What did the Jews give to the World?
"The Jews Gave Us God"

Our Father - Our King

start you.tube

A Prayer
Avinu Malkenu

אבינו מלכנו

English Articles
July 7, 2010

"One cannot understand the Christian religion if one is not instructed in that of the Jews, whose faith is its pattern"
[Richard Simon]

Jewish-Christian Relations

(Brief History)

Norman Solomon

Hosted by robt.shepherd

Norman Solomon

Throughout its existence the Christian religion has been indissolubly linked with Judaism and the Hebrew Scriptures, of which it has considered itself the "fulfillment." [See good book] Jesus, central in Christian self-understanding, was Jewish. [See Jesus the Jew, Reference Geza Vermes. The Religion of Jesus the Jew], as were his twelve disciples.

Christian-Jewish relations can be divided, roughly speaking, into five phases. The earliest of these is that of the parting of the ways, when Christianity crystallized out of the matrix of first-century Judaism. [See Judaic roots.] Paul, leader of the universalist Christian group which opposed the "Jewish-Christians" led by Jesus' brother James (Acts of the Apostles 15) was himself Jewish and was deeply troubled by the chasm he had opened up between Jew and Gentile. (Epistle to the Romans 9-11). It is during this period that the teaching of contempt developed. [See Jules Isaac. The Teaching of Contempt: Christian Roots of Anti-Semitism)

The second phase began with the edict of Milan issued by Constantine and Licinius in 313, affording civil rights and toleration to Christians throughout the Roman Empire, and with Constantine's 324 Edict making Christianity a state religion. Jews had been granted Roman citizenship in 212, but the empowerment of Christians led speedily to Jews being stripped of religious freedom and civil rights; already in 315 Constantine banned conversion to Judaism, in 339 Constantius forbade Jews to marry Christian women and summarily dissolved existing marriages, while in 439 Theodosius issued a decree prohibiting Jews from holding public office and from building new synagogues. Jews were constantly maligned in Christian preaching and teaching, socially and politically marginalized, and occasionally subjected to forcible conversions notwithstanding the official view, expressed by Pope Gregory I in 591, that conversion had to be voluntary. Despite this, a modus vivendi was achieved under which autonomous Jewish communities, under special protection of lay or ecclesiastical power, were able to survive provied they kept their head low, which most perforce did.

The third phase was that of the violent and persecuting society which developed when the medieval papacy reached the height of its power. Jews of the Rhineland were butchered in the First Crusade in 1096; in Norwich, England, the "blood libel," or accusation that the Jews killed a Christian child to use his blood for the Passover, was first made (scholars have linked this with the growing emphasis on the doctrine of transubstantiation); Pope Gregory IX in 1231 instituted the Inquisition (not primarily directed against Jews but eventually used against Conversos) for the apprehension and trial of heretics; the Talmud was condemned and burned in Paris in 1240; the first of many expulsions of Jews was put into effect by Edward I of England in 1290. Short of actual forced baptisms, which were forbidden by the Church, all means of "persuasion" were brought to bear on Jews to convert, particularly a the instigation of the new Franciscan and Dominican orders; they were, for instance, compelled to attend sermons -- that Jews were forbidden to stuff their ears to avoid hearing the sermons is evidence that they did so. Forced disputations took place, in which Jews were challenged to defend their faith or else convert. The ghetto was not imposed until after this period, but several measures -- including the yellow badge introduced by the "profoundly humane" Pope Innocent III at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 -- served to set Jews apart from the Christians among whom they lived, and to degrade them. They were forbidden to own land, and with the rise of the merchant and craft guilds were squeezed out of virtually all "normal" occupations. Incredibly, many of the greatest spiritual and intellectual creations of Judaism date from this period.

The third phase spills untidily into the fourth, that of the Reformation and the Catholic Reaction. The intemperate Protestant "Great Reformer" Martin Luther (1483-1546) entertained vain hopes that his purification of the Church from its abuses would make it attractive to Jews; he valued Hebrew scholarship and in 1523 published a tract, That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, in which he called for more humane treatment of Jews. Whether out of theological pique at the failure of this ploy to attract Jewish converts, or out of annoyance at lack of Jewish financial support, he flipped and late in his life, in 1543, published On the Jews and Their Lies, one of the most vitriolic anti-Semitic diatribes ever composed and a major inspiration for Nazi atrocities; it was formally repudiated by the Lutheran Church only in August 1984, in Budapest, when they finally grasped what it had led to.

