Israel: What do Catholics believe about the Jewish people?
Are Catholics into Replacement Theology?

In 2008, I (Hugh) went to Israel and returned with my wife in 2017. I stayed with an Orthodox Jewish family and witnessed their commitment and obedience to all the laws (eating Kosher, keeping the Sabbath, etc.). The father took a year off engineering to study the Talmud and Jewish history. We had fantastic late night discussions about the faith where we discovered together the correspondence between Catholic festivals and Jewish festivals. At the end of the discussion he said, "Those early apostles really were Jewish weren't they?" Photos of my trip to the Holy Land are here.

The Catholic Church recognizes the great legacy and the ongoing importance of the Jewish people. In his address during his historic visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome April 13, 1986, Pope John Paul II said:

“…the Church of Christ discovers her ‘bond’ with Judaism by ‘searching into her own mystery.’ The Jewish religion is not ‘extrinsic’ to us, but in a certain way is ‘intrinsic’ to our own religion. With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.” (Spiritual Pilgrimage, page 63).

Struggles in the Middle East and threats of Iran to destroy Israel has many Evangelicals asking about the Catholic position on Israel, and the end times. It is a profound mystery and discussion is still very active. Even the Early Church Fathers were divided about the future of the Jewish people who as a group rejected Christ. We are on a pilgrimage of faith and that includes understanding our relationship with the Jewish people.

However, we will try to sort out some misconceptions and outline the current Catholic Church position. We will discuss Messianic Jews (new denominations of born-again Jewish Christians) and link to why the Catholic Church pays attention to Greek philosophy when some Evangelicals say that it waters down the Jewish foundation of Christianity.

Evangelical Protestant thought about the Jews

Before discussing the Catholic position on Israel, let us first examine Evangelical positions. There are conflicting views among Evangelicals over the Jewish people in the plan of God's salvation. On one hand there is Millennialism. On the other Replacement Theology. Catholics would say there are elements of truth at both ends of this continuum, but also fundamental flaws with both Millennialism and Replacement Theology.

replacement theology

Millennialism Replacement Theology
Millennialists are very "into" modern day Israel and believe the Jews have a very important role in the end times. They foresee a huge mass conversion of the Jewish people. Jesus will come back to earth for a literal 1000 year reign and establish a kingdom based in the modern day state of Israel. Adherents think there is nothing special about non-Christian Jews of today. They are like everyone else (the Gentiles). Christianity of the New Covenant totally replaced Judaism of the Old Covenant. They believe Jewish individuals who surrender to Jesus will be saved but they assert that there is nothing special going on between God and modern Judaism.

The Catholic view of the Jewish people in the economy of God's Salvation

We agree with Millennialists that there will be a huge conversion of Jews in the end times and we agree with Replacement Theology proponents when they say that the new Israel after the resurrection of Christ, is the Church, not modern day Israel. However, that is not the whole story about Israel.

In contrast with Replacement Theology, Catholics believe there is still something particularly special about the modern day Jewish people, although the characteristics of that "specialness" are still under discussion among Catholic theologians. On the other hand, we think Millennialists are mistaken when they say Jesus will have a literal 1000 year reign as a king of an actual earthly empire in historic Israel. We believe that the Bible is clear that the New Jerusalem is bride of Christ which is the Church (Rev 19:8), and that the Kingdom of God is "not of this world." (Jn 18:36) We would say the "New Israel" spoken about in Scripture is not modern Israel, it is Christianity.

The Church is not a replacement for Israel of old, but an unbroken continuation of Israel under the promised King and Messiah of Israel, and His Church is His Kingdom of Israel, expanded to include all the Gentile peoples of the earth.

The Bible says:

For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Romans 2:28, 29)

The fullness of Israel is not Israel "in the flesh" (i.e., ethnic Judaism) but Israel in the spirit. There is a constant theme in the Bible that the elder son will be replaced by the younger son as the true heir of God's promises. When Cain (the eldest) killed Abel, the legitimate descent from Adam was transferred to the descendants of the younger son. The same was true of Ishmael and Isaac, and Esau and Jacob. We also see it with the first kings of Israel where Saul and his son Jonathan were replaced by David and his descendants. It is not surprising that Jesus gave the keys of the Kingdom to Peter and the apostles (Mat 16:18), thereby giving the keys of the Old Covenant to the people who follow Jesus (Israel of the New Covenant). The New Israel are those who follow Jesus. Jesus is God and He had the authority to do this.

