What is Dual-Covenant Theology?

In another article we looked at the theological error of replacement theology, which claims that God has rejected the Jews as His chosen people and replaced Israel by the Church. We saw that this theory cannot be reconciled with the New Testament and the teachings of the Church, which state that God's election of Israel and His covenant with the Jewish people are irrevocable and permanent.

Today, another theological error is causing much confusion in the Church, especially because it is held by not a few influential people. This error is called "dual-covenant theology." Dual-covenant theology teaches that since God's covenant with the Jews is still valid for them, they don't need Jesus or the New Covenant to be saved. Jews could go to Heaven simply by keeping the Law of Moses, because of the "everlasting covenant" between Abraham and God (Gen 17:13), whereas Gentiles (those who are not Jews) must convert to Christianity to be saved. In other words, Jews have their own way to God—the Old Covenant, and the Christians theirs—the New Covenant. Dual-covenant theology is thus the opposite error of replacement theology. Whereas replacement theology claims that God's election, covenant and promises to Israel are superceded and abolished, and the only role left for Jews is to convert to Christianity and enter the Church, dual-covenant theology claims on the contrary that since God's covenant with the Jews is still valid, it is totally sufficient for them, and therefore they don't need Jesus or the Church to be saved.

This idea is attractive to Jews who don't believe in Jesus (and, tragically, even to many Catholics) because it does away with Jesus' commandment to his disciples that they should share the Gospel with everyone, Jews and Gentiles. But the problem with dual-covenant theology is that it completely contradicts the writings of the New Testament and teachings of the Church.

Obviously, the New Testament asserts that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah of Israel whom God promised to the Jewish people through Moses and the prophets (see Messianic Prophecies*, The Messiah in the Tanakh and Who Do You Say I Am?*). At the heart of the Gospel message stands the invitation to the Jewish people that they recognize Jesus as Messiah and become his disciples:

But, one may object, since God's covenant with Israel is still valid, could Jews then be saved by simply observing the Mosaic Law—the Torah? The New Testament and the Catholic Church answer a categorical "no" to this question. Although the Torah is God-given and good, and it can certainly be meritorious for Jews to observe its commandments in a spirit of devotion to God, Divine Revelation tells us that Torah observance alone is not sufficient for salvation:

The fact that Judaism as practised today is insufficient for salvation should be evident to anyone who reads the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, forgiveness was attained through the offering of animal sacrifices and the shedding of their blood in atonement for sins (cf. Lev 17:11). In the New Testament, Jesus' Paschal Sacrifice and the shedding of His blood universally atoned for the sins of all mankind. Through baptism, we take part in the Messiah's death and resurrection, our sins are washed away, and we receive the gift of God's supernatural, divine life. The Messiah continues to impart to us this supernatural life through the other sacraments that He instituted, and most especially in the Eucharist where we partake of His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. For sure, the observance of the mitzvoth (the commandments)—as meritorious as it may be—can only fall short of this great gift of supernatural grace—even more so because Judaism has been deprived of a Temple and sacrifices since shortly after the coming of the Messiah.

In summary, though God's election of Israel is indeed irrevocable and permanent, Jews cannot be considered "saved" or justified before God through the Mosaic covenant. The NT and teachings of the Church clear affirm that salvation can only be found in Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel. This does not mean, however, that Jews are condemned to hell if they do not explicitly and consciously accept Christ, for the Church also teaches that those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church but seek God with a sincere heart and try to do His will to the best of their ability can be saved. Nonetheless, the fullness of the means of salvation can be found only in Jesus the Messiah and in the Church He founded (CCC 846-47).

A comparison of the different positions we have seen would thus appear in their simplest form as follows:

Replacement Theology (Error) Catholic Faith (Kosher) Dual-covenant Theology (Error)
  • God's covenant with Israel has been abolished.
  • The only role left for the Jews is to accept Christ, convert, be baptized, and be joined to the Church.
  • The evangelization of Jews is necessary, and they should just become Catholics like any other Catholic.
  • God's covenant with Israel is irrevocable and permanent.
  • This covenant is not salvific. God is still calling the Jewish people to recognize Jesus as Messiah, be baptized, and be joined to the Church.
  • The evangelization of Jews is necessary, but it should be done in a way that affirms and strengthens their Jewish identity.
  • God's covenant with Israel is irrevocable and permanent.
  • Since this covenant is still valid, it is also salvific for them. It is not necessary that Jews believe in Jesus, be baptized, or join the Church. Jews can be saved by observing the Mosaic Law.
  • The evangelization of Jews is unnecessary and is better avoided.

Let us close with the words of a Catholic Jew, Roy Schoeman, on the subject of Jews, Jesus, and the Catholic evangelization of Jews:

The greatest misconception that Catholics hold about Jews is the terrible, pernicious one that somehow Jews don’t need Jesus! It is natural that Jews should hold this view – to them Jesus was, after all, a false Messiah who indirectly caused incalculable disaster to befall Jews – but it is tragic that, in the interest of "dialogue" and a false ecumenism, this view is sometimes voiced even by Catholics, and even by Catholics who believe that they are representing the Church... What could be more anti-Semitic than refusing to share the Gospel, the Good News, the joy and fulfillment and salvation brought by the Jewish Messiah with the Jews themselves, through whom He first came? (Judaism Fulfilled, Interview of IgnatiusInsight.com with Roy Schoeman)