Why didn't Jesus save the Jews?

A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity "by the National Jewish Scholars Project (USA)

A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity "by the National Jewish Scholars Project (USA)

Discussion contribution to the series of theses: "Dabru emet (speaks truth)

elaborated by

Joint Committee "Church and Judaism"


Evangelical Church Germany (EKD)
Union of Evangelical Churches in the EKD (UEK)
United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD)


In 2000 an important document was published: The text developed by the National Jewish Scholars Project in the USA “Dabru emet (Speak the truth) - a Jewish position on Christians and Christianity ”. The joint committee "Church and Judaism" set up by the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the Union of Evangelical Churches in the EKD (UEK) and the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD), which was established in 2003/2004 in has dealt in depth with this text at several meetings, see in Dabru emet a significant Jewish reaction for the Evangelical Church to the efforts of the Christian churches to put their relationship to Judaism on a new theological basis. The Joint Committee considers it important that this document be noted and discussed in the Christian churches. He is aware that this document is also the subject of controversial discussion within Judaism.
We understand Dabru emet especially as a response to theological statements, such as those in the EKD studies “Christians and Jews I - III” drawn up by the study commission “Church and Judaism” in 1975, 1991 and 2000, as well as in those of the general assembly of the Reformation community Churches in Europe (Leuenberg Church Fellowship) in 2001 in Belfast adopted the study “Church and Israel. A Contribution of the Reformation Churches in Europe to the Relationship between Christians and Jews ”. In the texts mentioned, which were developed within the Protestant churches, three insights in particular are recorded:

  • the permanent election of Israel by God

  • the Church's lasting bond with Israel

  • the rejection of any form of anti-Semitism.

We thankfully see the explanation Dabru emet has noticed the change in the theological thinking of the Christian churches marked in this way and calls on Jews to "take note of the Christian efforts to appreciate Judaism" (to learn about the efforts of Christians to honor Judaism). In doing so, we know that the insights reached by consensus in the churches must be both consolidated and deepened.

Dabru emet is first and foremost an offer by Jews to other Jews to reflect on their attitude towards Christianity; The Christian churches cannot and do not want to intervene in the process that may have been initiated. However, the Joint Committee understands both the explanation Dabru emet as well as the criticism expressed of her within Judaism as an aid to continue the path of one's own reorientation that has begun.

In the process of the dialogue, none of the participants will want to omit the necessary discussion of the differences. We hope, however, that Jews and Christians recognize similarities and can testify to others and that, where there are differences, mutual critical inquiries contribute to being able to say what is one's own more clearly in the light of the other. We look through to such hope Dabru emet encouraged.

On this basis, the Joint Committee “Church and Judaism” would like the following reflections on the individual theses of Dabru emet understood as a contribution to the continuation of the conversation between Christians and Jews. The theses are quoted from: Evangelische Theologie 4, 2001, pp. 334 - 336.

Thesis 1: Jews and Christians worship the same God.
Before the rise of Christianity, it was the Jews alone who worshiped the God of Israel. But Christians also worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the creator of heaven and earth. Although Christian worship is not an acceptable religious alternative for Jews, we as Jewish theologians are happy that millions upon millions of people have entered into a relationship with the God of Israel through Christianity.

Considerations for thesis 1:
It is cause for joy that Jewish theologians can acknowledge that with their confession Christians entered into a relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This recognition cannot be taken for granted, as it takes place in the awareness that there is also something separating the relationship between Jews and Christians with this one God. This tension is explicitly named in the development of the first thesis by saying that "Christian worship is not an acceptable religious alternative for Jews".

The statement that 'Christians and Jews worship the same God' is therefore complex and full of presuppositions: that Christians and Jews worship and proclaim the God who was active and venerated in the history of the people of Israel and who testified in the writings of the Old Testament, belongs from the beginning to the basics of the Christian self-image. For the first followers of Jesus - all members of Judaism - the belief in this God was combined with the conviction that the person and the life story of Jesus of Nazareth is the decisive event in the salvation history of God with his people.

