Nov 16, 2018



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Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, the Church, and the World
Ignatius Press
Amazon Review/s
Synopsis: Cardinal Ratzinger, the new pope Benedict XVI, spent much of his career prior to being in the Vatican teaching theology and philosophy; after his move to the Vatican, he spent much of his time in the work of clarifying the theology of the church. One of the hallmarks of his predecessor's papacy (John Paul II) was a concerted effort at Jewish-Christian dialogue, and Benedict XVI as Joseph Ratzinger was an integral part of these conversations. John Paul II shows a propensity to break a question down into every possible category, and then fully analyze each category. Perhaps it is the limitation of the form in this book, but Ratzinger here instead will explain the limited scope of the particular question he wants to answer, and then find one or two small germs of truth that advance the discussion without fully answering it. The result is touching and very affecting. His analysis in the first section on what does it mean when Christ says he is the fulfillment of the law is striking: Jesus is speaking of his own death as the fulfillment of the ritual sacrifices of the law. Ratzinger's treatment of new-age style "ecumenism" as offensive to human dignity cuts right to the heart. This book is not, as one might expect, a treatise on the relationship between Catholicism and Judaism. Rather, it is a collection of four lectures that the author gave at different points on different occasions, all dealing with the subject of the meaning of the "New Covenant" as contrasted with the covenants (plural) in the old testament. One of the talks does address slightly the implications for this study for current-day Jewish/Catholic interaction, but a footnote indicates that this section was appended later to a previously written lecture. However, he presents a lucid summary of the central theological issues arising out of the covenant shared by Jews and Christians. Insisting (properly) that the Abrahamic and Chrisitian covenants represent a single movement of God in his work of reconciliation of human kind, Ratzinger shows how the work of Christ is a fulfillment of God's promise announced in the covenant with Abraham-- 'all the nations of the world shall be blessed through you'. Ratzinger recognizes that for this blessing to be realized, priority must be given to the relationship between Jews and Christians. Until Christians recognize their fundamental kinship with Judaism and Jews, and until that recognition leads to reconciliation between them, the proclamation of God's reconciling work in the world will be truncated and compromised. He recognizes that the often tragic misunderstandings in Chrisitian Jewish relationships raise very specific difficulties, especially for Jews, and Christians have a major responsibility to address those difficulties. This work falls under the category of post-Holocaust or post-Shoah theology. Ratzinger wrote, 'After Auschwitz the mission of reconciliation [of Jews and Christians] permits no deferral.' Very importantly, Ratzinger dispels the age-old idea of the collective guilt of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus, arguing that 'all sinners' participate in the problem of Jesus' death. One of his frequent references, in this work and in others, is to the twentieth-century Jewish theologian, Martin Buber. His work on Jewish-Christian dialogue in this text is very biblically grounded, looking at ideas of 'covenant' and 'testament', seeing the covenant of God as crucial for understanding our relationship to God either as Christians or as Jews. Israel is the root from which Christianity's branches grow, so a clear understanding of that basis as well as the understanding of the continuing covenant God has with the Jews is an important consideration.

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