Who “Reacted” ?
Christianity does not suffice itself with the presentation of her own theology. Since its inception, the followers of Jesus found the need to disparage Judaism. The Christian Scriptures already begin this pattern of maligning the Jewish people and their belief system. The Church Fathers continued the pattern, and this process still lives amongst various factions of Jesus followers today. From the extreme anti-Jewish faction, who still propagates the myths of replacement theology, which needs the Jews to be an evil people that lost God’s promises; to the extreme Jew-loving faction of Messianic Jews claiming to be the true Judaism, who find the need to argue that the Jews have changed their religion so as to exclude Jesus; all of these have a comment on Judaism.
In sharp contrast, out of the 2700 pages of Talmud there are perhaps three paragraphs that might have a bearing on the founder of Christianity. Jewish religious literature, by and large, saw no need to discuss Christianity.
How strange then is the Christian claim that Judaism developed as a “reaction” to Christianity. Christianity did not appear on the radar screens of most Jewish thinkers.
The myth that these Christians are trying to promote asserts that Judaism originally allowed for the concept of a man-god. It is only when Christianity made that concept a central feature of their own theology that Judaism moved to pure monotheism in a spiteful, small-minded way of biting back at Jesus.
This myth is the most offensive thing you can say about Judaism. The proponents of this myth are saying that the very heart of Judaism is a childish “reaction” to something that bothered us on a personal level. This would be like saying that the Christian affinity towards Jesus developed as a gut level negative reaction to Islam’s exaltation of Mohammed.
The proponents of this myth are also ignoring their own Scriptures. John (10:33) records that in Jesus’ own day his claims for divinity were considered blasphemous. (It is interesting to note that Jesus does not defend himself by justifying the claim for the concept of a man-god, but rather he seems to indicate that the claim that a given person is “god” need not be taken literally.)
The simple fact is that the far more likely scenario is that the Church adopted belief in the trinity as a gut level negative reaction to anything Jewish. The same Council of Nicea that adopted the trinity as a Christian belief, was plagued with a gut level negative reaction to anything Jewish. The same Church Council that ratified the trinity also prohibited celebration of Easter in conjunction with Passover. The basis for this decision was not some scholarly calculation or an esoteric argument. I will allow Eusubius, the Church historian who was present at that Council, to speak for himself: “And these are the words with which the Emperor addressed the assembly at Nicea; “Why should we follow in the footsteps of these people who are scorned by God, to celebrate our holy festival together with them? Is there any greater impertinence than this, that these hated Jews should be able to say that we cannot celebrate and observe our festival unless we follow their calculations?” (De Vita Constantini 3:2). Hatred of Jews and Judaism was reason enough to move this Church Council to change their practices. Is it not likely that the vote against Arius (who opposed belief in the trinity) was also influenced by this hatred of Jews?
(Note: For Christianity to change from the Arian doctrine to the Trinitarian belief is not a change in the core of Christianity. The core of Christianity is an affinity to Jesus. The various doctrines only come after the affinity, in an attempt to place the affinity in a theological framework.)
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal