Mark S. Kinzer
I am a Messianic Jew—a Jew who adheres to Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth as Israel's messiah and finds in him the realization and renewal of Judaism rather than its nullification. I am also a person who has benefited enormously from relations with Catholic teachers and friends. For all Jews, an excellent starting point for theological discussion with Catholics remains Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from the Second Vatican Council, as supplemented by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
So what should a Messianic Jew like me make of Lumen Gentium and the Catechism in their treatment of the Church, Judaism, and the Jewish people? Lumen Gentium treats two biblical concepts as central to the identity of the Church: the body of Christ and the people of God. The first highlights the Church's union with the crucified and risen messiah and her identity as the continuing earthly embodiment of his presence: Because the Church is the body of Christ, it serves as a sacrament, mediating to the world the reality of the risen Lord. The second highlights the Church's identity as a humanly structured society with continuity through time: Because the Church is the people of God, it lives as a community that is in the world though not of it.
The first concept emphasizes the Church's union with God through Christ in the Spirit; the second concept emphasizes the Church's role as the communal expression in this world of a humanity renewed and transformed through the redemptive work of the messiah. By linking the two concepts, Lumen Gentium asserts that the Church is both a mystical reality and a fully human community, neither emphasized at the expense of the other.
In ascribing such importance to the Church's identity as the people of God, Lumen Gentium raises the ecclesiological question that is of greatest concern for Messianic Jews: What is the relation between the Church and the Jewish people? The document first speaks of the people of Israel at the beginning of its Trinitarian introduction, which considers the plan of God the Father. It presents “the history of the people of Israel” as a “foreshadowing of the Church,” which is “constituted” through Christ's person, life, and work and “made manifest” by the outpouring of the Spirit.
This means the Church is an essentially new reality in the world. It shares some features in common with the people of Israel in the old covenant, but it is fundamentally discontinuous. The goal of the divine plan, conceived “before time began,” is the establishment of the Church, and God's dealings with the people of Israel in the old covenant were all ordered to prepare for that goal.
This view of “old-covenant Israel” is reiterated and developed in section 9 of Lumen Gentium. The passage begins by describing God's corporate purpose for humanity and how that purpose leads to the election of the people of Israel and the establishment of God's covenant with them: “At all times and in every race God has given welcome to whosoever fears him and does what is right. God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased him to bring men together as one people, a people that acknowledges him in truth and serves him in holiness. He therefore chose the race of Israel as a people unto himself. With it he set up a covenant.”
The purpose of this election and covenant, however, does not have to do with Israel as a particular community. It concerns, instead, the new universal reality that is the Church: “All these things, however, were done by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect covenant, which was to be ratified in Christ. . . . Christ instituted this new covenant . . . calling together a people made up of Jew and gentile, making them one, not according to the flesh but in the Spirit. This was to be the new people of God.” The covenant with Israel, which establishes Israel as a nation, is a “preparation” and “figure” of a new and better covenant that will establish “the new people of God.” The new people—whose membership is determined not by physical but by spiritual birth—is the Israel mentioned by Jeremiah 31 as the recipient of the “new covenant.”
After further description of the Church as a “messianic people” called to be “an instrument for the redemption of all,” Lumen Gentium speaks of Old Testament Israel by employing a phrase drawn from Paul in First Corinthians—“Israel according to the flesh.” It then goes beyond the language of Paul and the New Testament by referring to the Church as “the new Israel.” Such terminology, combined with the preparatory nature of Israel's calling, could suggest that fleshly Israel no longer retains a unique and positive vocation in the world. At the same time, by noting that “Israel according to the flesh . . . was already called the Church of God,” Lumen Gentium hints that the historical discontinuity between the two Israels—the one in the old covenant, the other in the new—might not be as radical as first appears.
Only one paragraph of Lumen Gentium (section 16) explicitly addresses the relation between the Church and the Jewish people after the coming of Christ: “Finally, those who have not yet received the gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts he makes nor of the calls he issues.”
By citing the Letter to the Romans, Lumen Gentium decisively rejects the notion that Israel according to the flesh has forfeited its election and its distinctive vocation in the world. Unfortunately, the context undercuts this positive message. The Jewish people are presented as the first of many groups “who have not yet received the gospel”—they are part of a broader category of adherents of “non-Christian religions.” The Jewish people are not part of the people of God but are—like all human beings—related to it because of the Church's universal vocation. Thus, at the point at which Lumen Gentium makes an explicitly positive statement about the Jewish people, it implicitly distances Israel from its own original status as the people of God and treats Israel's religious tradition, rooted in divine revelation, as merely the first among many non-Christian traditions.