The Catholic Reaction was little better; the Talmud was burned in Venice and Rome in 1553, and Pope Paul IV shortly after his accession two years later had 24 Conversos burned at the stake and instituted the Roman ghetto. Both Catholics and Protestants accused each other of "Judaizing" and indeed hated each other with as much venom as each hated the Jews. The unexpected consequence of their bitter religious conflict, allied to the secularizing and humanistic tendencies of the age, was the genesis of the Enlightenment concepts of freedom of conscience, religious toleration, and the separation of Church and State, which eventually and after many painful reverses enabled Jews to take their place as equal citizens in most of Western Europe. At the strictly theological level, however, the stereotypes and animosities persisted.

The fifth phase, in which radical theological change has taken place, is rooted in the Enlightenment, with its combination of cultural relativism and doctrinal skepticism and the new biblical studies that have undermined biblical literalism, brought new understanding of the Jewishness of Jesus, and demonstrated the falsity of traditional Christian stereotypes of Jews and Judaism. The trend was sharpened as a result of Christian reflection on the holocaust and the realization of the extent to which it was enabled by persistent Christian stereotyping of Jews and implemented by confessing Christians. The World Council of Churches, at its first General Assembly (Amsterdam 1948), condemned antisemitism as "irreconcilable with the Christian faith . . . a sin against God and man"; at Sigtuna, Sweden, in 1988, its Committee on the Church and the Jewish People claimed wide agreement that

  1. God's covenant with the Jewish people remains valid,
  2. antisemitism is to be repudiated,
  3. the living tradition of Judaism is a gift of God,
  4. coercive proselytism is incompatible with Christian faith,
  5. Jews and Christians share responsibility as witnesses to God's justice and peace.

See Allan Brockway. The Theology of the Churches and the Jewish People.

The Roman Catholic Church addressed the issue of relationships with Jews and Judaism in 1965 at the Second Vatican Council (Nostra Aetate, Note 4) and has progressively articulated its position in a series of documents, papal statements, and educational initiatives.

Before Christianity

Judaism is the oldest of the monotheistic faiths. It affirms the existence of one God, [ADONAI], who entered into convenant with the descendants of Abraham, God's chosen people. Judaism's holy writings reveal how God has been present with them throughout their history. These writings are known as the Torah, specifically the five books of Moses, but most broadly conceived as the Hebrew Scriptures (called Old Testament by Christians) and the compilation of oral tradition known as the Talmuc (which includes the Mishnah, the oral law). See the good book

According to Scripture, the Hebrew patriarch Abraham (20th century? BCE) founded Judaism. He obeyed the call of God to depart northern Mesopotamia nd travel to Canaan. God promised to bless his descendants if they remained faithful in worship. Abraham's line descended through Isaac, then Jacob (also called Israel; his descendants came to be called Israelites). According to Scripture, twelve families that descended from Jacob migrated to Egypt, where they were enslaved. They were led out of bondage (13th century? BCE) by Moses, who united them in the worship of [ADONAI]. The Hebrews returned to Canaan after a 40-year sojourn in the desert, conquering from the local peoples the "promised land" that God had provided for them.

The twelve tribes of Israel lived in a covenant association during the period of the judges (1200? - 1000? BCE), leaders known for wisdom or heroism. Saul established a monarchy (reigned 1025? - 1015? BCE); his successor, David (reigned 1005? - 965" BCE) unified the land of Israel and made Jerusalem its religious and political center. Under his son, Solomon (reigned 968? - 928? BCE), a golden era culminated in the building of the Temple, replacing the portabld sanctuary in use until that time. Following Solomon's death, the kingdom was split into Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Political conflicts resulted in the conquest of Israel by Assyria (721 BCE) and the defeat of Judah by Babylon (586 BCE). Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, and many Judeans were exiled to Babylon.

During the era of the kings, the prophets were active in Israel and Judah. Their writings emphasize faith in [ADONAI] as God of Israel and of the entire universe, and they warn of the dangers of worshiping other gods. They also cry out for social justice.