The New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant is completely dependent on the New Covenant as its source of power just as the Old Testament idea of "One God" is completely dependent on the reality of the Trinity found in the New Testament. Saint Paul says that the Old Covenant is obsolete but he does not say that it has been revoked. The problem with modern day Judaism is that it is living in the Old Covenant as if it contains power in and of itself apart from the New Covenant. During his homily at World Youth Day 2008, in Sydney, Australia Pope Benedict said:

... During the Old Testament, God revealed himself partially, gradually, as we all do in our personal relationships. It took time for the chosen people to develop their relationship with God. The Covenant with Israel was like a period of courtship, a long engagement. Then came the definitive moment, the moment of marriage, the establishment of a new and everlasting covenant. As Mary stood before the Lord, she represented the whole of humanity. In the angel’s message, it was as if God made a marriage proposal to the human race. And in our name, Mary said yes. (Lk 1:38)

Where do the Jewish people fit into Catholic theology?

After the crucifixion, the curtain of the Jewish sanctuary was torn in two (Mk 15:37-39, Lk 23:44-46, Mt 27:51). At that point a transfer of authority happened and we believe that the fledgling Church became the New Israel. One might say it was consummated at the Pentecost. In that respect we hold beliefs similar to Replacement Theology. However, there is a distinction between "Israel" and the "New Israel". The Catholic Catechism Article 63 explains:

Israel is the priestly people of God, "called by the name of the LORD", and "the first to hear the word of God", the people of "elder brethren" in the faith of Abraham.

So the Catholic Church is saying that Israel includes BOTH Christianity (New Israel), and it's older brother in the faith of Abraham (Jewish people yet to accept Christ). That is why we can say there is still something special and relevant about Judaism, our older brother in the faith.

Israel Christian relationship

People who espouse Replacement Theology would not include Jewish people in the definition of Israel. They would say Israel is only those under the new Covenant. We feel it would be a mistake to not include the people of the promise (Jews) in our definition of Israel. Catechism 877 says:

... In fact, from the beginning of his ministry, the Lord Jesus instituted the Twelve as "the seeds of the new Israel and the beginning of the sacred hierarchy." Chosen together, they were also sent out together, and their fraternal unity would be at the service of the fraternal communion of all the faithful: they would reflect and witness to the communion of the divine persons...

And then the Catechism goes on to explain the process by which the Church grew and developed through Evangelization and developed through the unity of the Bishops who were installed by the apostles and so on.

Why was the Catholic Church so slow to recognize the state of Israel?

There is no official explanation provided by the Vatican. In 1994, the new Catholic Catechism made it clear that Scripture predicts a full conversion of the Jewish people to Christ in the end times (#674) and that there is no means of Salvation for the Jews apart from Christ, and that Jesus' plan includes the Jewish people. There is no parallel path of Salvation for the Jews apart from Christ, which is what could have been inferred by the Church's recognition of the state of Israel before that publication. That same year, in 1994, Pope John Paul II recognized Israel as a political entity, like any other state. It was a diplomatic recognition and a recognition of the Jewish people as our older brothers in the faith and therefore part of the spiritual Israel (which is the Church AND the people of Abraham). The diplomatic recognition of this country is not saying they are the "New Israel" of Scripture, which we believe to be the Church. However, they are part of the promise to Israel as per the diagram above.

What about the poor treatment of the Jews by the Church?

There have been many unfortunate episodes in history. Basically, from the time of Jesus until Pius XI, (1932), the Church was almost as blind to the unique role of the Jewish people in God's plan for salvation, as the Jews were to the role of Christ. This has led some Hebrew Catholics such as Roy Schoeman to speculate that this double blindness between the Catholic and Jews, was part of the biblical prophesy that has kept the Jewish people from mass conversion until just before the end times. (Romans 11)

Pius XI said "Antisemitism is inadmissible, spiritually we are all Semites." He threatened to shut down the Vatican paper if they continued to publish anti Jewish material. Pope John XXIII was pivotal. He called Vatican II, and he ordered that a document dealing with Jewish Catholic relations be created. As a result the Council issued the declaration Nostra aetate ("In Our Time"), which reads in part:

True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. The Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ.

Since that time every pope has gone further in their statements about the Jews and the importance that we honour their special place. Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have worked very hard to express our repentance for actions against Jews during that time.

