Watch this primer on Judaism by Michael Voris, then read The Catholic Knight's article below.
|The Conversion of St. Paul|
on the Road to Damascus
First, let me clarify that last sentence. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explicitly teaches that those who are baptized according to the Trinitarian formula, that is in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have effectively received an authentic Catholic baptism, even if the baptism was not performed by a Catholic priest or deacon. "Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church: 'For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. Justified by faith in Baptism, [they] are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.' 'Baptism therefore constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn.'" - (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1271) So what does that mean? It means that virtually every Protestant has received an authentic baptism recognized by the Catholic Church! It means that virtually every Protestant is in a similar situation to a Catholic who was baptized in the Church, but walked away from the Church before receiving confirmation and holy Eucharist. It means that virtually all Protestants (Evangelicals, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, etc.) effectively have one foot in the door of the Catholic Church, by virtue of their Trinitarian baptism alone. Their communion with Rome does exist, by virtue of our common baptism, but that communion is imperfect and impaired. In addition to that, there are also the Eastern Orthodox Christians, who's sacraments Rome recognizes entirely, who are only separated from Rome simply by canonical issues that can be remedied when the time comes. So when I say the "Church" I am speaking primarily of the Catholic Church directly, and other Christians united to her in baptism indirectly. The Catholic Church can be compared to a great ship with many small rafts tethered to it. There is only one ship, which is the "bark of Peter," but many small rafts tethered to her. The rafts contain groups of Christians, who for whatever reason, are not in full unity with Rome, and the tethered ropes are like the common bond of baptism that unites us. Now that I've defined things a bit, let's move on to the topic at hand...
The Catholic Church is Israel.
I hope that last sentence stands out for you. Here is the scripture reference to back it up. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And whosoever shall follow this rule, peace on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God." - (Galatians 6:15-16) Here St. Paul tells his readers that in Christ neither circumcision (Jewish law) nor uncircumcision (Gentile custom) matters. What matters are those who follow the gospel, and those who follow the gospel are the "Israel of God." It is absolutely essential that Christians (not just Catholics) fully understand this. We, the Church, are the "Israel of God." We are Israel. We are the spiritual remnant of ancient Israel, expanded and multiplied, to encompass the whole world. This was (and is) God's plan of salvation. It has not changed. For in the Church, it matters not whether you are Jew or Gentile. What matters is that you are in full-communion with that one Jew who unites us together. I'm speaking of the Jewish rabbi who is both Messiah and King - Jesus of Nazareth. "In fact, from the beginning of his ministry, the Lord Jesus instituted the Twelve as 'the seeds of the new Israel and the beginning of the sacred hierarchy.'" - (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 877)
|Artist Sketch of an Olive Tree|
What about those Jews who refused to believe in Jesus Christ? St. Paul himself tells us those are the branches that were cut off from the tree - at least for the time being. These branches can however be grafted back in at any time, and indeed he assures us that someday they all will be, in the fullness of time. As far as we're concerned anyway, Christianity (neither Judaism nor some piece of real estate in the Middle East) makes up the new "Israel of God," and it's been this way ever since Christ initiated the New Covenant some 2,000 years ago.
This is how we Christians are to understand ourselves, and the Church, in the context of Israel and the Old Testament. I cannot stress how incredibly important this is, because if it is not understood, the errors that will arise from it will be nothing short of monumental!
Where does this put the Church in relation to the rest of the Jewish people? Simply put, we (the Church) are Zion! We are Israel! That is what it explicitly says in the New Testament and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. To become complete as a Jew is no different than what it takes to become complete as a Gentile. We all must be "grafted in" to Israel - which is The Catholic Church! The path is no different for a Jew than it is for a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or Wiccan. We are all the same in God's eyes now, and the door is open to all of us equally.
It had to be this way you see. Christ fulfilled the Old Covenant, and established a New Covenant that puts us all on equal footing. He didn't destroy the Old Covenant - he FULFILLED it! The Old Covenant still remains, but is fulfilled in Christ, and must be understood fully in the context of Christ.