The Christian churches express this conviction in the confession that the Creator of heaven and earth, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is at the same time the God who became man in Jesus Christ and who is close to men in the Holy Spirit. These statements about God do not just stand next to each other, but they are related to each other and interpret each other. For, according to the Christian understanding, God revealed himself to man in three ways. The doctrine of the Trinity of God is a doctrinal formulation of this belief in the oneness of God in the threefold manner of encounter with man and, at the same time, formulation of the trust that this devotion of God to man is based in the being of God. "In the doctrine of the Trinity it is stated that God with Christ Jesus in union with the Holy Spirit is always already ... the triune God." "The doctrine of the Trinity is therefore the theologically appropriate attempt for Christians to speak of the mystery of God's revelation. "It should" serve to connect the talk of the One God ... with the New Testament testimony of the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ ... ". (Church and Israel II. 2.3.2.). That is why it also applies to us: "The triune God, of whom the Christian creed speaks, is none other than the one to whom Israel prays." (Church and Israel I. 2.3.3.).

Throughout the entire history of the Church, attempts have been made again and again to remove the tension that exists between Jews and Christians in the understanding of God - up to and including the suppression of Judaism and the attempt to extinguish it. A new path has been taken with the Judeo-Christian dialogue. What is special about it is that it does not pursue the goal of canceling out the difference. The respect for the otherness of the other finds its expression in the fact that the common commitment to the one God is combined with the awareness of a difference in human understanding of the nature and work of this God that will probably remain until the end of time.

Therefore, in view of common prayer and common worship, the tension between connection and difference must remain recognizable for the sake of mutual respect.

Thesis 2: Jews and Christians rely on the authority of one and the same book - the Bible (which the Jews call "Tenach" and the Christians the "Old Testament").

In it we look for religious orientation, spiritual enrichment and community building and draw similar lessons from it: God created and sustains the universe; God made a covenant with the people of Israel and it is God's word that guides Israel to a life of righteousness; eventually God will redeem Israel and the entire world. Nevertheless, Jews and Christians interpret the Bible differently on many points. These differences must always be respected.

Considerations for thesis 2:
Thesis 2 mentions more than just the fact that Jews and Christians refer to a common text corpus. Rather, it is made clear that the biblical texts, which the Jews call 'Tenach' and the Christians 'Old Testament', have an equally truth-revealing power for Jews and Christians with regard to the understanding of God and the entire understanding of reality, and that they are thus a common treasure. The signatories of Dabru emet therefore emphasize that Jews and Christians refer to the same biblical writings on questions of "religious orientation" and "spiritual enrichment" and draw from them "similar teachings" (similar lessons) regarding the salvation will of God; Next to it is the statement that Jews and Christians interpret the Bible differently on many points. Both statements again point to a complex relationship between identity and difference.

The Holy Scriptures of Israel were the authority on which the first disciples of Jesus based their preaching and life orientation. They reread these scriptures in the light and under the premise of the preaching of Jesus and the experience of his death and resurrection. In Jesus they recognized the Messiah promised in the holy scriptures of Israel. For the Christian Church that part of the Bible that we Christians have in common with the Jews is in connection with the person of Jesus of Nazareth and thus also with the New Testament as the testimony of Jesus as the Christ. For Christians, this testimony is key to understanding the Old Testament: on the one hand, the Church reads and understands the Holy Scriptures of Israel, the Old Testament, in the light of the revelation of Christ; on the other hand, the Church reads and understands the New Testament testimony to Christ in the light of what she calls the Old Testament. In this sense, according to the Reformation understanding, Christ is “the center of Scripture”.

In addition to and before this Christian understanding of the Holy Scriptures of Israel, there is also the Jewish way of reading Tenach. Judaism reads and understands the Tenach in the light of rabbinical tradition.
The same texts to which Jews and Christians refer are therefore in different contexts of reading and interpretation. That is why Jews and Christians place themselves in their own way in a continuity with the history of Israel and its experience of God and thus justify their reading of the texts.

With the emergence of the historical interpretation of the Bible, in addition to the claims of the Old Testament by the Christians and the use of the Tenach by the Jews, the perception of the complex meaning that these texts had in their different original situations and that they gained in ever new contexts inevitably occurred. But even with a historical perspective, Jews and Christians look in the biblical texts "for religious orientation, spiritual enrichment and community building".

We perceive that thesis 2 is determined by the necessary respect for the different ways of reading and understanding the texts of the Tenach / Old Testament. We Christians also see it as necessary to get to know the Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament.


