Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Way out of the Maze? Cardinal Christoph Schönborn on Evangelisation and the Jews

Writing in the most recent edition of the Tablet ("Judaism’s way to salvation", 29 March 2008) Cardinal Christoph Schönborn suggests a way out of the maze surrounding the question of evangelisation and the Jewish people (most recently stirred up by the Good Friday prayer for the Jews in the Extraordinary Use of the Latin Rite).

What he suggests is quite radical, but I think it clearly shows a way ahead in this discussion. Here is how the Cardinal summarises his own essay:
The following short article tries - very simply - to consult the New Testament in an attempt to give an answer to the theory of the "Two Ways to Salvation". The article tries to show that according to the New Testament and from the Christian point of view there is only one salvation in Jesus Christ, but two clearly distinguishable ways of proclaiming and accepting this salvation. In this respect it must be made clear that the overture/offer to the Jews to recognise Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah cannot simply be equated with Christ's mandate to evangelise all (heathen) nations and make them his disciples (cf. Matthew 28: 18-20). That is what I have tried to explain below.
I think he is really onto something here, and he demonstrates this from the New Testament.

However, the article is a bit light on. It makes a suggestion, and gives reasonable basis for that suggestion, but there isn't room in a Tablet article for greater scholarly expansion. We understand that the editors do not wish to overtax their general readership. In this sense, the article is a little like Cardinal Schönborn's famous New York Times article on Creation and Evolution. Hopefully, as with that article, the good Cardinal will follow up this suggestion with an entire book.


At Thursday, April 10, 2008 12:07:00 pm , Anonymous Mike said...

I admit I was more worried by the summary than I was by the full article.

Net result, as i read it - be nice to Jews, no coercion allowed, and recognise Jewish identity as important and unique as God's original Chosen people. But Jews still need to accept Christ as Saviour. The implication is that, by definition, they become Christian - even if they kept some way of being uniquely Jewish - perhaps like the "messianic Jews"? Or do I misread him here?

There may be plenty for theology here - and that's important. But I don't see that it helps with a "way out of the maze" of Jewish-Christian dialogue. The specific compaint of various Jewish people about the Good Friday Prayer, is that is prays for Jews to accept Christ as Messiah. That stays.

It's interesting - I think if the Good Friday Prayer (Revised Tridentine Version) goes some way towards explicitly acknowledge the "special" status of the Jews. The call that "all Israel" may be saved is obviously not talking of today's nation Israel as such. It recognises that the whole Jewish people belong to "Israel" (from "God of Israel" fame) wherever they live, and even if that country was well and truly conquered or nuked by a hostile neighbour. That's remarkable - we never say "All Egypt" or "All China", and those countries have existed continually for Millennia.

I can't really express what I mean today, but I think Schonborn, and even past Catholic theology, recognises at some level a continuing existence of God's covenant with the Jews - but not in such a way that removes the *need* for Christ or the Church, and therefore not in such a way that will reassure anyone who has been objecting to the Good Friday prayer.

At Friday, April 11, 2008 8:18:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

The implication is that, by definition, they become Christian - even if they kept some way of being uniquely Jewish - perhaps like the "messianic Jews"? Or do I misread him here?

Actually, that's the problem. It isn't just that we are asking them to accept Jesus as the Messiah, it is that the implication is that they cease being Jews and become Christians--for the only form of Christianity for the last 1800 years at least has been gentile Christianity.

I can't spell it all out here, but there is the post-holocaust concern of the survival of the Jewish people. Evangelisation = continuation of the goal of the holocaust in the thinking of many Jews.

The Messianic Jews movement is not the solution. This has been bitterly opposed by the Jewish community.

Here then is the task of theology. Given that the last two millenium has pitted Christianity against Judaism, how is it possible now to return to the post 70AD world and make space within the Community of Salvation for "all Israel"?


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