A leading Messianic group in America has responded to the Vatican's recent claim that Jews do not need to be believers in Jesus Christ to be saved, by saying that the Apostle Paul would have been "horrified" at the suggestion.
David Brickner, executive director of Jews for Jesus, said in a statement late last week that the suggestions of the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with Jews are "… egregious, especially coming from an institution which seeks to represent a significant number of Christians in the world."
He further pointed out that the document's title, "The Gifts and Calling of God are irrevocable," is taken from Paul's words in Romans 11:29, but said that the New Testament figure would greatly disagree with how they have been applied here.
"We believe that the Apostle Paul, whose name is invoked frequently in the Vatican document, would be horrified at this repudiation of the words with which he started his letter in Romans: 'For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.'"
The Commission released its document last Thursday, which stated that although all people need Christ to be saved, there is a "divine mystery" surrounding how Jewish believers fit in the plan.
"That the Jews are participants in God's salvation is theologically unquestionable, but how that can be possible without confessing Christ explicitly, is and remains an unfathomable divine mystery," the document argues.
"Since God has never revoked his covenant with his people Israel, there cannot be different paths or approaches to God's salvation," it added, however.
"The theory that there may be two different paths to salvation, the Jewish path without Christ and the path with the Christ, whom Christians believe is Jesus of Nazareth, would in fact endanger the foundations of Christian faith."
The theologians behind the document, including Cardinal Kurt Koch and Fr. Norbert Hofmann of the Vatican Commission, also spoke out against Christian missionary efforts to convert Jews, but at the same time said that Christians are called to share their faith with others.
In his response, Brickner suggested that the document is an attempt to "pander" to Jewish community leaders.
"How can the Vatican ignore the fact that the Great Commission of Jesus Christ mandates that his followers are to bring the gospel to all people? Are they merely pandering to some leaders in the Jewish community who applaud being off the radar for evangelization by Catholics?" he asked.
"If so, they need to be reminded that they first received that gospel message from the lips of Jews who were for Jesus."
Jews for Jesus, which has branches in 13 countries and 25 cities, describes itself on its website as "the largest Jewish mission agency in the world and has, at its core, the goal of proclaiming the message that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world."
The National Catholic Register clarified in an article that the Committee's document does not carry magisterial authority, but offers an insight into the Roman Catholic Church's current thinking.
The document was released as part of commemorations for the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II's decree Nostra Aetate, which dealt with Catholicism's relation with Judaism and other religions.