Thesis 3: Christians can respect the claim of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.
For Jews, the re-establishment of a Jewish state in the promised land is the most significant event since the Holocaust. As members of a biblically based religion, Christians appreciate the fact that Israel was promised - and given - to the Jews as the physical center of the covenant between them and God. Many Christians support the State of Israel for reasons far deeper than just political. As Jews, we welcome this support. Furthermore, we know that Jewish tradition commands justice to all non-Jews living in a Jewish state.

Considerations on thesis 3
When Jews present their perceived Christian view of the promise of land and the state of Israel as Dabru emet it does, this is an expression of mutual understanding.

Thesis 3 maintains the difference between the Jewish claim to the Land of Israel and the Christian respect for this claim. In view of the Jewish experience of discrimination, persecution and extermination - also by Christians - we are grateful that the Jews have found a home in the State of Israel. In addition, we as Christians also see the special relationship of the Jews to their land against the background of the biblical land promise, which also historically represents a basis of the Jewish state. Whether and to what extent the Jewish state of Israel can and may be explicitly justified theologically is a matter of dispute among Christians; but the recognition of Israel's right to exist is undisputed.

At the same time, in thesis 3, justice is particularly emphasized as the basis of coexistence with non-Jews in a Jewish state. The authors are sensitive to the problems of the non-Jewish population, i.e. the Palestinians, in a Jewish state. It is consequently a requirement of this justice to also speak of the legitimate claims of the Palestinians to an independent state existence alongside the State of Israel.

Thesis 3 challenges us Christians in a special way, especially since the internal Christian discussion on the topic addressed here is not yet over. Despite the positive references to Israel's special position (e.g. in Romans 9.4f and in John 4.22), the New Testament shows a relativization of the religious significance of places and spaces. According to Jn 4: 21-23, Jesus said in conversation with the Samaritan woman: “The hour is coming when you will not worship the Father either on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation comes from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now it is, that true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth ”. Christian theology also knows the language of Israel as the land of promise; but “a careful distinction must be made between the land as a gift from God and the state of Israel” (Christians and Jews III, 4.6.3. p. 194). According to the Christian understanding, it is not possible to identify a promised good with a concrete political variable. Christian theology itself only came to the realization after a long process in its evangelical-occidental-modern form that religious quality cannot be ascribed to a state. Rather, according to the Christian enlightened tradition, states have an equal distance from all religions, as much as they depend on the ethical power and the value-setting function of religions. Religious reasons should not be invoked either for or against a particular state; Otherwise, rationally solvable national conflicts or conflicts of interest become religiously charged and thus in principle unsolvable conflicts.

Thesis 4: Jews and Christians recognize the moral principles of the Torah.
At the center of the moral principles of the Torah is the inalienable holiness and dignity of every human being. We were all made in the image of God. This moral focus that we share can be the basis for an improved relationship between our two communities. In addition, it can also become the basis of a powerful testimony for all of humanity, which serves to improve the lives of our fellow human beings and is directed against immorality and idolatry, which offend and degrade us. Such a testimony is urgently needed, especially after the unprecedented horrors of the past century.

Considerations on thesis 4
The thesis formulates the ethical-moral foundation that emerged from the Judeo-Christian tradition on the one hand and from the humanistic-ancient heritage on the other hand and has become the general, normative basis of our culture. However, the religious context of discovery of this image of man and the basic ethical consensus based on it, as laid down in the Torah and in the other holy scriptures of Israel and adopted by the Christian Church, must be distinguished from the general ethical context. Only if the moral principles of the Torah can also be justified in a religiously neutral way can it be realistically expected that other people who are not religiously bound also agree to this canon of values ​​and follow it. Understanding between people with different religious or non-religious ties is a constant task in today's secular and pluralistic societies.

The religious foundation of human rights in the inalienable holiness and dignity of every human being and their anchoring in the image of God, as attested in the biblical accounts of creation, are of particular importance for the ethical and moral foundation on which modern secular states depend which they cannot create or manufacture themselves. As representatives of the Judeo-Christian tradition on which our culture is based, Jews and Christians have the same responsibility for our society. Much is gained if they take on this responsibility together and thus contribute to the preservation of humanity in our culture through their work.

