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 Francis and Jews

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

This is the Great Commission given by Christ to his disciples. It was in pursuit of this that Peter, Paul and the Apostles gave their lives; it is in pursuit of it that countless Christians have endured hardship to spread the word to the very ends of the earth. Now, however, the Vatican has clarified something which had puzzled some of us since the Second Vatican Council – what is the position with regard to the Jewish people, those of the first Covenant? I say clarified with hesitation, and I raise the issue with the hope someone will tell me I’m reading this wrongly. But as I read the recent statement from the Vatican it is saying we do not need to convert the Jews, as they, under the first Covenant, can be saved any way. The statement admits it is a great mystery how this can be so. But while all in favour of mystery, this seems, I am afraid, like a bad way of avoiding answering the obvious question – which is how it conforms to Matthew 28:19 and Acts 4:12?

I am all in favour of the way in which the Vatican has moved to distance itself and Christianity as a whole from an attitude towards the Jewish people which led to massacres, and which, in its own way, helped prepare the ground for the holocaust (note, I am not saying it caused it because I don’t think the record shows that). It is good to recognise the common heritage in Abraham and what we call the Old Testament. There should be no place for anti-Semitism in Christian life, and those who still maintain the old charge of ‘deicide’ against the Jews need to rethink their views and ponder the words of Christ about forgiveness.

All of that said, I am happy to argue with anyone who wishes to keep those bad old ways, I cannot agree with what I take to be the meaning of the Vatican statement. Is the Vatican really saying that the Jews should not be evangelised? Is it really saying that Jesus meant ‘make disciples of all nations except the Jews’? Is it really saying that Paul did not mean it when he clearly states that the Jewish Law is not unto salvation? It won’t, for me, do to duck this issue by taking refuge in the claim ‘it’s all a mystery’, because in that case, the only real mystery is what the people who say this actually mean? There is one name by whom we are saved, just the one – Christ Jesus. If we believe on Him we are saved. Is it not the ultimate in anti-Semitism to exclude the Jews from this?

I stress that I raise this issue in the hope of being told I am reading the document quite incorrectly, and that the link I gave gets it wrong. I hope so. If not, then I have no idea what is going on in the Vatican, but decline to listen to another word from it.

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