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Many Jews, and many Catholics, do not understand how to properly engage these great questions of God’s will for us. May I suggest an approach that will save much time and confusion.
In the Jewish-Catholic dialogue, when we get to the crucial question of whether Jesus is truly God’s Messiah, we need to use the Hebrew Scriptures as the historical record for pre-Christian events and the New Testament for Christian events. When we want to address what the Jewish tradition teaches, or what the Catholic tradition teaches, then we can use subsequent sources such as the Shulkhan Arukh or Maimonides on the Jewish side, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church or other papal documents on the Catholic side.
The problem with using, for instance, the writings of Maimonides to show that Jesus was not the Messiah, is that Maimonides was not impartial. He believed as a matter of faith that Jesus was not the Messiah, and his writings, such as the famous Thirteen Principles, always led to that conclusion. So if the Jewish side appeals to the Thirteen Principles to say that Jesus was not the Messiah, and the Catholic side appeals to the Catechism to say that he was, we remain where we were.
There is another problem, that the commentators often differ. For instance, consider the Messianic prophecy, Is 11:6 “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” Maimonides believed that Isaiah’s language was metaphorical, for example, meaning only that enemies of the Jews, represented by the wolf, would no longer oppress them. But a century later, Nachmanides rejected Maimonides’ rationalism and declared that Isaiah meant exactly what he said, that in the age of the Messiah even wild animals would become domesticated and sweettempered.
Of course, we can all enjoy the Jewish commentator Woody Allen, who summarized, “The lamb and the wolf shall lie down together, but the lamb won't get any sleep.”
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