Wednesday 29 April 2009

A prayer by Elie Wiesel

In response to my recent post A Christian response to an image by Elie Wiesel?, I was informed in the comments that Wiesel is not, in fact, an atheist. I repent in dust an ashes (though I should point out that is was not really relevant to the point of the post, which was about the image he used) and have been inspired to seek out more material by this profound man.

I was given a helping hand in this direction by a kind commentator who contacted me offline and shared this prayer, written by Wiesel in 1997 in an op-ed piece in the New York Times at the time of the High Holidays. [She informs me she got it from the blog Mystical Politics, the author of which also provides the closing comments below]. I love it, and hope you will too.

What about my faith in you, Master of the Universe?

I now realize I never lost it, not even over there, during the darkest hours of my life. I don't know why I kept on whispering my daily prayers, and those one reserves for the Sabbath, and for the holidays, but I did recite them, often with my father and, on Rosh ha-Shanah eve, with hundreds of inmates at Auschwitz. Was it because the prayers remained a link to the vanished world of my childhood?

But my faith was no longer pure. How could it be? It was filled with anguish rather than fervor, with perplexity more than piety. In the kingdom of eternal night, on the Days of Awe, which are the Days of Judgment, my traditional prayers were directed to you as well as against you, Master of the Universe. What hurt me more: your absence or your silence?

In my testimony I have written harsh words, burning words about your role in our tragedy. I would not repeat them today. But I felt them then. I felt them in every cell of my being. Why did you allow if not enable the killer day after day, night after night to torment, kill and annihilate tens of thousands of Jewish children? Why were they abandoned by your Creation? These thoughts were in no way destined to diminish the guilt of the guilty. Their established culpability is irrelevant to my "problem" with you, Master of the Universe. In my childhood I did not expect much from human beings. But I expected everything from you.

Where were you, God of kindness, in Auschwitz? What was going on in heaven, at the celestial tribunal, while your children were marked for humiliation, isolation and death only because they were Jewish?

These questions have been haunting me for more than five decades. You have vocal defenders, you know. Many theological answers were given me, such as: "God is God. He alone knows what He is doing. One has no right to question Him or His ways." Or: "Auschwitz was a punishment for European Jewry's sins of assimilation and/or Zionism." And: "Isn't Israel the solution? Without Auschwitz, there would have been no Israel."

I reject all these answers. Auschwitz must and will forever remain a question mark only: it can be conceived neither with God nor without God. At one point, I began wondering whether I was not unfair with you. After all, Auschwitz was not something that came down ready-made from heaven. It was conceived by men, implemented by men, staffed by men. And their aim was to destroy not only us but you as well. Ought we not to think of your pain, too? Watching your children suffer at the hands of your other children, haven't you also suffered?

The author of Mystical Politics comments on this prayer:

With this essay, Wiesel was rethinking what he wrote in Night. I think we need to consider seriously what he has written - both originally, and in his rethinking fifty years later.

For another prayer of his, equally moving, go here.
For a Times article on the man, go here.

Another mouth-watering offer from Logos

Logos have come up with yet another mouth watering pre-pub offer which just makes me yearn ... for money to be able to afford it all! This time its a large section of the so-called Continental Commentary Series, though I'm not entirely sure why it's called "continental" and not just "German" (does "German" critical scholarship raise too many negative associations?).

So anyway, it costs $300 dollars instead of the Logos sale price of $600. If there is a random philanthropist out there looking for a budding Old Testament scholar to support, leave a note in the comments and I'll send you my back details.
Esteban of Vox Stefani has this to say in response:
[D]oes "German" critical scholarship raise too many negative associations?
Yes. Plus, André LaCocque is French!

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Is the Bible a witness or a source?

The distinction is fundamental to Childs' canonical approach to the Bible as scripture:

To hear the text as witness involves identifying Israel's theological intention of bearing its testimony to a divine reality which has entered into time and space. Conversely to hear the text as source is to regard it as a vehicle of cultural expression which yields through critical analysis useful phenomenological data regarding Israel's societal life. [*]
Is this the intention of the traditions found in the Bible? Are secular critics who operate within a materialist framework doing the Bible an injustice by locating it a reality other than the one it testifies to?

[*] Childs, Biblical Theology, 98.

Monday 27 April 2009

A Christian response to an image by Elie Wiesel?

I don't mean response in the sense of a thought out intellectual argument (though that would be nice), but in the the psychological sense of, "What do you think, see, feel, etc. when you read the quote I am about to post below?" It's a gut reaction kind of thing. I'm only asking for a gut reaction (though secretly I want a profound theological answer), because I think the subject matter of this quote is so utterly profound that anyone who presumes to be able to have grasped it is making a bold claim indeed. There are some things, it seems to me, that will remain a mystery and maybe ought to. Even though all of us are just yearning to know the answer. I am - so if there really is a thought out intellectual response to this then please let me know. I would really like to know.

