I have just finished reading “The Old Covenant: Revoked or Not Revoked?” by Dr. Robert Sungenis. It is a study debunking the notion, now regnant in liberal theological circles, that the Old Covenant still stands side-by-side with the New Covenant. According to this novelty, in essence, God’s “A Plan” and God’s “B Plan” are both currently pleasing to Him and both fully in effect. Opposed to this, the Catholic Faith teaches that the Old Law — itself good, holy, and of divine origin — was a preparation for the New, and that the New Law superceded and fulfilled the Old.
Indeed, as Dr. Sungenis shows, Pope John Paul II affirmed the traditional teaching in a not-much-quoted passage of Redemptoris Mater: “Christ fulfills the divine promise and supersedes the old law.”
Years ago, I made an effort at debunking this vogue theology in an article on the Epistle to the Hebrews: A Better Testament. Dr. Sungenis quotes from Hebrews, but he does not limit himself to this, as the pilfered quotations below adequately show.
The following is a series of scriptural, patristic, and magisterial citations from “The Old Covenant: Revoked or Not Revoked?“:
- Hebrews 7:18: “On the one hand, a former commandment is annulled because of its weakness and uselessness…”;
- Hebrews 10:9: “Then he says, ‘Behold, I come to do your will.’ He takes away the first [covenant] to establish the second [covenant]…”;
- 2 Corinthians 3:14: “For to this day when they [the Jews] read the Old Covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away”;
- Hebrews 8:7: “For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another”;
- Colossians 2:14: “Having canceled the written code, with its decrees, that was against us and stood opposed to us; He took it away nailing it to the cross”;
- Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, para. 29: “…the New Testament took the place of the Old Law which had been abolished…but on the gibbet of His death Jesus made void the Law with its decrees fastened the handwriting of the Old Testament to the Cross”;
- The Catechism of the Council of Trent: “…the people, aware of the abrogation of the Mosaic Law…”;
- Council of Florence: “that the matter pertaining to the law of the Old Testament, of the Mosaic law…although they were suited to the divine worship at that time, after our Lord’s coming had been signified by them, ceased, and the sacraments of the New Testament began”;
- Council of Trent: “but not even the Jews by the very letter of the law of Moses were able to be liberated or to rise therefrom”;
- Cardinal Ratzinger: “Thus the Sinai [Mosaic] Covenant is indeed superseded” (Many Religions – One Covenant, p. 70).
- St. John Chrysostom: “Yet surely Paul’s object everywhere is to annul this Law….And with much reason; for it was through a fear and a horror of this that the Jews obstinately opposed grace” (Homily on Romans, 6:12); “And so while no one annuls a man’s covenant, the covenant of God after four hundred and thirty years is annulled; for if not that covenant but another instead of it bestows what is promised, then is it set aside, which is most unreasonable” (Homily on Galatians, Ch 3);
- St. Augustine: “Instead of the grace of the law which has passed away, we have received the grace of the gospel which is abiding; and instead of the shadows and types of the old dispensation, the truth has come by Jesus Christ. Jeremiah also prophesied thus in God’s name: ‘Behold, the days come, says the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah…’ Observe what the prophet says, not to Gentiles, who had not been partakers in any former covenant, but to the Jewish nation. He who has given them the law by Moses, promises in place of it the New Covenant of the gospel, that they might no longer live in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the spirit” (Letters, 74, 4);
- Justin Martyr: Now, law placed against law has abrogated that which is before it, and a covenant which comes after in like manner has put an end to the previous one; and an eternal and final law – namely, Christ – has been given to us, and the covenant is trustworthy…Have you not read…by Jeremiah, concerning this same new covenant, He thus speaks: ‘Behold, the days come,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…’” (Dialogue with Trypho, Ch 11).