Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Christian Anti-Judaism

I'm posting here a book review that came out a while back, for the sake of making it accessible to friends from another blog where we have been talking about related matters. I have access to the review online because I'm on the network of the school where I teach, but people who aren't wouldn't be able to use that link. So I am cutting and pasting it since it is short. I'm assuming the Anglican Theological Review, where the review was published, will forgive me just this once (I'm now a reviewer of theirs, too -- my review of Kwok Pui-lan's new book recently came out there), and I thank the author of the review, New Testament scholar Deirdre Good, who blogs at On Not Being A Sausage and whose fine essay "Jesus' Family Values" appeared recently at The Episcopal Cafe.

Jesus, Judaism, and Christian Anti-Judaism: Reading the New Testament after the Holocaust - reviewed by Deirdre Good (Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2004)

Jesus, Judaism, and Christian Anti-Judaism: Reading the New Testament after the Holocaust. Edited by Paula Fredriksen and Adele Reinhartz. Louisville, Ky. and London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002. xi + 129 pp. $19.95 (paper).

Jesus, Judaism, and Christian Anti-Judaism contains five clearly written essays by outstanding Jewish and Christian scholars on the most pressing issue for Christians: how the New Testament is the source for Christian anti-Judaism.

Fredriksen's essay, "The Birth of Christianity and the Origins of Anti-Judaism," argues that as the identity and theology of certain types of Gentile Christianities develop in the second century, so too grows the use of demeaning views of Judaism to express that theology. Arguing how to read the Bible, these theologies serve to clarify self-identity over and against "Jews," that is, the Christian antitype.

E. P. Sanders's "Jesus, Ancient Judaism, and Modern Christianity: The Quest Continues" explains Jesus' own piety in its proper Jewish context, while John Gager argues in "Paul the Apostle of Judaism" against the widespread view that Paul was the father of Christian anti-Judaism, the author of rejection-replacement theology, who claimed that God has rejected his people Israel and replaced them with a new people, the Christians. This alternate reading makes sense of pro-Jewish passages in Paul's letters such as his insistence that God has not rejected his people (Rom. 11:1) or his statement that "all Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:26), noting that Paul says "will be saved" and not "will come to recognize Christ." Paul, in Gager’s reading, is not arguing that Jews should not observe the Torah, that it is ineffective as a means of salvation, or that God has rejected the Jews. Rather, he is arguing that God has now, through the faith of Jesus, provided another, law-free, path to salvation for Gentiles, who are now "grafted on" and joined with the Jewish people in God's economy of salvation.

In the fourth essay, "Matthew, Mark, and Luke: Good News or Bad?," Amy-Jill Levine indicates that historical-critical readings of biblical texts must acknowledge anti-Jewish and neutral or even pro-Jewish readings of the same texts. For Jews and Christians to read these passages together is probably the best way to undertake this painful but important task.

Finally, Adele Reinhartz's essay "The Gospel of John" shows how each of the gospel's three interrelated stories are suffused with anti-Judaism: a narrative about the historical Jesus; a story about the Johannine community for which this gospel was a central document; and a story about the universe that also explains God's relationship to humankind. Ancient attitudes embedded in these central stories need not be normative for Christians today.

Jesus, Judaism, and Christian Anti-Judaism provides an introduction for those unfamiliar with the topic. For others it offers new and important perspectives on Jesus, Paul, and the New Testament in general. It is intelligently written and compellingly argued. It will be among the required texts for my introductory New Testament course next spring. It should be read by all Christians and used profitably in church (and synagogue) study groups.


Also, here's a link (this one will work for everyone) to a recent Christian Century article by New Testament scholar Amy-Jill (A.J.) Levine, "Misusing Jesus: How the Church Divorces Jesus from Judaism." It looks much like the lecture we heard Professor Levine give here in Greensboro last fall when she was a guest of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The article is written for a Christian audience, but not necessarily a scholarly one. Have a look.

There has been a growing body of literature in this area since the 1960s. My mentors Krister Stendahl and Rosemary Radford Ruether have both been involved in this area of study -- and interestingly, both have been involved in scholarship (and action) re: women and Christianity, too, and both have noted that women and Jews have functioned as "the other" in Christianity in similar and sometimes interrelated ways.

You can find solid, user-friendly resources on reading the Bible, Christian views of Jews and Judaism, the death of Jesus, and related matters in Christian-Jewish relations, at the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College.

This is a huge issue, and with all kinds of liturgical- and violence-related ramifications, as Padre Mickey and I agreed on either his blog or mine (must look it up) during Holy Week and the early Easter season. So this is just a small resource, but one among many. Fortunately since Vatican II these resources have been more and more numerous, and there has been much thoughtful, if often painful, study and conversation about this. May it continue.


pj said...

Whoops. Apologies for not scrolling down and thus commenting in the right place!

Thank you for this.

Jane R said...

Ditto. I commented back to you above!

pj said...

Oh my goodness. You're prolific and famous. I'm intimidated. And I don't think you're "pseud" at all. ;)

Jane R said...

Ach, don't be intimidated. I'm not that famous -- and since I am a lowly Assistant Professor in a new career in formal professorial academe I have to be a little baby junior faculty subject to all manner of slightly (I'm being diplomatic, this being a public forum) infantilizing scrutiny (as one is also during doctoral study and in the Episcopal pre-ordination process) so I'm not feeling particularly Big Time these days, though blogging helps since it's a form of public engagement and [self-]publication and I miss being published when I don't do it -- and I haven't published much the last couple of years. Plus I don't fit anyone's categories so it's always harder to make a name for oneself in that case. Anyway, we're all sisters and brothers. I assure you that I am mostly small potatoes, though I sometimes wish these days that I were a bigger potato. No wait, that's the wrong analogy, I'm trying to LOSE the Ph.D. pounds. Off to the gym I go. Nothing pseud about middle-age flab. :-b