Here's Wiesel's quote, which I garnered from John's list of holocaust survivor quotes. I've not read Wiesel before, but eruptions from the soul such such as these point to a man who is worth it.

Wiesel (located in the photo above) describes one of the worst days of his life in Buchenwald concentration camp. It was the hanging of a young boy. Read the details in the second quote from top here. The quote concludes with the following:

His tongue was still read, his eyes were not yet glazed. Behind me, I heard the same man asking: 'Where is God now?' and I heard a voice within me answer him: 'Where is He? Here He is--He is hanging here on this gallows . . . '

On the basis of his comments in the quotes mentioned, Wiesel would seem to be an atheist (he eloquently describes his death of God experience in the first quote here, though see the comments to this thread which refute this). But should a statement like this lead one to think so? That's the crazy thing ... when I first read this my gut reaction was, "Oh, he's a Christian." Of course, I soon readjusted my interpretative lens and figured out that he meant something else. God did die, in some sense, on that noose.

But that that is exactly what Christians believe, isn't it? The King of Glory, the Creator of the Universe ... hung on an instrument of death and torture, died, and went to Hell.

This event meant something profound for Wiesel; as far as I understand, he's spent much of his life trying to process it. As for me, I'm still trying to figure it out, though in my own, odd, Christian way. This is one moment where I realize that true theology is always faith seeking understanding. I believe it, but I don't understand it (and I oddly find it comforting at the same time).

Do you? Please explain.

[p.s. J.K. Gayle has linked to an interesting article on Wiesel by Time Magazine: "Author, Teacher Witness"].

[p.p.s. here are some other relevant quotes, Lenten ones in German]

Saturday 25 April 2009

The goal of God's self-revelation (in the Old Testament)

Taken from Brevard Childs' Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context.
If one asks what was God's purpose, that is, his motivation in revealing himself, the Old Testament is silent. However, if one asks what was God's purpose, that is, his goal toward which his self-disclosure pointed, then the Old Testament is eloquent in its response. God revealed himself that all may see and know who God is:

I am Yahweh, and there is no other;
besides me there is no God;
I gird you, though you do not know me,
that men may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am Yahweh, and there is no other ...
I am Yahweh, who do all these things. (Isa 45:5-7).

Or again, the prophet Ezekiel never wearies of grounding God's purpose with the formula: 'that you may know Yahweh' - and thus have life.

Friday 24 April 2009

The dynamic of Holy Scripture: verbum and res.

Jason Goroncy of the beautiful blog Per Crucem ad Lucem has posted a quote by Walsh and Keesmaat On the Dynamic of Holy Scripture. If I'm reading the quote correctly, I see them as essentially saying that the Scriptures were constituted by a dialectic between received, authoritative tradition and the creative imagination of later Biblical tradents, employed to related these traditions to their contemporary situations. They say

As we read through the biblical story, it is clear that the Israelites themselves retold their stories with such fidelity and innovation. As the ancient Israelites encountered new situations, they remembered and interpreted their traditions in such a way that they engaged contemporary problems and concerns.
This patter of "stability and flexibility, fidelity and creativity, consistency and innovation" ought then to be repeated in our age. The fact that the Bible is an "an unfinished drama" frees us to interpret it with a similar amount of creative freedom.

Having soaked my self in the thought of Brevard Childs over the last couple of years, I find myself coming to a different conclusion. On the one hand, these thoughts are reminiscent of the classical Christian categories of "typology" or "figural interpretation." The difference, however, is that typological or figurative (or allegorical) extension - both in the Bible and in Church tradition is not so much a matter of creative freedom but of discerning the common substance that bridges the temporal gap. In Isaiah, for example, Assyria and Babylon are constantly juxtaposed as reflecting the same ontological reality, despite their (canonically preserved!) historical distinctiveness. In the same token, the second Exodus from Babylon is not just a creative re-construal of a received tradition for a new historical situation, the language of Isaiah witnesses to the occurrence of an event that participates in the same kind of redemption as the first Exodus, as well as every other act of God since (the Resurrection is an Exodus, and not just an event which can be imaginatively seen as such). It is the “substance,” the ontological reality which binds together the diverse formulations and reformulations found in the Bible and it is the quest for the substance - the attempt to “pierce” the text to what lies behind it (Childs spoke of the Bible becoming a theological "transparency" for such gifted interpreters as Karl Barth) - that ought to characterize theological (and indeed any sachgemäß) exegesis.

This links up their phrase: “the Bible [is] an unfinished drama … .”