For a Messianic Jew, Lumen Gentium suffers from an exaggerated emphasis on discontinuity. The document's use of the term new underlines this emphasis: the new people of God and the new Israel. The document makes it evident that new here refers to the appearance of a reality that did not in any sense exist before. The new people, the new Israel, was foreshadowed by the old and thus shares certain features by way of analogy, but the two realities are not integrally interconnected.
In contrast, the biblical concept of newness usually connotes eschatological renewal of an already existing reality. The new heavens and new earth are the old heavens and old earth, glorified and transfigured. The new humanity is the old humanity raised from the dead and transformed. This understanding of eschatological newness is supported by its paradigmatic case—the resurrection of the messiah. The risen messiah is new, different, yet the same human being as the one born of Mary.
Similarly, the Church should be seen as a renewed Israel, a renewed people of God. It is an eschatological form of Israel, anticipating the life of the world to come by the gift of the Spirit. As an eschatological reality, it is also an expanded Israel, including within its ranks people from all the nations of the world. In the apostolic period, it still maintained substantive continuity with Israel according to the flesh: Founded and led by observant Jews and centered in the holy city of Jerusalem, the Church had residing at its heart a visible corporate expression of Jewish life. This continuity extended to the Church's relation to the wider Jewish world that had not yet accepted the Church's status as an expanded eschatological Israel. For Peter, Paul, and James, the leaders of the Jewish people were still their leaders, and the Jewish people were still their people—the people of God.
As Wolfhart Pannenberg has emphasized, Jeremiah 31:31–32 “promise[s] the new covenant not to another people but to Israel as the eschatological renewal and fulfillment of its covenant relationship with its God. When at the Last Supper . . . Jesus related the promise of the new covenant to the table fellowship with his disciples that he sealed with his self-offering, he was not snapping the link of this promise to the people of Israel.” In our own time, only a small portion of Israel according to the flesh has entered fully into this renewed covenant, but the promise remains for Israel as a whole. In this sense, Israel according to the flesh is itself the people of the new or renewed covenant—the people to whom that covenant uniquely and particularly belongs as an eschatological heritage.
Lumen Gentium recognizes that the Church is “a people made up of Jew and gentile,” united according to the Spirit. In context, however, this expression means merely that membership in the Church is independent of restrictions based on birth or ethnicity; it is made up of all people, and the Jews in its midst have no privileged position. Lumen Gentium does not intend to teach that the Church must always include Jews, or that such Jews must be visibly Jewish, or that the Church must always ensure that distinct Jewish life can be lived with integrity in its midst, or that Jews who are part of the Church have the obligation or even permission to transmit Jewish life to the next generation.
Fortunately, some of these deficiencies are addressed in The Catechism of the Catholic Church. There Israel's priestly vocation appears in the present rather than the past tense: “Israel is the priestly people of God.” The Catechism later affirms explicitly the enduring significance of the Jewish people in sections that are presented as commentary on Lumen Gentium. We cannot exaggerate the importance of these sections. They correct the gravest problems in Lumen Gentium's treatment of the Jewish people:
First, the distinction between the Jewish people and the Church is no longer that between Israel according to the flesh and the New Israel but is instead that between “God's people of the old covenant” and “the people of God in the new covenant”—with the former title applied not only to Israel before the coming of Christ but to the Jewish people throughout history. While I question whether this is the most apt title for the Jewish people, it at least leaves no doubt about the spiritual status of Israel: It remains the people of God.
Second, “the Jewish faith” is distinguished clearly from all “other non-Christian religions.” Like the faith of the Church, Judaism is “a response to God's revelation.” Not only are the “gifts and call of God” irrevocable, but the core beliefs of Judaism—including the enduring role of the Torah in Jewish life—are acknowledged as God-given.
Third, the relation between the Church and the Jewish people (and between Christian faith and Jewish faith) is not external to the Church's identity, as one could conclude from the discontinuities of Lumen Gentium (“Those who have not yet received the gospel are related to the people of God in various ways”). Instead, the Jewish people and the Jewish faith are integrally tied to the Church's own identity, since the Church “discovers her link with the Jewish people” when she “delves into her own mystery” (an allusion to Nostra Aetate 4). This link involves both a common biblical origin, and a common eschatological destiny.