There was a false idea in the Middle Ages that since the masses of Christians were illiterate, they had to be protected from any influence that might espouse a different teaching. Christians thought they had to conquer countries and install Christian governments that could control the dissemination of information. Combined with that was the fact that it was a very violent and volatile time. Human rights belief was not at all developed. There was much history of bad feelings between Judaism and Christianity. Ninety thousand Christians were slaughtered in 614 AD in Jerusalem, and the Jewish people approved of the slaughter. There were endless scuffles for limited resources, and fighting in places like Alexandria, and whenever there was oppression of Christians in those days, the Jewish people would never come to the defense of Christians, but rather they joined the persecution. Violence between people runs deeps and is long remembered. When Christianity finally dominated Europe, many Christians mistakenly let that rivalry continue rather than welcome Jewish communities among them. Unfortunately as Christians got stronger and stronger in Europe, there was greater prejudice.

There are still factions of Catholics who hold bad feelings, and prejudice, but this is mostly a pre-Vatican II crowd, who see the Church as something that has to hunker down and protect itself from the world, rather than go out and bring the Love of Christ to all people. Dr. Art Sippo says:

Some "Messianics" exaggerate the animosity of Christians towards the Jews without considering the attitude of Jews towards Christians. Neither side is innocent of wrong doing in this matter. This story is not black and white, everyone has things they need to repent about.

The Catholic Church has come a long way since it opened up the "Windows of the Church" to dialogue outside itself at Vatican II in the 1960s. Although there was antisemitism among pre Vatican II Catholics, and in the clergy, it is important that we do not falsely attribute antisemitism to Pope Pius XI, Pope Pius XII during WWII and John XXIII who opened up Vatican II.

This movement towards better relations has continued to gain momentum. December 2015, the Pontifical Commission for Relations with the Jews, released a 20 page document entitled "The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable" (Rom 11:29)

The Jewish people's walk of suffering is not unlike that of Jesus

Elias Friedman, President of the Association of Hebrew Catholics, has a proposal worthy of much reflection, that the Jewish people have walked a journey like that of their Messiah, and in so doing may soon come to understand who he is. Here is an excerpt:

As he walked slowly across the stage of history, the Jew took on an uncanny resemblance to Jesus: beaten, spat upon, mocked, derided, bleeding from his judicial scourging, crowned with the thorns of incomprehension, bearing his cross on the way to Golgotha. Jewry ran the gauntlet of the nations...The Jewish Diaspora [Jews living outside of Israel] within Christian Europe ... is one long Via Dolorosa [Passion of Christ]."

Mystically speaking, Jewry as a whole was nailed to the cross and died under Hitler. “We all died in Auschwitz" cried out that great soul A. J. Heschel, in the name of all the Jews of his time. On the third day, three years after the conclusion of hostilities in 1945, Jewry rose from the dead; the State of Israel was proclaimed ... The purpose of this similarity of destiny is obvious. The people of the Messiah had to be molded into the image of their Messiah, in order to learn who the true Messiah was ... about whom we read in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah ... And now, as in the last days of the ancient world, we [Christian Judaism] are perhaps invited to save [the apostatized] Europe from shipwreck".

(JEWISH IDENTITY, Elias Friedman, O.C.D, pg. 68-70)

Click to expand and see a longer excerpt of this discussion

“The passion of Israel" observed Maritain, “is not like that of the Church, a passion of co-redemption, completing what is lacking in the suffering of the Saviour. This passion is not suffered for the eternal salvation of souls, but for the stimulation and emancipation of temporal life. It is the passion of a scapegoat...

Like Jesus, Jewry was a victim; unlike Jesus, it was not pure and innocent. All the same, insofar as it was innocent of the monstrous calumnies of the anti-Semites, object of satanic hatred, of unjust prejudices and violent jealousy, Jewish suffering acquired a quasi-redemptive value, which all innocent suffering merits. The ultimate value of Jewish suffering should be sought for elsewhere than in the present. It lies in the future. The Exile may be compared to a coal mine, its dusty galleries dark and dangerous within, but once coal is extracted it is capable of furnishing light, heat and power to mankind. During the [Babylonian] Exile , Jewry stored up immense quantities of spiritual energy, waiting to be released when the Exile should come to an end.

As he walked slowly across the stage of history, the Jew took on an uncanny resemblance to Jesus: beaten, spat upon, mocked, derided, bleeding from his judicial scourging, crowned with the thorns of incomprehension, bearing his cross on the way to Golgotha. Jewry ran the gauntlet of the nations.

