Saturday, February 26, 2011

Would Catholics Say That Jews Can Be Saved?

Dear Leslie,

Do Catholics believe that Jews have salvation automatically because they are the "chosen people"?


Thanks for submitting this great question, Andrea!

Catholic Christians see our relationship with the Jewish people as very significant - they are the rock from which we were hewn, the quarry from which we were dug (Isaiah 51:1). Still, we do not consider Jesus' command to go and spread the Gospel to all peoples and nations to exclude the Jewish people, even though they were the first people of his promise.

The covenant that God made with the Jewish people has never been revoked (see Romans 11:29). If a Jewish person (or any person, for that matter) was to be saved, however, Catholics would still understand that his salvation came through Christ and the Church (CCC 846). Here’s why. Once Jesus (who was, of course, a Jew himself) came as the fulfillment of the prophesies of the Hebrew Scriptures, He established the new and everlasting covenant to which all people are called, thereby opening the gates of heaven and establishing the possibility of eternal life for all people. 

Catholics do not hold that salvation is necessarily excluded from all non-Christians (see my post on “Salvation and Damnation: What Do Catholics Believe?”), and therefore we certainly believe in the possibility of salvation for Jewish people. However, we don’t believe that their salvation would be ‘automatic’ because of their being the people of the old covenant. 

Enough of my explanation -- here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about salvation for the Jewish people:

The Church and non-Christians
839 "Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways."325
The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People.
When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People,326 "the first to hear the Word of God."327 The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews "belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ",328 "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."329

840 And when one considers the future, God's People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.

The glorious advent of Christ, the hope of Israel
673 Since the Ascension Christ's coming in glory has been imminent,566 even though "it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority."567. This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are "delayed".568
674The glorious Messiah's coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by "all Israel", for "a hardening has come upon part of Israel" in their "unbelief" toward Jesus.569 St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: "Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old."570 St. Paul echoes him: "For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?"571 The "full inclusion" of the Jews in the Messiah's salvation, in the wake of "the full number of the Gentiles",572 will enable the People of God to achieve "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ", in which "God may be all in all".573
I hope this has been helpful!

Peace and all good,

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