While Lumen Gentium identifies the Church as the “new Israel,” the title requires and involves no evident bond to the Jewish people. The Catechism, on the other hand, makes clear that the entry of gentiles into the Church—and their new identity as participants in the life of Israel—involves a “turning towards the Jews.” The Magi's coming to Jerusalem prefigures the believing response of gentiles to the message of the Jewish apostles of the Jewish messiah, a response that enables these gentiles to take their “place in the family of the patriarchs.”
When the Catechism deals directly with the Jewish people and the Jewish faith, it does not suffer from the same weaknesses as does Lumen Gentium. But when the Catechism turns its attention to the article of the creed about the Church, it follows closely the scheme of Lumen Gentium and hardly mentions the Jewish people. This is a failure of omission rather than commission, but it indicates that the Catechism has not integrated its affirmations about the Jewish people into its ecclesiology. From a Messianic Jewish perspective, the Catechism is a great improvement but has not yet hit the mark.
There are two omissions in Lumen Gentium that require attention. First, the Church needs to examine the significance and role of the Church for those who come to it “from circumcision.” Yeshua is not only lumen gentium, a light to the gentiles, but also the “glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:32). His body should likewise illumine both spheres, but in different ways, as Christoph Cardinal Schönborn has recently emphasized: “St. Paul distinguishes between the two vocations, between those who believed in Jesus as the Messiah who came ‘from circumcision' and those who converted to Christ and came ‘from the gentiles.' . . . These two appeals in the Church reflect the twofold way of the same salvation in Christ, one for Jews and one for gentiles.”
Second, neither Lumen Gentium nor the Catechism deals with the relation between the land of Israel and the people of Israel nor with the implications of this relation for the Church's own identity in an age when the people once again dwell in the land. Just as the destruction of a Jewish political reality in the first century opened the door for supersessionist ecclesiology, so the restoration of a Jewish political reality in the twentieth century challenges that ecclesiology.
This second omission is connected to the first, for the restoration of a Jewish national existence in the land promised to the patriarchs and matriarchs has also led to the possibility of restoring the Church from the circumcision in the holy land and the holy city. Jerusalem was the original center of the Church. In keeping with Romans 11, the Catechism recognizes that “the glorious Messiah's coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by ‘all Israel.'” If that recognition emerges gradually rather than in a sudden burst of illumination, should we not expect the re-emergence of the Church from the circumcision and the re-emergence of the holy land and holy city as a center not only for pilgrimage but also for ecclesial identity?
While treatment of these two points is absent from Lumen Gentium, the Catechism offers a hint that could be further developed: “The ‘full inclusion' of the Jews in the Messiah's salvation, in the wake of ‘the full number of the gentiles,' will enable the people of God to achieve ‘the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,' in which ‘God may be all in all.'” The people of God will not reach its fullness until the Jewish people—as a corporate reality—and the Church from the gentiles come together as one flock with one shepherd.
Three additional points in Lumen Gentium have implications not adequately explored. The first concerns the relation between the two primary biblical concepts employed by Lumen Gentium: the people of God and the body of Christ. The Catechism provides some perspective: “The images taken from the Old Testament are variations on a profound theme: the people of God. In the New Testament, all these images find a new center because Christ has become the head of this people, which henceforth is his Body.”
These statements are terse and could be understood in a number of ways. Let us consider one that would open up new vistas for ecclesiology. Yeshua becomes the head of the people of Israel through his death and resurrection, and—“in a certain way,” as Gaudium et Spes puts it—all those who are part of that people receive a new status as members of his body.
Those Jews who receive the gospel affirm that status and enter into the eschatologically renewed and expanded Israel. Those who do not receive it are put in an anomalous and precarious situation—yet Yeshua remains their king and head, whether they acknowledge the fact or not. He was born the king of the Jews, he was crucified under that title, and he will bear it for all eternity. Thus, for Jews, participation in the life of the people of Israel points to membership in the body of their appointed messianic king. For gentiles, on the other hand, the situation is the reverse. All gentiles who are joined to the body of Christ through faith and baptism thereby become part of an expanded people of Israel. For them, membership in the body leads to citizenship in the commonwealth of Israel.
