Christians affirm that God’s promises to Israel are fulfilled in Jesus Christ and in the life of the church. We need to be aware that Jews also have experienced God's continuing faithfulness in rabbinic Judaism and in the contemporary reality of Jewish faith and life.
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.
- Deuteronomy 7:9
The writers of the New Testament speak of Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. In doing so, they build upon a well-established pattern of promise and fulfillment that characterizes God’s actions in the Old Testament (promises of offspring and land to Abraham and Sarah; promise of a dynasty to David). Using richly diverse images from Israel’s heritage–Jesus as the New Moses, the Son of David, the Son of Man–they bequeath this pattern to Christian thought. What we experience in Christ is a fulfillment of the expectation God has given us through the Torah and the prophets.
God’s promises are often fulfilled in unexpected ways, however. Even as the church found in Jesus the fulfillment of Messianic hope, it described his role and actions in bold and distinctive combination with other scriptural themes. The new Moses is also the Suffering Servant; the Son of David is also the Paschal Lamb.
We also believe that God has yet more to accomplish in the redemption of humanity and of all creation; we still live in anticipation, praying, "Thy kingdom come." As we are grateful for what God has already done and at the same time look forward in hope to what God yet will do, we have much in common with faithful Jews. They, too, rejoice in the blessings of the covenant while still looking forward to the fullness of redemption.
God has more than one way of being faithful to God’s promises. The promise and fulfillment pattern should not imply that Christianity and Judaism are mutually exclusive fulfillments. Rather, each faith community has experienced God’s grace and guidance in ample measure.
How can I give you up, Ephraim?How can I hand you over, O Israel?
- Hosea 11:8
Questions for Discussion
"Talking Points" is a set of eight leaflets issued by the ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations to set forth propositions for discussion and debate on topics in Christian-Jewish relations. These Talking Points are not intended as position papers, but as discussion starters, with the hope of eliciting a broad range of responses to the point as stated in the box above. See below for information on how to offer feedback.
Prepared by the Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations of the ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations.
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