November 11, 2013

THIS ANTI- THING IS A ONE WAY STREET:

Why Jews Should Not Accept Jesus -- Whatever George W. Bush Thinks : 'Messianic Jews' Is Marketing Jingle -- Not True Faith (David Wolpe, 11/11/13, Forward)

The chronicle of Christian anti-Semitism is one of the most gruesome, disheartening chapters in the human story. Even the most abominable tragedy, the systematic slaughter of millions in World War II, the Holocaust, cannot be entirely separated from centuries of Christian teachings of the abjectness of the Jew. As the theologian Elieser Berkowitz put it, the Nazis who killed Jews may not have been Christians, but they were all the sons and daughters of Christians.

Although many faiths, including some Roman mystery religions, spoke of a man/god, Judaism sought to keep clear the boundaries between the human and the divine. The blurring was taken to be the sign of betrayal of the tradition. To this day, believing in a man who was God is a bright dividing line and a reason, as discussed below, to say one is a "Jew for Jesus" is self-contradiction.

Jesus did place great emphasis on internal spirituality. This was not because he was more spiritually advanced, but because society was more advanced materially. Moses had to set up a system of civil and criminal law. In the desert there were no courts. Jesus was born in Rome, with the most advanced civil society of the time. He did not need to discuss external procedures, either religious or civil. They were taken care of by Roman law and the developed Jewish law. The only religious discourse left was that of feeling and the emphasis on love (which exists plentifully in Judaism as well) is far easier when you need not pronounce on legal penalties or social arrangements.

In this sense, Islam bears a closer kinship to Judaism; it, too, is a religion of law, necessitated by Muhammad's melding desert tribes into a religious community, much in the manner of Moses. Hence, as Moses Montefiore said of Jesus, "Public justice is outside his purview."

The idea that one can be saved only through Jesus is contrary to simple compassion and justice. Judaism teaches that "the righteous of all nations have a share in the world to come." Maimonides writes in a letter that there are non-Jews who "bring their souls to perfection." That is the simple truth that all faiths should acknowledge and celebrate. Otherwise, there can be no kinship. As Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote about attempts to convert the Jews: "How can we take seriously a friendship that is conditioned ultimately on the hope and expectation that the Jew will disappear? How would a Christian feel if we Jews were engaged in an effort to bring about the liquidation of Christianity?"

What is so bothersome about the group that President Bush has chosen to address is that to speak of "Jews for Jesus" makes as much sense as saying "Christians for Muhammad." A Jew who accepts Jesus has cut himself off from the faith community of Jews, and that has been so for 2,000 years. When the first Christians left the Jewish community, and all the billions of Christians who followed recognized that their belief in Jesus made them a distinct religion, were they all deluded? Only today people have realized that division was a mistake after all? The sudden rise of 'Messianic Jews' owes more to a clever way of misleading untutored Jews than to making theological sense. It should not receive the imprimatur of a former President of the United States.

Moreover, that Christians argue with the Jewish community about the legitimacy of "Jews for Jesus" is presumption of a high order. I would not presume to tell Christians who is a Christian and emphatically reject the idea that the Christian community can tell me who qualifies as a Jew.

Many Jewish thinkers have seen Jesus as they have seen Muhammad, as God's instrument to advance monotheism in the world. Franz Rosenzweig spoke of Judaism as the sun -- that is the source -- and Christianity as the rays of the sun -- that which spreads monotheism to the world. The greatest Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, of the Middle Ages saw Islam and Christianity as the preparation for God's eventual Kingdom.

Jesus exercises a powerful historical fascination. He was without doubt a profound and enigmatic personality. Nonetheless, he remains for many Jews a man whose wisdom and wit place him among the great teachers of humanity, but neither a messiah nor a god.

The curious thing about the offense taken at the very idea of W addressing this group is that in disposing of the possibility that Jesus was God, folks like Mr. Wolpe are also disposing of the possibility of salvation for gentiles.  Christian thinkers and even Christophilic Jewish thinkers have sought to reconcile Jews and Christians by arguing that, while the Jews are already a chosen people and, therefore, didn't need Christ, we gentiles did need Him--"Christianity is Judaism for the Gentiles."  Whatever else one may think about this formulation, there is obviously nothing anti-Semitic in it. Indeed, it accepts the legitimacy and fundamental truth of Judaism.

On the other hand, Mr. Wolpe's argument is literally anti-Christian.  

Fortunately, we take no offense.



Posted by at November 11, 2013 6:40 PM
  

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