Bookmark and Share
My Photo


    Opinions expressed on the Insight Scoop weblog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Ignatius Press. Links on this weblog to articles do not necessarily imply agreement by the author or by Ignatius Press with the contents of the articles. Links are provided to foster discussion of important issues. Readers should make their own evaluations of the contents of such articles.


« Bishop Aquila: Reception of Communion by pro-abort politicians "only creates grave scandal" | Main | Surreal: Gonzaga VP invokes "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" to justify production of "The Vagina Monologues" »

Friday, March 25, 2011



Concerning Pope Benedict’s interpretation, the following reflections are offered:

-The responsibility of the Jewish people as such for the death of Christ has been the constant teaching of the Magisterium, based on Scripture and the Church Fathers. St. John speaks three times in his Prologue of the rejection of Christ by His own (meaning His own people or nation). Romans XII speaks of the rejection of Israel for the profit of the Gentiles. See also St. Augustine’s Treatise 49 On John, near the end: “The chief priests and the Pharisees took counsel together...’If we let Him alone as He is, all will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.’ Fearing the destruction of temporal things, they took no thought of eternal life, and so they lost both. After the Lord’s Passion and glorification the Romans did indeed take away both their place and their nation, by assault on the city and dispersal of the people.” The Fathers connected the punishment of the loss of the nation to the crime of deicide, perpetrated by the highest ranking political and moral authority: the Sanhedrin.

-It is important to distinguish today between the Jewish race (which has little to do with Christ’s crucifixion), present day Israel (including the Zionists who were forced to emigrated mostly from Russia), and the Jewish religion (led by rabbis, the doctrinal successors of the Sanhedrin which rejected Christ).

-As the Messiah was the whole purpose of Israel, His acceptance by many Gentiles turned them into the true Israel (according to St. Paul) and, similarly, His rejection by many Jews could not but be their undoing, since “God is not mocked.”

-Such theological interpretations, based on Romans XII, or the Jewish responsibility for Christ’s death have certainly not been the justification for any alleged Jewish persecution by the Church in the Middle Ages. Witness the sermons of St. Bernard, forbidding the killing of Jews; if there was any pressure from the side of the Church, it was not against them but on their behalf.

-Regarding the idea of dialogue vs. conversion, the late Cardinal Dulles provided a blunt assessment about ten years ago: the Church cannot curtail the scope of the Gospel without betraying Herself.


I believe Pope Benedict misinterpreted Romans 11:25-26 because he is unaware of a surprising context unveiled by Biblical scholarship. See which explains this context.

In sum, “Israel” = 12 tribes. The remnant in Paul’s day consisted of Judahites (i.e., Jews, e.g., Jesus), Benjaminites (e.g., St. Paul), and Levites (e.g., St. John the Baptist).

The other tribes were assimilated among the Gentile nations following the Assyrian conquest of Israel (circa 722 BC). Yet, the prophets foretell time and time again that God will reunite all the tribes under the Davidic Messiah with the Gentiles.

How will he reunite the 12 tribes (once divided in 930 BC) if 9/12ths are no longer retrievable? By bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles. When the Gentiles come under the reign of the Davidic King in the New Covenant, guess who’s among them? Descendants of Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Zebulun, etc.

So, when “the full number of the Gentiles come in, all Israel will be saved.”

Paul is speaking about his ministry and the result it is bringing about… not some cryptic prophecy of a future mass conversion of the Jews.

Carson Weber


We've been having some lively discussion around this interesting and vexing topic on my blog. I've made some missteps along the way and just added a disclaimer to one of my recent posts.



Thanks for reminding me how profoundly unqualified I am to comment on these theo-exegetical controversies. :-)


Carson, in your opinion, how is a person with no knowledge of biblical scholarship (or partial knowledge at best) supposed to read Romans 11:25? I mean, if the Pope himself cannot correctly interpret such an important scripture passage because he's not up to speed on the latest research, what about the rest of us?


I believe Pope Benedict misinterpreted Romans 11:25-26

Carson, perhaps a more humble way of putting it would be to say that you are not in agreement with Pope Benedict's interpretation.


David, Just get a copy of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. *smile* It explains this in detail in its treatment of Romans 11:25. That's the beauty of what Ignatius Press does - it puts Biblical scholarship in the hands of the common layperson.

Sharon, thank you.


The historical context of which you speak is common knowledge among scholars, and I am sure the Pope is well aware of it. It really is a rather unsound approach to biblical interpretation to think that what you said contradicts what the Pope said. Scripture has levels of truth and meaning that make the "my perspective is right, therefore yours is wrong" claim absolutely ridiculous.



It's certainly possible that the Pope misinterpreted Romans 11:25, and that there are Catholic exegetes -- who do that stuff for a living -- who have glimpsed insights that the Holy Father has missed. Benedict XVI himself would be the first to agree. :-)


In view of the interpretation that you've mentioned here, what is your take on the controversy surrounding the Holy Father's book and the conversion of the Jews?


David, I think it solves the dilemma. Everyone is called to become disciples of Christ. The Gospel is for the Jew first, then Gentile, as Paul says in Romans. Everyone needs to be evangelized. The idea that the Church is to focus on the Gentiles and wait for a future point in time to preach the Gospel among the Jewish people... That is based upon a misinterpretation of Romans 11:25-26. Once we see that this is a misinterpretation, the idea should be let go of.


The biggest misunderstanding in all of these comments is that the Pope did NOT write this book. This book was authored by Joseph Ratzinger and hence it is as fallible as he is. So if there is a misunderstanding or misinterpretation it is NOT the misinterpretation of the pope but of Joseph Ratzinger. Personally I think it is a bad idea for a reigning pontiff to attempt to write or speak as an academic theologian but this one has chosen to do so and thus his remarks / writings should be understood as entirely disconnected from any papal teaching authority.


I like where the pope referred to the Jews as a living homily for the Church (I might have the exact wording wrong). He said we don't understand how God will bring about the corporate salvation of Israel, but it is mysteriously in God's hands. Next he quoted somebody (Bernard of Clairveaux maybe?) who wrote to a pope that it is a mystery how the gospel which spread so urgently into the world came up short at its source. Then he wrote that the Jews serve as a living homily for the Church's evangelization.

I found that to be quite a fascinating point and thought about what if Christianity began with a conversion of 100% of the Jews (hard to imagine). So if they all were absorbed from the very beginning into what became the overwhelmingly Gentile majority, then would we wonder 2,000 years later whether there ever really were Jews or whether it was all just a story? Like people wonder about Noah, the Tower of Babel, Adam and Eve becasue there is no existing evidence of them. But the Jews exist today, which is a powerful reality when teaching the faith.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Ignatius Insight


Ignatius Press

Catholic World Report


Blogs & Sites We Like

June 2018

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Blog powered by Typepad