Roy Schoeman on Salvation History
BOSTON, Massachusetts, 10 NOV. 2003 (ZENIT).
A Catholic convert from
Judaism believes that the Jews are not only our "elder brothers" in the
faith, but that their prayers and actions prepared the way for Jesus
Christ and the salvation of mankind.
Roy Schoeman, who grew up in a Conservative Jewish home and studied
extensively with rabbis, realized the full significance of Judaism as
revealed in Catholic doctrine after he converted. Since then, the former
faculty member of Harvard Business School has studied at several
seminaries and has recently written "Salvation is from the Jews"
Schoeman shared with ZENIT why Judaism and Christianity can only be fully
understood in relation to each other, and how the role of the Jews did not
necessarily end with the first coming of Christ.
Q: What inspired you to write this book?
Schoeman: It seems obvious to me, as a Jew who has entered the Catholic
Church, that the Church is nothing else but "post Messianic" Judaism
that is, the continuation of Judaism after the coming of the Jewish
Messiah, now opened up to all peoples.
Before my conversion I was proud of being a Jew, having a sense of the
importance and privilege of being Jewish, of being one of the "chosen
chosen to receive God's genuine revelation in the Old Testament and to
prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah. But that very sense of
privilege and pride in being Jewish exploded a hundredfold when, as a
Catholic, I realized the full significance of Judaism as revealed in
For instance, Catholic doctrine teaches that the Jews, in praying for and
preparing the way for the Messiah, actually brought about the incarnation
of God as man; that the ultimate creature whom God ever created or will
create, the absolute perfection of human nature, was a Jew
Blessed Virgin Mary; and that even God himself, when he became man, became
a Jew and a faithful follower of the Jewish religion.
We also know that the fullness of God's written revelation to the Jews in
the Old Testament has been confirmed and adopted in its entirety by
Christianity worldwide and the salvation of all of mankind came about
through the Jews
Jesus himself said in John 4:22 that "salvation is from the Jews," hence,
the title of the book
the Jews in fact succeeded in their God-given task of bringing that
Also Christian Scripture also suggests, for instance in Romans 11, that
the unique importance of the Jews in the economy of salvation will last
through all of this world's existence, until the Second Coming.
Yet I did not find these topics being actively discussed and explored in
the Church today, although there have been periods
such as in the late 19th century
when they were. I felt that Jews were being deprived of an opportunity to
see the full glory and nobility and importance of their own identity and
religion, and that Catholics were being given an extremely limited and
watered-down view of what Judaism really means.
All of this is in the context that our Lord and our Blessed Mother are
Jewish. Surely they deserve better than that.
Q: Is it intended mainly for Christians or Jews, or both?
Schoeman: My book was quite consciously written for a dual audience of
both Catholics and Jews, although I realize that the majority of readers
will probably be Catholic.
To Jews, it reveals the full majesty and importance of being Jewish, how
sympathetic a view of Jews and Judaism is given in Catholic doctrine, and
that being Catholic does not mean no longer being a Jew.
To Catholics, it teaches not only about Judaism, about the Jewish
Scriptures and about the origins of the Catholic faith and Church, but
also a great deal about the structure of salvation history itself and how
God works through history and peoples to affect his plans.
Q: What is the role of Judaism in salvation history? In the destiny of the
Schoeman: Looking backward, the role of Judaism is pretty easy to discern.
At the very least, the Jews were chosen to receive the revelation of God
contained in the Old Testament; to expect, pray for and prepare the world
for the coming of the Messiah; to receive him when he came; to be the
first generation of disciples and apostles; and to spread his Gospel
throughout the world.
Despite the popular misconception that the Jews failed in their mission,
they in fact succeeded
Christianity itself is proof of that success. It is true that only a
minority of the Jews followed Jesus, but doesn't God generally work with
humanity through just such "faithful remnants"? It seems that time and
time again God relies on the fidelity of the few, not of the many.
Looking forward from the present in salvation history, one naturally
enters into a more speculative area. At the time of the Church Fathers,
many reasonably concluded that the role of the Jews was fulfilled and
exhausted with the first coming of Christ, except perhaps for the minor
role of being inadvertent witnesses to the truth of the Gospels.
But we have the past 2,000 years of history as additional evidence
survival of the Jews against all odds and almost constant persecution;
their disproportionate prominence in world affairs; the mysterious
character of anti-Semitism itself; the re-establishment of a Jewish
national homeland against all odds; and the mysterious tragedy of the
Looking at all of these facts of history, and combining them with the
admittedly cryptic and somewhat mysterious suggestions in sacred
Scripture, one can paint a picture in which the Jews, as a people, have a
major role in bringing about the Second Coming, as well. I've tried to
flesh out this picture, always in a responsible way and always in full
conformity to Church doctrine.
Q: How are Jews involved in the Second Coming?
Schoeman: I have been careful in my book to avoid speculating
irresponsibly, but there is the danger, in trying to provide a very
concise answer to your question here, of appearing to do so.
Let me just say that we know from St. Paul that there will be Jews until
the time of the Second Coming and that the widespread conversion of the
Jews at that time will somehow be related to the Second Coming. From the
Gospels we know that the Jews had a considerable role in bringing about
the First Coming, including a role involving suffering and sacrifice, as
typified in the "slaughter of the innocents," as recounted in Matthew
We know that the Holocaust happened and that it was unique in world
if not in the number of deaths or the extent of the suffering, then in the
extent to which it was an expression of a pure racial and religious hatred
against a single people and a people uniquely related to Christ, by blood,
And we know that a number of Old Testament prophecies, which many
understand to refer to the end times or the Second Coming, require the
existence of a powerful Jewish nation-state with its capital in Jerusalem
nation-state which only recently came back into existence after a hiatus
of almost 2,000 years.
Q: What are common misunderstandings Christians have about Jews, and vice
Schoeman: Many such misunderstandings occur on the level of simple fallen
human nature. The misunderstandings that particularly interest me,
however, are the theological ones.
These include the mistaken beliefs, on the part of Christians, that the
Jews failed in their task at the time of Christ and that the
meaningfulness of Jewish identity ended with Christ.
Jews, on the other hand, often mistakenly believe that Christianity
teaches contempt for Jews
despite the fact that "their" God himself was one
that when a Jew recognizes Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, he or she ceases
to be a Jew.
Q: What can be done to repair the relationship and clear up
misunderstandings between Jews and Christians? How have the Second Vatican
Council and the papacy of John Paul II aided in this process?
Schoeman: In the long run, any such repair must be based on mutual respect
and truth, without a papering over of differences and without infidelity
to one's own beliefs. I hope that my book, in presenting to both Jews and
Christians an extremely positive view of Judaism, yet one set entirely
within the context of Catholic doctrine, has the potential to help in some
Our Holy Father, of course, has helped enormously, in the many gestures of
love and respect that he has shown the Jewish community, and in his many
statements expressing respect and reverence for the Jewish religion and
people, even referring to them as "elder brothers" in the faith.
The beginning of the current epoch of extremely positive Church teaching
with respect to Jews and Judaism began, of course, with the Second Vatican
Council and its teachings in "Nostra Aetate" and "Lumen Gentium."