The new Israel and the eucharist

Another area in which James Alison sees the “intelligence of the victim” at work (see previous post) is in Jesus’ “teaching concerning the foundation of the New Israel” (Knowing Jesus, p.61) as a “universal, non-racial, non-geographical category”.

The last supper, in particular, demonstrates this. Just as the original Passover established the people of Israel as a “victim people”, whose departure from Egypt was simultaneously God’s deliverance and an expulsion from Egyptian society, so Jesus celebrated the Passover in a way that was its fulfilment, and that showed his death also to be both a deliverance and a “lynch-expulsion”.

Because it is “the presence of the crucified and risen Lord” that is “the foundation of the new Israel”, Dr Alison concludes that “to say ‘I believe in the resurrection’ directly implies also saying ‘I believe in the Church which is one, holy, catholic and apostolic'”:

  1. one, “because it has the unique foundation of the unique self-giving victim”;
  2. holy, “because this community is founded entirely on the forgiveness of this victim”;
  3. catholic, “because at the same time as being one, it is also universal, knowing no bounds of culture, or race, or language, because it is not founded over against anything at all, but purely given”; and
  4. apostolic, “because what is kept alive by the Holy Spirit is the presence of the crucified and risen Lord as witnessed to the apostles.”

Dr Alison continues:

The principle way by which all this is kept alive in our midst is: the eucharist. … The real presence of Jesus in the eucharist is the real presence of the crucified and risen Lord, giving himself, founding the new Israel, making possible the conversion of those who participate. It is the real presence of the grace which justifies. (p.85)

In other areas of church and Christian life (in particular those rites and celebrations which Roman Catholics regard as sacraments) “one or other dimension of the crucified and risen Lord is emphasised”:

In the eucharist, however, the whole package is present, if only we have open eyes and hearts to perceive it, and to receive him!

As Dr Alison writes in the following chapter (of which more in the next post):

[T]he presence of the crucified and risen Lord in the eucharist is how Jesus gave himself to be known: as one without form or beauty, as one who serves, as one who gives himself for the life of the world. Any knowledge which contradicts that is not the knowledge of Jesus. (p.94)

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4 Responses to The new Israel and the eucharist

  1. I know this isn’t the central point of the post, but…

    I’m not sure ‘New Israel’ is a very helpful term. The dichotomy in the NT seems not to be between New and Old Israel but True and False Israel. Hence the debate about who is Abraham’s true offspring, or the designation ‘Synagogue of Satan’.

    And this isn’t nit-picking either. The continuity of God’s covenantal relationship with His people depends on this. Methinks.

  2. John H says:

    Tapani: Thanks for this. In fairness, Alison does emphasise the continuity elsewhere in the chapter. So “new Israel” in a similar sense to “new Labour”: actually, perhaps best not to go there… 😉

  3. J. Random Hermeneut says:

    According to this theological source, the Old Testament prophecies of a restoration of Israel in which Jews and Gentiles are united together as one people of God, and this has been fulfilled in the New Testament Church.

    Ratzinger, J. (1999) Many Religions – One Covenant: Israel, the Church, and the World, San Francisco, Ignatius Press.

    It’s a pretty decent work, actually.

  4. I have a book on my shelves called “Israelin usko” — “Israel’s faith”. Yes, it’s in Finnish, and yes, it deserves to be translated into English. By a Lutheran exegete (a bit like that Ratzinger fellow?). The key point: the unity of Scripture –> the oneness of God’s covenantal purposes –> the oneness of God’s people.

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