Is the Bible an unfinished drama? As far as I can see, it contains everything from Creation to New Creation (in both Testaments respectively). What is left open is the way in which we are to perceive this drama at work in our own lives, but again, achieving this has less to do with imaginative reconstruals of inherited tradition and more to do with learning to see the unity within the diversity. And the guideline for doing so is the canonical shape given to Israelite tradition by faithful tradents engaged in exactly this kind of process.

For those who may be interested, I've summarized (or rather am in the process) Christopher Seitz's excellent book Prophecy and Hermeneutics here, which says similar kinds of things.
A New Testament scholar whose profound thoughts move in this direction is Paul Minear. I've collected my quotes and thoughts on his book The Bible and the Historian here (in particular Christian eschatology and historical methodology: the case of John).

Holocaust quotes

I'm coming at this a bit late, as Holocaust Day was a few days ago (April 21, 2009; Nissan 5769). John Anderson of Hesed we'emet has posted some powerful quotes from holocaust survivors. Here they are:

"Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never."
---Elie Wiesel, Night, 32

"I witnessed other hangings. I never saw a single one of the victims weep. For a long time those dried-up bodies had forgotten the bitter taste of tears. Except once [ . . . ] One day when we came back from work, we saw three gallows rearing up in the assembly place, three black crows. Roll call. SS all round us, machine guns trained: the traditional ceremony. Three victims in chains--and one of them, the little servant, the sad-eyed angel. The SS seemed more preoccupied, more disturbed than usual. To hang a young boy in front of thousands of spectators was no light matter. The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was lividly pale, almost calm, biting his lips. The gallows threw its shadow over him. [ . . . ] The three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses. 'Long live liberty!' cried the two adults. But the child was silent. 'Where is God? Where is He?' someone behind me asked. At a sign from the head of the camp, the three chairs tipped over. Total silence throughout the camp. On the horizon, the sun was setting. 'Bare your heads!' yelled the head of the camp. His voice was raucous. We were weeping. 'Cover your heads!' Then the march past began. The two adults were no longer alive. their tongues hung swollen, blue-tinged. But the third rope was still moving, being so light, the child was still alive. . . . For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still read, his eyes were not yet glazed. Behind me, I heard the same man asking: 'Where is God now?' and I heard a voice within me answer him: 'Where is He? Here He is--He is hanging here on this gallows . . . ' That night the soup tasted of corpses."
---Elie Wiesel, Night, 60-62

"Their life is short, but their number is endless; they, the muselmanner, the drowned, form the backbone of the camp, an anonymous mass, continually renewed and always identical, of non-men who march and labour in silence, the divine spark dead within them, already too empty to really suffer. One hesitates to call them living: one hesitates to call their death death, in the face of which they have no fear, as they are too tired to understand. They crowd my memory with their faceless presences, and if I could enclose all the evil of our time in one image, I would choose this image which is familiar to me: an emaciated man, with head dropped and shoulders curved, on whose face and in whose eyes not a trace of a thought is to be seen. If the drowned have no story, and single and broad is the path to perdition, the paths to salvation are many, difficult and improbable."
---Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz, 90

"I'm not alive. People believe memories grow vague, are erased by time, since nothing endures against the passage of time. That's the difference; time does not pass over me, over us. It doesn't erase anything, doesn't undo it. I'm not a live. I died in Auschwitz but no one knows it."
---Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After, 267

And while he was never a prisoner in the camps, the words of Rabbi Irving Greenberg are as true today as when he first uttered them. It is an important caution of which we must all be aware:

"No statement, theological or otherwise, should be made that would not be credible in the presence of burning children."

In my opinion (Phil, not John), the best documentary on the Holocaust is the nine hour masterpiece by Claude Lanzmann Shoah.

Thursday 23 April 2009

Why do we need commentaries?

I recently posted some criteria for judging excellence in a commentary. But why do we need the things in the first place?

From the earliest period, first in Judaism and later in Christianity, the commentary provided the classic form by which Scripture was both studied and interpreted. According to Childs, the choice of the form of a commentary as a means of studying and interpreting the Bible was not accidental. He goes on to say:

Of course, the study of the Bible has called forth other forms as well, such as the paraphrase, historical tractate, and philological treatise. Nevertheless, the commentary has remained dominant, both in periods of interpretative stability and of change.

Childs gives the following reasons that explain, in part, the choice:

  1. Very early in the history of literary stabilization, the biblical text was assigned a privileged status. Even though the form of a targum was sanctioned and assigned a role within a specific historical context, basically text and interpretation were sharply distinguished.

  2. The concern to follow the sequence of the biblical story was though important rather than rearranging the text into more orderly topics. The commentary form best lent itself to this approach.

