c) The People. The New Testament takes for granted that the election of Israel, the people of the covenant, is irrevocable: it preserves intact its prerogatives (Rm 9:4) and its priority status in history, in the offer of salvation (Ac ) and in the Word of God (). But God has also offered to Israel a “new covenant” (Jr ); this is now established through the blood of Jesus. 304 The Church is composed of Israelites who have accepted the new covenant, and of other believers who have joined them. As a people of the new covenant, the Church is conscious of existing only in virtue of belonging to Christ Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, and because of its link with the apostles, who were all Israelites. To the Christians who have come from the nations, the apostle Paul declares that they are grafted to the good olive tree which is Israel (Rm ,17). That is to say, the Church is conscious of being given a universal horizon by Christ, in conformity with Abraham’s vocation, whose descendants from now on are multiplied in a filiation founded on faith in Christ (Rm 4:11-12). The reign of God is no longer confined to Israel alone, but is open to all, including the pagans, with a place of honour for the poor and oppressed. 306 The hope placed in the royal house of David, although defunct for six centuries, becomes the essential key for the reading of history: it is concentrated from now on in Jesus Christ, a humble and distant descendant. Finally, as regards the land of Israel (including the Temple and the holy city), the New Testament extends the process of symbolisation already begun in the Old Testament and in intertestamental Judaism.
Divisions based on different interpretations of the Law existed after the year 70 just as they did before
Accordingly, for Christians, the God of revelation has pronounced his final word with the advent of Jesus Christ and the Church. “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son” (Heb 1:1-2).
Having examined the relationship between the New Testament writings and the Jewish Scriptures, we will now consider the various attitudes to the Jews expressed in the New Testament
“Judaism” is a term designating the period of Israelite history which began in 538 B.C. with the permission from the Persian authorities to reconstruct the Jerusalem Temple. The religion of Judaism, in many respects, inherited the pre-exilic religion of the kingdom of Judah. The Temple was rebuilt: sacrifices were offered; hymns and Psalms were chanted, pilgrimage feasts were again celebrated. Judaism took on a particular religious hue after the proclamation of the Law by Ezra (Ne 8:1-12) in the Persian era. Gradually, the synagogue became an important factor in Jewish life. Diverse attitudes to the Temple were a source of division for Jews until 70 A.D., as is clear in the Samaritan schism and in the Qumran manuscripts.
The Samaritan community was a dissident group, shunned by others (Si -26). It was based on a particular form of the Pentateuch after rejection of the Jerusalem Temple and its priesthood. The Samaritan Temple was built on Mt Gerizim (Jn 4:9,20). They had their own priesthood.
The description of three “parties” or schools of thought given by Josephus, Pharisees, Sadduccees, and Essenes (Ant.13:5,9; (*)171), is a simplification that must be interpreted with circumspection. One can be sure that many Jews did not belong to any of the three groups. Furthermore, the differences between them extended beyond the religious.