Jews & Judaism

St. Paul did NOT Write for Us!

by Steve Ray on May 18, 2014

When arguments about salvation arise between Catholics and Protestants, the Bibles are usually opened to Galatians and Romans. Are we saved by faith alone or are works involved? Protestants quickly accuse Catholics of teaching a salvation based on works and Catholics quickly point out that Protestants have swung the pendulum too far in the other direction by refusing to accept human cooperation and obedience as necessary to the process.

Raphael - st paulAs final proof of their point, Protestants will quote Romans 3:28: “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.” That should end the argument right? Salvation is not by good works or obedience, but by faith alone? So, the combatants rush to the books of Galatians and Romans to solve this Catholic-Protestant disagreement. But there is a huge problem here. Paul did not write these letters to us and he knew nothing of the Catholic-Protestant debate. The huge problem we have is the problem of anachronism.

Do you know what the word “anachronism” means? According to the Collins English Dictionary it comes from a Greek word for “mistake in chronology” or “error in time reference”. Anachronistic is defined as “1. the representation of an event, person, or thing in a historical context in which it could not have occurred or existed; 2. a person or thing that belongs or seems to belong to another time.”

The problem is that when Paul wrote these two letters he was not writing them to us today. He was writing to the Gentiles and Jews of the first century. He didn’t know about the Catholic–Protestant debate. He was not writing to Germans like Martin Luther or Americans like us.

circumcisionPaul was writing to people two thousand years ago living in places like Iconium, Pamphylia, Lystra, Galatia and Rome. They were not having a raging Protestant–Catholic debate. These good folks were having a Jewish–Gentile debate which was a whole world away. To read our current situation back into Asia Minor, Palestine, and Europe of the first century is a classic case of anachronism.

Paul preached that uncircumcised gentiles could be saved without circumcision and a slavish obedience to the 613 laws of Moses–along with all the ceremonial rituals. Some Jewish believers, on the other hand said, “Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and if you want to become a Christian you must become a Jew first.”

They couldn’t have said it any clearer than in Acts 15:1: “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” They want to impose the “works of the Law” referred to above in Romans 3:28 upon the gentiles. It had nothing whatever to do with Catholics and good works. It has to with Gentiles coming into the Body of Christ by faith and obedience, not by becoming circumcised Jews.

rembrandt_abrahamAbraham, the father of the Jews, was the prime example or case in point. Was he saved by circumcision and by obeying all the laws of Moses? Heavens no! He was saved while an uncircumcised pagan gentile living in Ur of the Chaldees, a thousand miles to east of Israel. Circumcision was only given as a sign of the covenant, not the means of salvation. And he did not obey the 613 laws of Moses since they would not even exist for another six hundred years or so. Abraham was saved by the grace of God and his belief and obedience and not by “the works of the Law” (See Romans 4 and James 2).

This is exactly what Catholics teach! We are not anachronistic. We understand Galatians and Romans within their proper chronology. Paul wrote to that particular age and culture with its particular problems. We live in a different age and culture with different particular problems.

But, even though Paul didn’t specifically write his letters to us, if we study the cultural climate in which they were written, and stay faithful to the tradition in which they were passed on to us, the Holy Spirit (the primary author of the letters) will help us apply the principles and truth of those letters to our current situation.

By the way, can you imagine how difficult evangelism would have been in the first century if every male who believed in Christ had to be circumcised? They would have asked Paul “You want us to cut off what?”

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How Odd of God to Choose the Jew…

by Steve Ray on May 17, 2013

…to chose the Jew; but odder still are those who choose the Jewish God but hate the Jew.

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Groucho Marx once said, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have a guy like me as a member.” 

So began my witness testimony at the Easter Vigil on April 7, 2007, when my wife Barbara and I entered the Catholic Church. For a New York Jew, who’d detested the name “Jesus” for as long as he could remember, to be standing before a packed congregation at Sacred Heart Church in Prescott, Arizona, having to recount in three minutes how he got there—well, you can imagine what a surreal a moment that was.

Yet now, when instead of three minutes I have three thousand words, plus six years as a Catholic, the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis for perspective, the task is, if anything, even more daunting.

But Carl E. Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, asked me to give it a shot, so here goes.

On April 2, 2005, there came the news of the death of Pope John Paul II. I’d always admired the pope for his courage in confronting the horrors of communism, and for aligning with President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher in a united front that led to the downfall of the Soviet Union. Yet as a spiritual leader he meant nothing to me.

Nevertheless, Barbara and I found ourselves becoming involved in the events and the funeral as they unfolded on television. Even the typically skewed commercial coverage couldn’t disguise the tributes from all corners of the globe, and the love for the pope and grief at losing him from Catholics and people of every faith.