  3. Because the Bible was traditionally understood as containing the very oracles of God, no word was regarded as superfluous. It was, therefore, thoroughly rational to argue that if Genesis needed only one chapter for the creation of the heavens and the earth but Exodus needed thirteen to describe the tabernacle, the Exodus chapters must contain multitudes of hidden mysteries calling for the most detailed commentary.

  4. Finally, because the Bible, which was to regulate the life of the nation, often contained problems of unclear interpretation, the need of help from learned scholars was often expressed. These difficulties involved linguistic, historical, and literary issues. The fact that each generation asked new questions also accounts for the continuing demand for commentaries and even super-commentaries.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Palestinian murder - a bit of evidence

One often hears in the media of civilian Palestinians shot by Israeli soldiers. The army usually responds that the shooting was necessary. Anyone acquainted with this blog will know that I have a love for Israel, a love which no doubts makes me biased in my evaluations of what is going on (always inadequate, given that I am a thorough outsider). I try nevertheless to be objective, as when I posted my way through the invasion of Gaza. Below is a video clip (taken from here) that accompanied this report of a peaceful Palestinian demonstrator being shot in the West Bank. You can read the report and call it spin, but I find this video convincing and heart breaking.

Any (intelligent) responses out there?

[Hat Tip: Intern in Israel]

Tuesday 21 April 2009

What makes a commentary "excellent"?

The following thoughts are taken from Childs, "The Genre of the Biblical Commentary as Problem and Challenge," in Tehillah le-Moshe, 185-192; here, 192:

In the preface to his Romans commentary, John Calvin offered two criteria by which to judge excellence in biblical interpretation, namely, lucid brevity. Perhaps it would be helpful after 400 years to expand his list in the form of a series of questions.

  1. Does the commentator do justice to the coercion of the biblical text, or does the author's private agenda overshadow the text itself?

  2. Does the creative imagination of the commentator lead the reader back to the biblical text or away from it?

  3. Does the interpretation reflect the needed patience and empathy to wrestle with the elements of the Bible that at first seem strange, distant, and even offensive to modern sensibilities?

  4. Has the commentator learned enough from the history of interpretation to retain a sense of modesty regarding his or her efforts and a critical respect for those who have illuminated the way in the past?
I would add: has the commentator soaked himself within the dogmatic tradition of the church in order to enable the text to become a transparency to its true theological subject matter, a reality which explodes the literal sense of the text.

This is my own formulation, but I got the general idea from reading a lot of Childs. I wonder why it wasn’t included this quote? It was published in ‘97. Perhaps his move towards allegory wasn’t in full gear yet.

I’ve yet to listen to the Jenson lecutures to see what he would say on this.

Monday 20 April 2009

Translation of masoretic note for Psalm 24: 3 (מִֽי־יַעֲלֶה)

I've just finished working through Israel Yeivin's Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah and have had a jab at translating the note for מִֽי־יַעֲלֶה in Psalm 24: 3. It's not easy as the notes consist of inconsistent abbreviations and are mostly in Aramaic (which I can't read ... yet). In fact, at one point in time they were so incomprehensible that they lost their function as guarantors of the text and became decorative devices on the corners of the manuscript (Yeivin). G. Weil also notes that

As early as the 16th centruy Elias Levita wrote in the second rhymed introduction to his Massoreth Hamassoreth (Venice, 1538) that the language of the Masora was unintelligible, the very conciseness of its style making it as secret as the words of a sealed book.
To add to my workload, the wording of the masoretic note to my word differs in the Masorah parva and the Masorah magna. I'll post the two quotes in the original below along with my translation, culled from both sets of notes. My three questions are:
  1. Is my translation OK?
  2. What is the difference between the Mm and the Mp (I can't understand all of the Mm)?
  3. Why was this information of signifance to the Masoretes? Did it really help them preserve the accuracy of the text, or were there other considerations at work?

Masora parva:

ג̇ ר״פ מי וג̇ מילין רביע ומי וכל פסוק̇ דאית בהון ח̇ מילין

Masorah Magna:

ג̇ דראשי פסוק̇ מִי ותלת מילין ורביעית וּמִי ומינין כל פסוק̇ ח̇ ח̇ מילין
Here's my translation, based primarily on the Masorah parva:

(One of) 3 (occurrences), (in which there is) a “who” at the beginning of the verse and (then) three words, the fourth (of which) is “and who.” And the whole sentence contains within it 8 words.
For those who are interested, the references (סימנהון) are Ps. 24: 3; Job 34: 13; and Job 36: 23.