Thesis 5: Nazism was not a Christian phenomenon.
Without the long history of Christian anti-Judaism and Christian violence against Jews, the National Socialist ideology would not have existed and could not have been realized. Too many Christians participated in or approved of the Nazis' atrocities against the Jews. Other Christians did not protest enough against these atrocities. Nevertheless, National Socialism itself was not an inevitable product of Christianity. Had the National Socialists succeeded in exterminating the Jews in full, their murderous frenzy would have been directed far more directly against the Christians. We remember with gratitude those Christians who risked their lives or sacrificed their lives during the Nazi regime to save Jews. With this in mind, we support the continuation of recent efforts in Christian theology to unequivocally reject contempt for Judaism and the Jewish people. We praise those Christians who reject this doctrine of contempt and do not accuse them of the sins committed by their ancestors.

Considerations on thesis 5
For us as members of the people who are responsible for the consequences of National Socialism, it is both surprising and beneficial to hear this thesis. It is true that if you look soberly, it will meet with general approval, because otherwise every Christian society would have to tend towards National Socialism. But we must confess that Christian hostility towards Jews also contributed significantly to the emergence of anti-Semitism and that Christians supported and supported National Socialism and not resisted it. That is why we see it as a gesture of reconciliation when Jews differentiate in this way between National Socialism and Christian hostility towards Jews.

With regard to the causes and the development of hostility towards Jews, a distinction must be made between Christian anti-Judaism, i.e. religious discrimination against Jews, and racist anti-Semitism, which uses biological arguments. Conversely, however, it should be noted that anti-Semitism was able to combine well with anti-Judaistic elements in the Christian tradition. National Socialism is based on prerequisites that lie in the German tradition, which also includes Christian elements. So he is more of a German than a Christian appearance.

We, too, recognize the need for the further development of Protestant theology to strengthen precisely those approaches that have proven themselves in the resistance against National Socialism. The distinction between creator and creature and the conviction of God's love for all human beings is the theological foundation from which many Christians were able to resist totalitarian and racist systems.

Thesis 6: The humanly insurmountable difference between Jews and Christians will not be eliminated until God redeems the entire world as the Scriptures prophesy.
Christians know and serve God through Jesus Christ and the Christian tradition. Jews know and serve God through the Torah and Jewish tradition. This difference is not resolved by the fact that one of the communities insists on interpreting Scripture more accurately than the other, nor by the fact that one community exercises political power over the other. Just as Jews recognize the faithfulness of Christians to their revelation, so too we expect Christians to respect our faithfulness to our revelation. Neither Jew nor Christian should be compelled to accept the teaching of the other community.

Considerations on thesis 6
Faithfulness to one's own faith is combined with unconditional respect for the faith of others. This understanding of a dialogue in which neither pressure nor coercion, neither political power nor material incentives are allowed to play a role, is developed in thesis 6. This understanding is also the basis of the efforts of our church to renew the dialogue with Judaism and to gain a deeper understanding of Judaism. We have to admit that the experiences Jews had with Christians in the past were often different.

We learn: In conversation it is possible to stand by one's own faith and to bear witness to it, and at the same time to recognize and respect the other as the other. In conversation we can learn to understand it better, and at the same time we can gain new perspectives and insights for our own faith. The EKD study “Jews and Christians III” brought the term “encounter” into play for such a dialogue: “In an encounter there is no room for one partner to dominate the other, but for mutual respect Respect for the tradition in which the partner stands and for the beliefs he has come to believe. Above all, however, the term “encounter” is also open to God, who stands above both partners and to whom both are and remain responsible. This does not exclude, but includes, that the encounter also witnesses one's own faith, as much tact and awareness of the burdens from the past should lead Christians to restraint. "(No. 3.4.2; p. 168)

We can testify to the truth that is revealed to us but that we do not have. “Only when the ultimate goal of all God's history with the world has been reached will the 'people of God' emerge visibly in their God-given determinateness. Until then, theology cannot resolve the mystery that is given with the relationship between Church and Israel. ”(“ Church and Israel ”II.25.10, p. 70)

Thesis 7: A new relationship between Jews and Christians will not weaken Jewish practice.
A better relationship will not accelerate the cultural and religious assimilation that Jews rightly fear. It will not change traditional Jewish forms of worship, nor will it increase the number of interfaith marriages between Jews and non-Jews, nor will it induce Jews to convert to Christianity, nor will it lead to an inappropriately blending of Judaism and Christianity . We respect Christianity as a belief that arose within Judaism and still has essential contacts with it. We don't see it as an extension of Judaism. Only if we cultivate our own traditions can we sincerely continue this relationship.

Considerations on thesis 7