As for how membership in the messiah's body leads to citizenship in Israel, we must reflect on the fact that Yeshua was born a Jew, was circumcised on the eighth day, and lived as a faithful Jew throughout the course of his earthly life. When he was raised from the dead, his Jewish identity carried over into his glorified existence, as did his masculine gender. To say that Yeshua was a Jew is a fact of history. To say that Yeshua is a Jew is a fact of explosive theological consequence. The Son of God does not assume a generic human nature but rather the humanity descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. When gentiles become part of that body, they become part of a Jewish body. They do not themselves become Jews, but they become part of the Jewish commonwealth.
A second motif in Lumen Gentium points in a similar direction. This is the office of priest, prophet, and king. While Lumen Gentium introduces the threefold office of Christ in its section on the Church as the people of God, it nowhere connects the theme to the life of Israel according to the flesh. Yet that is its source: The book of Deuteronomy defines Israel's institutions of leadership according to those offices. To describe Yeshua as priest, prophet, and king is to affirm that God has appointed him the definitive ruler of Israel—and his appointment to these national offices establishes his relation with the Jewish people as a whole and with every Jew. He is the priest, prophet, and king from whom the priestly, prophetic, and royal aspects of Jewish life derive.
The Jewish people enter into a relation with him—whether they know it or not, whether they like it or not. In a mysterious way, this relation founds and constitutes their covenantal identity. When Jews acknowledge Yeshua as Israel's priest, prophet, and king, they confirm their own identity as members of the eschatologically renewed People of Israel. Thus, participation in the people of God points Jews to a relation with Christ (though most Jews do not yet discern the meaning of the signs). For gentiles, on the other hand, the process takes place in reverse order: Relation with Christ initiates them into the people of God.
Yeshua thus sums up not only the line of Israel's leaders but Israel's life as a whole. He is the one-man Israel; he carries the entire people in himself even more than did his ancestor Jacob. Lumen Gentium recognizes that this is true for Christ's relation with the Church. We should take this further and affirm it also of his relation with the Jewish people.
All this has a parallel with the Virgin Mary as a type of the Church. Lumen Gentium concludes with its teaching on Mary, in which Catholics are encouraged to see her as an individual embodiment of what the Church should be as a whole. She is a model for individual Catholics in her virtue and for the Church as a whole in her maternal love.
But what of Mary's relation to the people of Israel? Only once does Lumen Gentium allude to that relation, calling her “the exalted Daughter of Zion.” This image deserves far more attention than it receives in the document. When Scripture presents the people of Israel as a corporate reality, it normally speaks of the community using masculine language. When it speaks of the capital city of Jerusalem, however, the language is feminine. The city represents the corporate reality of the community in relation to God, her spouse, and the people themselves are her children. Just as Yeshua embodies Israel as priest, prophet, and king, so Mary embodies Zion, mother of all the faithful.
Mary is the type of the Church, but she becomes that type through her role as the individual representation of the holy city and of the temple that resided at its center. By neglecting this dimension of Mary's identity, Lumen Gentium again accentuates discontinuity at the expense of continuity. As the Church is seen as a radically new reality, prefigured by but discontinuous with the old, so the imagery of Zion appears as but figurative prophetic foreshadowing of a new multinational community in which Jews are merely another redeemed ethnicity.
But is not Mary still a Jewish mother, just as Yeshua is still a Jewish messiah? In giving birth to the messiah, was she not an expression of Israel's entire history and life, the sum of humble and faithful Jews through the centuries? If indeed Mary has a special place in the heavenly courts and if indeed she watches over her children on earth—do not her people according to the flesh have a special place in her heart among those beloved children?
Lumen Gentium challenges Messianic Jews—shaped to a great extent by the individualistic ethos of Protestantism—to consider the significance and implications of recognizing the continuity of the Church as a real community in time, “constituted and organized in the world as a society.” The existence of Messianic Jews challenges Catholics—shaped to a great extent by a supersessionist ethos—to consider the significance and implications of the continuity between Israel according to the flesh and the Church.
The preacher of the papal household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, suggests that the Messianic Jewish movement may be the beginning of the “rejoining of Israel with the Church.” At the same time, he recognizes that this eschatological event will have a profound impact on the Church itself: “It is certain that the rejoining of Israel with the Church will involve a rearrangement in the Church; it will mean a conversion on both sides. It will also be a rejoining of the Church with Israel.” If Cantalamessa is correct—and our reading of Lumen Gentium supports his visionary claim—such a rearrangement will not damage the Catholic Church but instead enable it to realize its original catholicity in eschatological fullness.
