Orthodox Christians in Dialogue with Jews
For the Life of the World: Towards a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church
As to Judaism, when the eternal Son of God became human he became incarnate as a Jew, born within the body of Israel, an heir to God’s covenants with his chosen people. He came in fulfilment of God’s saving promises to his people, as the Messiah of Israel. The first blood he shed for the redemption of the world was exacted on the day of his circumcision; his first confession before the world concerning the justice of God was in the synagogue, as was the first declaration of his mission to the world (Luke 4:18–21); his ministry resumed the language of the great prophets of Israel; and he was executed by a pagan authority under the title “King of the Jews.”
For the Life of the World: Towards a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church
It was to Israel that God declared himself as The One Who Is, to Israel that God gave the Law as a language of love and communion, with Israel that God established an everlasting covenant, and to Israel that he proclaimed, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you, and in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). As the Apostle Paul emphasized, Christians are saved in Christ only in being grafted like wild olive branches into the cultivated olive tree of Israel, and the branches do not support—but rather are supported by—the root (Romans 11:16–24).
Fr Cyrille Argenti
Christ — in Hebrew, the Messiah — is the glory of Israel. It is the people of Israel who offer the flesh of the incarnation to God. Israel is the flesh of God. God is not incarnated in man in general. Everything human takes place in space and time; it took a particular place, a particular time, a particular people for God to take flesh. This people was the people of Israel. To become incarnate, God became Jewish. It is with a Jewish mouth, in the language of the Jews, within the framework of a Jewish culture that God speaks to men.
Metropolitan Damaskinos of Adrianople
Orthodox Christianity recognizes the theology, anthropology and cosmology of Judaism as the essential elements of its doctrine. We deeply venerate not only the Old Testament, but also the entire spiritual experience of the chosen people with its role in the divine economy of salvation.
Fr Lev Gillet
The whole message of Israel is an authentic part of God’s Revelation and can be, without the abolition of a single jot, brought together with the message of Jesus. Nothing of the true Jewish tradition—from Hillel to modern Hasidism—needs to be altered in order to adjust itself to the Gospel: it needs only to be complemented.
For the Life of the World: Towards a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church
Orthodox Christians look to the Jewish communities throughout the world not merely as to practitioners of another creed, but as to, in some sense, their spiritual elders in the history of God’s saving revelations, and as to the guardians of that precious inheritance that is the first full manifestation of God’s saving presence in history.
Joint Statement by the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, and the Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos
We condemn all acts of disrespect towards any other religious community, its integrity and its holy sites. The church and the people of Cyprus were not party to the systematic negation of Jewry nor of accusations of collective guilt of deicide and we accordingly affirm the repudiation of such prejudice as incompatible with the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. Furthermore, we judge that any attempts to undermine the religious identity and attachments of the other, are incompatible with the spirit of mutual respect and thus we deplore all proselytising activity irrespectively from where and by whom it is exercised.
Vladimir Solovyov
The mutual relations between Judaism and Christianity over the many centuries of their common life are remarkable. Always and everywhere, Jews have considered Christianity and acted towards it according to the prescriptions of their religion, their faith, and their law. The Jews have always behaved toward us in a Jewish manner, while we Christians, on the contrary, have until now been unable to learn to behave toward Judaism in a Christian manner. They have never broken, as far as we are concerned, their religious law; while we have broken and continue to constantly break, regarding them, the commandments of the Christian religion.
Fr Lev Gillet
Since the beginning of Christianity, nineteen centuries have passed, during which Jews have suffered at the hands of Christians, to varying degrees. We do not have the right to approach Jews today as if we had clean hands. Above all, we must repair our enormous breach of the law of our master and deserve the forgiveness and trust of Israel. We will only speak of our faith after we have given proof of our love.
For the Life of the World: Towards a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church
In recent years, we have witnessed a revival in many quarters of the western world of the most insidious ideologies of national, religious, and even racial identity in general, and of antisemitic movements in particular. Bigotry and violence against Jews have long been a conspicuous evil of the cultures of Christendom; the greatest systematic campaign of mass murder and attempted genocide in European history was undertaken against the Jews of Europe; and—while some Orthodox clergy and laity demonstrated exceptional generosity and even sacrificial compassion to their Jewish brothers and sisters, earning from them the honorific “righteous among the nations”—other historically Orthodox nations have dark histories of antisemitic violence and oppression.
For the Life of the World: Towards a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church
For all these evils, Christians must seek God’s forgiveness. In expiation for those crimes against the Jewish people specifically committed in Orthodox lands, the Church seeks both God’s forgiveness as well as a deeper relation of love and regard with Jewish communities and the Jewish faith.
Olivier Clément
I would like to remind us that at the third assembly of the World Council of Churches, in New Dehli in 1961, nearly all the Orthodox churches ratified a declaration calling on the churches “to do all in their power to resist every form of antisemitism.” In Christian teaching the historic events which led to the crucifixion should not be presented as to fasten upon the Jewish people of today responsibilities which belong to our corporate humanity.
Fr Sergei Hackel
The liturgical texts of Great and Holy Friday are considered to accurately express the doctrine of the church. However, their authority is based only on their age-old use. These texts have never been sanctioned by ecumenical councils for modification or removal, so there is no need for the approval of a new council. Reforms of this kind have already been proposed many times, for example in 1960 by the Greek theologian Hamilcar Alivazatos. However, to this day, nothing has changed, and we continue to give our assent to these texts, beyond the standards received. We lack humility, perseverance, academic knowledge and above all, determination.
Previous slide
Next slide