“The Jewish Diaspora within Christian Europe" summed up Maritain, “is one long Via Dolorosa." Mystically speaking, Jewry as a whole was nailed to the cross and died under Hitler. “We all died in Auschwitz" cried out that great soul A. J. Heschel, in the name of all the Jews of his time. On the third day, three years after the conclusion of hostilities in 1945, Jewry rose from the dead; the State of Israel was proclaimed ...the Holocaust remains impenetrable for the modern Jew... Golda Meir ... had no explanation to offer for the tragedy. Neither have religious leaders any consolation ... Sidri Israeli wrote with bitterness: “The Holocaust is simply unintelligible. Whether it be art, religion or ideology, there is no symbolic universe that could attempt to assimilate the Holocaust without the risk of being shaken to the foundations."...

The Holocaust can be integrated into the framework of a Christian interpretation of Jewish history, but only by shattering the Gentile... [notion that the Jews need be absorbed into the Church without a distinct identity].

Jesus prophesied: “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men who will put him to death, and he will be raised up on the third day" (Mt. 17:22-23). In these words Jesus prophesied his own death, the fate of his Mystical Body in the course of Church history and the fate of post-Christic Jewry. Jews, too, would be handed over to the Gentiles to be put to death by them, only to rise on the third day. Not even the feeling of being abandoned by God would be absent from the parallel.

The purpose of this similarity of destiny is obvious. The people of the Messiah had to be molded into the image of their Messiah, in order to learn who the true Messiah was...about whom we read in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah ...

What is more, in Jewish martyrdom Jesus himself is martyred. This corresponds well with the intuition of the Jewish sages that God shares his people’s suffering. The accession [conversion] of Jewry to the [Christian] faith, far from being a break in Jewish history, will be its consummation; it will bring the Jew to the full consciousness of the sense of his own identity and existence. Once faith is given, Jewry will be transformed into a powerhouse of spiritual motivation, sufficient to bring about the “resurrection of the dead", the return to the faith of lapsed Gentility [the first world has all but abandoned all Judeo-Christian values]. Jews have suffered and continue to suffer in view of the role that they are destined to play in the salvation history of mankind.

[at Vatican II] John XXIII threw open a thousand closed windows in the Christian soul, as if preparing to receive the ingrafting of the Jews; the Jews, as if in preparation for their ingrafting, set up a State and captured Jerusalem... Hayyim Hazaz, ... distinguished of modern Hebrew novelists, was prompted to write ... “And now, as in the last days of the ancient world, we are perhaps invited to save Europe from shipwreck".

(JEWISH IDENTITY, Elias Friedman, O.C.D, pg. 68-70)

The full conversion of the Jews in the end times is Biblical

Article 674 of the Catechism states:

The glorious Messiah's coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by "all Israel", for a "hardening has come upon part of Israel" in their "unbelief" toward Jesus. (Rom. 11:20-26; Mt. 23:39) St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: "Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old." (Acts 3:19-21) St. Paul echoes him: "For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?" (Rom. 11:15) The "full inclusion" of the Jews in the Messiah's salvation, in the wake of "the full number of the Gentiles," (Rom. 11:12, 25; Lk. 21:24) 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." (Eph. 4:13; 1 Cor. 15:28).

The Catholic Church recognizes that there is something particularly special about the Jewish people. We don't think the Jews have been accursed. In the Old Testament, God did not abandon his people even though he allowed them to suffer. St. Paul makes it clear that the Grace and election they had received from God was irrevocable (Rom 11:29). We do not agree with Evangelical Replacement Theologies that completely divorce the "hard-hearted" Jews (as a people) from God's special affection and attention. The nature of that relationship is a profound mystery. We believe they will experience a softening of their hearts towards Jesus Christ in the end times and there will be an amazing mass conversion that will even surpass the day that 3000 people converted after the Pentecost (Acts 2:41). Today, Jewish people who come to Christ are doubly blessed. They are not just like everybody else (the Gentiles). Consider the following:

    • They have a unique heritage and the Patriarchs
    • Scripture made predictions about them
    • God's mercy and love for them
    • Their contribution to the Kingdom of God before Christ
    • There consistent cohesion and identity as a people in view of incredible pressure to assimilate in every age of history

Nevertheless, modern Jews are only saved because they remain steadfast in their Messianic hope which properly speaking is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the END of the Mosaic law - both its goal and its terminus. Anyone who tries to abide by the Mosaic Law today should do so in devotional homage to Jesus who kept the law perfectly NOT in obedience to Moses who did not. Even though we predict a mass conversion of the Jews, Catholics understand that we are not supposed to sit on our hands and say, "One day they'll all convert, so let's not try to Evangelize them today." St. Paul said "Woe if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16). We must preach the Gospel of Love, with Love, not animosity. Article 66 of the Catechism says:

"The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries. ..

