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 CNS Story:

SYNOD-JEWS Oct-13-2008 (470 words) xxxi

French bishop urges Christians to understand how Jews read Scriptures

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The first week of the world Synod of Bishops on the Bible, which began with a presentation by a rabbi, ended with a plea from a French bishop for Christians to understand and respect the way the Jews read the Scriptures.

Bishop Francis Deniau of Nevers said the Jewish people and their history are "not an external reality" to Christianity because God's revelations and promises to them are part of the mystery of Christian faith.

Bishop Deniau, president of the French bishops' commission for relations with the Jews, told the synod Oct. 10, "Christians have always been tempted to speak about the Jews in the past tense."

But, he said, when Pope John Paul II referred to the Jews as "our elder brothers" in the faith, he was pointing to the fact that Christianity and rabbinical Judaism developed side by side and that both communities continue trying to live and act in fidelity to their traditions.

"For us Christians, the Jewish reading" of the Old Testament, "completely different from ours, is not any less possible or legitimate and can teach us a lot," Bishop Deniau said.

The bishop referred to the Pontifical Biblical Commission's 1993 document, "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church," and its 2001 document, "The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible."

The documents, while underlining the fact that faith in Jesus Christ must be the determining factor in the Christian understanding of the Bible, also said that millennia of Jewish Scripture study can help Christians know more about the situations in which God's word was revealed, how it was received by the people, how their understanding developed over time and how Jesus and his disciples would have understood the Scriptures.

Echoing the commission's 2001 document, Bishop Deniau said the Christian reading of the New Testament, even of passages critical of the Jewish people or their leaders, must not create anti-Semitism.

The biblical commission said the rebukes in those passages are "no more frequent nor harsher than the accusations against Israel in the law and in the prophets," but rather are literary devices that do not convey "an attitude of scorn, hostility or persecution of Jews as Jews."

Bishop Deniau asked the synod to encourage greater Christian study of Chapters 9-11 of St. Paul's Letter to the Romans in which he speaks of his disappointment that more Jews have not accepted Christ, but also affirms his belief that God's call to the Israelites is irrevocable and they will be saved.

"Even if the 'no' of the Jews hurts us," Bishop Deniau said, "we have to try to perceive what the Jews see as faithfulness to God and to their own vocation."


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