Wednesday, March 12, 2014


We present Part Two of this study by Arnaud deLassus, with thanks to Anthony Fraser at APROPOS

(Part one can be read here.)

II   Jewish conceptions of what Christians should believe and do (33)

We know that the Jewish authorities have had the idea of urging the Church to modify her traditional doctrine – which we outlined above.

The pressure to do so occurred for the greater part after the 1939-45 War and emanated from Jewish personalities or organisations.   Originally, they sought as their aim to obtain, ‘a new approach by Christian theology towards the Jews’, (34) then to end up with what Rabbi Elie Benamozegh (35) called a reform of the Church in the Hebrew ideal. (36)

Outline of Jewish conceptions

These conceptions are rarely presented in their entirety.  We have summarised them as follows:

Two aspects seem essential:

Concerning the Jewish people:
 The Covenant of God with the Jewish people (what the Christians call the Old Covenant) would not be revoked. The Jewish people would remain today as yesterday a priestly people charged with a particular mission for non-Jews. The religion which they practise  (we are not concerned here whether it be through the Mosaic or Talmudic (37) religion) would  be salvific for the Jews.

Concerning the Gentiles (Christians and Pagans) (38)

It would be neither necessary nor opportune that these convert to Judaism. To be saved, it is enough for them to observe the seven laws called the Noachide (39) laws which were imposed upon Noah (a law requiring the establishment of courts of justice; and six laws prohibiting blasphemy, idolatry, incest, murder, theft and the consumption of the flesh of a living animal).

The Noachide religion is one limited to these seven laws (and which comprises belief in one unique God – as implied in the law condemning idolatry).

Let us examine these two areas in somewhat more detail:

1) The Old Covenant has never been revoked

What Christians call the Old Covenant with the Jews has not been abolished and remains in force (…).  If one takes this affirmation seriously, this signifies that all current theology which began with the Fathers of the Church is abolished and that contrary to its traditional teaching, the Church can no longer claim to replace the Jewish people. If the Old Covenant is still valid something in particular exists for us, Jews.  The classical theory of the substitution of the Old Israel (the Jews) by the New Israel (the Christians) is corrected and modified by this affirmation which is therefore primordial. (…)  This profoundly modifies Christian teaching. (40)

As already indicated, the traditional doctrine on this point is called ‘the theology of substitution’ by those who oppose it.

It is necessary therefore for the Church to ratify a change of doctrine with the following consequences:

2) The Jewish people today remain the elect (41) today. Just as much now as in the past, it will be a people of priests, a priestly people;
3) By virtue of this fact it has a mission to  other peoples – to bring  Monotheism to them; (42)
4) It will remain faithful to its mission throughout the centuries, hence the necessity for the Church to  recognise its faults (repentance) and to convert itself on this point and to atone;
5) All proselytism (seeking conversion) regarding the Jewish people will be proscribed.

The obligatory character of the Noachide Laws for the Gentiles
In a Catholic milieu one is barely aware of the existence of the Noachide laws and their obligatory character for Gentiles which many Jewish authorities attribute to them.  We will thus devote to this subject a series of passages which go to reinforce one or the other; these show that this is already a well-established idea.

Elie Benamozegh
This Rabbi from Livorna (1823-1900), whose work we have already cited, wished to resolve this question which the Rabbis and thinkers of Judaism were asking themselves after the emancipation of the Jews in Europe: (43)
    When we have again found our role as the people which brings salvation to the nations, what will be the religion of the Christians who claim themselves to be the new Israel? (44)

His book, Israel et Humanité, (45) which he wrote in French is sub-titled ‘Study on the problem of the Universal religion and its solution’.  The solution has been summarised thus by Michael Laurigan:
    The Catholic Church must reform its teaching on three points:

    1) It must change its view of the Jewish people which it must rehabilitate as being the elder people, the sacerdotal people ‘who knew to keep the primitive religion in its original purity’. This people is neither deicide nor rejected by God. No malediction lies upon it. On the contrary it is led to propose the happiness and unity of humanity.
    2)To renounce the Divinity of Jesus, this Son of Man, as he called himself.  A simple Rabbi, Jesus was a Jew and remains so. To preach Jesus Christ, but a human Jesus Christ, will bring about a morality for the happiness of all men.
   3) To accept a reinterpretation – and not a suppression – of the mystery of the Trinity;

    On these three conditions ‘The Catholic Church is the Church of true Catholicism’, true Catholicism which Benamozegh calls Noachism, a religion for all people who belong ‘to the Christian space’. (46) This Noachism possesses a morality which the Church has a mission to make known to the peoples of the earth. (47)

Elie Benamozegh’s quotation which we have already cited summarises this position:

    If Christianity consents to reform itself in accordance with the Hebrew ideal, it will always be the true religion of the Gentile peoples. (48)

Here are some more recent explanations on the Noachide Laws.

Rabbi Jacob Kaplan, 1966
    According to our doctrine, the Jewish religion is not the only one to assure Salvation.  Saved are all those who, not being Jews, believe in a supreme God and whose conduct is moral obeying the laws called the Noachide laws – those which the Creator prescribed to Noah (…).  In consequence, the Rabbis teach that the just of all nations have a right to eternal salvation. It is unique to the Jews that over and above the Noachide laws, there are the prescriptions of the Torah, the law of Moses which have as their raison d’etre in the Divine plan to form a people destined for religious action in the world.  The hope of Israel, is not therefore, the conversion of the human race to Judaism but to Monotheism.  As for the biblical religions, they are declared by two of our greatest theologians, confessions which have as their task to prepare with Israel the coming of the Messianic era announced by the Prophets.  Consequently we ardently wish to work in common for the realization of this essentially biblical ideal. (49)

Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Judaism (1989-1993)

    Noachide Laws

    Seven key principles of morality which, according to Rabbinic opinion, are binding on all humanity since men are all descendants of a common ancestor. According to tradition  these Noachide laws imposed by Noah, preceded the Torah and the Halakhah – the legal system imposed on the Hebrew people only.  According to Maimonides the acceptance – on the basis of the Bible – of the seven universal precepts, signifies that all just Gentiles are counted among ‘the pious of the nations of the world who have a part in the world to come’.
    Christians and Muslims are considered by the majority of the Halakhic authorities as non-idolaters and as having accepted the Noachide laws.

Following the above there is a table of the seven Noachide Laws:

    1) Civil Justice (the duty of establishing a legal system;
    2) The proscription of blasphemy (which includes false witness);
    3) The proscription of idolatry;
    4) The proscription of incest (as well as adultery and other sexual offences);
    5) The proscription of murder;
    6) The proscription of stealing;
    7) The proscription of eating the flesh (‘a member’) cut from a living animal (that is to say cruelty of all forms).

The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia

    The Laws of Noah
    Seven laws which the Rabbis consider as obligatory upon all mankind; they derive from the first chapter of Genesis (9:4-7); six of these laws are negative and prohibit idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, stealing and eating the flesh of a live animal. The only positive commandment is the one requiring the establishment of courts of justice. They were the object of numerous discussions by authors of the 17th century in connection with the rights of peoples (international law).

Chapter ‘Jewish Reflections’ in the ‘Declaration on Covenant and Mission’ 12th August 2002 (50)

    Judaism considers that all peoples are obliged to observe a universal law. This law called the seven commandments of Noah apply to all human beings. They are: 1. the establishment of courts of justice so that society is governed by law’ and the prohibition of 2. blasphemy, 3. idolatry, 4. incest, 5. spilling of blood, 6. stealing, 7. eating the flesh of a living animal.