Mark Kinzer makes several interesting claims about the relation of Jews and the Church—through his critical engagement with the ecclesiology of Lumen Gentium, his proposal that the Catechism offers a significant advance on that ecclesiology, and his suggestions for developing Catholic ecclesiological doctrine.
In doing so, however, he relies on a framework that misapprehends Catholic teaching on Christ and history. Essentially absent from Kinzer's analysis is the understanding of history that shapes Lumen Gentium and the Catechism—an understanding of Christ as the eschatological figure who fulfills Israel and stands at the center of all history. This fact has wide ramifications for his dialogue with Catholic theology.
Kinzer begins with the question of whether Lumen Gentium sufficiently appreciates the relation of the Church to the Jewish people, who remain the people of God. His thesis is that the document presents the Church as a new reality, patterned on the people of Israel but essentially discontinuous with them. Some aspects hint at a continuity between the Church and Old Testament Israel, but, Kinzer thinks, Lumen Gentium suffers overall from an exaggerated emphasis on discontinuity.
Kinzer wants the relation of the Church and the people of Israel to be understood in terms of an “eschatological renewal of an already existing reality,” the paradigm for which is the risen messiah. In this paradigm, Israel according to the flesh is not negated (discontinuity). It is, instead, expanded (continuity) to include gentiles. In Kinzer's view, once Jewish Christians after the apostolic period ceased observing the laws of
the Torah, the result was a profound discontinuity, understood as the supersession of God's covenantal election of the Jewish people.
Kinzer thus challenges the Church to find a way to regain the lost continuity. But his model does not account for how Christ eschatologically fulfills and reconfigures Israel around himself. This eschatological fulfillment and reconfiguration should not be seen as either continuity or discontinuity. Christ makes all things new not simply as one more actor on the historical stage. If he came simply to renew or expand Israel, then he would be another Moses. In fact, Christ possessed the eschatological mission of fulfilling and reconfiguring Israel around himself. The messiah reveals the participation of all things in the eschatological fulfillment that he accomplishes by his cross and resurrection.
This is the christological understanding of history that Lumen Gentium presupposes and expounds. By overlooking this understanding, Kinzer misses the import of the document. The Christological vision of history in Lumen Gentium suggests that the alternative to continuity is not discontinuity but fulfillment: not negation but degrees of participation. In short, the word continuity has a different meaning in Christ than it would have if there were no transcendent center of history. When Kinzer speaks of Lumen Gentium's “exaggerated emphasis on discontinuity”—and when he holds that the Church and Old Covenant Israel “are not integrally interconnected”—he has overlooked Lumen Gentium's principle of integral connection.
In the Catechism, Kinzer notes, one finds the acknowledgment that Jews remain “God's people” and a positive valuation of Torah observance. Taking up Nostra Aetate, the Catechism states that at the heart of the Church's “own mystery” is a “link with the Jewish people.” This is certainly true, and the Catechism thereby develops Lumen Gentium. But when speaking of the Catechism, Kinzer leaves out its treatment of Jesus' fulfillment of the Torah.
The omission is striking. The Catechism states that “Jesus, Israel's messiah and therefore the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, was to fulfill the Law by keeping it in its all-embracing detail—according to his own words, down to ‘the least of these commandments.' He is in fact the only one who could keep it perfectly.” In fulfilling the Torah, Jesus takes “on himself ‘the curse of the Law' incurred by those who do not ‘abide by the things written in the book of the Law, and do them,' for his death took place to redeem them ‘from the transgressions under the first covenant.'” At the Last Supper, Jesus enables his followers to share in his sacrificial fulfillment of the Torah: “The Eucharist that Christ institutes at that moment will be the memorial of his sacrifice. Jesus includes the apostles in his own offering and bids them perpetuate it.” For this reason, the “sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices.”
This theology of fulfillment indicates that the mistake Kinzer makes with Lumen Gentium carries into his reading of the Catechism. The Catechism and Lumen Gentium cannot be played off each other the way Kinzer does. Were the Catechism and Lumen Gentium to accept Kinzer's view of renewal and expansion, they would have to suppose that Christ merely adjusts the history into which he enters. They would thereby displace Christ from the eschatological center of history.