Personally, I (Hugh) pray for the Jews, the same way as I pray for my older brother who doesn't believe in Jesus. If he becomes Christian he will not become exactly like me. He will be his own person in Christ.

When Jewish people convert they should be allowed to preserve their unique identity

Elias Friedman makes it clear that any effective generalization of the Jews will need to guard the unique and cohesive nature of the Jewish people.

The [Vatican II] Constitution, Lumen Gentium, paragraph 16, completed the official teaching enunciated in Nostra Aetate, paragraph 4. It refrained from equating Jewry with the Elect People, but declared it to be secundum electionem, a precious formula, which we translate “held under the rĂ©gime of the Election"...The teaching of Vatican Council II concerning Jewry dealt a mortal blow to the theory of substitution of the Jews by the Gentiles...[which] had sprung up in patristic times, in the heat of an anti-Jewish polemic ... Kurt Hruby tried valiantly to counteract the imprudent zeal of the [Christian] proselytizers [who wanted full assimilation of Jews into the Church, he said] "What is necessary is an interpretation of the plan of God, less exclusive, which to all appearances continues to reserve a place for Israel according to the principles proper to the plan".

JEWISH IDENTITY, Elias Friedman, O.C.D, pg. 49-52

Christian anti-Jewish prejudice has not served the cause of unifying the older brother Israel (of the Promise) with the younger brother, Gentile Christianity. Catholics are coming to understand that the Jewish people who are called to the Church are not called to blind assimilation and absorption into Gentile Christianity. Jewish Christianity in the Catholic Church will need a distinct culture, a distinct calling, which includes cohesion among people of Jewish origin. Christians who try to convert Jews today will not get very far unless they take into account the distinct nature of the "older brother" and understand that the Jewish people are under the "regime of the Election".

There is nothing inconsistent with the preservation of Jewish distinctiveness, and an authentic conversion to Christianity in the Catholic Church. Perhaps the Jewish people who convert will be under a Cardinal who is of Jewish descent, have their own liturgy if they want it, have a worldwide communication network unifying them, and much autonomy in cultural matters with respect to how they live out their calling in the Church.

We saw this when Eastern Catholics returned from the Orthodox Church. Pope John Paul II declared: “Unity, whether on the universal level or the local level, does not mean uniformity or absorption of one group by another. It is rather at the service of all groups to help each live better the proper gifts it has received from God’s spirit.”

Do Jews need to become Gentile, in order to be Christian?

As more Jewish people become Christian, they have taught us something that has been wrong with Christian culture, which is an attitude of colonialism. There has been a false notion that Jewish people need to give up their Jewish identity to become Christian. We need to banish that from our thinking, as it's an anti-witness.

Just as Christ showed Paul and Peter that Gentiles do not have to become "Jews" in order to be Christians, we need to be careful not to require Jews to strip their "Jewishness", in order to be Christian. They must be able to maintain their Jewish identity.

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Brian Robbins, a Jewish convert.

Marcus Grodi: "Did your journey into the Catholic Church help you appreciate the beauty of the heritage you brought with you?"

Brian Robbins: "It really did... as I put it to my parents, I became a much better Jew when I became a Christian ...I want to qualify that: Jesus was a Jew, Mary was a Jew, Joseph was a Jew, all 12 of the apostles were Jews, every author of every book of Scripture, except Luke, were Jews."

"I say that because we need to recognize the roots of the faith and the lens through which the original audience that it was intended for was reading this... Christianity is at its heart Jewish. Paul in Romans talks about the Gentiles being grafted in to the promise of Israel... it's not trying to recreate or layer on top of the Mosaic law, but the Mosaic law was pointing to something which is a natural completion. So we would expect to see within Christianity elements of Judaism, and in fact the early Church was so Jewish there was actually a debate about whether Gentiles would need to become Jews to become Christians (Galatians). Do the Gentile believers need to be circumcised and follow all the laws of Moses in order to become part of the Covenant Community? The answer was absolutely "no". Ironically we've come full circle and ... for a lot of people a legitimate question is if a Jewish person comes to Christ do they have to cease to become a Jew to be a Christian the answer to that is also "No!"... the Jewish roots of the faith are extraordinary."

