THE APOSTASY OF THE JEWS

There is no doubt that the prophets of the Old Testament foretold God's rejection of the Jews. "That the Jews, according to what to what had been foreseen, have departed from God and have lost His favor," wrote St. Cyprian of Carthage in Testamonies Against the Jews, "which in times past had been given to them and had been promised to them; but the Christians have succeeded to their place, deserving well of the Lord by faith, andcoming out of all the nations and from the whole world."

The Jews were repudiated by God because they turned from Christ. "He came to His Own and they recieved Him not." (John 1:11). "For they that dwell at Jerusalem and their rulers," said the Apostle Paul, "because they knew Him not, nor the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled their words by condemning Him," the Apostle continues, "yet they urged Pilate to kill Him. And when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, He was taken down from the tree and layed in a sepulchre." (Act 13:27-28). But their hope was frustrated for "the God of our fathers raised Jesus Who you killed by hanging Him on a tree." (Acts 5:30). "Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, That same Jesus Whom you crucified"(Acts 2:36).

To the Jews, St. Jerome wrote in his homily 94 On the Pascha,

"Oh truly unhappy Jews, O truly wretched and pitiable Jews, who failed to realize that the Stone which Isaiah promised would be laid in the foundations of Zion (Isa. 28:16), andwould unite both peoples, was the Lord Savior, the Son of God! That is the Stone you rejected when you were building the congregation of the Lord and were custodians of the sacred rites of the Temple. Rejected by you, He has become the cornerstone; and the first Church, gathered from among the Jews and the believers from the nations, He has united into one flock and into one divine mystery. 'By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes' (Ps. 117:23). It is wonderful that we who, before the Passion of the Lord, were without covenant and without law, should be adopted into the sonship of God, and that while the former lioncloth was disintegrating and falling away (Jer. 13:7-12), God would weave for Himself another and prepare for Himself another people."

When the Jews, at the trial of Jesus shouted, "Away with Him! Crucify Him.....Let His blood be upon us and our children!" (John 19:15; Matt. 24:25), say all the Fathers, they condemned themselves and their posterity.

These words, this curse upon themselves with the very blood of the Messiah - with all the significance "blood" had for the Jews - more than anything else led to their estrangement from God. It was the final act of defiance, the supreme act of disobedience, a defiance and disobedience with no excuse, because St. John Chrysostom rightly maintained, they had the prophets.

"If they did not have the prophets, they would not deserve punishment; if they had not read the sacred books, they would not be so unclean and unholy. But, as it is, they have been stripped of all excuse. They did have the heralds of truth, but, with hostile hearts, they set themselves against the prophets and the truth they spoke. So it is for this reason that they would be all the more profane and guilty of blood....."

The prophets foretold that the Messiah would come and under what circumstances. They could have believed and all the house of Israel would have been saved; indeed, she could have entered into a new and glorious Covenant with Him, joining Him and the Gentiles in the divine task of redeeming the human race and transforming the creation. Instead the Jews fulfilled the prophesies concerning their apostasy. As Malachi said,

"Judah is forsaken, and has become an abomination in Israel and in Jerusalem, because Judah profaned the hikiness of the Lord in those things wherein he has loved and courted strange gods. The Lord will cut off the man who does such things, and he shall be made base in the tabernacle of Jacob" (Mal. 2:11).

And Nehemiah prophecied also,

"They have fallen away from Thee, and have cast they law behind their backs, and have killed the prophets which testified against them that they should return to Thee" (Neh. 9:26).

Likewise, Isaiah,

"Israel has not known Me, and My people have not perceived Me. A sinful nation, a people filled with sins, a wicked seed, lawless children; ye have forsaken the Lord, and provoked the Holy One of Israel" (Isa. 1:3,4).

And Hosea,

"And the Lord said, 'Call his name not My people, and I am not your God' (Hos. 1:9).....My people are destroyed for the lack of knowledge; because they have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from being a priest to Me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children!" (Hos. 4:6).

And finally, the prophet Amos, announced the destruction of Old Israel, but not "utterly."

"Behold the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground; except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, says the Lord" (Amos 8:9).

In other words, although the covenant with the Jewish nation has been nullified, God has not forgotten His promises to Abraham, Moses, and David.

Prophesy has ended in Israel - St. John the Baptists was the last of the prophets; the Temple will be destroyed and its rites and priesthood abolished (70 A.D.), as the Lord said; the Jews will be dispersed among the Gentiles; and the Jews will lose their unity. Nevertheless, a "remnant will remain" and provide the nucleus for the new Israel (Joel 2:32). Together with the Gentiles, God will give them a new and final Covenant. "And I will sow Her unto Me in the earth," Hosea said, reporting the words of the Lord, "and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which are not My people, 'You are My people; and they will say to Me, 'Thou art my God'." (Hosea 2:23) Therefore, St. Justin Martyr could justifiably assert about the Church, the new Israel,

"We have been led to God through the crucified Christ and we are the true spiritual Israel, and the descendants of Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham, who, though uncircumsized, was approved and blessed by God because of his faith and was called the father of many nations."

All those who hold the Faith of Christ, Jews and Gentiles, compose the New Israel and share in the new Covenant. As the Lord said, "Behold I am God to a nation which has not called upoin My Name" (Isa. 65:1); and "it shall come to pass that whomever calls upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved" (Joel 2:32; John 3:16). The Church of Jesus Christ, here is the "nation" promised to the patriarchs and prophecied by type and vision, a new nation, begun with the "remnant" of Old Israel, but which welcomes all peoples, all who profess that Christ is Lord.