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A Christian Theologian on the Jews

Augustine (345-430 C.E.), bishop of Hippo in North Africa, was of great influence on the developing theology of the Roman Church. In particular, he established a principle that informed the Jewish policy of the Roman Catholic Church until the 20th century. In this passage from his The City of God he describes the Jews as a people living in error, but whose continued presence, scattered among the nations, was divinely ordained so that they might serve as living witnesses to the authenticity of texts upon which Christianity depended.

 

 

 

 

 

But the Jews who slew Him [Jesus], and would not believe in Him, because it behoved Him to die and rise again, were yet more miserably wasted by the Romans, and utterly rooted out from their kingdom, where aliens had already ruled over them, and were dispersed through the lands (so that indeed there is no place where they are not), and are thus by their own Scriptures a testimony to us that we have not forged the prophecies about Christ.

And very many of them, considering this, even before His passion, but chiefly after His resurrection, believed in Him, of whom it was predicted, "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant shall be saved." But the rest are blinded, of whom it was predicted, "Let their table be made them a trap, and a retribution, and a stumbling-block. Let their eyes be darkened lest they see, and bow down their back always."

Therefore, when they do not believe our Scriptures, their own, which they blindly read, are fulfilled in them, lest perchance anyone should say that the Christians have forged these prophecies about Christ. . . . Therefore God has shown the Church in her enemies the Jews the grace of His compassion, since, as saith the apostle, "their offence is the salvation of the Gentiles."

And therefore He has not slain them, that is, He has not let the knowledge that they are Jews be lost in them, although they have been conquered by the Romans, lest they should forget the law of God, and their testimony should be of no avail in this matter of which we treat. But it was not enough that he should say, "Slay them not, lest they should at all forget Thy law," unless he had also added, "Disperse them;" because if they had only been in their own land with that testimony of the Scriptures, and not everywhere, certainly the Church which is everywhere could not have had them as witnesses among all nations to the prophecies which were sent before concerning Christ.


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