The Chosen People

From time to time Christians have been known to claim that Christians are the true chosen people as we have accepted the Messiah. The early Church was 100 per cent Jewish, so the issue of who were the Chosen People did not arise until later, when the Church became predominantly Gentile; then, sadly, hostility often overcame charity.

Even charitable attempts to convert Jews turned sour when they refused such overtures, not because they did not believe in the Messiah, but because of their enduring belief that the One God could not have a son. Christians believe that in Jesus, God instituted a new Covenant with the whole of mankind, but that did not invalidate His Covenant with the Jews. The concept of Covenant in the Old Testament was of an unbreakable relationship made by God with men - like a marriage in which there can be no divorce. Jesus said that salvation is from the Jews (John 4:22), and the Second Vatican Council document Nostra Aetate drew attention to St Paul's teaching in his Letter to the Romans that the Jews remain most dear to God because of their fathers, for He does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues; the Council continued: Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as repudiated or cursed by God, as if such views followed from the holy Scriptures; it added that the Church deplores the hatred, persecutions, and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at any time and from any source. Christians were called by Jesus to share the Good News, but history shows that it is all too easy for a good idea to turn bad; in 1933, with the rise of Nazi anti-Semitism, G. K. Chesterton warned of the resurgence of ideas of chosenness in Nazism: in the Jews the idea had a certain tragic grandeur; as of men separated and sealed and waiting for a unique destiny - but Christendom, he believed, would never be restored until the idea was utterly destroyed among Christians. Israel Zangwill explained: A chosen people is at bottomonly a choosing people.  It would have been a monstrous egotism had the Jew said he was to be worshipped; he was merely throbbing with the vital message he had to deliver. In an article in L'Osservatore Romano in 2000, Leredita di Abramo (The Heritage of Abraham) the then Cardinal Ratzinger observed:
It is evident that dialogue of us Christians with the Jews stands on a different level with regard to the dialogue with the other religions. The faith witnessed in the Bbile of the Jews, the Old Testament of Christians, is for us not a different religion but the foundation of our own faith.

© 2012 ANN FARMER