Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jews and Anti-Judaism 1

I have a book review to write on Terence Donaldson's, Jews and Anti-Judaism in the New Testament: Decision Points and Divergent Interpretations.  I read the first chapter yesterday and found it a delight.  What a great presentation of the lay of the scholarly land!  I'm also writing on related issues in Hebrews this week so the convergence is a great serendipity for me.

Chapter 1 is the Introduction, which gives the back discussion on the question of antisemitism and the New Testament.  The issue became very pertinent after WW1, especially with Jules Isaac's book Jesus and Israel.  Isaac had written much of the material on the run from Nazis.  His wife and daughter died in concentration camps.

Isaac was not attacking Christian faith per se, but could legitimately point out that the Nazi perspective on the Jews grew easily from a centuries old tradition that was a Christian tradition.  It included a scholarly and popular climate that painted Judaism as degenerate at the time of Christ, assigned collective guilt to the Jewish people for Christ's death, and considered the dispersion of the Jews a divine punishment for their crime.

The chapter cites other scholars who pursued the issue and some of the helpful distinctions that followed the later discussion.  These included Gregory Baum, who initially put early Christian polemic in the category of denunciations of Israel carried out by the prophets... thus not anti-Semitic.  Rosemary Ruether by contrast argued that there was no way to rid Christianity of anti-Judaism because its view of Christ demands a polemical interpretation of the Jewish Scriptures.  James Parkes argued that it was not until after the war with Rome in AD66 that there ensued a "parting of the ways" (10).

The rest of the chapter is its brilliance.  Donaldson carefully and insightfully divides the issue into its parts.  He does not at this point so much give answers as present the discussion and its options.

Is the New Testament anti-semitic?
Because Christianity became overwhelmingly Gentile, we have to at least address this issue in the use of New Testament texts, but many have argued that it doesn't make much sense to say that documents themselves, since they were written by Jews, were anti-Jew.  Edward Flannery, for example, sees anti-Judaism as different from anti-semitism, as theological.  "It rejects Judaism as a way of salvation but not the Jews as a people" (14).

Is the New Testament anti-Judaic?
Or does it fall more in the category of the prophets or a sect like at Qumran?  Douglas Hare identifies three types of anti-Judaism (what follows are my words): 1) prophetic, 2) sectarian, and 3) outsider.  The prophets were clearly not anti-semitic or anti-Israel.  They were trying to correct it.  The Qumran sect was anti-the rest of Judaism, but were still Jews arguing for the right form of Judaism.  In the second century then, with the outsider comments of Gentile Christians like Ignatius and Justin Martyr, we probably have hit a form of anti-Judaism proper.

Thus Donaldson concludes that the term anti-Judaism would fit the last type but not the first type (into which category Hare put Jesus and John the Baptist).  Whether the second type fits the term Donaldson considers a matter of a spectrum.

Is the New Testament supercessionist?
That is, does the NT see the Christian church replacing and superseding ethnic Israel.  For Donaldson, approaching the issue in this way misses out some pieces.  For example, it formulates the issue negatively--what is the discontinuity--more than positively--what was the continuity.  It also does not include individuals like Marcion or the Gnostics, who did not even believe the OT was legitimate in the first place.

Kendall Soulen has distinguished types of supercessionism, each of which has a different tone.  "Punitive" supercessionism sees the replacement as a matter of punishment for Israel.  "Economic" supercessionism has to do with God's plan for different periods of history.  There is also a mixed view that only sees the Gentiles replacing the part of Israel that did not believe, while the part that did remains unsuperseded.

Does the NT reflect a painful parting of the ways?
A lively discussion has emerged in recent decades, with Ways That Never Parted arguing that Jewish and Christian social groups interpenetrated off and on even to the time of Constantine.  Daniel Boyarin has argued that "partitioning" would be a better word than "parting," and James Dunn has argued for "partings" plural rather than singular.  A key here is that since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we are far more aware of the diversity of first century Judaism (sometimes even put in the plural, Judaisms) than we were before.

Set up for the book
Early in the chapter, Donaldson gives three aspects of any document that need to be taken into account when assessing this issue.  First is the identity of those who are expressing statements (the "subject").  Second is the identify of those to whom they are speaking (the "object").  Lastly there is the tone or the intention behind their expression.  He will use this three fold rubric in the rest of the book, as he looks at the gospels and Paul.

Great start to the book!


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Maybe this is a little "off subject", but I think it is correlated to it. Identity.

Gentiles were "all the others". Jews had an identity, a religious one (which has become an etnic one, or am I wrong?).

Replacement theology replaced Jewish identity in the Temple with a spiritualized Temple in the heavens. Christians use "in Christ" as their identity.

But, the question of identity is the question, isn't it? Paul used "in Christ" to universalize or humanize identity.

Today Experimental Theology had a post about such an identity, but the question of dispossession of one's identity and possessions, is a question of civilization and rationality, isn't it?

When such texts were written, Christians did not have power or right over their lives. It was an oppressive environment, so the question should be, is it right to universalize today in a free society such oppression so that the "peasant class" will be dispossessed of life and possessions.

Obviously, this is of interst to the West in understanding a terrorist's identity. But, how does one fight against those that don't care about anything "in this life". They'd rather "blow you up" than "give up"! But, it isn't any different in political revolutions where people die for "the cause". One dies for ideals of "the spiritual", while the other dies "for the nation-state"!

Should identities be defined by "outside" sources such as a religious or nation-state, absolutized? Or should we recognize that identity is and should be about "the person", where one's identity is "owned" by one's personal values, interests and commitments and not by a religious or political elite? Otherwise, political power headed by religion or Nation will be oppressive to human development.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

And that means that liberty is of primary importance to protect and defend against ideologues of either kind! Wasn't this what the Founders desired in their commitment and value of "liberty of conscience"? American government is the height of "moral order" for that very reason. Such government values individuality, self determination and self-responsibility. We have lost some of these values.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It seems the West has spiritualized their religious message, whereas the East politicizes theirs. Until a "liberal" liberalizes the tradition, which has happened throughout Church history, hasn't it?

Our Founders understood what happens with appealing to "God" as a means for peace, religious wars! Identity is too tied to "God"....esp. if it is uniform. Isn't this what brought about our liberty in the Reformation from religious authorities that were corrupted, or from political authorities in our "rule of law" (Constitutional government)?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Correction; spirtualizing the reliigious teaching happened under Augustine, after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Science would orient the physical aspects of the person as identification with commitment (observation), which affirms a Hebrew understanding of "body/soul"...and behaviorists...and pietism.

This is dangerous territory to liberty, I believe, because people change over the course of their lives....