Our Purpose

“For Orthodox tradition, the church is nothing more nor less than Israel in the altered circumstances of the Messiah’s death, resurrection, and the eschatological outpouring of his Spirit.” (Alexander Golitzin, “Scriptural Images of the Church: An Eastern Orthodox Reflection,” in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic: Ecumenical Reflections on the Church, Tamara Grdzelidze, ed. Geneva: WCC Publications, 2005: 255.)

As such, Christian identity—the self-understanding of the Church—is rooted in biblical Israel; it was also shaped, especially in the early centuries, by the radical commitment to the “grafting in” of the Gentiles and by tense relations with the Israel of the Synagogue. The coexistence of Christians and Jews along two millennia, each claiming to be the Israel of God while denying this identity to the other, was marked by much pain and suffering, culminating in the tragic events of the 20th century. Too often Christians have failed to confirm their status of children of Abraham by doing the deeds of Abraham.

In the aftermath of the Shoah / Holocaust, a renewed engagement between the two traditions, and a proliferation of scholarship on Second Temple Judaism over the last half century have allowed for a better understanding of their mutual influences, and their exegetical, theological, and spiritual convergences and divergences.

Orthodox Christians in Dialogue with Jews is a project of the Orthodox Theological Society in America, which aims to gather Orthodox Christian scholars and pastoral leaders to further our understanding of our theological and liturgical tradition on the basis of these rekindled contacts, this deepened understanding of both Christian and Jewish origins, with respect for the mystery of Israel and the ongoing presence of our Jewish brothers and sisters today.

This is without doubt a large, complex, and admittedly controversial project, but it is our conviction that it is vital for the Orthodox Church, in keeping with our ever-living tradition, always to reengage our theology and practice to ensure that our teaching, preaching, and worship are grounded in the fulness of God’s truth and love.

We welcome the involvement of Orthodox Christian teachers, pastors, and theologians — whether they be scholars of Scripture, Church history, patristics, liturgy theology, or experts in Christian-Jewish relations — as well as partners and consultants from other Christian churches and Jewish tradition.

If you are interested in being involved, please complete a short, three-question expression of interest form that will enable OCDJ’s steering committee members to organise the working group’s activities. Please get in touch if you have any questions or feedback, or if you can recommend other working group participants.

Thank you for your support for this project.

The relationship between Christianity and Judaism is central to the identity of Christians and the Church. Yet for much of the past two millennia, the story of Christians and Jews has been difficult and troubled, culminating in the tragic events of the 20th century.

In the aftermath of the Shoah (Holocaust), there has been a renewed engagement between the two traditions, and, with a proliferation of scholarship and deepening of knowledge of Second Temple Judaism over the last half century, a joint effort has been made by Christians and Jews to correct historical inaccuracies and prejudices and amend theological traditions that had separated Jesus and early Christians from their Jewish contexts and driven a hard wedge between Covenant communities sharing faith in the one God of Israel.

Orthodox Christians in Dialogue with Jews, a project of the Orthodox Theological Society in America, aims to gather Orthodox Christian scholars and pastoral leaders together to study, reflect on, and renew Orthodox Christian theological and liturgical tradition on the basis of these rekindled contacts, this deepened understanding of both Christian and Jewish origins, with respect for the mystery of Israel and the ongoing presence of our Jewish brothers and sisters today.

We seek to truly know the Jewish environment in which Jesus lived and transmitted to the Church. Based on this knowledge, we will revisit critically our notion of the Church as the “the true Israel” and its relationship to other covenant people. The Church Fathers, who sought to situate the church in relation to “Israel according to the flesh,” often expressed the newness of the gospel by discrediting or belittling Jews who sought to preserve the Covenant with Moses. We are committed to the work of rereading the writings of the Fathers, with a respectful look at the people of the first Covenant, given that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).

Without abandoning the reading of the Old Testament in the light of the resurrected Christ, we seek to deepen the perception of the New Testament in the light of the Old, studied first for itself, in order to give access to the message of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, incarnated among the Jewish people and all its tradition. This will allow us to highlight the exegetical reciprocity in the one covenant of God, and to experience the extent to which these two approaches complement and inform each other.

We also want to highlight how the separation between Church and Synagogue gradually took place in the texts of the Rabbis and the Fathers of the Church, by showing mutual influences, convergences and divergences, and by comparing the interpretations that took place in the Church and in the Synagogue. The challenge of this work is to underline the fruitfulness of an encounter between these two traditions, presenting them together while respecting areas of difference.

Adapted in part from the charter of Chrétiens orthodoxes en dialogue avec les juifs.

Icon of Jesus the Messiah by Kirollos Kilada