Friday 17 April 2009

Masorah vs Logos

According to the Masorah of Psalm 24: 3, the phrase בְהַר־יְהוָה occurs three times in the Bible: in our verse here and in Genesis 22:14 and Isaiah 30: 29. No matter how I type this phrase into my Logos word search, however (i.e. with or without vowels and accents), I only get two results: Ps 24: 3 and Isaiah 30: 29.

How is that possible? The only difference between Ge 22:14 and the other verses (apart from the accents) is that it doesn't have a maqqef. If I speed search the highlighted text in Gen 22: 14, I only get one hit.

Am I doing something wrong or were the Masoretes really inspired?


As I've written on the side bar of this blog, I'm a technological numpty. I've figured out the problem. Gen 22:14 does turn up in the morphological search, as long as all the settings are right! Nevertheless, I thought it would be interesting to post the differences between Logos and the Masorah in the rest of Psalm 24. All the references, in fact, are completely accurate appart from two:
  • 1) v. 2: According to the Masorah: יְכוֹנְנֶהָ occurs 4 times, though Mm doesn't say where (I think this means that this reference wasn't in the Leningrad codex ...). My Logos search only produces 3 results (Psalm 24:2; Psalm 48:9; Psalm 87:5). Someone has suggested offline that the missing fourth could be Ps 7:13, which has a waw: ויכוננה. I think this would be odd though, as waws were significant for the Masoretes and were either counted as a separate form or at least remarked upon.
  • v. 5:Masorah says that יִשָּׂא occurs 37 times. Logos has produes 39 hits. The note is "Mp sub loco," so I don't know which verses the Masoretes had in mind.

Israel's Catholic Jews

I've hardly posted of late due to time pressure. I hope to be posting more regularly in the future. In the meantime, a fascinating article from Haaretz on Israel's Catholic Jews. It raises the tricky question of Jewish identity (the law states Aliyah is denied to Jews who convert to other religions, whereas in reality it only applies to Christianity; see my post Why aren't messianic Jews Jewish?) and the relationships between church and synagogue (for a related post, see my The Judge of Church and Synagogue). I especially appreciated the biographical information. Here it is:

For Jerusalem's Hebrew-speaking Catholics, Jewish identity is cardinal

By Donald Snyder, The Forward

The traditional Jewish blessings over wine and bread, the Kiddush and the Motzi, echoed through the sanctuary at 10 HaRav Kook Street in Jerusalem. It was a room of striking simplicity - with just one small cross in brown wood.

Four Catholic priests wearing white robes and green stoles stood at the altar, as one of them recited these blessings. But unlike the blessings at a festive Jewish meal, these were blessings of consecration, transforming the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Christ. Just before taking Communion, church members exchanged the greetings of Pax Christi, Peace of Christ, saying to one another, "Shalom HaMashiach."

At the Church of Sts. Simeon & Anna, all the prayers are in Hebrew, as was this Evening Mass for the community known as the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community of Israel.

This is not a messianic Christian gathering, but neither is it just another Catholic Church serving the country's 22,000 Roman Catholics, most of whom are Arab.

Active since 1955, the Hebrew-speaking Catholic Vicariate, also known as the Association of St. James, was founded mainly to serve European-Catholic immigrants to the new Jewish state - many of whom are married to Jews - shortly after its founding in 1948. With branches in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheba, the association is fully welcomed by the same society that bristles at the missionizing of Jews for Jesus. But in some ways, the backgrounds of several of its most prominent members are no less provocative.

They include strongly identified Jews - including several Holocaust survivors - who converted to Catholicism and view themselves as a philosemitic redoubt of advocacy for love of Jews and Israel within the church.

"We see ourselves rooted in Israeli society with a real respect for Jews as they see themselves, and we follow the Jewish liturgical calendar and observe many of their holidays, like Sukkot and Hanukkah," explained the Rev. David Mark Neuhaus, the vicar for the Hebrew Speaking Community in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Neuhaus also gives lectures about Judaism and the Bible to Palestinian and Jordanian Arabs training for the priesthood at Beit Jala Seminary and Bethlehem University.

The primary objective of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community, he explained, is to sharpen the church's awareness of its Jewish origins and the Jewish identity of Jesus and his apostles.

The association's population peaked at several thousand in the 1950s and '60s. Today it has about 400 members. Many left to get better Catholic educations for their children. But despite dwindling numbers, this Roman Catholic community shows a robust spiritual commitment.

Most of the immigrants come from mixed Catholic-Jewish marriages in which the wife is a practicing Catholic and the husband a non-observant Jew. Children of these mixed marriages are often raised as Catholics. Some of the original members were Jews who had been baptized to survive the Holocaust and wanted to remain Catholic after settling in Israel.

