A major point to emphasize is that Christianity can make no proper theological claim to be superior to Judaism, nor that the New Testament is of a higher moral quality than the Old Testament. Human blindness envelops the one as much as the other. Rather, the claim being made is that the divine reality made know in Jesus Christ stands as judge of both religions. This assertion means that Judaism through God’s hesed has indeed grasped divine truth from the Torah, even when failing to recognize therein the manifestation of God in Jesus Christ. Conversely, Christianity, which seeks to lay claim on divine truth in the name of Christ, repeatedly fails to grasp the very reality which it confesses to name. In a word, two millennia of history have demonstrated that Jews have often been seized by the divine reality testified to by their Scriptures, but without recognizing its true name, while Christians have evoked the name, but failed to understand the reality itself. [*]
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
The Judge of church and synagogue
It's often assumed that theological exegesis is fideistic and inherently inclined to read its own assumptions into the Bible. This danger clearly exists, but part of the solution turns on the nature of the theological assumptions in operation. Christianity seems to have consciously situated itself in the "gap" between dialectical poles: between heaven and earth, the Old and the New, letter and spirit. It's called to negotiate both, and this should serve to keep its triumphant proclamation chastened by the need to "discern the mystery" (A. Louth) in a veiled text. In this challenge, the Jewish people serve as a constant challenge to Christian proclamation. It is what Childs calls the function of "the mystery of Israel" (thanks to D. Driver's dissertation for this insight). Here is a profound Childs quote on the issue:
P.S. The image above is a typical motif on cathedrals in Europe of triumphant "church" over defeated "Synagogue." The tragedy is particular evident when you walk from the Jewish cemetery in Worms, Germany, to the cathedral, where the statues still stand. Should they be taken down? Or are they affirming a difficult truth which, when out of control, leads to bloodshed? I think Childs' thoughts provide a way forward.
[Hat Tip for the image from this interesting website]
[*] Childs, Witness to Christ?, 63–64.