Kinzer suggests that the Church might regain the first-century continuity by paying more attention to the Jewishness of Jesus and Mary. If Jesus is a “light to the gentiles,” what is he to the Jews? He is “the head of the people of Israel,” the messianic king of the Jews. It follows that he retains his special bond to the Jewish people, as a Jew, in his risen life. The body of the messiah is forever a Jewish body, as “an expanded people of Israel.” As head of his people, embodying their God-given offices as priest, prophet, and king, he leads all Jewish people in the “eschatologically renewed people of Israel.”
For Kinzer, indeed, this supremely faithful Jewishness defines Jesus' relation to other Jews, because he and they belong to the same Jewish people. Likewise, Mary, the embodiment of Jewish fidelity over the centuries, relates to other Jews as a loving Jewish mother. Kinzer thereby sets up two classes of Christians: Jesus' fellow Jews and the gentiles. The relation of Jews to Jesus would, in this view, be intrinsically better than the relationship that a gentile could have.
Such problems arise once one does away with the fulfillment model in favor of a model of continuity and discontinuity. If Jesus simply adjusts (renews and expands) Israel, then there is no way for gentiles to relate to him as full members of his body on par with Jews. If Jesus fulfills and reconfigures Israel around himself, then there is such a way—namely, by sharing eucharistically (through his Spirit) in his sacrifice.
Kinzer argues that, if the future Church is both to regain its original continuity with the people of Israel and to attain its eschatological fullness through the full inclusion of the Jewish people, what is needed is a “rearrangement” of the Church—a rearrangement in which the Jewish (Torah-observant) church takes its rightful place alongside the gentile church, both under the messiah.
I have difficulty envisioning how this gentile church, even supposing that the Catholic Church (as the body of Christ) could understand herself in such a fashion, would be the equal of the Jewish church. Given Kinzer's arguments, would not the Jewish church be more Christ's body, at least more profoundly related to Christ's body, than would the gentile church? Moreover, the apostles all belong to the side of the Jewish church. Could the gentile church then be apostolic in a real sense? For its part, could the Jewish church be catholic? In what sense would either church be one or holy?
Another question has to do with the constitution of the Church in baptism and the Eucharist. Jews and gentiles become the Church in and through baptism into Jesus' death and by partaking in his sacrificial body. The unity thereby established is an eschatological unity, one that militates against division into two churches under one messiah. No wonder that Kinzer has concerns about Lumen Gentium.
Kinzer finds great significance in the fact that Messianic Judaism has emerged precisely at the time when the Jewish people have regained their ancient land. Jewish believers in Yeshua have restored “the Church from the circumcision in the holy land and the holy city.” Kinzer suggests that the present moment allows the Catholic Church to regain its original continuity with Israel and thereby fulfill its eschatological vocation. His position is based not only on his lived reality as a Messianic Jew but also on a profound hope that in Messianic Judaism the Church will rediscover her origins (in the deepest sense of what Vatican II called ressourcement) and learn how to accomplish her eschatological purpose for the world (in the deepest sense of what Vatican II called aggiornamento).
For Kinzer, in other words, a twofold ecclesiology provides the key to the final accomplishment of Christ's eschatological mission. By contrast, Lumen Gentium and the Catechism hold a unified ecclesiology that structures the participation of Jews and gentiles in the eschatological work of Christ.
So is there a place for Torah observance, not only through the sacraments but in accord with rabbinic practice? Yes. Jews who do not believe in Jesus continue to observe the Torah. Christians affirm that such observance is praiseworthy both as worship of the true God and as an anticipation of the messianic fulfillment.
The question posed by Kinzer, however, is whether Christians, including Jewish Christians, should agree that Jews who believe in Jesus betray their Jewish identity by fulfilling the Torah eucharistically apart from rabbinic Jewish practice. To accept Kinzer's claim would be tantamount to affirming that Torah cannot be adequately fulfilled eucharistically. And if this is so, then gentiles are excluded from Christ's own fulfillment of the Torah and Temple. Were this the case, gentiles should simply become Torah-observant Jews rather than Christians.
Mark S. Kinzer, author of Postmissionary Messianic Judaism, is president of the Messianic Jewish Theological Institute. This essay is adapted from a paper presented on behalf of the Messianic Jewish participants at the 2008 meeting of the Messianic Jewish-Roman Catholic Dialogue Group in Vienna.
Matthew Levering is associate professor of theology at Ave Maria University and coauthor of Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition.