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Covenant and Reconciliation: The Future of Jewish-Christian Dialogue--Part II


Implications for Dialogue and Future Directions

What are the implications of all this on dialogue between Christians and Jews? The first step is to realize the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism. Anti-Semitism was a reality of the Church for much of its life, even among the early Church fathers, and though it is formally opposed in the Church today, there are still individuals who hold to it. Anti-Semitism is always detrimental and must be reconciled for before any meaningful theological dialogue can begin. To a lesser degree is often based on the fear (sometimes with persecution but most often leading to avoidance or separation) that the Jewish religion and worldview will in some way lead Christians away from the saving power of God. While it stems from the potentially healthy realization that Jews and Christians are separate in their beliefs and practices, it can lead to an incomplete view that the two religions are closely linked through the Jewish person of Christ. However, it would be inauthentic to dialogue as if these religions were the same, so perhaps the best approach is to identify the positive contributions the culture of Israel made to the formation of Christianity, while acknowledging the efficaciousness that non-Christian Jewish practices have for the formation and betterment of the Jewish people. Furthermore, both faiths must remember their common origins and that their split didn’t begin until the fall of the second temple. It is their two disparate responses to the same event that aided in their separation from each other and the different teaching traditions that developed in each.

But what about the issue of supersessionism? This author maintains that, if by supersessionism one means displacement (an end to the Jewish purpose and role), then as such it is detrimental to Judeo-Christian dialogue. However, if by supersessionism one means the relationship between the two covenants as one of “continuation” and “broadening”, then healthy dialogue is possible. This author believes that the best solution to supersessionism is that outlined by Lohfler: the covenant with Christ unveils the covenant with Israel in a way that brings light to the meaning and purpose of God’s work with Israel. The Jew’s will always play an important role in being an example of God’s work to the nations. Furthermore, God does not forsake his promise to them, and as such, though they may be saved through Christ (like all religions), their laws and way of life edify the Church and its people as an example of those who came before us and paved the way for the Messiah. Furthermore, while flawed in many of the ways discussed, both Barth and Rahner are correct in orienting the covenant with Israel as the essential act of God’s consummating work after creation. By renewing the focus of covenant as consummation, Christians will be better able to understand God’s providence throughout the Christian Narrative. Thus, it will be apparent that God planned both covenants from the beginning of creation. A covenant planned and promulgated by God cannot be unnecessary or incomplete, and therefore perhaps the fullness of the covenant is not seen through Christ, but rather in the efficaciousness that it has for the salvation of the Jewish people.

[1] This has been done very well so far. In the 1998 document “We Remember”, the Church has declared reflection on the Shoah is necessary and the need to seek forgiveness. This has also been done many times through addresses by Pope John Paul II. The Church has perhaps adequately atoned for the sins of its past, but it must continue to remember lest it forget and make the same mistake again.

[2] There exists an “International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee” which has published numerous declarations on common viewpoints of issues like HIV, Education, Commitment to peace, and other social justice issues.

What did Jesus really look like?

What did Jesus really look like?

Future Dialogue

The first step in conversation with our Jewish brethren is to acknowledge and reconcile for the anti-Semitism of the past Church. It is not adequate to pretend as though it did not exist, nor is it appropriate to put it behind us without the proper apology. If the Church wants to live reconciliation, it must do the proper penance. This does not of course, have to take the form of any monetary or material form, but rather the Church needs to continue to make a verbal statements that the Jews are our siblings in faith, that we deeply regret some of our past relationship, and that we will continue to work together to shine the light of God to the nations.[1]

The second step is to discuss our common goal as people of God in witness his providence and his consummating work within the world. Each religion needs to show their particular charisms and role in uplifting the “Kingdom of God” and bringing forth justice in the world. Joint declarations must continue to be signed, for they carry great meaning and show that our two faiths are working together to make the world better.[2]

The final step can consists of certain doctrinal issues that can be discussed between Jewish and Christians, although agreement is not necessary. Who do we believe Jesus to be, and what does it mean that he was a Jew? What was his historical role in Israel or the Jewish faith? How can Jewish interpretations of the Torah enrich Christian interpretation of the Old Testament? How do our common liturgical practices foster a greater understanding of our two faiths? All of these are questions that can be discussed in the third stage of inter-religious dialogue between Christian and Jews.

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In conclusion, this paper has discussed the history of Jewish-Christian dialogue and posited some discussion for the future. It has shown the history of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism and shown reconciliation for such attitudes as necessary for healthy relationship. Next it examined the issue of supersessionism, according to various authors, as well as potential solutions to it, and concluded that, while a theology of displacement is detrimental, a proper understand of the differing roles of Christians and Jews would help dialogue. Finally, it has put forth three steps for inter-religious dialogue—reconciliation, “evangelization”, and doctrinal conversation.


Aquinas, Thomas. Letter on the Treatment of Jews, 1271. Ave Maria University.

Chrysostom, John “Homily I” Homilies Against the Jews. "Internet History Sourcebooks Project." 1967. (accessed May 16, 2013).

Justin Martyr. Dialogue With Trypho The Jew. NewAdvent.Org, 2009.

Lohfink, Norbert. The Covenant Never Revoked: Biblical Reflections on Christian-Jewish Dialogue. New York: Paulist Press, 1991.

Pope Paul VI, Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions: Nostra Aetate. Vatican City: Vatican Press, 1965.

Soulen, R. Kendall. The God of Israel and Christian Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996.

© 2013 R D Langr


Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on August 30, 2013:

A well researched and interesting article. Judaism is the basis of the Christian faith; the Old Testament Scriptures were the 'Bible' for Jesus and the Disciples. We have much common ground on which to build dialogue and friendships.

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