“The Jewish Week” is a news journal serving the Hebrew community of greater New York. On Friday, January 25th, the paper published a sensational article, the title of which was ""The Wait Is Over: Jews’ Messiah Now Kosher"." The article, authored by staff writer Eric J. Greenberg, revealed a stunning compromise recently coming out of the Pontifical Biblical Commission of the Roman Catholic Church, and authorized by the Vatican’s leading theologian, Cardinal Joseph Ratzingr.
According to Greenberg, there has been a gradual “thawing” of Jewish/Catholic relations over the past forty years. But a main bone of contention that continued to frustrate ecumenical efforts was the opposing views regarding the “Messiah” that divided the two groups. Whereas Roman Catholics entertain the conviction that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised “Messiah” of Old Testament literature, modern Jews deny such. They believe, Greenberg says, “the Messiah has yet to arrive.”
That all depends, of course, on the Jews with whom one discusses the matter. Some Hebrew people do not believe that the “Messiah” was to be a person at all; rather, the term “messiah,” to them, merely represents an ideal “age” to come.
Greenberg’s article states that a 210-page document, called “The Jewish People and the Holy Scriptures in the Christian Bible,” issued by the Vatican, downplays the differences between the Jewish view, and that which is set forth in the New Testament. It is alleged that both Jews and Catholics believe in a “coming” Messiah. But for the Jews, that “coming” will be the first, whereas for those who subscribe to the Christian view, it will be the “second” (cf. Heb. 9:28). First or second — whatever! Does it really matter about the chronology? — they ask.
Supposedly, this controversial Catholic document contains “an apology to the Jewish people for anti-Semitic passages contained in the New Testament.” One Catholic scholar, Eugene Fisher, ecumenical director of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, is reported to have said God has already worked out the salvation of the Jews; they will acknowledge Jesus as Messiah when he returns — so there is no need for a “conversion of the Jews” now. Some Jews, however, view this new document with considerable suspicion — in terms of its sincerity.
Whatever the motive, if this report is genuine, this has to be one of the most spineless compromises in the sordid history of apostate Romanism. Several observations are in order.
- It is the epitome of arrogance for an organization to suggest that it can simply issue a pontifical document and thereby alter the reality of history. This is “revisionism” at its worst.
The Jewish Scriptures themselves, i.e., the Old Testament canon, prophesied that God’s “anointed,” i.e., the Messiah, would be sent into the world, but men would resist his mission in their stubborn rage (Psa. 2). A chronology setting forth the time of His arrival was provided by the prophet Daniel (see 9:24ff) — which prophecy was fulfilled in the first century — not at some point in today’s future. [Note: See the article on ""Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks"" in our “Archives”.]
- The Hebrew Scriptures prophetically indicated that the Messiah would be rejected by his own people (Psa. 118:22; cf. Jn. 1:11). Jesus taught that this repudiation of Him as the Messiah entailed a rejection of God Himself (Lk. 10:16) and would have terrible consequences — the immediate visitation of which was seen in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70 (cf. Mt. 21:43ff; 22:7; 23:32ff).
History has validated the Lord’s declarations. The Jews of today have no tribal lands, no genealogical records, no priesthood, no temple, and no national standing with Jehovah God. How can men profess a reverence for Jesus of Nazareth, as Roman clerics do, and yet totally repudiate the Lord’s testimony in these matters?
- Jesus Christ affirmed His identity as the Messiah (Mt. 16:16-17; Jn. 4:25-26). To even hint that He was not is to cast him into the role of an unconscionable imposter. There is no other Messiah, no further offering for sin (Heb. 10:26). It is a disgraceful compromise even to remotely suggest that theological ground may be surrendered on this issue.
- There is no “anti-Semitism” in the New Testament for which an apology is due. It is not anti-Semitic to rehearse history as it actually happened. The Hebrews were instrumental in bringing Jesus of Nazareth to the cross. Pilate wanted to wash his hands of the troubling affair, but the Jews would have none of that. “His blood be on us, and on our children,” they cried (Mt. 27:25).
And let us remember this: three of the Gospel writers who detailed these events were Jews!
In spite of their bloody involvement in the death of their Messiah, the Jews still are offered pardon (Rom. 1:16). Paul’s heart throbbed with a love for Israel and he desperately longed for her redemption (Rom. 9:1ff). It is a blasphemous travesty to charge the New Testament with anti-Semitic inclinations. True Christianity is not responsible for what misguided zealots perpetrated in her name in the past.
Finally, a godly and conscientious people would not re-write history for the sake of placating a conglomerate of people whom, today, mistakenly identifies itself as “Israel” (contra Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 3:26-29; 6:16).
At the same time, let us soberly remind ourselves that, in an ultimate sense, all of us put the Messiah on the cross. It was for the sins of Jew and Gentile alike that He assumed the role of a sacrificial victim (Jn. 1:29). That Christ died for our sins is the thrilling refrain of the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4)!