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Dual-covenant theology is a term found in contemporary inter-religious dialogue that teaches that Jews may simply keep the Law of Moses, because of the "everlasting covenant" (Genesis 17:13) between Abraham and God expressed in the Hebrew Bible, whereas Gentiles (those not Jews or Jewish proselytes) must convert to Christianity.

Jewish views

Dual-covenant theology was originated by Rabbi Moshe Ben-Maimon (Maimonides, 1135-1204) and pioneered in the 20th century by the Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929). Dual-covenant theology may be understood as a modern variant of the Talmudic doctrine stating that Jews are bound by the Torah, but Gentiles share in the world to come if they obey the seven Noahide Laws given after the flood to Noah for all mankind — prohibitions against idolatry, murder, incest, theft, blasphemy and eating the flesh of a living animal; and the positive command to promote justice, i.e., to institute government.[1]

Christian views

Dual-covenant theology has since been elaborated on by such liberal Christian theologians as Reinhold Niebuhr and James Parkes.

According to David H. Stern, Jesus' word is not for Jews but for Gentiles and, for example, John 14:6 is to be understood like thus: "I am the way, the truth and the life; and no Gentile comes to the father except through me."[2]

Apostolic decree

James the Just, whose judgment was adopted in the Apostolic Decree of Acts 15:19-29, c. 50 AD: "...we should write to them [Gentiles] to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood..." (NRSV)

The apostolic decree in the book of Acts (15:19-29) has sometimes been read as a form of dual-covenant theology and as parallel to Noahide Law.

An alternative interpretation is that the text refers to converted Jews and converted Gentiles, meaning that it is an intra-Church debate that doesn't necessarily include Jews who did not accept Jesus as their Messiah. Traditionally, the decree has been understood as a response to, and denial of, the claim made by a certain sect of Jewish converts that Gentile converts had to follow the Mosaic Law for salvation, and not to have referred to those Jews who were outside the Church either positively or negatively.

Criticisms of Dual-Covenant Theology

A major theme of Paul's Epistle to the Romans is that, so far as salvation is concerned, Jews and Gentiles are equal before God (2:7-123:9-314:9-125:12,17-199:2410:12-1311:30-32). Romans 1:16, by stating that the Gospel is the same for Jew and Gentile, may contradict dual-covenant theology. [3] However, the relationship of Paul of Tarsus and Judaism is still a subject of scholarly debate.

The First Epistle of John also states, "Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also."[4] This does not differentiate between Jews or Gentiles.

Catholic criticisms

Cardinal Avery Dulles was critical of dual-covenant theology, especially as understood in the USCCB's document Reflections on Covenant and Mission. [5] In the article All in the Family: Christians, Jews and God, evidence has also been compiled from Scripture, the Church Fathers and official Church documents that the Catholic Church does not support dual covenant theology.[6]

The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (2006) states [7]:

"The covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them."

However, in June 2008 the bishops decided by a vote of 231-14 to remove this from the next printing of the Catechism, because it could be construed to mean that Jews have their own path to salvation and do not need Christ or the Church.[8] In August 2009, the Vatican approved the change, and the revised text states:[9]

"To the Jewish people, whom God first chose to hear his Word, 'belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ.'"

Evangelical criticisms

In 2006, Evangelical Protestant Jerry Falwell denied a report in the Jerusalem Post that he supported dual-covenant theology:[10]

"I have been on record all 54 years of my ministry as being opposed to dual covenant theology... I simply cannot alter my deeply held belief in the exclusivity of salvation through the Gospel of Christ for the sake of political or theological expediency. Like the Apostle Paul, I pray daily for the salvation of everyone, including the Jewish people."

See also


  1. Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot M'lakhim 8:14
  2. David H. Stern, "Jewish New Testament Commentary", page 196, Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1992.
  3. David H. Stern: "Jewish New Testament Commentary", page 329. Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1992.
  4. 1 John 2:22-23, NIV,
  5. Covenant and Mission
  6. Forrest and Palm; All in the Family: Christians, Jews and God; Lay Witness, July/Aug 2009; [1]
  7. United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, (Washington, D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2006).
  8. O'Brien: Bishops Vote to Revise U.S. Catechism on Jewish Covenant with God; CNS,
  9. U.S. Bishops get Vatican ‘Recognitio’ for Change in Adult Catechism; USCCB News Release,
  10. Jerusalem Post, 2006-03-02, Hagee, Falwell deny endorsing 'dual covenant'. Retrieved 2009-10-21.

External links