27th October, 2010
Israelis believe the recent meeting of Middle East bishops in the Vatican ‘was hijacked by an anti-Israel majority.’ The Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon described the meeting as ‘a forum for political attacks on Israel.’
The meeting called by Pope Benedict XVI considered the plight of Christians in the Middle East. The major exodus of Christians from the Middle East continues and the church is desperate to stem the tide.
After the meeting the World Jewish Daily referred to ‘a number of shocking statements that appear to set back Jewish-Catholic relations to pre-Vatican II days.
Specifically offence was taken when Monsignor Cyril Salim Bustros, a Greek Melkite archbishop who was born in Lebanon and now lives in Massachusetts, USA, declared, “The Holy Scriptures cannot be used to justify the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians, to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestinian lands.”
He went on. “We Christians cannot speak of the ‘promised land’ as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. Christ nullified this promise. There is no longer a chosen people—all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people.” He also called for the return of Palestinian refugees.
Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for the Israel Foreign Ministry reacted by saying, “Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the number of Christians has increased over the years.
Danny Ayalon said he was ‘especially appalled’ by comments from Archbishop Butros. “We call on the Vatican to distance themselves from Archbishop Butros’s comments, which are a libel against the Jewish people and the state of Israel and should not be construed as the Vatican’s official position.”
Mordechay Lewy, Israel ambassador to the Holy See said Pope Benedict himself has welcomed the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland. He added, ‘by inviting all Palestinian refugees to return and denying Israel’s right to define itself a Jewish state – the only such in the world – he is regressing to hard-line positions that deny Israel’s right to exist.”
The feud between Israel and the Roman Catholic Church has been an ongoing conflict ever since the state of Israel was confirmed by the United Nations. Throughout their dispute the Jews have been critical of the Church for its silence throughout lthe Nazi era.
Israeli leaders told me they were disappointed, the church never moved to excommunicate Hitler. The church also lobbied U.S. President Harry Truman, in an attempt to block the admission of Israel into the United Nations.
A Strange Paradox
However, not all church leaders were antagonists. More than thirty years ago the eminent Roman Catholic theologian Jacques Maritain declared, “It is a strange paradox to see that the Israelis are denied their right to the one and only territory to which, considering the entire history of humanity as a whole, it is an absolute certainty that one people has incontestable claim: for the people of Israel is the one and only people to which one land, the land of Canaan, has been given by the true God, the unique and transcendental God, the Creator of the universe and of the human species. And what God has given once, He has given for all eternity.” (Christian Attitudes Towards the State of Israel, by Paul Charles Merkey, p.144)
Author Paul Merkey wrote: “The attitude of the Roman Catholic church toward the whole issue of the state of Israel was controlled by the fact that the Church still taught, as late as the 1960’s, the doctrine called ‘supersession’ (or ‘replacement’) – that is, that the Church is heir to all the promises that God made to Abraham.”
Judging by comments from the Vatican, little has changed.
Did Jesus ‘unchoose’ the Jews as His chosen people? (Butros said the promise of the Creator was ‘abolished by the presence of Christ’)
Did Jesus follow the pattern of Pontius Pilate and wash His hands of the Jews, who are His people according to the flesh? He was born in Bethlehem. His mother Mary was Jewish. On earth He was a Jewish man. Most, if not all His disciples were Jews. He died for them. They died for Him.
God chose the Jews to establish monotheism in a polytheistic world. People had many gods. Idolatry was a common practice. In that environment the Jews were strong and were considered peculiar because they stayed true to God alone. The Shema is a most significant declaration of faith for all Jewish people: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deut 6: 4)
This God, who by replacement theology standards is to say the least confused or uncertain, went on to say to Israel: “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deut. 7: 6)
Replacing Israel after such promises does not fit His divine character. “But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation.” (Jeremiah 10:10)
He chose the Jews to be custodians of His Word. The Bible survived throughout centuries of wars, persecution and abuse because of the dedicated passion and courage of the Jewish people. They preserved the sacred Scriptures.
Jesus was born into a Jewish family. The Hebrew Scriptures prophesied His birth. Isaiah chapter 53 has been rightly called the fifth gospel. “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53: 5)
How do we know He has not divorced Israel and the Jewish people?
Because He said so…
“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Gen. 28:15)
Consider His words: “I am with you,” “(I) will keep you wherever you go,” ‘(I) will bring you back to this land,” “I will not leave you.” Hmmmm. Did the Lord mean what He said or was He bluffing?
“For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.” (Deut 4.31)
He is a ‘compassionate God.” “He will not fail.” “Nor forget the covenant with your fathers.” Sounds lcommitment to me.
“For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.” (1 Sam. 12:22)
That verse is self-explanatory really. ‘The Lord will not abandon His people.’ The name of the Lord is a super-sacred expression. He is ‘not a man, that He can lie.”
“Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.” (Isaiah 44:21)
“Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you.” (Isaiah 46: 4)
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18)
It is a very dangerous plan to treat Israel or the Jewish people like they are orphans and without a heavenly Father to protect and preserve them. In His time He will return and we will not be looking for His headquarters in New York, Washington, London or Rome.
The authority for Christians remains the Bible. The Lord is the Word who became flesh and He retains that identity forever.
“He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.” (Rev. 19:13) Hallelujah!