Did Early Gentile Christians hijack Christianity from the Jews?

Modern Messianic Christians think Gentiles should have been grafted into the chosen people (the Jews). They say that Gentile Christians hijacked Christianity from the early Jewish Christians.

Messianic Christian denominations are not more than 50 years old and have no direct lineage to early Christianity. Their theology does not line up with the writings of the Early Church Fathers of the first centuries. Nor do they line up with each other. There is a lot of diversity of belief among modern Messianics. Modern Messianic Christians do not have ceremonies anything like the first Jewish Christians who celebrated the Eucharist, prayed for the dead, loved Mary and venerated the saints and martyrs. The apostles and the early Christians were Jewish. The structure and theology that they hammered out was very much influenced by its Jewish roots (the Mass, the Priesthood, the vestments, etc.) However, it was a "New Covenant".

The Church is the bride of Christ and the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:2) and the keys of the New Covenant were handed over to Peter and the Apostles and his successors (Mat 16:18). They had the authority to direct the Church given to them by Jesus. The emerging structure of bishops, jurisdictions, and theology is a result of that authority. St. Ignatius was the first to use the term "Catholic Church" in about 110 A.D., 20 years after John wrote his Gospel. St. Ignatius said a Church without the episcopacy (structure) was impossible. His letters present a clear view of the hierarchical and monarchical structure of the Church.

"Where the bishop is, there let the people be, as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church."
Ignatius 107 A.D.

A timeline of the Catholic Church is here.

To say that early Christians hijacked Christianity is like saying Aaron and Moses hijacked Judaism because they appointed 70 elders, or that Samuel hijacked Judaism because he introduced ruling kings over the Jews. God inspired those Old Testament servants to change the structure of Judaism and God inspired the Early Church Fathers to prayerfully hammer out the new way that things should happen under the New Covenant.

The emerging Church based on Peter and his successors in unison with the bishops had the authority to recognize Greek philosophical thought and interpret it in light of the Gospel of Jesus (more about that below). It was through their deliberations that we came to our Christian understanding of the Trinity in 381 A.D. It was through their prayer and hard work that we came to a decision on the books to be included in the Bible in 397 A.D. It took 350 years to nail down the Bible! The Church Fathers did not hijack Christianity, they WERE Christianity. There was no other Christianity except for the odd heresy that said Jesus wasn't divine, etc.

Jewish festivals echoed in Christian Salvation history

The story of Jesus very much follows the Jewish calendar, not because Christians copied the Jewish festivals, but because historical Christian events happened on those days. Christians didn't make up the dates of these events, such as Jesus death, resurrection, Pentecost etc... This, we believe is an amazing act of God to show Jesus as the fulfillment of Jewish prophesy.

Jewish Festival Catholic Equivalent
  • Month in which the Passover occur is first month of the year is Nissan because it's the most important festival
  • 10th day of month select perfect lamb
  • 14th day slaughter
  • Eat entire lamb to stop the angel of death
  • Passover sacrificial lamb takes the place of the First born who were slaughtered
  • When we do the math, the 10th day of Nissan, Jesus enters Jerusalem, declared by Pontius Pilate to be without blemish.
  • Crucified on the 14th day of Nissan
  • Consume the sacrifice of Jesus in the Eucharist to conquer death
  • The Last Supper, before Jesus is arrested, the next day he is slaughtered, to take our place
  • Festival of first fruits, is on the 1st day following the 1st Saturday of Passover, grain offering to the Lord so the rest of the crop would be acceptable.
  • Jesus Crucified on Friday the Sabbath, He arose from the dead on Sunday, which was on the Jewish festival of First Fruit. He is described as First fruit in Scripture pointing to him being the first to be resurrected from the dead.
  • Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot is 50 days after the Passover.
  • Commemorates Moses coming down from the mountain with the 10 commandments.
  • The word of God written on stone. the first time he came down they were worshiping the golden calf idol.
  • Moses smashed the stones. Moses asked the Levites to slaughter 3,000
  • Pentecost: Ancient Greek: Πεντηκοστή [ἡμέρα], Pentēkostē [hēmera], "the Fiftieth [day]"
  • Holy Spirit falls on the disciples of Christ 50 days after the Resurrection. The law was written on their hearts that day. (Jeremiah says a new covenant will be written on our hearts... here it is... on the same day.)
  • Pentecost Holy Spirit lands of the apostles, and they were all speaking in tongues, preached, and 3,000 were saved by becoming believers. This is the same day as Shavuot.

