Fulfillment and anti-Semitism

1250 French Bible illustration depicts Jews (i...

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A friend told me recently that as a child she wondered, “How could the Jews not see that Jesus was God?” Wasn’t it obvious that the Scriptures were being fulfilled before their eyes?

Fulfillment. Such a loaded word for Christians. It’s a complicated concept, and I’m glad Gene lingered on it during our last class. Misunderstanding fulfillment and castigating Jews for not accepting Jesus as Messiah lies at the root of so much violence and tragedy the past 2,000 years: holocaust, pogroms, inquisition and more.

Gene’s discussion was based on “The Unity of God’s Plan and the Idea of Fulfillment,” Section II, A, 5 of The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible. It’s a 2001 document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, with a preface by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/pcb_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20020212_popolo-ebraico_en.html

In essence, Christians look at the Old Testament retrospectively, through the lens of Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection. “It cannot be said, therefore, that Jews do not see what has been proclaimed in the text, but that the Christian, in the light of Christ and in the Spirit, discovers in the text an additional meaning that was hidden there.” Christ fulfilled the Scriptures “in a manner unforeseen.” He transcended them, conveying a fuller meaning that could not have been imagined in advance.

My thoughts as a child took a different tack than my friend’s. I was glad I hadn’t lived in Christ’s time, because I was afraid that I wouldn’t have known Him, I wouldn’t have followed Him. Just imagine the vast crowd bowing before Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, greeting him as the Messiah. Where were they days later? Jesus did not meet their Scripture-based expectations of a deliverer. He died as a common criminal. I very well could have been among the good and faithful Jews still awaiting the Messiah.

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