I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Old Law and New Law: A Hebrew Catholic Perspective

Recently in response to my blog "Open Questions on Jewish Observances" this discussion was begun.

Mike wrote: "Jesus Christ ended 'an eye for an eye' for Christians with the New Covenant. How can a Catholic follow both the Old and New Laws and still call themselves a Catholic? The Church does not need to extricate itself from supersessionism when you consider Galatians 3:7, Galatians 3:16, Galatians 3:29 and Galatians 6:12-18."

I responded: I think you miss the point. There is only One Law of God but an old and new way of relating to it. Galatians was written to and for Gentiles- I suggest you read up on the new perspectives of Paul taking into account his Jewishness. You also seem to miss the point about an eye for a eye. Jesus is challenging those who take the law into their own hands and use this verse as a reason for personal vendetta. The original context was as a justice principal for the justice laws of the Israel state. Jesus is not attacking the Law recorded in the Old Testament- which is the Word of God- but is challenging those who misuse it for their own selfish ends.

BenYachov said:
>"How can a Catholic follow both the Old and New Laws and still call themselves a Catholic? I reply: This way QUOTE"it cannot be absolutely asserted that that man judaizes who does something in the Church which corresponds to the ceremonies of the old Law. "If a man should perform acts for a different end and purpose (even with the intention of worship and as religious ceremonies), not in the spirit of that Law nor on the basis of it, but either from personal decision, from human custom, or on the instruction of the Church, he would not sin, nor could he be said to judaize. So when a man does something in the Church which resembles the ceremonies of the old Law, he must not always be said to judaize"."

"4. But others remarked wisely that some, surely, of the ceremonial rites of the old Law could be observed under the new Law if only they were not done as obligations of the old Law, which was abrogated, but as a custom, or lawful tradition, or as a new precept issued by one enjoying the recognized and competent authority to make laws and to enforce them, as Vasquez observes (vol. 3, in the 3rd part of the Summa, disp. 210, quest. 80, art. 7)."END QUOTE

Ex Quo- Pope Benedict XIV March 1, 1756J"

I respond: In the Catholic Church we have the belief as expressed by Cardinal Newman of the development of doctrine. We also do not read statements or documents out of context but interpret them in accord with Scripture and the whole Tradition of the Church. For example we have the doctrine of 'there is no salvation outside the Church'. In the past many Catholics in a extremely literal manner interpreted that to mean that everyone who was not a formal Catholic within the visible structures of the Church were damned and go to hell. However over the centuries the Church deepened its understanding of what this meant. When Father Feeney in the 1950's taught this interpretation he was excommunicated and told his idea was heretical. The Church through theological reflection and development had come to a deeper understanding of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ that was not limited to the visible hierarchical Church on earth. Vatican II clearly clarified this interpretation.

As for this statement (quoted above) by Benedict XIV we need to know how to read this in the light of the development of doctrine as renewed in its biblical roots in the original deposit of Faith. Firstly we need to understand what a Judaiser is- there are two kinds of Judaisers. The Gentile kind of Judiser is one who believes and teaches that the particular Torah observances appropriate for Jews are obligatory for Gentiles and are a means of salvation. The Jewish kind of Judaiser is those Jews that also teach that the particular Torah observances appropriate for Jews are obligatory for Gentiles as a means of salvation. Benedict XIV is here not addressing Jewish Catholics but Gentile Catholics. It is thus interesting that he should say that Gentiles may keep those ceremonies of the Law appropriate for Jews for three reasons- 1. for a personal decision (ie as a personal spiritual devotion)2. from human custom and 3.instructed by the Church. If then a Gentile may observe a Jewish ceremonial such as Passover out of a personal devotion or because it is a custom of his community- then how much more the Jews in the Church. If one may observe them as a human custom then how much more the Jews for whom these are the customs of their own people and culture. Of course both Jew and Gentile in the Church observe with a New Covenant intention and not as a means to salvation. We Hebrew Catholics also await the day when we can observe our tradition in the Church with the specific permission and instruction of the Church at the highest level.

We also need to know what the Church means by the Old Law and the New Law- with this Cardinal Lustiger helps us stating that there is only One Law of God but the newess is the deeper penetration of the Law in the Messiah. Thus the Old Law ( a term commonly used in Church documents) refers to the intention of observing the Law before the coming of the Messiah as Promise and the new Law refers to the deeper messianic interpretation and intention of observing the Law as reality of the Promise. Thus the old intention based on Promise alone passes away and is subsumed into its mystical fulfilment and reality. How one does this in the practical differs depending on whether one is a Jew or Gentile, male of female, child or adult, Roman or Byzantine,priest or lay. However in the realm of salvation there are no distinctions- we are all one in the Messiah and all saved by Grace working through Faith and manifesting in good works. Even Judaism teaches of the coming of a New Torah with the revelation of the Messiah. By this they do not mean a new novelty but a new way of understanding and relating to Torah that is revealed by the Messiah.

