Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today: New Explorations of Theological Interrelationships. Edited by Philip A. Cunningham, Joseph Sievers, Mary C. Boys, Hans Hermann Henrix, and Jesper Svartvik. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 2011. 338 pp. $36.00 (paper).
The range and implications of this remarkable volume embrace the whole church of Christ, even though its immediate provenance is largely Roman Catholic.
With the full horror and evil of anti-Semitism revealed in the Holocaust, the Second Vatican Council set the Roman Catholic Church on a new path in its declaration Nostra Aetate (1965). Not only did the church condemn anti-Semitism, but it also affirmed and embraced its Jewish roots. Thus, the church's relationship to Judaism cannot be compared with its relationship to other great religious traditions, such as Hinduism and Islam. As Pope John Paul II later said, Judaism is internal to Christianity.
To foster this relationship, Pope Paul VI had established the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews in 1974. To focus the main theological issues between Christians and Jews more precisely, a group of Jewish scholars published "Dabru Emet (To Speak the Truth): A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity" in 2000, which provoked considerable discussion. Subsequently, the 2005 conference in Rome marking the fortieth anniversary of Nostra Aetate surfaced the central questions in Christology, soteriology, and the covenantal status of the Jewish people that led to this book.
An international group of Christian scholars, mainly Roman Catholic, began meeting in 2006 and invited some Jewish scholars as observers and commentators. Though the group has no official status, its work, collected here, encapsulates much of the theological rapprochement that unfolded in the years following Vatican II and lays out exciting future directions for theological exploration that can solidify the bonds between Jews and Christians.
Each of the twenty studies in its own way grapples with the question, "How might we Christians in our time reaffirm our faith claim that Jesus Christ is the savior of all humanity, even as we affirm Israels covenantal life with God?" (p. xxii). Walter Cardinal Kasper is appropriately guarded about the results: "We stand only at the beginning of a new beginning. . . . There is to date no conclusive theory that is more or less generally accepted about the relationship of Judaism and Christianity, if there ever will be" (p. xiv). Yet the expertise of these scholars and the richness of their reflection make this book a landmark on the way to full Jewish-Christian mutual understanding, as well as to the decisive end of the supersessionism that can fuel anti-Semitism. …