That is the title of this excellent article from Crisis Magazine examining the deep connection, the eternal connection, between Catholics and Israel.
Nicholson talks about the Jewish role in Salvation History. He says, “Over the centuries, Christians in general have debated whether Jews still have a role in history after their rejection of Jesus. Some have denied it, affirming instead that the Christian church constitutes the ‘true Israel,’ superseding and replacing the Jews in God’s favor.”
There is another term for this, “replacement theology,” the belief that once they rejected God, the Covenant He made with them was forever broken and the Christian church has replaced them in toto.
Indeed, at the conservative confab and what drew me to this topic, my friend said, “We are Israel. The Catholic Church is Israel.”
Does the Church teach “replacement theology?” Does the Church teach that God’s covenant with the Jews is broken?
There is a heresy that is called “dispensationalism,” the belief that God has two Covenants that are separate and distinct, one with the Jewish people of the Old Covenant and another one with the Church of the New Covenant. It is heresy for Catholics, but this notion has to be a problem, too, for those Evangelicals who hold it because it assumes the Jews are somehow saved without an explicit belief in Christ.
And how exactly does Israel fit? Like many debates between Catholics and Evangelicals, this one is about definitions, deep important theological definitions, but definitions nonetheless. What is Israel? Is it a piece of land in the Middle East. Is it that specific piece of land and the Jews living there who are specially covenanted by God? Or is Israel a people only, a people specially covenanted by God.
The teaching of the Catholic Church lies somewhere in between “millennialism,” which is the belief that modern day Jews are God’s covenanted ones, and “replacement theology,” which is the belief that only those who convert are God’s chosen people. I take much of this from a very good unsigned essay at Catholic Bridge, an essay informed by a Hebrew Catholic I met years ago named Marty Barrack.
The Church teaches that the covenant that God made with Israel still stands; complete and in total; that “the Church is not a replacement for Israel, but an unbroken continuation of Israel under the promised King and Messiah of Israel, and His Church is His Kingdom of Israel, expanded to include all the Gentile peoples of the Earth.”
According to Barrack and his colleagues, my friend is spot on.
Israel is not that piece of land in the Middle East. It is a people and we Catholics are that people. There is abundant Scriptural evidence for this, too. “There is a constant theme in the Bible that the elder son will be replaced by the younger son as the true heir of God’s promises.” Cain and Abel. Ishmael and Isaac. Esau and Jacob. David and Saul. Jesus gave the keys of the Kingdom to Peter. He gave the keys of the Old Covenant to the Israel of the New Covenant. “The New Israel are those who follow Jesus.”
The essayists point out that St. Paul makes clear that the Old Covenant may be obsolete but it is not revoked. They say, “The problem with modern day Judaism is that it is living in the Old Covenant as if it contains power in and of itself apart from the New Covenant.”
Retrieved February 27, 2015 from http://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/israel