Benedict XIV states: "...the ceremonial rites of the old Law could be observed under the new Law if only they were not done as obligations of the old Law, which was abrogated, but as a custom, or lawful tradition, or as a new precept issued by one enjoying the recognized and competent authority to make laws and to enforce them..." What does the word 'abrogate' refer to here. It is not the abrogation of the Law but the abrogation of the need for Gentiles who enter the Church to be obligated to observe the Law as Jews. This is the abrogation for Gentiles discussed in Acts 15. We can be assured that Pope Benedict XIV was not speaking of the abrogation of the Sinai Covenant but of the need for Gentiles to be obligated to the specifically Jewish observances by the words of Benedict XVI when he was the Cardinal in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He wrote: “With regard to the issue of the nature of the covenant, it is important to note that the Last Supper sees itself as making a covenant: it is the prolongation of the Sinai covenant, which is not abrogated, but renewed” (Many Religions, One Covenant, p. 62). Even for the Jewish Catholic one is not obligated to the old way but observes the customs and ceremonies in the light of the New Covenant with a Messianic, Eucharistic and Marian intention. We do this to more fully adhere to the Will of God and to grow in intimacy with God according to our Election and calling as physical Israelites in the Mystical Body of Christ. Many Hebrew Catholics are drawn to observe as Our Lady and the Apostles and all the first Jewish Catholics of Jerusalem did after Penecost with zealousness for the Torah (see Acts 21) which we wish to pass to our children and grandchildren.

There is some theological discussion about exactly what the term used in the Church of Old Law refers to. Some say it means the Law or Covenant of Moses others the Covenant with Abraham and others that includes all the covenants made with Israel. It would seem the term is usually not actually referring to the Torah as such but the terms Old Law and New Law may be the equivalent to the terms Old Covenant and New Covenant according to others. Once again some believe the term Old Covenant refers to the one made at Sinai and others that it refers to all the covenants made with Abraham and the Patriarchs. Pope John Paul II taught that the Old Covenant is irrevocable so the question of what exactly the term Old Covenant refers to becomes a question of debate. Eventhough most in the past assumed the Old Covenant referred to the one made at Sinai, now some try to see it as the Covenant with Abraham that is irrevocable. This is because many Catholics have assumed that the Covenant at Sinai was revoked or abolished but now a Pope was saying that it is irrevocable. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (121) also teaches this: "The Old Testament is an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture. Its books are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value, for the Old Covenant has never been revoked."

The USCCB Catechism stated: “Thus the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.” Recently it was proposed to remove this sentence from the Catechism due to the Catholic faithful misunderstanding of what this statement meant. Some were using it to say that there are two equal and independent ways to salvation. The phrase is referring to sanctification not salvation and to the unique call of the Jews in salvation history. The Bishops' spokesman assured us that it was not being removed because it was wrong but because of the misunderstanding that it could cause which wasn't appropriate in a Catechism for common use. It would need greater explanation that wasn't able to be done in the Catechism. However the antisemites in the Church saw this as a victory for their opposition to this phrase.

Of course there are those in both the Catholic and Jewish communities that are opposed to Jewishly Torah observant Hebrew Catholics. Many on the Catholic side feel it might upset the Jewish and Catholic dialogue. However one of the most interesting and brilliant Orthodox Jewish philosophers and theologians of the last century Michael Wyschogrod puts forth a case for just such Jewish observance by Jews in the Church. He also wrote a letter to Cardinal Lustiger on this very point.

It is time that Gentile Catholics encouraged the Catholics of Jewish background and ancestry to embrace their Jewish heritage and spirituality. It is also time that the Jewish community accept those Jews who follow their Rebbe Yeshua who they believe is the Mashiach ben Joseph and God just as they accept the Lubavitch Chabad Chasidim who believe that their Rebbe Menachem is Mashiach ben Joseph and God. The Messiahship and divinity of Jesus should not be the problem in accepting Jewish believers in Jesus as part of Orthodox Judaism but Torah observance. When I was in a Yeshivah in Jerusalem I was taught that the four main signs of whether someone is an Orthodox Jew is belief in the One God, belief in the Written Torah as given by God to Moses on Sinai, belief in the oral Torah and belief in the observance of the mitzvot by Israel. As I believe in all four of these by this definition I am closer to orthodox Judaism than those in the Conservative or Reform synagogues.

However we need to be patient and form an observant Chasidic Jewish Catholic Community and maybe after a hundred years or so the rest of the Jewish community may accept that we are here to stay just as they did with the original Chasidim. Of course with the Holy Spirit on the job things could also be resolved at a more rapid pace. Of course we believe that in the fullness of time all Jews will one future day be part of our observant Chasidic Jewish Catholic community- however we leave the details up to God. Some old Catholic prophecies state that the Jews will one day all be Catholics without ceasing to be Jews- and I for one pray for that day but I will be happy to see just a small observant Chasidic Catholic community established. The Association of Hebrew Catholics has been an important part of this growing awareness of Jewish Identity in the Church as a signpost to the future dream.


Mike Rizzio said...

Wow, it is a refreshing blog you have. I like the bridge that I see in your work.

I have been away from blogging for awhile and have recently returned.

Maybe you'd like to see my angle on the Truth of our Faith.


God bless you!

Aharon Yosef Bloomer said...

Thanks Mike. I appreciate your comments. You have a wonderful blog.

cheers Athol