People of God

Last updated

People of God (Hebrew : עם האלהים) is a term used in the Hebrew Bible to refer to the Israelites and used in Christianity to refer to Christians.


In the Bible

Hebrew Bible and Old Testament

In the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament, the Israelites are referred to as "the people of God" in Judges 20:2 and 2 Samuel 14:13. The phrases "the people of the Lord" [1] and "the people of the Lord your God" are also used. [2] In those texts God is also represented as speaking of the Israelites as "my people". [3] The people of God was a term first used by God in the Book of Exodus, which carried stipulation in this covenant between man and God ( Exodus 6:7 ).

New Testament

In the New Testament, the expression "people of God" is found in Hebrews 4:9 and 11:25, and the expression "his people" (that is, God's people) appears in Revelation 21:3. 2 Corinthians 6:16 mentions the same promises to the New Testament believer "I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people", which is a parallel to Ezekiel 37:27 .

Romans 9:25-26 , also quotes/refers to Hosea 1:10 and Hosea 2:23 .

As He says also in Hosea: "I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved." "And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' There they shall be called sons of the living God."


Continued use of the expression "people of God" (in Latin, populus Dei) in the writings of the Church Fathers are found in Augustine's De civitate Dei [4] and Pope Leo I's Lenten Sermon. [5] Its use continued up to and including Pope John XXIII's apostolic letter Singulari studio [6] of 1 July 1960, two years before the Second Vatican Council.

In Gaelic, Latin populus Dei became pobal Dé and has continued for centuries to be an expression in everyday use for the Church in a parish, a diocese or the world. [7] [8]

Catholic Church

Second Vatican Council

The phrase has been given greater prominence within the Catholic Church because of its employment in documents of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965).[ citation needed ]

The dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium devoted its chapter II to "the new People of God", "a people made up of Jew and gentile", called together by Christ (section 9). It spoke of "the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh" as among those who "are related in various ways to the people of God" (section 16). It described in detail the qualities of this People of God in words "intended for the laity, religious and clergy alike" (section 30), while also pointing out the specific duties and functions of the different ranks of which it is composed, such as that of "those who exercise the sacred ministry for the good of their brethren" (section 13).

In 2001, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was to become Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, stated that the council's choice of this term reflected three perspectives. The principal one was to introduce a term that could serve as an ecumenical bridge, recognizing intermediate degrees of belonging to the church. Another was to put more in evidence the human element in the church, which is also part of her nature. And the third was to recall that the church has not yet reached her final state and that she "will not be wholly herself until the paths of time have been traversed and have blossomed in the hands of God". [9]

Ratzinger also declared that the term is not to be understood in way that would reduce it "to an a-theological and purely sociological view" of the church. [10] Michael Hesemann wrote:

After the Council, the expression was taken up enthusiastically, but in a way that neither Ratzinger nor the Council Fathers had intended. Suddenly it became a slogan: "We are the People!" The idea of a "Church from below" developed; its proponents wanted to engage in polemics against those who held office and o carry out their agenda by democratic majority vote. Although the theological, biblical concept of people was still the idea of a natural hierarchy, of a great family, suddenly it was reinterpreted in a Marxist sense, in which "people" is always considered the antithesis to the ruling classes. The centre of the Christian faith, however, can only be God's revelation, which cannot be put to a ballot. Church is being called by God. Joseph Ratzinger said: 'The crisis concerning the Church, as it is reflected in the crisis concerning the concept "People of God", is a "crisis about God"; it is the result of leaving out what is most essential. [11]

While the council distinguished between the Jewish people and "the new People of God", Carl E. Braaten has said that, being somewhat analogous to the expression "chosen people", the term "People of God" suggests a persisting trend of supersessionism in the church, and that the expression "People of God" implying that the church is the same people as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Hebrew Bible. [12] [ verification needed ][ page needed ]

Since the Second Vatican Council

Pope Paul VI used the phrase with regard to his profession of faith known as the Credo of the People of God. Pope John Paul II used it in his catechetical instructions, teaching that the church is the new people of God. [13] Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of "the Church, the people of God throughout the world, united in faith and love and empowered by the Spirit to bear witness to the risen Christ to the ends of the earth". [14] On 20 August 2018, Pope Francis released a letter, addressed to the "People of God", in response to recent revelations of sexual abuse cases within the Church, quoting St. Paul: "If one member suffers, all suffer together with it" (1 Corinthians 12:26). [15]

The concluding messages of each General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops are addressed to "the People of God." [16]


The Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes a section to describing the church with this phrase, [17] and indicates the characteristics of the people of God "that distinguish it from all other religious, ethnic, political, or cultural groups found in history", so that it does not belong to any one of these groups. Membership in the people of God, it says, comes not by physical birth but by faith in Christ and baptism.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

Book of Hosea Book of the Hebrew Bible

The Book of Hosea is collected as one of the twelve minor prophets of the Nevi'im ("Prophets") in the Hebrew Bible, and as a book in its own right in the Christian Old Testament. According to the traditional order of most Hebrew Bibles, it is the first of the Twelve.

