2 February 2016

Jews and Christians

This originally appeared 17 February 2010. I have added a footnote in green. I feel the importance of the points I make is enhanced by the fact that, appropriately, S Luke's Gospel, the Gospel of Mercy, will, in the Novus Ordo, be the Gospel which dominates our beloved Holy Father's Jubilee Year of Mercy. And today is the Feast of Candlemass; for the texts and spirituality of this magnificent festival we owe so much to the artistry of S Luke's pen.

 S Luke's Gospel, which in the Novus Ordo is the Gospel for this year, sometimes puzzles people. On the one hand, not least in the Infancy Narratives, it repeatedly emphasises the the Torah-rootedness of everything our Lady and S Joseph do; on the other, it (together with the book of Acts) seems to have the Mission to the Gentiles as one of its main themes. I will not attempt a long lesson on this point, upon which commentators advance different opinions, but simply share what seems to me very obviously S Luke's thrust: the Jewish people were and continue to be God's People; but some of them do reject the Messiah. To the Faithful Remnant - those Jews who do receive their Messiah - God adds Gentile converts. And that is what the Christian Church is; God's ancient Hebrew people (minus the unbelieving) with associated Gentiles added. One Chosen People (see S Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians.)

So Jewish Christians, far from being an oddity or an anomaly, are symbols of the age-old identity of the Church. The Church did not begin in the first century AD, but when God first Called a People in the dimmest antiquity of Semitic history: a point emphasised by the Roman Canon when it calls Abraham our Patriarch. S Gregory the Great calls it, "The Universal Church, which from righteous Abel right down to the the last to be chosen who shall be born in the end of the world". This means that Christianity is not a religion which grew out of Judaism (and therefore ought to respect its 'parent'), but - in historical terms - one of the two bodies each claiming to be the True Judaism; at a time when, in any case, the literal fulfilment of the religion of the the Hebrew Scripures became de facto obsolete with the destruction of the Temple and the end of the Temple cult. We, and Rabbinic Judaism, both claim to be the Real McKoy; even though we both, to an outsider looking in, inevitably appear different not only from each other but also from the Temple-centred religion which ended in AD 70.

My understanding is that when Rabbinic Judaism remoulded itself as a religion without the Temple sacrificial system, discerning its heart in Torah and Family and Synagogue, it became radically different (there are scholars who have queried whether, despite the evidence in S Luke's Gospel and his Acts, synagogue buildings actually existed before AD 70; I think this is an overstatement, but there can be no doubt that the significance of the synagogue was transformed after AD 70). Christianity retained the inherent sacrificial structure and grammar of Hebrew religion, fulfilled in the Eucharistic Sacrifice instituted on the first Maundy Thursday.

As the distinguished American rabbinic scholar Jacob Neusner has pointed out, what Jesus ejected from the Temple was those selling animals to enable the Temple's sacrificial worship to be carried out, and the moneychangers who enabled pilgrims to bring the shekel-tax which paid for the great daily morning and evening Tamid sacrifice of a lamb, offered for the whole People. Our Lord thereby enacted the replacement of the Temple cult by the Sacrifice which He Himself was to institute the following Thursday; Lamb superseding lamb, Altar superseding altar, Table superseding table; when Antitype (as we Christians put it) superseded type.

Sunday by Sunday, perhaps day by day, you and I go up to Jerusalem and enter into the courts and tabernacles of YHWH in great joy to offer there the Thanksgiving Oblation of the Lamb, and to share YHWH's Communion Sacrifice, our feet firmly upon the hill-top where Abraham stood with Isaac and where the Seed of Abraham was immolated.

I add: (1) S Luke's doctrine is, of course, the same precisely as that of S Paul in Romans 11, in the allegory of the Olive Tree. Have you read it recently?
(2) It occurs to me to wonder if there is any connection between the modern errors among badly instructed Catholics about Judaism, and the disuse of the Roman Canon, with its in-your-face emphasis on the pivotal Old Testament sacrifices.


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Amen, Farther. There has only ever been one religion (Bond with God) and that religion was created by God and it has not changed in its essence although we Christians now know more than did the Jews prior to the Incarnation/Messias.

There are innumerable false religions and ABS will refrain on this fortieth day of Christmas from asking why he is expected to respect them

Anonymous said...

Jesus was, I believe, severely tried and angered by the imperfect animals being offered for prieces the elderly could not afford.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

I am very glad I stumbled across these liturgical notes and will endeavour to continue reading.

I have immense gratitude for all you taught me as a student and the direction you helped me take .

God Bless you.

Your student

Tony Tagoe

Banshee said...

What I heard was that the moneychangers and animalsellers were supposed to be doing business outside the Temple, but instead had largely taken over the Court of the Gentiles, ruining the prayerfulness of the place for everyone but particularly for visiting Gentiles.

But of course the foreshadowing of the end of animal sacrifice would still be there, however you interpret the historical background.

El Codo said...

Templum in Templo..Jesus the Temple being presented in The Temple.

Unknown said...

The difference between synagogue Judaism and Old Testament Temple religion was brought home to Gregory !X when he was shown a copy of the Talmud by a Dominican who was a Jewish convert. This decided the pontiff to encourage the Dominicans to preach to Jews as well as heretics (which was their first 'institutional mission').