Michael B. McGarry, Christology After Auschwitz, New York: Paulist Press, 1977

Abstract by Jerry Darring


From his survey of formal church statements, McGarry notes these Christological drifts: 1) Jesus can only be understood as standing in a religiously Jewish milieu; 2) Israel's hopes for a Messiah were partially fulfilled in Jesus, and complete fulfillment will only come in the end times; 3) Jesus represented a new beginning or a new covenant, not a complete break from the Jewish religion; 4) there was some linking of exclusivist Christologies with certain ecclesiologies such as the Church as the Body of Christ; 5) there was some effort to leave theological room for the abiding validity of Judaism and to recognize the independent validity of the Hebrew Scriptures; 6) there were few if any references to the resurrection, the divinity of Christ, or to Christ as Messiah.

McGarry then reviews the 1973 statement, "Israel: People, Land, State," issued by the National Catholic-Protestant Theological Dialogue, and the records of the Lutheran-Jewish Dialogue. The 1973 document recognizes Judaism and Christianity as distinct religious traditions, underscores the Jewishness of Jesus, and asserts that "whatever Christians believe about Christ cannot mean that the Jews have been abandoned by God, nor has God ceased to bless Jewish worship as an abiding expression and place of his blessing" (59).

Reviewing the theologians, McGarry looks first at what he calls "theologians of discontinuity." These are theologians who stress 1) the uniqueness and finality of Christ; 2) Jesus as fulfillment of the Jewish longing for a Messiah and the absolute fulfillment of Jewish faith and Scripture; 3) Jesus as divine; 4) God's faithfulness to the Jews despite their rejection of Christ; 5) Christianity as the successor to Judaism, which was a preparation for Christianity; 6) the need to preach Christ to all people, including Jews. Jakob Jocz, George A.F. Knight, Jean Danielou, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Johannes Aagard, and Kurt Hruby were theologians of discontinuity.

Theologians of continuity stress 1) the relativity of Christ; 2) Jesus as Messiah only in the end times, the partial fulfillment of Jewish faith and Scripture; 3) a nuanced understanding of Jesus as divine; 4) a positive evaluation of the Jewish "no" to Christ; 5) continuing independent validity of Judaism; 6) no need to convert Jews, for conversion is a matter of being faithful within the revelation God has gifted each people with. Some theologians of continuity teach that God has made two separate covenants, one with Abraham and another in Jesus: these include Peter Chirico, Eva Marie Fleischner, James Parkes, J. Coert Rylaarsdam, Gregory Baum, Rosemary Radford Ruether, and John T. Pawlikowski. Other theologians of continuity formulate a single-covenant Christology: these include Monika Hellwig, A. Roy Eckardt and Cornelius A. Rijk.