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Critical Analysis of: “The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable (Rom 11:29)

5 Covenants of the Old Testament |

Critical Analysis of: “The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable (Rom 11:29): A Reflection on Theological Questions Pertaining to Catholic‐Jewish Relations”1 published by the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews on December 10, 2015

by Robert Sungenis, Ph.D.


The Commission’s document is the latest post‐Vatican II attempt to forge an ecumenical and political relationship with the Jews, Judaism and Israel. The Commission states up front, however, that “the text is not a magisterial document or doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church, but is a reflection…on current theological questions that have developed since the Second Vatican Council.” Although the Commission admits that Jesus Christ remains a divisive issue between the Jews and the Catholic Church, nevertheless it pushes forward by trying to minimize the doctrinal issues and maximize the humanitarian issues. In the process, unfortunately, the Commission sacrifices major Catholic doctrines on the altar of the Social gospel. The chief aberration in this regard is the Commission’s insistence that there remains an unrevoked and exclusive covenant between God and Israel, which becomes the foundation for the entire document. The Commission states that its official source for Catholic/Jewish relations is Vatican II’s Nostra aetate, and although admitting that a covenant between God and Israel “cannot be explicitly read into Nostra aetate,” nevertheless, the Commission argues that Nostra aetate is “located within a decidedly theological framework regarding…God’s unrevoked covenant with Israel.” The Commission then attempts to justify its position by an unconventional interpretation of various scripture passages (e.g., Romans 9:4; 11:29; Hebrews 8:1‐13; 10:9) and an uncontextualized statement in a speech by John Paul II from Mainz, Germany in 1980. In the end, on the basis that the Jews, as a religious and ethnic body, are in an unrevoked covenant with God, the Commission then concludes: (1) the covenant puts the Jews on a higher spiritual level with God than the rest of humanity; (2) as such, the Catholic Church, as an institution, is not required to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Jews and the Jews are not required to adopt it; and (3) all this is permitted because the Commission believes that God promised to save the Jews and thus He will do so by a means and at a time of which we are not aware. The Commission also argues that this new development in doctrine is needed because preaching the Christian Gospel to the Jews often leads to anti‐semitism and catastrophic events like the holocaust. Finally, since these new developments remove the major obstacles for both sides, Catholics and Jews can then proceed in their ecumenical relations and social actions unhampered by doctrinal divides. In this paragraph‐by‐paragraph critique, we show that all this kind of thinking is indefensible.

Robert Sungenis