The online daily office Universalis says the following:

The name “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word meaning “fiftieth.” Like Easter, it is tied to a Jewish feast. 49 days (7 weeks, or “a week of weeks”) after the second day of Passover, the Jews celebrated the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot).

Passover celebrates the freeing of the Jews from slavery; Shavuot celebrates their becoming God’s holy people by the gift and acceptance of the Law; and the counting of the days to Shavuot symbolises their yearning for the Law.

From a strictly practical point of view, Shavuot was a very good time for the Holy Spirit to come down and inspire the Apostles to preach to all nations because, being a pilgrimage festival, it was an occasion when Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims from many countries.

Symbolically, the parallel with the Jews is exact. We are freed from the slavery of death and sin by Easter; with the Apostles, we spend some time as toddlers under the tutelage of the risen Jesus; and when he has left, the Spirit comes down on us and we become a Church.

Prophecy - Jewish feasts point to that which is to come

The above Festivals show a correspondence of historical events in which Christianity fulfills Jewish Prophesy. Below is a chart of what we believe the future will hold, based on Biblical prophecy.


    Ros Shannah (Feast of Trumpets) Jewish New Year (7th months)

    2nd coming of Christ, Jesus said, "you will not see me again until you say Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." Book of Revelation trumpets herald the coming of Christ. Scripture tells us to repent in preparation.

    Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement

    Catholics believe that the Jewish nation will call upon the name of the Lord as a collective. (They will look on me, the one whom they have pierced - Zechariah 12:10)

    Feast of Tabernacles

    Jew and Gentile united in Christ

    Christianity answers how the lost 10 tribes of Israel will be united to Judah and Benjamin

    The Bible says all 10 Tribes of Israel will be united. (Micah 2:12-13) How can this be, since after King Solomon, the northern ten tribes of Israel were lost to Assyria (734 BC), and then assimilated into the Gentile nations, never to be found again. In the south, the House of Judah (Judah and Benjamin) was exiled for 70 years to Babylon (586 BC), but returned to Jerusalem. They are the only Jews that are identifiable today. The answer is found in Jesus in that, when He united all people in Him, the 12 tribes became complete and united. Christianity is the fulfillment and completion of Israel's unity. (Jer. 31:31)

    What about a double covenant, should we just leave the Jews alone and wait for God to do the evangelization in one big shot?

    The apostles preached to the Jews. They themselves were Jewish people who recognized the fulfillment of Jewish prophesy in Jesus. The Catholic Church does not believe that there is a separate Covenant for the Jews. We need to follow the Gospel command and preach to all the nations, including the Jewish people. We are not responsible for the results but we have to preach the Truth.

    In the Bible and early Church, wasn't it called "the Way" rather than Orthodox or Catholic?

    The early Church was called BOTH "Orthodox" and "Catholic."  St. Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of the Apostles, calls the Church by both these names as early as A.D. 107.  The term "the Way" was used by Jewish Christians to describe the Christian Faith of the New Covenant to non-Christian Jews.  From the Jewish Christian point of view (and indeed from the point of view of both the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church today) the Church of Jesus Christ is not something separate from Israel, but is the true Israel, the true manifestation of the Chosen People (see Gal 6:16, 1 Peter 2:9-10, etc.).  This is why the Eastern Church is correct to refer to the saints of the Old Testament as "St. Abraham" and "St. Moses," etc. For, we are not a replacement for Israel of old, but an unbroken continuation of Israel under the promised King and Messiah of Israel, and His Church is His Kingdom of Israel, expanded to include all the Gentile peoples of the earth. And so, in Acts of the Apostles, when you have Jewish Christians addressing their fellow Jews who are not yet full Christians, you will see them refer to it as "the Way" That is, the true manifestation of Israel, the "sect" that truly represents Israel, as opposed to the other Jewish sects (the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots, etc.) who did not recognize the true King of Israel, Who is the only "Way", is the "Way, the Truth, and the Life."  But, when Gentile Christians spoke of the Church, they stressed its truth and its universality; and this is why and how the terms "Orthodox" and "Catholic" were applied to the Church. And those two terms exist today.

