Our father Abraham, justified by erumah

Our father Abraham, justified by erumot

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Christianity is the fruit of Judaism. To not acknowledge this is to bastardize G-d’s providential plan. There is no excuse for ignoring or denying the fulfilling relationship between these two religions. If anyone is found guilty of doing so, it is because they are either unlearned, unstable, or stubborn beyond reason. May Christ have mercy on those who deny Judaism’s role in our Faith tradition, as this only leads to anti-semitism and schism of His Body the Church.

During the first four centuries C.E., the Apostolic Church was populated mostly by Jewish converts to Christianity. After the 4th century, the Church started to take on more of a Gentile flavor due to the overwhelming amounts of Gentiles being baptized and received by the Church. Though the identity of the Church ultimately shifted more in favor of the dominating Gentile converts, to this day the Apostolic Church (Catholic/Orthodox) has maintained a Jewish framework for theological and dogmatic interpretation.

In the scripture above, we encounter the key to receiving the grace of G-d: faith. Most Protestants believe that this scripture is heinously contradicted by the Catholic and Orthodox Church, though they often leave the Orthodox Church out of the argument, because according to them we teach “works-based” salvation rather than just “faith” (that is, faith alone). Growing up in the Protestant realms, I heard this scripture all the time. I knew it backwards and forwards. Yet, I was never aware of what followed right after verse 9:

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for GOOD WORKS, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

What? Good works? How do we reconcile this? When Christ came down from Heaven, faith didn’t all the sudden drop out of the sky after Him. Faith is and has always been, a very Jewish concept. In Hebrew there is only one word for faith and faithfulness (or faith-based works), and that is Erumah. Erumah literally means to believe in but it is used interchangeably to describe both belief and faithful reaction to belief: good works. If I believe in G-d I have erumah. If I then perform works based on that belief I execute erumot (the “-ot” ending in hebrew words indicates plurality). Within its Jewish framework, the Catholic Church has always understood this relationship between faith and faithfulness. The two are an inseparable and indistinguishable entity. The Church has never taught that only by our works can we ever attain salvific grace. She has, however, always taught that to possess the Grace of G-d we must then be faithful. And how do we prove we are faithful? Through erumot. If at any point in time you have heard otherwise about the Catholic Church, you’ve been deceived by unlearned, unstable, or stubborn individuals. The Council of Trent, which was held to theologically counteract and protect against the implications of the Protestant Reformation, spelled it out in the first two Canon laws of the council:

ON JUSTIFICATION

CANON I.-If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.

CANON II.-If any one saith, that the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, is given only for this, that man may be able more easily to live justly, and to merit eternal life, as if, by free will without grace, he were able to do both, though hardly indeed and with difficulty; let him be anathema.

St. James the Brother of our Lord and St. Paul the Apostle are two of the most Jewish authors of the New Testament. As such, they both understand this Jewish perspective on faith and faithful works. Lets read together,

Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. Romans 3:31

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. Galatians 5:6

Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead… Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made complete? (James 2:17, 21-22)

Erumah means faith. Faith means the coupling of belief and the good works that belief projects. So, there is no differentiation. Faith and faithful works are a mutualism. Going back to St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, lets use the Jewish framework of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches to better apply this scripture. It is by the grace of G-d through our faithfulness to Jesus Christ that we are saved. We are not saved through our own works apart from faith. We are saved through our faith which is made complete and alive by our faithful works.

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