It was only a few years ago in 2002 that the Noachide laws were published in a declaration drawn up by American Catholic and Jewish authorities; yet they only appear in the chapter called ‘Jewish Reflections’ in that document.   Matters progressed somewhat quicker in the USA as is confirmed by law 102-14 promulgated on the 20th March 1991 by the 102nd session of the US Congress.  Here is the text:
    Public Law 102-14
    102nd Congress
    Joint  Resolution to designate 26th March 1991 as ‘Education Day’ in the United States

Whereas Congress recognizes the historical tradition of ethical values and principles which are the basis of civilized society and upon which our great Nation was founded;
Whereas these ethical values and principles have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization, when they were known as the Seven Noahide Laws;
Whereas without these ethical values and principles the edifice of civilization stands in serious peril of returning to chaos;

Whereas society is profoundly concerned with the recent weakening of these principles that has resulted in crises that beleaguer and threaten the fabric of civilized society;
Whereas the justified preoccupation with these crises must not let the citizens of this Nation lose sight of their responsibility to transmit these ethical values from our distinguished past to the generations of the future;
Whereas the Lubavitch movement has fostered and promoted these ethical values and principles throughout the world;
Whereas Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, leader of the Lubavitch movement, is universally respected and revered and his eighty-ninth birthday falls on March 26, 1991;
Whereas in tribute to this great spiritual leader, "the rebbe", this, his ninetieth year will be seen as one of "education and giving", the year in which we turn to education and charity to return the world to the moral and ethical values contained in the Seven Noahide Laws; and
Whereas this will be reflected in an international scroll of honor signed by the President of the United States and other heads of state: Now, therefore be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That March 26, 1991, the start of the ninetieth year of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, leader of the worldwide Lubavitch movement, is designated as "Education Day. U.S.A.". The President is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe such day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

This was approved on the 20th March 1991 and signed by George Bush, President of the United States of America. (51)

(The following insert has been provided by the Editor of Apropos)

[David Klinghoffer (52) 12th December 2003

    You often hear it said that Jews (…) have never relished the opportunity to point out to adherents of other religions that their faith falls short of the truth. Not so.

    Traditionally we Jews have indeed believed in using rather aggressive methods of weaning non-Jews from their false gods – see for example, Maimonides’s alarmingly frank comments on this in his Mishneh Torah, which I hesitate to quote because they are so aggressive (Hilchot Melachim 8:10, 9:1).  Another medieval sage, Sforno wrote that being a ‘kingdom of priests’ (Exodus 19:6) means ‘to instruct all of mankind to call in unison on the Name of the Lord and to serve Him with one accord’.

    The intent of these great scholars was not that all humans convert to Judaism, but rather that they become believers in the God of Israel as Gentiles – as Noachides, guided in their lives by the seven fundamental moral imperatives associated with the descendants of Noah
(namely, all humanity) and outlined in the Talmud’s tractate Sanhedrin. (53) (Our emphasis – Editor Apropos)

Klinghoffer’s faith in the ultimate success of Judaism is expressed in his statement, ‘We are called “Israel” because we wrestle with and prevail over the spirit of Esau, of Christianity.’ (54)]

Consequences of accepting the Noachide Laws

The summary of Elie Benamozegh’s thoughts quoted below provide us with an initial indication of the consequences.

As it is a matter of ‘reforming Christianity in accordance with the Hebraic ideal’, The Noachide laws must be interpreted from a Jewish perspective.  It is therefore obvious that law No. 3, prohibiting idolatry, implies a threefold rejection: that of the mystery of the Holy Trinity (considered as a form of polytheism); that of the mystery of the Incarnation (Jesus being no longer considered as God), that of the mystery of the Redemption (not being considered as God, He (Jesus) is unable to save us). These three mysteries are effectively incompatible with the idea that the Jews have of Divine unity.

End of Part Two.  Part Three to follow.


