May 2, 2002
volume 13, no. 84

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The Biblical Commission on the Jews: Changes in Doctrine and New Anathemas    Part VI

By Atila Sinke Guimarăes

Translated and edited by Marian Therese Horvat, Ph.D.

    Following is the SIXTH INSTALLMENT of a seven-part treatise and critique of the Pontifical Biblical Commission's document The Hebrew People and its Holy Scriptures in the Christian Bible. This is a comprehensive response by Atila Sinke Guimarăes to the entire document. Atila reviewed the original Italian work by the PBC titled "Il populo ebraico e le sue Sacre Scritture nella Bibbia cristiana," Preface by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001, 213 pp. which we sent to him. He then wrote his review and translated the excerpts he used from Italian to Portuguese. Dr. Marian has worked closely with him in translating and editing his critique from Portuguese into English. Atila and Marian have graciously accepted our request to critique the book while all in the United States still wait for the English translation. The response is too important to delay because what is contained in the Vatican document will truly alarm you. For the list of the 21 members of the Pontifical Biblica Commission see PBC Members
    For installments thus far, see Archive below

VI. Anathemas

    The conclusions of the book The Hebrew People are turned toward condemning prior Catholic doctrine. For this reason, I will call them "anathemas." Its first conclusion - the first anathema - tries to deny that the promise of the elect people of the Old Testament was replaced by the promise to all peoples, independent of race. [25] With its second anathema, it tries to deny that this promise has been assumed exclusively by those who follow Our Lord in the flock of the Church founded by Him: the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church. Recently termed the "doctrine of substitution," which means that the Gentiles replaced the Jewish people as the elect before God, it is referred to by the PBC as the "discontinuity" of the promise with regard to the Jewish religion.

[ 25. In many revealed texts this doctrine was clearly taught, St. Paul, for example, affirmed that Our Lord, "in saying a new [testament], hath made the former old" (Heb 8:13). He confirmed this in Romans (9:30-2): "The Gentiles, who followed not after justice, have attained to justice, even the justice that is of faith. But Israel, by following after the law of justice, is not come unto the law of justice. Why so? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were of works." Also in Romans 9:25-6, he says: "As in Osee he [God] saith: 'I will call that which was not my people, my people; and her that was not beloved, beloved; and her that had not obtained mercy, one that hath obtained mercy. And it shall be, in the place where it was said unto them, You are not my people; there they shall be called the sons of the living God.'" ]

First anathema - Present day Judaism, understood as a religion, should be considered a legitimate heir of the Jews of the Old Alliance. According to the PBC, there would be a fundamental continuity. To affirm that the followers of the contemporary Jewish religion broke with their vocation and that it was given to the Gentiles would be an erroneous Catholic doctrine.

    Issuing this anathema the book affirms:

    "It was wrong in the past to insist unilaterally upon discontinuity" (pp. 199-200).

    The PBC becomes even more explicit:

    "The rupture between the Hebrew people and the Church of Jesus Christ can seem complete in certain epochs and certain places in the past. In the light of Scriptures, this should never have happened, because the complete rupture between the Church and the Synagogue [in the New Testament] is a contradiction with Sacred Scripture" (p. 202).

Second anathema - The second conclusion outlines the thesis defended earlier in the book: "In the New Testament, the censures against the Hebrews …. should not serve as a basis for anti-Judaism [understood as a religion]. The use of the texts for this end is contrary to the orientation of the whole New Testament" (p. 205).

    The PBC summarizes its "historical argumentation":

    "Many texts [of the New Testament] have served as a pretext for anti-Judaism and were effectively used in this sense. In order to avoid distortions of this type, it must be observed that the polemical texts of the New Testament, even those that use generalizing terms, are always linked to a concrete historical context and they never intend to refer to the Hebrews of all times and places by the fact of being Jews. The tendency to speak in generalizing terms, to accentuate the negative sides of the adversaries …. does not take into consideration their motivation and their eventual good faith; it is a characteristic of the polemical language of all antiquity." (p. 206)

    The PBC, obviously, has recourse to some statements of John Paul II to strengthen its theses. For example, it cites the Pontiff's ambiguous and hard-to-defend affirmation during his visit to the synagogue in the German city of Mainz: "The Jewish religion is not 'extrinsic to,' but in a certain way 'intrinsic to' our religion. Therefore, we have relations with it that we do not have with any other religion. You are our predilect brothers and, in a certain way, one could say our oldest brothers"[26] (p. 203).

[ 26. Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, IX, 1, 1986, p. 1027.]

    To this and other statements of John Paul II, the PBC comments: "For Christians, the principal condition of progress in this sense [of eliminating oppositions and favoring dialogue] is to avoid any unilateral reading of the Biblical texts, of the Old as well as New Testament, and of striving, on the contrary, to correspond to the dynamism that animates the whole, which is precisely a dynamism of love" (p. 204).

    At the end of The Hebrew People, the PBC again confirms its constant relativist interpretation, a tributary of a radical historicism: "The partial reading of the texts frequently raises difficulty in [Christian] relations with the Hebrews …. Instead of launching accusations …. they [the Biblical texts against the Jews] must be understood in their historical and literary context" (pp. 204-5).

    Here the reader has a summary of what the Pontifical Biblical Commission wrote in its book The Hebrew People and its Holy Scriptures in the Christian Bible. This doctrine conflicts with Catholic doctrine on the inerrancy of Sacred Scriptures, as the reader saw above and in part one, and may consider in my final installment in Monday's issue.

    I will go on then to analyze the official endorsement that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger gave to the book.

    Monday, May 6: Part Seven Ratzinger's Preface and Atila's Conclusion

List of Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission
Preface by Cardinal Ratzinger
Part One: Historical-Doctrinal Presuppositions
Part Two:An Extreme of Historicism
Part Three: Imprecise Language and Suspicious Texts
Part Four: Grave Errors and Tendentious Relativizations
Part Five: Denying the Objectivity of the Jewish Crimes Against Our Lord and the Nascent Church

Thursday, May 2, 2002
volume 13, no. 84
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