Some Patristic Reflections on the Mission to the Jews
The ending of Acts is not about the final rejection of the Jewish people.[i] Some scholars who argue the 'wicked tenants' are the Jewish people and that the parable is about the vineyard being turned over to the Gentiles point to the ending of Acts as further evidence in support of their position. The usual approach of those who disagree is for them to cite biblical passages supporting the contrary position and the authors who hold such views. I am going to take a different tack and ask, what was the view of the early church fathers on the mission to the Jewish people?
According to Oskar Skarsaune, the Epistula Apostolorum’s version of the Great Commission “includes a special mission to Israel to restore it and equip the believers in Israel as witnesses among the Gentiles.” Skarsaune has also assembled evidence from Justin Martyr to demonstrate that the missionaries of the second century carried a mission to the Jews and a mission to the Gentiles. Justin makes a great effort to prove the Christian kergma using Old Testament texts recognized as authenic by Jews. This effort would be meaningless unless Justin also had a genuine desire to persuade Jewish readers. Justin also insisted that Christians continued to make intercessory prayers for the Jewish people. Congar and Kretschner have shown that there were few comparable intercessory prayers for the salvation of Gentiles in the same period. The Didascalia, a pastoral treatise composed in the third century, is even more positive than Justin concerning prayer for the Jews.
[i]. Jervell; R.L. Brawley, Luke-Acts and the Jews, (Atlanta Ga. 1987), 155; and Ravens, Luke and the Restoration of Israel, (Sheffield 1995), 255.