4. Does the New Testament say that God has rejected the Jews?
Jesus' call to his fellow Jews to repent and return to the Lord does not
rejection of them. Such a demand is common in Israel's prophetic tradition. Neither does the
claim that Israel refused to recognize the importance of the crucified and risen Jesus mean that
God has rejected the Jews. The Gospel of John contains some of the most inflammatory
anti-Jewish language in all of the New Testament, but it never denies the election of the Jews. In
Romans 9 - 11, a passage often cited in support of the notion that God has rejected His
people, Paul states plainly that this is not so. A close reading of Paul's letters shows that his
major concern was the legitimating of his law-free gentile mission and suggests that he was able
to present his gospel without denying the legitimacy of Judaism.
It is primarily in the Gospel of Matthew that we find passages which can
and have been
understood to imply that, because the Jewish people rejected Jesus, because they killed the
Messiah, they have been rejected by God. In view of the fact that Jesus' first followers were
Jews, the uncritical claim that "the Jewish people" rejected Jesus is patently false. In dealing
with passages which seem to suggest that Christians had replaced Jews as the recipients of
God's favor, it is essential to take into consideration the fact that the gospels were written over
a period of thirty years or more, and that the first Gospel did not appear until long after the
crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Each one of the Gospels, moreover, was written in a
specific context to deal with the needs of a particular Christian community. By the time
Matthew's Gospel was written, the separation between Judaism and Christianity was almost
complete. Matthew's anti-Jewish polemic reflects both the failure of the Christian mission to the
Jews and the Church's need to define itself over against the parent faith.
The alleged "rejection" of the Jews in the New Testament, then, derives
from the early
Church, not from the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth. This being so, contemporary Christians
would be wise to refrain from passing judgment on whom God accepts and whom He rejects.
Nor should we permit polemical texts written for vastly different circumstances in the past to
determine how we think about and relate to Jews in the present.
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