14 August 2023

Elder Brother? (1)

I don't think you will find many criticisms of Pope S John Paul II in this blog. Indeed, I regard him as an important and laudable figure in the reconstruction of orthodoxy and orthopraxy in the post-Conciliar decades. His Veritatis splendor, in my view, constitutes a full, perfect and sufficient refutation of both the premises and policies of the whole Bergogliolatrous project of this pontificate.

But I feel uneasy about a phrase associated with JP2. If it is rooted in Tradition and marks the writings of the Fathers and the Schoolmen and the Manualists, then I will very willingly withdraw this indication of my doubts. 

So you can help here!

The phrase is "our Elder Brother", describing 'Judaism' in relation to 'Christianity'. 

If kind readers ... you can help me here! ... are able to point to uses of this phrase in the Scriptures, the Fathers, the Schoolmen, the Manualists ... then I will instantly withdraw this expression of my unease!

I dislike the phrase because it suggests that Judaism came first; and then, for better or for worse, had Christianity as a successor. 

This is not how I see Heilsgeschichte. In my view, it is a matter of one very pluriform culture and tradition splitting up ... round about the year dot ... into (at least) two. These respectively coalesced into the Rabbinic Judaism which followed Jamnia; and Catholic Christendom. I do not regard Rabbinic Judaism as any more the 'elder' brother of Christianity than I would describe Christianity as the Elder Btother of Rabbinic Judaism.

I was put in mind of my nagging unease when listening to a programme on the Beeb called In our Time, run by a chap called Lord Bragg. So, colloquially, it is known as "Bragg".(There are hundreds of episodes on every academic field ... in history, literature, the Natural Sciences. Their format is always three dons and his Lordship in the chair. Some examples are better than others, but listening gives one opportunities of checking and verifying what is new in academic thinking in a wide variety of different subjects. )

A few weeks ago, they did The Dead Sea Scrolls. You could beam the episode up and listen to it on BBC Radio!

To be continued and concluded.


Richard Ashton said...

The proud claim of Lord Melvyn and the IOT team: "Never knowingly relevant."

MH said...

This web page may have the references you asked for, particularly paragraphs 4 and 5.
Mike Hodder

Thomas said...

I think St.JPII is alluding to the parable of the prodigal son. The elder brother standing for Rabbinic Judaism that sulked and objected to the Christian mission to the gentiles. I've found quotes to this effect online from Sts. Ambrose and Augustine, and also 'Cyril' (of Alexandria?), but frustratingly without any references. Being brothers, of course, they would not be seen as succeeding one another, but as one family now estranged by events and attitudes, which can and will eventually be overcome.

Patricius said...

Wasn't the "elder brother" the one who took the hump at the prodigal's return?

Arthur Gallagher said...

Frankness compels me to state that Judaism, so-called, is a first-century heresy, and that only Christianity is an expression of the Devine. Remember what it says in the Creed: Through Him all things were made..... The actions of Christ in fulfilling the law, and achieving our redemption were a continuation of what he had been doing all along, and which he always knew he would have to do. With respect, while Judaism might be a cultural phenomenon, Christianity is not. The only real impact of Rabbinical Judaism on Christianity has been on its mutilation and abridgement of the Bible, in order to deny The Christ, and so eagerly adopted by the Protestants in order to deny The Sacraments.
There are a great many things in the liturgy which are a continuation of the liturgy in the Temple of Jerusalem. The psalms are, of course, of Old Testament origin. Accepting authentic expressions of the faith that have origins in the Jewish past is one thing. Giving credence to First Century heretics is quite another. All of this is difficult to say, and most people will not. However, we must never deny the truth out of fear of offending our Jewish friends. Who- by the way- are well aware of the dispute between the parties, and who have their own position.

frjustin said...

The phrase “elder brothers” comes from Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz and was often cited by one of JP2’s secondary school teachers.When JPII used the phrase in his speech to the Rome synagogue, he said that Jews were elder brothers in the faith IN A CERTAIN MANNER:

"The church of Christ discovers her ''bond'' with Judaism by ''searching into her own mystery.'' The Jewish religion is not ''extrinsic'' to us, but in a certain way is ''intrinsic'' to our own religion. With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.''


Arthur H. said...


From my limited experience, my Jewish friend had a quizzical, awkward look on his face when I mentioned this idea, years ago. And so, I don't imagine many Jews would refer to us Catholics as their younger brothers in the religion... Hence how do Jews regard this characterization of them by us?

Of course, Pope JPII was coming out of the War, and Nazi characterization of the Jews, and he was attempting to do what he could to counter such. It is an infernal ploy to set all men at enmity one with another.

So, Father, how do we, as Catholics, properly express our respect for all men, especially the Jews?