Now the Gospel was given first to the Jews - that is to the apostles and disciples of Jesus - and then to the rest of the world. It was delivered to the synagogues first, where the apostles would gather a small remnant of faithful Jews who would in turn help them deliver the gospel to the Gentiles. "The Church keeps ever in mind the words of the Apostle about his kinsmen: 'theirs is the sonship and the glory and the covenants and the law and the worship and the promises; theirs are the fathers and from them is the Christ according to the flesh' (Rom. 9:4-5), the Son of the Virgin Mary. She also recalls that the Apostles, the Church's main-stay and pillars, as well as most of the early disciples who proclaimed Christ's Gospel to the world, sprang from the Jewish people." - (Nostra Aetate, 4; Second Vatican Council, October 28, 1965) The one and only boasting privilege of being a Jewish convert to the Church is knowing that God came in the flesh as one of your own kinsmen, and he gave the Gospel to your kinsmen first, and they in turn gave it to the world. That is what it means to be a Jewish Christian - a Hebrew Catholic. Yet there is more, St. Paul tells us that the rejection of the gospel by the majority of Jews is actually a blessing to the world, because by doing so, the gospel has been given to the Gentiles, and it has allowed the Church (God's Israel) to expand to the farthest reaches of the earth. That is not the end of the story though, St. Paul gives us a prophetic glimpse of the future of the Jewish people. While the Church gains more Jewish converts in every era, Paul tells us that a day will come when the Jewish people will accept the gospel en mass, thus completing the Church and bringing the final epic of human history to a close. He more than hints that the fullness of Israel (the Church), by the inclusion of all the Jewish people together with the Gentiles, will result in the Second Advent of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the life everlasting! But there is more, the apostle also tells us that there will never be a time in human history when the Church will be vacant of faithful Jewish Christians. He assures us that throughout all of history, God always has a remnant of his original covenant people in the Church. No other race or ethnic group has been given such a promise. It is unique only to the Jews. So we Gentile Christians must never be haughty or nasty toward the Jewish people, whether they are believers or not, for God has promised their tribe more than any of us. One day they shall ALL be our Christian brethren, so we must treat them appropriately, and until that day comes, there will always be a faithful remnant of them in God's Israel - that is The Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church (Israel) has soundly condemned all forms of hatred or bigotry toward people of Jewish heritage and culture. Specifically, some corrupt individuals throughout history have tried to collectively blame ALL Jews for the crucifixion of Christ. This is unfair. The only people responsible for this were the people who actually condemned Jesus Christ to death - meaning the Jewish Sanhedrin of 33 AD. We're talking about a group of no more than 71 men here - and not all of them agreed. Some of them actually rose to Jesus' defense. However, the majority of these 71 men (at least 37 to 50 men) found Christ "guilty" of blasphemy and condemned him to death. These are the only men we should ever hold fully responsible, and all of them have been dead for some 20 centuries now. To hold the Jewish people of today collectively responsible for a crime that was committed by about 50 men some 2,000 years ago is irrational and prejudice. The Catholic Church has categorically condemned such irrational prejudice and specifically teaches: "although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures" and "furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone." - (Nostra Aetate, 4)
A great fallacy has been circulating the globe for the last century and a half. It has particularly taken root in Anglophone (English-speaking) countries. It is the fallacy called Dispensationalism. It is a heresy that not only permeates many Protestant denominations and affiliations, but it has even penetrated the Catholic Church. Yes, there are Dispensationalist groups even among Catholics. The fallacy teaches that God has formed two covenant peoples. There are the Jews of the Old Covenant, and the Church of the New Covenant. The fallacy continues to teach that the modern day Jews of today are still "Israel" and that Israel is a completely separate entity from the Church. So the fallacy goes, God has one plan of salvation for ethnic Israel (the Jews), and another for the Church (primarily Gentiles). As the fallacy of Dispensationalism has played out over the last century and a half, the national State of Israel is incorrectly assumed to be the "true Israel" while the Church is simply considered "the Church" having no real connection. Some Christians use this rationale to blindly support the State of Israel, regardless of it's politics that often harm both Palestinian Christians and Muslims. This ideology is called "Zionism" and it is contrary to the gospel. Jesus, the rightful King of Israel, plainly stated that his Kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36), because if it were his servants would fight. Jesus however, did not instruct his apostles to fight. He instructed them to pray and to teach instead. This teaching upset some of his followers, perhaps even Judas Iscariot (who eventually betrayed him), because they were waiting for years for a Messiah that would violently take back the old Kingdom of Israel from the Romans. They dreamed of a glorious battle of liberation not seen since the time of the Maccabees. Jesus had different plans. The Kingdom of God (Israel) is not about a piece of real estate and who owns it. That is not why God gave them the promised land in the first place. The promised land wasn't about the promised land, it was about providing a nursery suitable for God to raise up his people for a much greater task ahead. That being the task of taking the gospel to the world, and expanding Israel (the Church) to cover the whole planet. It was not to be a kingdom of laws and men, but rather a Realm of Spirit and Truth, founded on Jesus Christ and built on Peter the rock. To focus on real estate in the Middle East is to completely miss the point. The ancient Land of Israel was merely a nursery to raise God's people for something bigger and better. It was a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. The problem with Zionism is that it focuses completely on the land - real estate - and ignores the role of the Church.
