Exonerating the “Sinless” II

Exonerating the “Sinless” II

Reason 1

In response to comment – https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/exonerating-the-sinless-another-open-letter-to-concerned-reader/#comment-15012

Concerned Reader

You still haven’t explained your double standard. Why is it that the Church Fathers, who were direct disciples of Paul, are not qualified to legitimize a method of interpretation, while the Qumran community, who was so many generations removed from the prophets, is qualified to legitimize a method of interpretation?

In any case, your attempt to exonerate John’s Jesus falls flat. You want to use the Qumran community to legitimize the hate-talk of the Christian Scriptures. (What else will you use them to legitimize?) Who told you that the Qumran community was righteous? Just because some Jews were engaged in hate-talk doesn’t mean that it is OK for Jews to talk like this about each other. These were evil people and their example does not make a behavior acceptable or righteous.

Furthermore, let us assume that amongst loving friends, harsh words of rebuke are tolerated, righteous and acceptable. But this would only make sense if in every other instance the speaker of these harsh words showed love and respect for the people he was rebuking. It would only be possible to justify such harsh speech if the targets of the rebuke recognized that the speaker was a man who sincerely respected them. But John’s Jesus is not such a man. You could speculate that he did respect them. But that would remain your own speculation.

Finally, your entire argument is based on the premise that the audience of the rebuke was Jewish and they would have taken the words as loving remonstration. But your premise has no basis in reality. Perhaps it is true that when Jesus uttered those words he was talking to Jews. But by the time the books were put in to writing the audience was no longer Jewish. The gentile community that canonized these books canonized a text whose central character demonizes their own theological opponents. It is this central character that this community worships and it is this central character that this community looks to as the epitome of righteousness.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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6 Responses to Exonerating the “Sinless” II

  1. Concerned Reader says:

    Perhaps it is true that when Jesus uttered those words he was talking to Jews. (Exactly rabbi!) But by the time the books were put in to writing the audience was no longer Jewish. (I’m also aware of that rabbi.) The gentile community that canonized these books canonized a text whose central character demonizes their own theological opponents, (whilst also reflecting their opponents opinions, and those opinions of people who weren’t so hostile to them, such as Gamaliel’s opinion.)

    Think about this rabbi. We only know about Jesus’ Judaism at all because of these gentile Christian sources, compiled by these Christian Gentiles, and we can know quite a bit about his Judaism at that, so not everything written in the text is necessarily purely of gentile origin, or even written from a non Jewish perspective against Jews, and that was part of my point. Non Jews were copying and compiling, not inventing.

    While it is true that the Church fathers reflected anti Judaism, we have to remember that there is a context of sectarian dispute regarding practice in these texts among Christians themselves as well. There were many Christians in those early centuries who while they were Gentiles, “Judaized” in their faith and practice whilst utilizing the exact same sources as the “Orthodox.”

    I brought up Chrysostom to illustrate this exact point to Dina earlier. One very important reason for the presence of Chrysostom’s tractates against Jews and Judaism, was because there were gentile Christians active in his day who were feeling that Judaism was positive, and also enriching, but who were also necessitating that gentile Christians observe Judaism fully.

    This was a massive source of internal contention as it was not the accepted orthodox Christian practice, as per Acts 15. Is there anti Judaism, and anti semitism in the text? Absolutely, but the opposite view is also present.

    Rabbi. You act as though I am excusing the hate speech found in John because I am showing what I believe is a possible contextual sectarian milieu that would account for its existence. I am not excusing it, or endorsing it, merely noting that in the time period, invective like this was not unknown among Jews, the question of whether it’s right or wrong is not what I was addressing. In fact, I would say I agree with you that the invective in the text got worse when the sources were exposed to the tradition of Greek rhetoric, and sectarian arguments within the Church itself.

    When I am looking to the Qumran community, Philo, or others, I am seeing what Seems to be a reasonable historical contextual framework to work from when asking the question, How could these Jews in the past who followed Jesus have believed these ideas that became Christianity. I am not asserting absolute truth here, nor am I applying some immovable standard.

    Be well

  2. The excoriating words in Ezekiel 16,20 or 23 and Isaiah 1,59, Jeremiah 9 and many other passages – were these recognised as loving reproofs at the time they were heard? Yet we know now that far from being malicious, they were the kindest things that could possibly be said, even though death, judgement and the most severe punishments followed their rejection.
    Did these prophets accurately characterise their theological opponents in Ezek 34 and Jer 23, or were they perhaps guilty of demonising? How can we now tell apart from their own testimony?
    By rejecting wise reproof and hardening the neck against pleading, there is a forsaking of mercy.

    However I do not justify the malice and folly of later Christian writers. The words of Chrysostom, Augustine, and the Cappodocians among others themselves fall foul of apostolic and prophetic reproofs.

  3. Pingback: Open Response to Charles | 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources

  4. I’m sorry to cause quite so much upset, and I will eshew endless
    debates. However the last statement is quite mistaken.
    The Gentiles were almost but an afterthought, as I outlined in my response to
    Elephant and the Suit
    . The children of the covenant truly
    remain the
    apple of God’s eye
    , though perhaps this attention is for the
    present unwelcome.

    Peter’s statements:
    ‘Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said
    unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what
    shall we do?
    Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in
    the name of Jesus the Messiah for the remission of sins, and ye shall
    receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
    For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are
    afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.’ Acts . 2.37-39

    ‘Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God
    made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all
    the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised
    up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of
    you from his iniquities.’ Acts 3.25-6

    ‘Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the
    name of Jesus the Messiah of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God
    raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you
    whole.’ Acts 4.10

    Stephen, and I know well the accumulated objections this speech has
    engendered over the years. (Please remember the audience was learned
    and rabbically educated, if they could have ridiculed Stephen it would
    have served to have discredit his message far more effectively than
    turning him into a martyr. The text for good reasons records his
    listeners ‘were cut to the heart’.)
    Stephen addresses his Jewish congregation ‘Men, brethren, and fathers’
    and the family note continues throughout. Yet this family reunion is
    very reminiscent of the prophets encounter with Israel in her
    idolatries and of Joseph and his brethren, is it not?

    Even the despised ‘Apostle of the Uncircumcision’, went first to the
    Jews and commended the message of the Messiah to the Jews as
    Jewish.  Romans.1.16, 2.10. He and his band regularly went
    first to synagogues – not as an intrusive outsider, but as a Jewish
    teacher of Jewish verities.

    His sermon in a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch is typical, ‘Men of
    Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience. The God of this people of
    Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as
    strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them
    out of it.’ (Acts 13.16)

    Sure, things began to change once Gentile predominated in the
    assemblies, and then the Spirit’s prophetic warning of Gentile
    highmindedness began to become chillingly and increasingly necessary.

    But then what could a Gentile be expected to know?

    • Charles
      I am talking about the intended audience of the books – not the audience of the speakers. By the times the books were written – the community of “believers” was predominantly gentile

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