We cannot ignore the Evangelical command of Our Lord to preach the Gospel to all men, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. We cannot ignore St. Paul's moving passage about his people, and his prophecy that the Jews will come into the Church.

So, there is a tension here. But the bottom line is that each created person is infinitely loved by God, infinitely valuable.

Louis Gasper said...

No, I cannot recall any similar statement from our tradition. But I take issue with your inference of "succession" from JPII's phrase. When he said the words you quote, the full phrase was "in a certain way, you can be considered our elder brothers." Did he ever explicate what that certain way is? It does not seem to me to imply succession, or procession; I was later in time than my elder brother, but that does not make me his successor. To my mind, the analogy -- and the words "in a certain way" mark it as definitely analogical -- is that as brothers have a common source, so have Catholicism and present-day Judaism. A most ancient tradition/culture/religion divided into Catholic Judaism and the other sorts of Judaism, just as, in a certain way, a father divides into his progeny.

Albertus said...

Alas, I have no examples to offer you. I can only say, that in the traditional Catholic and Orthodox view, Judaism is not the older brother of Christianity, but rather, Christianity is the fullfillnent and vontinuation of Temple Judaism. JPII said this when visiting the jewish synagogue of Roma, in order to appear acknowledging and appreciative of our jewish connexion: they took his statement to be condescending.

Howard said...

Yes, that is problematic, to say the least, when applied to Judaism after, say, about A.D. 70. There would be no objection to calling Abraham, Moses, David, etc. our "older brothers", but as soon as Judaism began to be defined by the explicit rejection of the Messiah, it no longer occupied a favored position. On the contrary, it became something like the first heresy, at least in terms of its nearness to the Faith (though it lacks baptism).

However, I still think that the most objectionable thing John Paul II did was to kiss the Koran. That really amounted to throwing under the bus generations of Christians who have suffered greatly for more than a thousand years to remain faithful.

Pater Ambrosius said...

John Paul II did not say that rabbinic Judaism was Christianity's elder brother but rather that Israel as a people could be called that, as having first received the promise given to Abraham. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "The Epiphany shows that 'the full number of the nations' now takes its 'place in the family of the patriarchs', and acquires Israelitica dignitas (is made 'worthy of the heritage of Israel') (CCC 528). The point is that the divine election of Israel is not revoked in Christ but expanded to the gentiles, who by faith and baptism becoming partakers of the Abrahamic promise and blessing. The Church does not "replace" Israel but is herself the faithful remnant of Israel, expanded to include all nations yet remaining the one salvific stem.

This is an important point: the promise given to Abraham predated the Law that was given to Moses. Israel predated the Law. So even if, as Galatians says, the sacrifices and binding nature of the ritual Torah have now become obsolete since their purpose was preparatory (the Law as pedagogue leading to Christ), Israel's election remains.

It is the Mosaic Law that is no longer binding (though it has figurative value for the New Covenant); the Abrahamic election remains. The distressing thing for St Paul and for Christians is not that God has cast off Israel but that the majority of Israel has not recognized in Jesus the hour of redemption, the fulfillment of God's promise and the innermost meaning of the Torah itself. Christ is the awaited Seed of Abraham, spoken of in Our Lady's Magnificat.

However, Romans 9-11 says that a faithful remnant of Israel (the apostles and those Israelites who believed the gospel) has believed and that through them salvation has come to the Gentiles. In the end, when the full number of the Gentiles has entered the Church, the rest of Israel will enter into the Mystical Body of Christ, too. This is taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 673-674).

Inutilissimus Servus said...

From Fondazione Ratzinger:
"Pope Ratzinger had explained the reasons of this choice in the interview-book entitled Light of the World. “The expression ‘elder brother’ – he had said – is not welcomed by the Jews, because the elder brother, EsaĆ¹, was considered a bad person. It expresses something important but it is better to call the Jews “fathers in the faith” to outline our relationship with them”.

Cherub said...

"The first is that the Church of Christ discovers her "bond" with Judaism by "searching into her own mystery", (cf. Nostra Aetate, ibid.). The Jewish religion is not "extrinsic" to us, but in a certain way is "intrinsic" to our own religion. With Judaism therefore we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers."

Two points:
1. Jews are our elder brothers "in a certain way". JP2 does not spell out in what sense that statement is true.

2. Scripture refers to our Father Abraham (eg John 8:39) and the Roman canon refers to "et sacrificium Patriarchae nostri Abrahae". If Abraham is, in a certain sense, our Father, then we are in certain sense sons and daughters of Abraham (the father of many nations). So the Jews are in a sense our elder brothers in faith. In one way that can really only have applied to the Jews of the time of Jesus. In another way, the Jewish people (ie living and departed) are our elder brothers in faith because of Abraham.

I could write much more on this important and interesting subject but, Father, I would not wish to outsatay my welcome (so to speak). Thank you for rising this important subject for us to ponder.

