In his general audience on August 11 Pope Francis presented a catechesis on the Letter to the Galatians. Following Paul, he explained: “The Law [Torah], however, does not give life, it does not offer the fulfillment of the promise because it is not capable of being able to fulfill it… Those who seek life need to look to the promise and to its fulfillment in Christ.”
Later that same month, Rabbi Rasson Arousi, chair of the Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel for Dialogue with the Holy See, said the comments appeared to suggest Jewish law was obsolete. Rabbi Arousi wrote in response: “In his homily, the pope… asserts that the latter no longer gives life, implying that Jewish religious practice in the present era is rendered obsolete.”
Many debate the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Church teaches, following Christ, that the New Covenant enacted through Christ fulfills the Old Covenant made by God to the Israelites. Hence, the Pope is correct in stating that the Torah does not give life in the same way that Christ does. Christ brings something new; something anticipated and longed for by the Old Covenant. In a word, Christ writes the new law of grace on our hearts through the sacraments. This enables us to receive eternal life. Does this imply that Jewish practice is obsolete as Rabbi Arousi claims? No. In the Vatican Council II document, Nostra Aetate the Church affirms that God’s covenant with the Jewish people is valid forever.