[33] One  can find very interesting  insights on this subject in the following  documents:  Michel Laurigan’s brochure, L’Église et la Synagogue depuis Vatican II (The Church and the Synagogue since Vatican II), Published by Editions de Sel, Couvent de la Haye-aux-Bonhommes, 49240 Avrille, France which reproduces with compliments an article which appeared in No. 46 (Autumn 2003) of Sel de la Terre.  Numerous references have been taken from this brochure in the pages which follow.  Gerhart M. Riegner’s book, Ne jamais désespérer, published by Cerf. 1999.  Riegner was the Secretary General of the Jewish World Congress. In the years 1960-1990 he played a role of the first order in the discussions with the Holy See relating to relations between Jews and Christians; an account of which he gives in Chapter IV of his book (circa 100 pages)
[34] G M Riegner, op. cit., p.351
[35] Rabbi of Livorna (1825-1900) One of the leaders in contemporary Jewish thought. He was the author of the book, Israel et l’humanite (Israel and Humanity), published in Paris in 1914 and republished in an abridged version in 1961 by Albin Michel. One may find the 1914 version on the site
[36] Cf. this remark: ‘If Christianity consents to reform itself according to the Hebrew ideal, it will always be the true religion of the Gentile peoples’.  E. Banamozegh, op. cit., p.10

[37]   The Mosaic religion:
                It is principally founded upon the Torah. ‘Torah’ is the name that the Jews give to the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) and more especially to the law of Moses. Mosaic Judaism is no more than a relic. (Cf. the quotations from Daniel Granville, p.6 below.)
        The Talmudic religion:
                It is principally founded on the Talmud, a work comprising the book of Mishnah,  completed with commentaries (called Gemara) established by the  Jewish schools of Palestine and Babylon .  Here are the definitions given by Robert’s Dictionary of the Mishnah and Talmud:
                Mishnah:  In Judaism, a compilation of teachings and decisions of a certain number of Rabbis tanniam – teachers) interpreting the Torah.
                Talmud:   In Hebrew ‘Teaching’. A vast Judaic work which presents itself as a commentary on the Mishnah and aiming to give a complete corpus of teaching and the rules to be followed on points of Jewish civil and religious life.
[38]  Please note that those called Gentiles are non-Jews (Christians and Pagans).
[39] In the ecclesiastical lexicon, in the past, the word ‘Noachide’ denoted a descendant of Noah and the word ‘Noachic ‘  whatever related to Noah. Today we use ‘Noachide’ to  convey the latter sense.
[40] G.M. Riegner, op.cit.., p.417
[41]  See this remark by G M Riegner, op. cit., p.452:  ‘The permanence of Israel (while so many ancient peoples have disappeared without trace) is an historic fact and a sign to be interpreted in God’s plan.  In every case one must get rid of the traditional conception of a punished people, preserved as a living argument to sustain Christian apologetics. It remains the elect.’
[42] We have exposed here some Jewish conceptions of what Christians should believe – which is not necessarily coherent with the Talmudic religion.  Cf. this remark by Israel Shahak in his book ‘Jewish History – The Jewish Religion’ – The weight of Three Millennia’, p. 32 : ‘I shall  only deal in detail with the most important of these popular delusions: that the Jewish Religion is, and always has been monotheistic (…). This ahistorical view is quite wrong’.  See also the article in AFS No. 135 (February 1998), Israel’s politics by an Israeli.’
[43] The  civil and  legal introduction of the Jews into the heart of Christian societies; it occurred in Europe at the end of the 18th and in the first half of the 19th century.
[44] Michel Laurigan, op. cit., p.35
[45] See note 35 below
[46] Cardinal Lustiger’s expression (Cf Michel Laurigan op. cit., p. 23.
[47] Michel Laurigan, op.cit., p.35-36
[48] Elie Benamozegh, op. cit., p.18.
[49] Jacob Kaplan (Chief Rabbi of France),  Dialogue with Fr Danielou, 10th February 1966 at the  theatre des ambassadeurs, Paris 1966 (Michel Laurigan, op. cit., p.3)
[50] Declaration drawn up by  the American Episcopal Committee for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs and by the National Council of Synagogues and Delegates. It comprises a preface and two chapters: ‘Roman Catholic Reflections’ and ‘Jewish Reflections’.
[51] The English original of this public law may be found at
[52] Columnist in The Jewish Forward  and contributer to The National Review.
[53] The Disputation: Modern Day Disputations, The Forward Forum, December 12th 2003.
[54] Ibid.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...