Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
This chapter deals with three interconnected subjects that have been touched on in previous chapters but need more detailed consideration because they have been and continue to be central to the Jewish–Christian encounter. Covenant, mission and dialogue illustrate both the extent of the common ground between Jews and Christians and also many of the difficulties that still need to be addressed. The challenge they bring is demonstrated by Nostra Aetate, perhaps the most influential of the recent church documents on Jewish–Christian relations. On the one hand, the document states that ‘the church is the new people of God’ and, on the other, that ‘the Jews remain most dear to God because of their fathers, for He does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues (cf. Rom. 11:28–29)’. The tension between the two statements is caused by continuing divergence of opinion over the identity of the people of God – both Jews and Christians have claimed to be Verus Israel, the True Israel. This claim is regarded by Jews as the very core of their self-understanding, yet for nearly two millennia the Church also saw itself as the True Israel and the heir of all the biblical promises towards Israel.
Covenant (Hebrew berith), a central concept in both Judaism and Christianity, is a subject that has been receiving serious attention from theologians in recent years.