The Judeans were permitted to return in 539 BCE to Judea, where they were ruled as a Persian province. Though temple and cult were restored in Jerusalem, during the exile a new class of religious leaders had emerged -- the scribes. They became rivals to the temple hierarchy and would eventually evolve into the party known as the Pharisees.

Persian rule ended when Alexander the Great conquered Palestine in 332 BCE. After his death, rule of Judea alternated between Egypt and Syria. When the Syrian ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes tried to prevent the practice of Judaism, a revolt was led by the Maccabees (sons of Mattithias of Modin), winning Jewish independence in 128 BCE. The Romans conquered Jerusalem in 63 BCE.

During this period the Sadducees (temple priests) and the Pharisees (teachers of the law in the synagogues) offered different interpretations of Judaism. Smaller groups that emerged were the Essenes, a religious order; the Apocalyptists, who expected divine deliverance by the Messiah; and the Zealots, who were prepared tof ight for national independence. Hellenism also influenced Judaism at this time.

When the Zealots revolted, the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and its temple (CE 70). The Jews were scattered in the Diaspora (dispersion) and experienced much persecution. Rabbinic practice developed according to Pharisaic practice and cwentered on Torah and synagogue, became the primary expression of faith. The Scriptures became codified, and the Talmud took shape. In the 12th century Maimonides formulated the influential 13 Articles of Faith, including belief in God, God's oneness and lack of physical or other form, the changelessness of Torah, restoration of the monarchy under the Messiah, and resurrection from the dead.

Two branches of European Judaism developed during the Middle Ages: the Sephardic, based in Spain and with an affinity to Babylonian Jews; and the Ashkenazic, based in Franco-German lands and affiliated with Roman and Palestine. Two forms of Jewish mysticism also arose at this time: medieval Hasidism and attention to the Kabbalah (a mystical interpretation of Scripture).

After a respite during the 18th-century Enlightenment, anti-Semitism again plagued European Jews in the 19th century, sparking the Zionist movement that culminated in the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. The Holocaust of World War II took the lives of more than 6 million Jews.

There are today more Jews in the United States than anywhere else in the world, even surpassing Israel. As ever, Jews embrace an almost incomprehensible breadth of diversity. Because Torah assumes belief in God but does not require it, a strong secular movement exists within Judaism, including atheist and agnostic elements.

Full Circle?
An irony of Judaism is that in ancient times their religion was actually regarded by other nations as ATHEISM. After all, a God you cannot touch or carry, see or handle, what kind of a God is that? The Jewish God was strictly invisible. You did not make Him, HE made you. Vespasian, defending the Roman suppression of the Jewish revolt of 70 AD (in which the Second Temple was destroyed, Tisha b'Av) pointed out the essential atheism of Judaism, for its Temple contained no visible god. Thus, Vespasian justified his actions as a defeat of atheism. [In Latin superstitio]

Friedrich Nietzsche

Speaking about the origin of Christianity, Nietzsche writes: The first thing necessary to [the solution of this problem] is this: that Christianity is to be understood only by examining the soil from which it sprung -- it is not a reaction against Jewish instincts; it is their inevitable product; it is simply one more step in the awe-inspiring logic of the Jews. In the words of the Redeemer, "salvation is of the Jews." [from The Antichrist, Part 2. § 24]

The Apostle Paul admonished the Gentiles not to boast themselves against the Jews. For you Gentiles were
grafted in. The Jews are God's true olive tree. "But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee."

[Epistle to Romans, Chapter 11]

Do we proselytize Jews?

Then We Got It All Backwards and Upside Down

Judaism is the mother of the Christian faith

Abraham Joshua Heschel writes:

Mission to the Jews

The mission to the Jews is a call to betray . . . the sacred history of their people. Very few Christians seem to comprehend what is morally and spiritually involved in supporting such activities. We are Jews as we are men. The alternative to our existence as Jews is spiritual suicide, extinction. It is not a change into something else. Judaism has allies but no substitutes.

The wonder of Israel, the marvel of Jewish existence, the survival of holiness in the history of the Jews, is a continuous verification of the marvel of the Bible. Revelation to Israel continues as a revelation through Israel.

