Rediscovering the Contribution of Jewish Scriptures

Secretary of Biblical Commission Assesses New Document

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 6, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The only truly Christian attitude toward the Jews is one of "appreciation and love," says a recent document entitled "The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible."



Jewish leaders worldwide have hailed the 210-page text written by the Pontifical Biblical Commission and published by the Vatican Press.

Although not a magisterial document, the text is of key importance for the Catholic Church. The Biblical Commission is under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whose prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, wrote the preface for the document.

ZENIT interviewed Albert Vanhoye, secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, about the meaning and value of the document.

"Three years ago, the Biblical Commission received a request from Cardinal Ratzinger to study the relations between the Jewish people and Christians according to the Scriptures," Vanhoye said. "With this document, the commission hoped to lay the foundations of Christian behavior toward the Jewish people."

"The Biblical Commission was not satisfied to make a generic reflection, but studied sacred Scripture in depth, with an extensive and ambitious examination, in order to propose a global perspective," he said.

"In the document there is ample proof that Christians fully recognize the sacred Scriptures of the Jewish people, which are regarded as the word of God and, therefore, of the highest value," stressed Vanhoye, who is one of the most renowned Catholic biblicists.

"There is no doubt that it is divine, and this is the faith of the Church," he added. "The Church receives the Old Testament as the word of God, expression of revelation and, therefore, indispensable light for guidance in life."

Cardinal Ratzinger explains in the preface that Christ cannot be fully understood if the divine revelation present in the Jewish Scripture is excluded.

Vanhoye explained that this is the reason Cardinal Ratzinger "rejects any contempt for the Old Testament. The second part of the document emphasizes how the fundamental topics of the Scripture of the Jewish people have been received by the Christian faith as expressed in the New Testament."

According to the biblicist, the great essential points of faith of the Old and New Testaments are "the revelation of the one God; the greatness and misery of human persons; the concept of the wounded man who can be in a miserable situation, yet always keeps his dignity, as he is created in the image of God and, therefore, is called to communion with God."
"This marvelous revelation present in the Old Testament is developed in the New Testament with the incarnation of the Son of God," Vanhoye said.

"The divine initiatives of deliverance and salvation, the election of Israel, the Covenant, the Law, prayer and worship, the privileged position of Jerusalem and its Temple" -- all are elements of Israel´s Testament that nourish the spiritual life of Christians, he added.

"These are not secondary but fundamental questions," the biblicist continued. "We Christians and Jews are really united. Religiously, we are intensely brothers, as we accept the same divine revelation, with the difference that Christians complete it with the paschal mystery of Jesus, which is a great novelty, but this novelty does not cancel the previous revelation, but rather highlights it."

The document aims at "harmony" and "union" with the people of Israel, Vanhoye added. "We don´t know when this union will be realized, but it is our goal and we are moving in this direction," he said.

"And this must be the truly Christian attitude: We must consider Jews as brothers and sisters of Jesus and Mary and, therefore, elder brothers and sisters, as the Holy Father has said," professor Vanhoye concluded.