    Why did the Church move to Rome from Jerusalem?

    There is a separate article about the move to Rome here

    Why do Catholics use of Greek Philosophy in Christianity? Did Catholics Hellenize the Church?

    There is a separate article on that here

    A list of 41 Old Testament Prophesies fulfilled in the New Testament in Jesus

    Prophecy Summary Fulfillment
    Genesis 3:15 Would be the "Seed of a Woman" Galatians 4:4
    Genesis 18:18 Promised Seed of Abraham Acts 3:25; Matthew 1:1, Luke 3:34
    Genesis 17:19 Promised Seed of Isaac Matthew 1:2
    Numbers 24:17 Promised Seed of Jacob Luke 3:34; Matthew 1:2
    Genesis 49:10 Will Descend from the Tribe of Judah Luke 3:33
    Isaiah 9:7 The Heir to the Throne of David Matthew 1:1; Matthew 1:6
    Micah 5:2 Place of Birth to be Bethlehem Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-7
    Daniel 9:25 Time of Birth Luke 2:1,2,3-7
    Isaiah 7:14 Born of a Virgin Matthew 1:18
    Jeremiah 31:15 Massacre of Infants Matthew 2:16-18
    Hosea 11:1 Flight into Egypt Matthew 2:14-15
    Malachi 3:1 Preceded by Forerunner Matthew 11:10
    Isaiah 9:1-2 Ministry in Galilee Matthew 4:12-16
    Deuteronomy 18:15 As a Prophet John 6:14, John 1:45; Acts 3:19-26
    Psa 110:4 As a Priest, like Melchizedek Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 5:5-6; 7:15-17
    Psalm 78:2; Isa 6:9-10 Speaking in Parables Hard to Understand Matthew 13:13-14
    Isaiah 53:3 His Rejection By Jews John 1:11
    Isaiah 11:2-4 Characterized by Wisdom Luke 2:52
    Zechariah 9:9 His Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem John 12:13-14
    Psalm 41:9 Betrayed by a friend Mark 14:10
    Zechariah 11:12 Sold for thirty pieces of Silver Matthews 26:15
    Zechariah 11:13 Money to be Returned for a Potter's Field Matthew 27:6-7
    Psalm 109:7-8 Judas's Office to be Taken by Another Acts 1:16-20
    Psalm 27:12 False Witnesses Accuse Him Matthew 26:60,61
    Isaiah 53:7 Silent When Accused Matthew 26:62-63
    Isaiah 50:6 Smitten and Spat Upon Mark 14:65
    Psalm 69:4 Was Hated Without A Cause John 15:23-25
    Isaiah 53:4-5 Suffered Vicariously Matthew 8:16-17; Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3
    Isaiah 53:12 Crucified with Sinners Matthew 27:38
    Psalm 22:16 Hands and Feet Pierced John 20:25-27
    Psalm 22:6-8 Mocked and Insulted Matthew 27:39-44
    Psalm 69:21 Given Gall and Vinegar John 19:29
    Psalm 22:8 Hears Prophetic Words Repeated in Mockery Matthew 27:43
    Psalm 109:4 Prays for His Enemies Luke 23:34
    Malachi 3:1 Sins Purged Hebrews 1:3
    Zechariah 12:10 His Side to be Pierced John 19:34
    Psalm 22:18 Soldiers Cast Lots for His Coat Mark 15:24
    Psalm 34:20 Not a Bone to be Broken John 19:33
    Isa 53:9 To be Buried with the Rich Matthew 27:57-60
    Psalm 16:10 His Resurrection Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:36-48
    Psalm 68:18 His Ascension Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9

    Source of this table

    See also: Why did the Early Christians use Greek philosophy and incorporate the Hellenists (Greeks) into Christianity?

    See also the Association of Hebrew Catholics

    An excellent accedemic 123 page discussion from the Association of Hebrew Catholics President is here:

    Thanks to Art Sippo, Mark Bonocore, Fr. Terry Donahue, Marty Barrack, and John Pacheco for contributing ideas for this article.

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    Lord Jesus, let Your prayer of unity for Christians
    become a reality, in Your way.
    We have absolute confidence
    that you can bring your people together,
    we give you absolute permission to move.