One of the early Jewish members of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community was Brother Daniel, whose status as a Hebrew-speaking, Jewish-born Zionist Catholic priest created legal history in Israel when he sought citizenship there under the country's Law of Return, the statute guaranteeing citizenship on request to virtually all Jews who enter Israel.

Born Oswald Rufeisen into an Orthodox Jewish family in the Polish town of Oswiecim - known in Yiddish as Auschwitz - the future priest was a member of the Zionist Bnei Akiva youth group during his teenage years. Rufeisen fled Poland eastward when Germany invaded in 1939, but he ended up as a slave laborer for the Nazis in Lithuania. Escaping again, he used his language skills to obtain a false identity and employment as a translator for the police in the town of Mir in what is today Belarus. There, he is credited with having saved several hundred Jews by warning them of the Nazis' impending plan to liquidate the Mir ghetto and helping engineer their escape. He himself hid out for the remainder of the war in a local convent, during which time he decided to convert to Catholicism.

On his arrival in Israel in 1959, Rufeisen, by then a Carmelite monk, requested citizenship under the Law of Return. Amid great controversy, the government denied his application, narrowing the Law of Return to apply only to Jews who had not embraced another religion. Rufeisen's case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled 4-1 against the priest. Instead, Rufeisen became an Israeli citizen through naturalization, and lived there, a key member of the Hebrew-Catholic community?s Haifa branch, until his death in 1998.

Due to the Brother Daniel ruling, the Rev. Gregorcz Pawlowski did not even try to come to Israel under the Law of Return. Born Zvi Griner to an observant Jewish family, Pawlowski, now 78, was an 11-year-old boy in Zamosc, Poland, when the German army arrived and slaughtered his parents and his younger sisters. He managed to escape, and survived the war with a forged Catholic baptismal certificate, begging local peasants for food and shelter. He was near death from disease and starvation when the Russians drove the Germans from Poland in late 1944.

Pawlowski was placed in a Catholic orphanage, where he attended a school run by nuns. He became a priest after surviving the Holocaust. A longtime member of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic Vicariate, he also ministers to a Polish-Catholic community in Jaffa. Nevertheless, he plans to be buried in the Jewish cemetery in Izbica, Poland, where his mother and sisters were murdered. The slightly built, white-haired priest has asked Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Poland's chief rabbi, to recite the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, at his funeral. He also fasts on Yom Kippur.

His simply furnished apartment at 4 Ben Zvi Street has two names on the door: Gregorcz Pawlowski in Latin letters, and beneath it, in Hebrew, Zvi Griner - two different names for a man of seemingly incompatible religious identities.

Speaking in Polish through an interpreter, Pawlowski told his story to this reporter in a monotone, his face expressionless. The trauma of his boyhood appeared to drain all emotion from his lengthy narration. He never smiled.

Neuhaus, the community's vicar, is a 46-year-old Jesuit priest raised as a Jew in South Africa. His path to Catholicism began when his parents sent him to study in a yeshiva in Jerusalem as a teenager.

Neuhaus told of how in Jerusalem, he met a Russian-Orthodox nun related to the family of the last tsar of Russia, Nicholas II. "I was 15, and she was 89," Neuhaus carefully explained. "She had an incredible influence over me from a spiritual standpoint. She radiated the presence of God. Her influence raised many spiritual questions about my faith."

Neuhaus promised his parents that he would discuss his religious direction with them and wait 10 years before making a final decision. He did as he promised, converting and becoming ordained at the age of 26.

"I attend a Reform synagogue regularly," said Neuhaus. "I go to the synagogue as an expression of who I am historically, socially and, to a certain extent, spiritually. The melodies of the synagogue are much closer to my heart than the chants in a Benedictine monastery, because I grew up with those melodies. Many of our members attend synagogue as an act of solidarity."

Neuhaus points out that Israel is the only society where Jews constitute a majority. The Jewish religion, history and culture establish the rhythm of life for the Catholic community, he said.

"For us, the universal Catholic reflection on the Jewish identity of Jesus and the Jewish roots of our faith is not just one element in our renewal after the Second Vatican Council," Neuhaus said in an interview with Zenit, the Catholic news service that covers the Vatican. "It is also part of our daily existence."

In an interview at the Pontifical Bible Institute, Neuhaus said that some members of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community helped formulate the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, which repudiated charges of deicide against the Jews, denounced anti-Semitism and ruled that Mass may be offered in the vernacular. These reforms were contained in the founding charter of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community 10 years before Vatican II convened, Neuhaus said.

Neuhaus views his community as one that led the way for Catholics to see Jews as brothers, not as evil people determined to subvert Christianity. Its members live according to the words spoken by Pope John Paul II when he visited the Great Synagogue of Rome on April 13, 1986: "You are our dear brothers or, we might say, our elder brothers."