Some Christians use the Dispensationalist rationale to seek religious fulfillment in modern Jewish ceremonies and liturgies. This is a very ancient error called "Judaizing," an error strongly condemned by St. Paul. (Most Christians who do this today are Evangelical Protestants who often call themselves "Messianics" or "Messianic Jews.")
The above are the modern manifestations of the fallacy of Dispensationalism, but it is the fallacy itself that is most dangerous, because it denies the Biblical place of the Church in the divine plan of God.
Christians would do well to remember that St. Paul, and the apostles, thought the Greek version of the Jewish scriptures (Septuagint) was just as authoritative as the Hebrew and Aramaic versions. In fact it can be said they even thought it far more relevant to the New Covenant than any other version, as the majority of quoted Old Testament passages in the New Testament come from this Greek version. Christians would do well to remember that the word most commonly used for the Nation of Israel in this Greek Old Testament is "Ecclesia" which means literally "a called out people." It's the exact same word used in the original Greek New Testament for the Church. In the eyes of St. Paul and the apostles, Israel and the Church were one in the same. This was in perfect continuity with the Old Testament as demonstrated in St. Paul's "olive tree" illustration (Romans 11).
Let us remember today why St. Paul was on the road to Damascus some 2,000 years ago. Back then he was known simply as "Saul," a pious Jew who took it upon himself to persecute the Church. He was knocked off his horse and blinded by an apparition of the Lord Jesus Christ - who asked him "Saul, why are you persecuting me?" St. Paul was persecuting the Church, using Jewish laws, in a form of inquisition sanctioned by the scribes and pharisees in Jerusalem. These scribes and pharisees had no recognition of the Church being part of Israel, but the irony was that the reason why they did not recognize Israel in the Church was because the scribes and pharisees were no longer part of Israel - at least not in a spiritual sense. They had cut themselves out, through self-excommunication, by denying Jesus as the promised Messiah. In turn, Jesus revoked the authority of the Jewish leadership, by giving the "keys of the kingdom" to St. Peter (Matthew 16:18-19) effectively making the fisherman the King's prime minister - spokesman for all Israel. St. Peter later went to Rome and founded the Church there where he eventually met up with St. Paul, and together they led the Church there, and ultimately shed their blood for her.
Today a new kind of persecution of the Church is going on, and it's rooted in the fallacy of Dispensationalism. This fallacy leads to the worst form of anti-Catholicism, as is evidenced by the volumes of anti-Catholic writings produced by Dispensationalist authors. While in some cases, Dispensationalism actually causes Christians to support some very unChristian things - such as Zionism and Judaizing for example. Let's not beat around the bush here. Dispensational theology is physically harming Christians! How? This is how it works. Dispensationalism leads Christians to support Zionism. Zionism in turn leads to the blind support of the Nation of Israel and all its policies, regardless of their effect. Many of those policies are directed against the Palestinian people, regardless of their religion, and many of those Palestinian people are Christians. Those Palestinian Christians suffer poverty and physical infirmity because of those policies. The strange irony of our time is that many Christians in the West, (mainly Evangelical Dispensationalists), including some who claim a Jewish-Christian identity, are blindly supporting a regime that is directly persecuting their Christian brethren (Palestinian Christians) in the very homeland of Jesus Christ, and they do this thinking Jesus somehow approves. The strange irony is that while St. Paul instructed Western Christians to take up collections to help Palestinian Christians during his time, Dispensationalist pastors actively take up collections to support a regime that persecutes them in our time. Dispensationalism is a fallacy that must be resisted, but this can only be effectively done by knowing and understanding the place of the Church as the new "Israel of God." This is what the New Testament teaches. It is not "replacement theology" as some have incorrectly labeled it. This is authentic "olive tree ecclesiology" as understood by the man who invented it - St. Paul himself - and has been historically called by the name "Covenant Theology."
The proper place for a Jewish believer in Jesus Christ is the same place as a non-Jewish believer in Jesus Christ, and that is the Catholic Church. Throughout her history, the Catholic Church has never been without Jewish members. Some are converts, and some are born into the Church from converts. In recent decades, there has been an increasing number of Jewish converts to the Catholic Church. As a result of this, some of these Jewish converts have organised into the Association of Hebrew Catholics, which is a simple lay apostolate approved by Cardinal Raymond Burke (Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Signatura) designed to assist and support Jewish people entering the Catholic Church, as well as stand as a witness to the ongoing Jewish (Hebrew) presence within the Catholic Church. If you are Jewish, or have Jewish ancestry, please consider coming home to Zion -- the new Israel of God -- which is the Catholic Church. Please click here to contact the Association of Hebrew Catholics today!