The Protestant pastor, Christian Furchtegott Gellert, was asked by Frederick the Great, "Herr Professor, give me proof of the Bible, but briefly, for I have little time." Gellert answered, "Your Majesty, the Jews."

Indeed, is not the existence of the Jews a witness to the God of Abraham ? Is not our loyalty to the law of Moses a light that continues to illumine the lives of those who observe it as well as the lives of those who are aware of it ?

Gustave Weigel spent the last evening of his life in my study at the Jewish Theological Seminary. We opened our hearts to one another in prayer and contrition and spoke of our own deficiencies, failures, hopes. At one moment I posed the question : Is it really the will of God that there be no more Judaism in the world ? Would it really be the triumph of God if the scrolls of the Torah would no more be taken out of the Ark and the Torah no more read in the Synagogue, our ancient Hebrew prayers in which Jesus himself worshipped no more recited, the Passover Seder no more celebrated in our lives, the law of Moses no more observed in our homes ? Would it really be ad Majorem Dei gloriam to have a world without Jews ?

"No Religion Is an Island" 1966.

Jew and Christian

The problem to be faced is: how to combine loyalty to one's own tradition with reverence for different traditions? How is mutual esteem between Christian and Jew possible ?

A Christian ought to ponder seriously the tremendous implications of a process begun in early Christian history. I mean the conscious or unconscious dejudaization of Christianity, affecting the Church's way of thinking, its inner life as well as its relationship to the past and present reality of Israel - the father and mother of the very being of Christianity. The children did not arise to call the mother blessed; instead, they called the mother blind. Some theologians continue to act as if they did not know the meaning of "honor your father and mother"; others, anxious to prove the superiority of the church, speak as if they suffered from a spiritual Oedipus complex.

A Christian ought to realize that a world without Israel will be a world without the God of Israel.

"No Religion Is an Island" 1966.

Bob Shepherd

As a Christian

I am not sure it is even right to seek to convert one of the children of Abraham to Christianity. I pray for the flourishing of the Jews, but I pray for them as Jews (not as potential Christians). I do not believe Jews need to be "saved" in the same way Gentiles need to be. The promises of God to the Jews are irrevocable, and they are without recall. True, Jews have suffered greatly, through history. But they have suffered more (than other nations) because God loves them more. Israel is His son, and as his son, has been chastened and corrected. But the glory awaiting them will also be greater. Remember, Jesus was fully Jewish and "only sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel." Jesus said Salvation is of the Jews. Both Christianity (and Islam too) are daughter religions which have sprung from Judaism. We are thus, indirectly and to some extent directly, the children of Father Abraham -- along with the Jews.

the Olive Tree

Some Links

Speckled bird - The Jews were 'supposed' to be chosen as a holy nation and a royal priesthood, but instead they became history's favorite scapegoat (or handy victim).

People of the Book - We got the Bible from the Jews. The story of the good book and the people defined by it and identified with it.

Leshon ha-kodesh - the holy tongue. Hebrew is the language of Abraham, Moses, David, the language of the Bible -- and of the biblical people 'Israel' -- the Jews.

Hatred in America - home-grown hate in America: for white supremacists hatred is an integral part of life.

Bible-thumping heartland - the hebraic flavor of much of America's brush arbor and hush arbor gospel heritage.

Aserat ha-dibrot - when Moses received the TEN WORDS on Mount Sinai, a covenant was sealed between God and Israel.

Christianity's Jewish Roots - the primordial church was Shemitic and Hebraic.

Simcha : Joy - one of the most basic themes of Judaism, its rites and festive times

God with us - the holy spirit (related to Shekinah idea) goes with Israel in exile and suffering

Jesus the Jew - brief bibliography of views. Jesus was first and formost a Jew among Jews.

Moses Prince of Egypt - Bruce Feiler calls him "America's Prophet" (for his influence on American history and values)

Ponim al Ponim (face-to-face) - Yom Kippur and the 10 Days of Awe

Judaism in history - living in time and universe (a history of a people)

The Third Temple and the Sacrifice - practical expectation or mystical symbolism

Spinoza | Christian Bigotry | The American Moses | Noah Feldman | America's lustre | Crusader Zeal | Erasmus | Liberals | God's poor are rich

Robert Shepherd
friend me (facebook)