Saturday 11 April 2009


Heute ist Karsamstag, der letze Tag der Passionszeit. Unten sind Zitate die mir entweder besonders angesprochen haben oder mir zum Nachdenken gebracht haben:

Menschen gehen zu Gott,
in ihrer Not,
flehen um Hilfe,
bitten um Glück und Brot,
um Errettung aus Krankheit,
Schuld und Tod.
So tun sie all, alle,
Christen und Heiden.

Menschen gehen zu Gott
in Seiner Not,
finden ihn arm, geschmäht,
ohne Obdach und Brot,
sehn ihn verschlungen von Sünde,
Schwachheit und Tod.
Christen stehen bei Gott
in Seinen Leiden.

Gott geht zu allen Menschen
in ihrer Not,
sättigt den Leib und die Seele
mit Seinem Brot,
stirbt für Christen und Heiden
den Kreuzestod,
und vergibt ihnen beiden.


Seid so unter euch gesinnt, wie es auch der Gemenschaft in Christus entspricht:

Er, der in göttlicher Gestalt war, hielt es nicht für einen Raub, Gott gleich zu sein, sonder entäußerte sich selbst und nahm Knechtsgestalt an, ward den Menschen gleich und der Erscheinung nach als Mensch erkannt.

Er erniedrigte sich selbst und ward gehorsam bis zum Tode, ja zum Tode am Kreuz.

Darum hat ihn auch Gott erhöht und hat ihm den namen gegeben, der über alle Namen ist, daß in dem Namen Jesu sich beugen sollen aller derer Knie, dei im Himmel und auf Erden und unter der Erde sind, und alle Zunge n bekennen sollen, daß Jesus Christus der Herr ist, zur Ehre Gottes, des Vaters.


Laßt uns alle vor seinem Kreuze schweigen; wir alle sind anders als er und sind vor ihm alle schulding.


Stirb mit dem, der lebt, daß du auferstehst mit dem, der gestorben ist, und lebst mit dem, der auferstanden ist.


Seine Gerechtigkeit gegen mich hätte ich begriffen, seine übermäßige Liebe ist unbegreiflich.


Das Kreuz Christi ist eine Last von der Art, wie es die Flügel für die Vögel sind. Sie tragen aufwärts.



Drei Räuber
kreuzigt man heute
auf Golgoth:

Der linke nahm mir mein Geld
der rechte nahm mir mein Gut
der in der Mitte nahm mir meine Schuld.

Auf Golgotha
kreuzigt man heute
drei Räuber.


Der den Wein austeilt, / muß essig trinken.
Der die Hand nicht hebt zur Abwehr, / wird geschlagen.

Der den Verlassenen sucht, / wird verlassen.
Der nicht schreien macht, / schreit überlaut.

Der die Wunde heilt, / wird durchbohrt.
Der den Wurm rettet, / wird zertreten.

Der nicht verfolgt, hicht verrät, / wird ausgeliefert.
Der nicht schuld ist, der Unschuldige / wird gequält.

Der lebendig macht, / wird geschlachtet.
Der die Henker begnadigt, / stirbt gnadenlos.


Monday 6 April 2009

The "kerygmatic framework" of Scripture

The transmission and forming of the biblical material was not a haphazard growth, but was the product of theological reflection on the sacred writings. The effect of this canonical shaping was that a framework was given, often called a rule-of-faith within which the material was interpreted by and for the church. In other words, the biblical material in its larger structure has been rendered in a particular holistic fashion. Often this redaction, or “ruled reading,” has been termed “kerygmatic,” “confessional,” or “canonical.” This means that there is a semantic given, a prescribed content to its intended sense which is commensurate with its role as sacred scripture.
Childs, "Speech-Act Theory and Biblical Interpretation," 383.

Saturday 4 April 2009

I don't blog Sundays

There are a couple of helpful responses to my latest post A canonical approach to the twelve Minor Prophets, once again affirming the academic merit of blogging. I don't know what it is like doing a PhD on campus with an available bunch of doctoral colleagues, but blogging puts you in touch with great brains around the globe.

The relevance that this has to the title of my post is that I won't be responding till Monday. I've decided that taking a breat from lap top at least one day a week is incredibly healthy, so I don't even switch the thing on in order to resist the temptation of getting lost in reams of RSS feeds. So thanks guys - I'll get back to you (and for the others, feel free to join the conversation!).