At some point in the two weeks following, Barbara—a long-lapsed Protestant who’d never lost her regard for Christianity—turned to me and said, “You’ve got to get religion, Roger. You’ve been drifting way too long.”

For the rest of the story, click here.

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How the Ancient Hebrews Viewed the Universe

April 1, 2013

This is part of Logos Bible Software. I encourage every Catholic to get this Catholic and Bible Study software. Visit http://www.logos.com/steveray

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Flint Knives and the Gospel

March 4, 2013

Ah, excuse me? What do flint knives have to do with the Gospel? A whole lot! Abraham believed God against all odds and as a reward he was given the special sign of the Covenant with God. And what was that wonderful sign between them? In Genesis 17:10-11 God announces this sign to Abraham: “This [...]

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Yad Vashem and “Hitler’s Pope”

January 16, 2013

Yad Vashem Controversy An inscription at Yad Vashem states that Pius XII‘s record during the Holocaust was controversial, and that he negotiated a concordat with the Nazis, maintained Vatican neutrality during the war and, formerly stated that he took no initiatives to save Jews. In 1985, Pietro Palazzini was honored by the museum, where he [...]

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On this I Agree with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

December 17, 2012

Prime Minister Netanyahu:  “Over the weekend, Hamas held festivities and demonstrations in Judea and Samaria to mark 25 years since it was founded. With the approval of Mahmud Abbas, they called for the destruction of Israel and the expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem and from every point in the State of Israel. We have been [...]

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Bet You’ve Never Heard of this Heroic, Selfless Woman

October 5, 2012

Remember this lady?Irena Sendler Died: May 12, 2008 (aged 98) in Warsaw, Poland  During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an ulterior motive.  Irena smuggled Jewish infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried. She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her [...]

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Jews as Proof of God’s Existence & Faithfulness

March 4, 2012

Winston Churchill wrote “Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.“ He is absolutely right! I have often said they are remarkable people –gifted in a [...]

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Has Europe Lost it Soul?

February 2, 2012

Jesse Ray here: I found this article by Rabbi Sacks very educational and the section on “Morality and the Crisis” especially thought provoking. He explores how our current market economy was formed under the auspices of Judeo-Christian values, and he draws a compelling picture of why our current economic shake-up has a central spiritual dimension: [...]

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Another Jewish Convert Explains His Conversion to Catholicism

November 7, 2011

This is a nice story. I include a paragraph to whet your appetite. About a month later it was around midnight and I turned to my wife Mary in bed and asked her what she wanted. Mary said that she didn’t want anything other than to go back to sleep. I insisted that she wanted [...]

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Jewish to Evangelical to Catholic

September 16, 2011

Richard Maffeo Richard was born into a Jewish home in 1950. Twenty-two years later, he discovered Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, and served Him in evangelical Protestant churches for more than thirty-two years. In 2005 he was received into the Catholic Church. My movement in 1972 from Jewish faith to Christ was so profound an [...]

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What About the Pope’s Comments on the Jews and the Death of Christ

March 3, 2011

I was asked: I would like to ask you to please comment on the Popes recent statement that there is no scriptural basis that the Jews killed Jesus. http://www.examiner.com/jesus-christ-in-national/jesus-christ-not-killed-by-jews-says-pope-benedict-xvi My answer: It is not time to comment yet. Experience tells that when we read a media review of the Pope’s words it is usually twisted [...]

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Mass at the Tomb of Christ, and much more

June 11, 2010

The early morning walk of the Via Dolorosa to the Tomb of Christ for Mass is always the high point on any pilgrimage. Enjoy! Part I (see Part II below) After returning for breakfast we took off for St. Ann’s Church for singing and teaching (perfect acoustics), then to watch Bar Mitzvahs at the Western [...]

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How Odd of God

March 30, 2010

“How odd of God to choose the Jew; but odder still are those who choose the Jewish God and hate the Jew.” This clever couplet was written by British journalist William Norman Ewer (1885-1976). It causes one to wonder why there is, and always has been, such virulent antisemitism in the world. It is especially amazing in the [...]

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Jewish Boy Becomes Jesuit Priest in Jerusalem

November 6, 2009

From Jerusalem: How does a Jewish boy’s friendship with a 90-year old Russian Orthodox nun, who happened to be a princess, lead the youth to become a Catholic — and eventually a Jesuit priest who is now serving Hebrew Catholics in Jerusalem? Read the interview with Israeli Priest, Fr. David Mark Neuhaus here.

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