Old covenant enduring?


#1

Elsewhere on this board mention was made of the brouhaha which ensued when the USCCB and various Cardinals in the Catholic Church put out the ill-fated Reflections on Covenant and Mission. The USCCB has since retracted the document and issued clarifications, but the message of the document was so warmly received in many sectors that quite a few Catholics cling to it and refuse to admit that it was not an authoritative statement.

Interestingly, perhaps of all people, the ones who were most incensed by the work were Jewish converts (such as Rosalind Moss or Martin Barrack). They are of the opinion that to claim that the old covenant is still salvific for the Jews negates the logic of the Christian claims about the new convenant (see the linked statements for greater elucidation of their line of argument). Knowing, as we do, that God does not break His promises, this leads to the question of how the new covenant might supercede the old without God abandoning the promises which He made to the Hebrew people.

Do you think that the old covenant can still be said to be operative for the people of Israel? If so, is it salvific (that is, do you think that those of Jewish lineage can be saved by observing the Law even if they do not believe in Christ)? If not, how does this affect our belief in God’s fidelity to His own promises?


#2

I believe St. Paul makes it clear that the Old Covenant is still salvific, however, he asks, who can actually live up to it? No one, of course, that is why Jesus came.


#3

[quote=quintessential5]I believe St. Paul makes it clear that the Old Covenant is still salvific, however, he asks, who can actually live up to it? No one, of course, that is why Jesus came.
[/quote]

Wait a second; does that mean that you think that no-one was ever saved by virtue of the old covenant?


#4

Incidentally, would you mind fleshing out the conclusion that St. Paul holds that the old covenant is still efficacious? What letters do you have in mind when you say that?


#5

[quote=GrzeszDeL]Wait a second; does that mean that you think that no-one was ever saved by virtue of the old covenant?
[/quote]

Essentially, yes. That is not to say that I think the patriarchs weren’t saved, I think they were. But I don’t think it was by virtue of the Old Law:

According to Christian tradition, the Law is holy, spiritual, and good, yet still imperfect. Like a tutor it shows what must be done, but does not of itself give the strength, the grace of the Spirit, to fulfill it. Because of sin, which it cannot remove, it remains a law of bondage. According to St. Paul, its special function is to denounce and disclose sin, which constitutes a “law of concupiscence” in the human heart. However, the Law remains the first stage on the way to the kingdom. It prepares and disposes the chosen people and each Christian for conversion and faith in the Savior God. It provides a teaching which endures for ever, like the Word of God. CCC 1963

It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. Romans 4: 13-16

I think Paul and the church are saying the same thing. That is, that the Law only brings condemnation because no one can really fulfill it, so God has fulfilled it for us through his Son. Our part is to have faith (faith of obedience and love, not just intellectual faith, faith with works we might say :slight_smile: ).


#6

[quote=GrzeszDeL]Incidentally, would you mind fleshing out the conclusion that St. Paul holds that the old covenant is still efficacious? What letters do you have in mind when you say that?
[/quote]

I guess Paul never really says explicitly that the Old Law is still efficacious. I think it is more implicit. In Romans 4 he talks a lot about how it just brings condemnation, but the reason for that he says is our inability to uphold the Old Law. It seems he’s implying that if we could really keep it that it would bring salvation (again, though, who could actually do that?) One might say Mary did, but that was only by a special grace of God and not by her own merit.


#7

What an interesting take on the matter. Of course, if this is what the USCCB meant when it said that the Jews already dwell in a saving covenant, then those bishops are a sly and devious bunch. A saving covenant that has never saved anyone? In any case, I must admit that the more I think of it, the more that this take on Paul makes sense. Thanks.


#8

G-del,

i read the letter you linked from Rosalind Moss (whom I admire), and she gives a very good thought out position.


#9

[quote=Dan-Man916]i read the letter you linked from Rosalind Moss (whom I admire), and she gives a very well thought out position.
[/quote]

Dear Dan,

I also admire Ms. Moss. I am glad that you enjoyed her letter. I definitely find more merit in her position than in Cardinal Kasper’s.

Meanwhile, I wonder if I do not need to qualify my admiration of Quintessential’s take on the “saving covenant.” St. Paul says in Rom 11:20 that the branches (meaning the Jews who rejected Christ) were “broken off because of their unbelief.” If this is the case, it would seem that even if an unbelieving Jew were to do what no one before had ever done and keep the law perfectly, it would still avail to nothing. Without faith in Christ he is cut off, quite regardless of his fidelity to the law or lack thereof. A branch without a root is never going to survive, and according to St. Paul our connection to the root comes from faith in Christ. As such, I wonder if we really can say that observance of the law is salvific, even setting aside all questions of the practicability of such observance.


#10

[quote=GrzeszDeL]Elsewhere on this board mention was made of the brouhaha which ensued when the USCCB and various Cardinals in the Catholic Church put out the ill-fated Reflections on Covenant and Mission. The USCCB has since retracted the document
[/quote]

But I believe the confusion about the Old Covenant may well be beyond what the NCCB issued

…From: The 18th annual meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee opens today in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (7/20004)

“These past forty years of our fraternal dialogue stand in stark contrast to almost two millennia of a “teaching of contempt” and all its painful consequences. We draw encouragement from the fruits of our collective strivings which include the recognition of the unique and unbroken covenantal relationship between God and the Jewish People and the total rejection of anti-Semitism in all its forms, including anti-Zionism as a more recent manifestation of anti-Semitism. …”

zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=56781

FYI
The Intl. Catholic=Jewish Liaison Committee: Cardinal Walter Kasper who heads the Holy See’s commission for relations with Judaism, heads the Vatican delegation to the talks. He is accompanied by the Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, the former Vatican archivist, and by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue. Also attending the sessions will be Msgr. Brian Farrell and Father Norbert Hofmann: the vice-president and secretary, respectively, of the Vatican’s commission on Judaism.


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