PM said...

With apologies to anyone who holds that nothing good can come from the Second Vatican Council, here is an extract form the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, which states the relationship very well. It is talking specifically about the Scriptures, but the principles apply more broadly:

'15. The principal purpose to which the plan of the old covenant was directed was to prepare for the coming of Christ, the redeemer of all and of the messianic kingdom, to announce this coming by prophecy (see Luke 24:44; John 5:39; 1 Peter 1:10), and to indicate its meaning through various types (see 1 Cor. 10:12). Now the books of the Old Testament, in accordance with the state of mankind before the time of salvation established by Christ, reveal to all men the knowledge of God and of man and the ways in which God, just and merciful, deals with men. These books, though they also contain some things which are incomplete and temporary, nevertheless show us true divine pedagogy. (1) These same books, then, give expression to a lively sense of God, contain a store of sublime teachings about God, sound wisdom about human life, and a wonderful treasury of prayers, and in them the mystery of our salvation is present in a hidden way. Christians should receive them with reverence.'

MH said...

Father: Sorry, omitted the web address from my comment. It's https://culturewars.com/news/what-does-it-mean-to-be-the-elder-brother
Mike Hodder

Jhayes said...

Frjustin, thanks for the reference

The Vatican website gives the Italian version as:

“Siete i nostri fratelli prediletti e, in un certo modo, si potrebbe dire i nostri fratelli maggiori.”

Jhayes said...

Two paragraphs later, he quotes Paul saying that the Jewish People remain dear to God because his call to them is irrevocable

“Anzi, aveva detto prima il Concilio, in questo stesso brano della Nostra Aetate, ma anche nella costituzione dogmatica Lumen gentium (Lumen gentium, 6), citando san Paolo nella lettera ai Romani (Rm 11, 28-29), che gli ebrei “rimangono carissimi a Dio”, che li ha chiamati con una “vocazione irrevocabile”.

(There is no English version on the Vatican website)

Moritz Gruber said...

The question whether some patristic, or otherwise pre-conciliar authoritative, source etc. source actually uses the phrase "elder brothers" and applies them to the Jews, may be an interesting one. It also is what people call "academic".

I do not mean it in disrespect. Generally, I am very much a fan of academic questions. However, one's interests are generally a matter of free decision or instinct, and as for me being a Catholic, interested in my faith, convinced that at least the logical order is first understand a thing (as far as possible) and then promote it... but still at the end of the day: a non-theologian - this one interests me rather peripherically.

The actual point of the issue is: "St. John Paul II - and he's an authority too - called the Jews our elder brothers. Was he right?"

The factual statement is not in dispute. Was he right? Well: yes he was.

Now, I do not have a claim that you read my comment at all, of course, but if you do, I think I do have a claim that you do not, now, "put it down" metaphorically speaking, and sort me (and the holy Pope for that matter) into the box of feel-good syncretists, etc., but actually stick around what I do mean, and what I think he meant.

1. As a matter of fact, the title of The People of God, once born by Israel (as we might call it, "ethnical Israel", now by right belongs to the Church.

(I set here aside both the curious position the non-Christian Jews had between 33 and 70 AD, and also the question in which sense the various non-Catholics might be said to be "somewhat part" of the said Church, which however is quite identical to the Roman Catholic Church - interesting questions in their own right, but not here the point.) We are the sons of Abraham, as the Roman Canon has it, etc.

2. Did those members of Ethnical Israel who did not join the Church thereby cease to be descendants of Abraham? Well, they obviously did not. And that includes those whose ancestors were "mere proselytes" and who did not physically stem from Abraham or Jacob at all. It's the culture that matters.

Hence, we are the sons of Abraham, they are the sons of Abraham; so they are our brothers; and as the tradition they chiefly refer to, is older than ours - even if they are wrong in rejecting ours, and we are among other things right in not rejecting theirs - older brothers.

So far so good. But there's something more genius about it still.

At the time, I think, it was observed that "older brother" is not so much a title of honour among Jews at all. Esau was an older brother. Perez was, I think, Juda's youngest, not oldest, son. Amnon and Absalom, Solomon's older brothers, are not exactly the heroes of the tale of the family of David. Speaking of that, David himself was the youngest, not oldest, from his brothers.

Hence, I'd very much hesitate to call Abraham, Moses, David etc. "older brothers", as @Howard seems to do. They are our fathers in the faith; certainly Abraham, but it would be somewhat fitting for the others too.

But the contemporary Jews? They really are our older brothers in the faith - with all that implies. Including, hopefully, the friendliness with which Jacob and Esau met each other in the end.

- Did any from the fathers actually see in Esau and Jacob types of Judaism and Christianity in that order, even though the Jews physically descend from the latter? Another academic question; this time one I'm more interested in. In any case, there's a lot to be said for it.