Please correct me if I'm wrong
Alright ... will do ...
God never had a covenant with Jews, today or 2000 years ago. God's covenant was with Hebrews.
I didn't realize, when we started the online bible study a few weeks ago, just how relevant our topic there (the centrality of Covenant, the various Covenants God made with Man, the history of God's people, etc.) would be to these kinds of modern discussions about Benedict and the Jews.
The word "Jew" means a descendant of Judah, who was only one of the twelve sons of Jacob, who himself was later named Israel.
The twelve sons of Jacob and all the peoples that come from him are "Israelites."
All of these, but also including Midian and all who spring from him, and Ishmael and all who spring from him (including the Arabs), are sons of Abraham.
All of these, and more, can trace their lineage back to Eber (see Gen. 10), who is the father of the Hebrews.
A much larger group can trace itself back to Shem (again, see Gen. 10), and so are called Semites.
The Old Testament shows us the progressive narrowing down of the genealogical lines who are responsible for mediating the Covenant. It was made with Abraham, and so it would necessarily include all of his sons - Ishmael, Isaac, Midian. But then it was passed on to Isaac, and then to Jacob/Israel, so thus the Covenant of God was with the Israelites - not with the "Hebrews," because that group is a larger umbrella that includes more than just the Israelites.
Then, just after 1000 BC, the ten northern tribes of Israel broke away from the kingdom and religion of YHWH, which was centered in Judah (the Davidic Kings all come from Judah). They became idolaters, and thus, the Covenant was maintained only by the southern kingdom of Judah - the Jews.
So yes, for some 1,000 years, the Jews were the mediators of the Covenant. However, since God's original covenant with Abraham promised to bless all the nations through the seed of Isaac (Jacob), He promised through the prophets to reunite the kingdom and re-establish the covenant, not just with Judah, but with all Israel.
When the pope says that God never revoked His covenant with Israel, he is either right or wrong, depending on what he means. If he is referring to the specific covenant with Israel made at Sinai - the "Old Covenant" - then he is wrong; that covenant has been fulfilled (and thus made obsolete) in the New Covenant.
But if he is referring to the Older Covenant, the one made with Abraham, then he is right: that covenant has not been revoked. It is this Older Covenant that has been honored by God in the New Covenant.
Covenants are sticky business. It's hard to separate them, because ultimately they're all connected - one comes after and either modifies or fulfills the one before. We can speak of the abstract essence of the Covenant, which is the same today as it was when it was first made with Adam; or we can speak of the concrete "incarnations" or "modes" of that over-arching covenant, which are separate from each other and have taken on various forms throughout history.
For example: the covenant with Abraham took on a particular form when God said that circumcision was a necessary element of this covenant. It took on another form with Israel in the wilderness at Sinai, and included the written and ceremonial Laws. It was further modified again just before Israel entered the Promised Land, and this time included stipulations about worship taking place only at the one temple in Jerusalem. Obviously, in its newest manifestation in the New Covenant, it takes on a different form from the ones before: circumcision is replaced by baptism, animal sacrifice is replaced by the Eucharist, worship at the temple is made obsolete because the worship of God can now take place any time and any place the Eucharistic King and Lord is made present.
But in its essence, there is one covenant; and the New Covenant fulfills (not revokes) the original covenant with Abraham, which included the promise that Israel would be the mediators of salvation to the Gentiles.
This is why, I think, the pope is so emphatic about the Church sharing a common root with Israel; to use St. Paul's language, the Gentiles are "wild branches" grafted onto a tree, to which Israel belongs by nature.
With good reason did so many of the Church Fathers speak about the time in the future when Israel would return to God and convert en masse; St. Paul speaks of this present age as a period of time when the "full number" of the Gentiles are being "grafted" onto the one tree, and during this period Israel will be in rebellion - but there will come a turning point, when they are grafted back on to their own tree.
The reason why this will happen is because, as St. Paul says in Romans, the "calling" of God is irrevocable - and His "calling" to Israel was, from the very start, that they should be His "first-born son" (Ex. 4:22). In ancient Hebrew life, the first-born was the one who served with his father as priest, mediating the covenant to the rest of the family. Israel was called to be God's first-born son, and thus, a priestly mediator to the nations - which is why He calls them (in Ex. 19) to be a royal-priestly nation. That calling is irrevocable, and I believe that it will be precisely through their mass conversion at the end of days that they will finally fulfill that calling.
In the meantime, they remain cut off from the covenant, but not rejected by God. They need to be converted, and we as Gentile Christians need to recognize our debt to that first-born son of God among the nations. I cannot say it any more strongly than what St. Paul himself said:
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the richness of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches
. If you do boast, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you
You will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.
Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off. And even the others, if they do not persist in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.
For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree. Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob"; "and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins."
As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. (Rom. 11:17-31)