Old Testament First division of Christian Bibles

The Old Testament is the first division of the Christian biblical canon, which is based primarily upon the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh, a collection of ancient religious Hebrew writings by the Israelites. The second division of Christian Bibles is the New Testament, written in the Koine Greek language.

Neviim Second major division of the Hebrew Bible

Nevi'im is the second major division of the Hebrew Bible, between the Torah (instruction) and Ketuvim (writings). The Nevi'im are divided into two groups. The Former Prophets consists of the narrative books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings; while the Latter Prophets include the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve Minor Prophets.

Theophany Appearance of a deity in an observable way

Theophany is a personal encounter with a deity, that is an event where the manifestation of a deity occurs in an observable way. Specifically, it "refers to the temporal and spatial manifestation of God in some tangible form."

New Covenant Biblical interpretation

The New Covenant is a biblical interpretation which was originally derived from a phrase which is contained in the Book of Jeremiah, in the Hebrew Bible.

Covenant (biblical) Religious covenants described in the Bible

The Hebrew Bible makes reference to a number of covenants with God (YHWH). These include the Noahic Covenant, which is between God and all living creatures, as well as a number of more specific covenants with Abraham, the whole Israelite people, the Israelite priesthood, and the Davidic lineage of kings. In form and terminology, these covenants echo the kinds of treaty agreements in the surrounding ancient world.

Theology of Pope Benedict XVI

The theology of Pope Benedict XVI, as promulgated during his pontificate, consists mainly of three encyclical letters on love (2005), hope (2007), and "charity in truth" (2009), as well as apostolic documents and various speeches and interviews. Benedict's theology underwent developments over the years, many of which were characterized by his leadership position in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is entrusted with preserving the Catholic faith in its entirety.

Black Hebrew Israelites are groups of African Americans who believe that they are the descendants of the ancient Israelites. Some sub-groups believe that also Native and Latin Americans are descendants of the Israelites as well. Black Hebrew Israelites combine elements to their teaching from a wide range of sources: to varying degrees, Black Hebrew Israelites incorporate certain aspects of the religious beliefs and practices of both Christianity and Judaism, though they have created their own interpretation of the Bible, and other influences include Freemasonry and New Thought, for example. Many choose to identify as Hebrew Israelites or Black Hebrews rather than Jews in order to indicate their claimed historic connections.

Bible prophecy

Bible prophecy or biblical prophecy comprises the passages of the Bible that are claimed to reflect communications from God to humans through prophets. Jews and Christians usually consider the biblical prophets to have received revelations from God.

Angel of the Lord Entity repeatedly mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament

The angel of the LORD is an entity appearing repeatedly in the Tanakh on behalf of the God of Israel.

Paschal mystery Central concept of the Catholic faith

The Paschal mystery is one of the central concepts of Catholic faith relating to the history of salvation. According to the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "The Paschal Mystery of Jesus, which comprises his passion, death, resurrection, and glorification, stands at the center of the Christian faith because God's saving plan was accomplished once for all by the redemptive death of himself as Jesus Christ." The Catechism states that in the liturgy of the Church "it is principally his own Paschal mystery that Christ signifies and makes present."

The New Testament frequently cites Jewish scripture to support the claim of the Early Christians that Jesus was the promised Jewish Messiah, but few of these citations are actual predictions in their original context. The majority of these quotations and references are taken from the Book of Isaiah, but they range over the entire corpus of Jewish writings.

The remnant is a recurring theme throughout the Hebrew and Christian Bible. The Anchor Bible Dictionary describes it as "What is left of a community after it undergoes a catastrophe". The concept has stronger representation in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament than in the Christian New Testament.

Prophets of Christianity Wikimedia list article

In Christianity, the figures widely recognised as prophets are those mentioned as such in the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is believed that prophets are chosen and called by God.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image One of the Ten Commandments

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" is an abbreviated form of one of the Ten Commandments which, according to the Book of Deuteronomy, were spoken by God to the Israelites and then written on stone tablets by the Finger of God. It continues, "..any graven image, or any likeness [of any thing] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them."

