Monday, February 16, 2009

Aquinas on the inalienable prerogatives of the Jews

"the Jews have a privilege in the contemplation of divine things: 'In Judah God is known, his name is great in Israel" (Ps 75:1 [RSV]) . . . . They have also a privilege in their prayers, in the promises and in their descent: 'They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed for ever. Amen' (Rom 9:4-5 [RSV]). And in each of these prerogatives, their superiority is not slight, but great and principal."

Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, cap. 3, lect. 1, no. 249 (trans. Stroubant de Saint-Éloy, p. 158), as quoted by Jean-Miguel Garrigues, "Les prérogatives inaliénables du peuple juif selon saint Thomas commentant saint Paul à propos de La promesse par le Cardinal J.-M. Lustiger," Revue thomiste 103, no. 1 (2003): 149, italics mine. If this article is indeed fully representative, then Aquinas' theology of Judaism was quite simply astounding. And yet Garrigues' larger and more striking point is that this position was by the time of Aquinas largely traditional. The problem wasn't the doctrine but that the doctrine hadn't yet passed "into acts of justice and charity" (157). For that there was only the apostolic age, and then the period after the Holocaust (Vatican II and the pontificate of John Paul II) (145).

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