the promise and to its fulfillment in Christ.”

At first blush, Jews might think, "so what?" Jews don't have to believe Christian theology and every religion believes itself is the right one.  

The article only gives a beginning of an answer as to why this is big deal.

That statement comes close to supersessionism, also called replacement theology—  the belief that the Christian faith has replaced or supplanted Judaism, a view the Catholic Church repudiated. In a 1965 landmark Vatican declaration, Nostra Aetate, the church established a new rapport between Jews and Catholics.

“In his homily, the pope presents the Christian faith as not just superseding the Torah; but asserts that the latter no longer gives life, implying that Jewish religious practice in the present era is rendered obsolete,” Arousi wrote in the letter.

“This is in effect part and parcel of the ‘teaching of contempt’ towards Jews and Judaism that we had thought had been fully repudiated by the Church,” he wrote.
This is still a huge understatement. 

Supersessionism has been the key driver for antisemitism for the past two thousand years.

As I pointed out in this 2017 article, Christian supersessionism prompted attacks on Jews. Churches throughout Europe can still be seen with carvings and stained glass images of Ecclesia, the triumphant symbol of victorious Christianity with crown and chalice, and Sinagoga, the defeated, humiliated and blindfolded Jew whose tablets of Law are slipping from her fingers.


The message wasn't merely that the Church was superior to Judaism, or even that it had superseded Judaism. The message, based on the placement of these figures in areas where there were large Jewish communities, was that anyone who clings to Judaism is willfully blind and defective. 

The continued existence of a vibrant Judaism when Christian theology says that it has been replaced was a threat to that very theology. If the original Jews haven't embraced Christianity, either there is something wrong with them or something wrong with the idea that Judaism has been replaced. 

Jewish communities are a source of shame for supersessionist Christians. 

Some people will do anything to remove the source of their shame, from forcible conversions to pogroms and genocide.

Christian supersessionists aren't the only ones for whom Jewish existence is a source of shame. Islam also attempted to attract Jews - and responded violently when they refused to become Muslim. Muslim supersessionism is most obvious by how Muslims have consistently converted every Jewish holy place into a mosque. Muslims believe that the world is divided between "Dar al-Islam" and "Dar al-Harb" and the very existence of Israel in the heart of the Muslim world is a constant source of shame and defeat of that ideology. 

Palestinian antisemitism combines the Christian and Muslim supersessionism as religious reasons to fight the Jews, minimizing the theological divide between the two to jointly attack any Jewish political power in the region. 

It is also notable that Arab nations lobbied fiercely against the Vatican's 1965 Nostra Aetate that redefined the relationship between Catholicism and Judaism to be less adversarial. The Arab world supported Christian antisemitism, and the Catholic denominations in the Middle East rejected Vatican II.

Pope Francis' words indicate that while the Catholic Church has officially abandoned supersessionism, the basic theology cannot so easily be excised. His speech should have been vetted but I don't think most Catholics would disagree with his actual words - if Judaism can bring eternal life, then why believe in Jesus? This indicates that there is a slippery slope where a future Church could revert to its traditional antisemitic theology. 










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