The Bible and violence The Bible and violence

The Hebrew Bible and the New Testament both contain narratives, poems, and instructions which describe, encourage, command, condemn, reward, punish and regulate violent actions by God, individuals, groups, governments, and nation-states. Among the violent acts included are war, human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, murder, rape, genocide, and criminal punishment. The texts have a history of interpretation within the Abrahamic religions and Western culture that includes both justification of and opposition to acts of violence.

Land of Israel Area of indefinite geographical extension in the Southern Levant

The Land of Israel is the traditional Jewish name for an area of the Southern Levant. Related biblical, religious and historical English terms include the Land of Canaan, the Promised Land, the Holy Land, and Palestine. The definitions of the limits of this territory vary between passages in the Hebrew Bible, with specific mentions in Genesis 15, Exodus 23, Numbers 34 and Ezekiel 47. Nine times elsewhere in the Bible, the settled land is referred as "from Dan to Beersheba", and three times it is referred as "from the entrance of Hamath unto the brook of Egypt".

Rape in the Hebrew Bible Sexual violence in the Hebrew Bible

The Hebrew Bible contains a number of references to rape and other forms of sexual violence, both in the Law of Moses, its historical narratives and its prophetic poetry.

Hosea 3

Hosea 3 is the third chapter of the Book of Hosea in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. This book contains the prophecies attributed to the prophet Hosea son of Beeri and this chapter is about the symbol of Israel's condition in their present dispersion, subsequent to their return from Babylon. It is a part of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets.

Hosea 13 Chapter 13 of the Book of Hosea

Hosea 13 is the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Hosea in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. The book contains the prophecies attributed to the prophet Hosea son of Beeri. This chapter and the next one may belong to the troubled times that followed Pekah's murder by Hoshea. The subject is the idolatry of Ephraim, notwithstanding God's past benefits, destined to be his ruin. It is a part of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets.


  1. Numbers 16:41; Judges 5:11, 5:13; 1 Samuel 2:24, 10:1; 2 Samuel 1:12, 6:21; 2 Kings 9:6; Ezekiel 36:20; Zephaniah 2:10
  2. Deuteronomy 27:9
  3. Exodus 3:7, 3:10, 5:1, 6:7, 7:4, 7:16, 8:1, 8:20–23, 9:1, 9:17, 10:3–4, 12:31, 22:25; Leviticus 26:12; 1 Samuel 2:29, 9:16–17, 2 Samuel 3:18, 5:2, 7:7–11; 1 Kings 6:13, 8:16, 14:7, 16:2; 2 Kings 20:5; 1 Chronicles 11:2, 17:6–10; 2 Chronicles 1:11, 6:5–6, 7:13–14; Psalms 50:7, 81:8–13; Isaiah 1:3, 3:15, 10:24, 40:1, 47:6, 51:4, 52:4–6, 58:1, 63:8, 65:10, 65:19, 65:22; Jeremiah 2:11–13, 2:31–32, 4:11, 4:22, 5:26, and over 30 other verses of the Book of Jeremiah; Ezekiel 11:20, 13:9–10, 13:19–23, 13:19–23, 14:8–11, 21:12, and at least another 15 verses of the Book of Ezekiel; Hosea 4:6–12, 6:11, 11:7; Joel 2:26–27, 3:2–3; Amos 7:8, 7:15, 8:2, 9:10, 9:14; Obadiah 1:13; Zechariah 2:8–11, 8:7–8, 13:9
  4. De civitate Dei 19:26
  5. Lenten Sermon 50:2
  6. Singulari studio
  7. "Parish as Pobal Dé" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 11 May 2009.
  8. A poem in an eighteenth-century manuscript begins with Is fairsing dealbh pobal Dé ("Extensive is the aspect of the people of God").
  9. The Ecclesiology of Vatican II
  10. Church as "Mystery" or "People of God"
  11. Georg Ratzinger, My Brother, the Pope. As told to Michael Hesemann (Ignatius Press 2011 ISBN   978-1-58617-704-1), p. 202
  12. Jews and Christians : People of God, Carl E. Braaten
  13. "The Church Is the New People of God. General Audience at November 6, 1991". Archived from the original on 20 October 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  14. Farewell ceremony at Sydney airport, 21 July 2008
  15. Letter of His Holiness to the People of God, 20 August 2018
  16. For example, Message of the October 2008 assembly
  17. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 781-786