Interpreting Paul, Jesus' knowledge & more


According to John Wilkins (“The Beginning of the Beginning,” January 18), the opponents of Cardinal Augustin Bea at Vatican II argued that St. Paul had spoken of Jews as “enemies of God.” Indeed the New English Bible features the following translation of Romans 11:28: “In the spreading of the gospel they are treated as God’s enemies for your sake, but God’s choice stands, and they are his friends for the sake of the patriarchs.” Yet the Douay-Rheims translation rendered the same passage this way: “As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sake: but as touching the election, they are most dear for the sake of the fathers.” In the King James Version the passage reads: “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.”

By consulting the original Greek, one finds these older translations truer to St. Paul’s words than the more modern New English Bible. Paul did not describe Jews as “enemies of God.” What happened? Perhaps modern scholars have wanted to make explicit what they felt was implicit. Here they do so at the risk of fomenting hatred. In any case, at Vatican II, Romans 11:29 proved more important: “For the gifts and calling of God [are] without repentance.”


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