I should add that I am currently making a (rather challenging) transition in my doctoral studies. Having soaked up Brevard Childs and the scholars that have influenced him over the past two and a half years, I'm now trying to actually do some of my own exegesis (i.e. Psalm 24). This involves making a major switch in consciousness - no longer do I have to trade in broad sweeping concepts such as "the text as witness" or "the dialectic between text and res." Rather, I have to look at multiple textual variants, poetic structures, redactional schemes and historical context. The amount of intricate knowledge needed to do this is really quite extraordinary; I have full respect for bloggers such as John Hobbins , Douglas Mangum or John Anderson who have seemingly mastered the material and can effortlessly summarize entire universes of information in the sweep of a single post. I've updated my RSS feeds lately in order to try and immerse myself in this "alternate reality" (I've been reading far more dogmatics than Old Testament). I look forward to participating in these lively and edifying conversations.

A canonical approach to the Twelve Minor Prophets

I've argued elsewhere that Christopher Seitz's conception of a "canonical approach" to Scripture (like Childs') is not a form of postmodern interpretation which brackets out all questions of historical development or authorial intentionality. It is a complex phenomenon, involving historical, literary, and theological considerations (see, e.g. my post Continuity in tradition-history). Below, see 1st) his summary of the final form of The Twelve as the product of intentional juxtaposition and 2nd) his understanding of the nature of the phenomenon:

1) Canonical Shaping of the Twelve:

It is "clear that the placements of later books next to earlier ones is an intentional move, arising from the canonical process itself, and is not a reader-response imposition by readers tired of older approaches and looking for new ones. Just as YHWH's roaring from Zion ends Joel and begins Amos, Amos ends with a promise of Edom's (9:12), and Obadiah unhesitatingly describes it. Jonah provides an occasion not of Israelite but of Ninevite repentance, which makes the prophet sore but which reminds the reader that God is not above relenting over evil powers like Edom (whom he has punished in Obadiah already) or even the powerful nation of Assyria. He can treat them with the same patience and kindness he has lavished on his own people, in different ways and dispensations, in Hosea, Joel, and Amos or in the context of Edom's destruction of Obadiah (17-21). Micah establishes the limits of God's patience, now toward the preserved remnant of Judah, strikingly at the exact middle point of the Twelve as a whole (3:12)—a prophecy that bore repeating in a later conflict over Jeremiah's similar preaching against the temple and king (see Jer. 26:18)" (p. 237).

2) The nature of the phenomenon:

"We know that as a historical datum, very soon after the final prophetic book (Malachi?) took shape, the Twelve are regarded as a collection (Sirach, Qumran). Indeed, in Sirach the existence of the Twelve is something of a cliché: it is referred to as a given, without argument or assertion. The literary evidence for internal editorial affiliation, linkages, and intentional juxtapositions is becoming increasingly clear as scholars turn to this sort of inquiry. And I have tried to probe into the theological coherence of the twelve-book collection that may be the intended consequence or, indeed, the originating engine, driving the historical and literary dimensions of canonical shaping "(217, emphasis original).

A Biblical curse generator

How awesome is this! Douglas Mangum of Biblia Hebraica links a Biblical curse generator. Here is the description of this handy tool:

Lost for a smart remark to see off your enemies? Unable to deliver that killer insult? Put an end to unscriptural restraint with the amazing Biblical Curse Generator, which is pre-loaded with blistering smackdowns as delivered by Elijah, Jeremiah and other monumentally angry saints. Simply click the button below, and smite your foes with a custom-made curse straight out of the Old Testament!
Finally, something of real practical use from the biblioblogasphere.

Friday 3 April 2009

Video of Jenson on Scripture and the regula fidei

Robert Jenson recently held a series of lectures at the University of Otago on that most important of all subjects: "The Regula Fidei and Scripture." Of course, this caused convulsions of frustration on my part as I'm in Germany and not Otago, but luckily Jason Goroncy of the marvelous blog Per Crucem ad Lucem as not only given us a detailed summary of each lecture (along with his own thoughts), he has provided links to the videos thereof. You can find them in his post Robert Jenson: The 2009 Burns Lectures. Joy is the word that first comes to mind :)

Here are Jason's own summaries:

Here are the video podcasts of those lectures, available for download as MP4s:

Lecture 1: Creed, Scripture, and their Modern Alienation
Lecture 2: The Tanakh as Christian Scripture
Lecture 3: The New Testament and the Regula Fidei
Lecture 4: The Apostles’ Creed
Lecture 5: The Creed as Critical Theory of Scripture
Lecture 6: Genesis 1:1 and Luke 1:26-38
For an interesting analysis of the meaning of the "rule of faith" for the earlier church (an analysis with influenced Brevard Childs), see my thread B. Hägglund on the regula fidei.

Thursday 2 April 2009

Reconciliation in Israel/Palestine: a most beautiful video

This kind of stuff makes my heart burn within me. Check out the website of Musalaha.

John Hobbins has written some timely thoughts (timely to this post, of course) in Which side are you on in the Israeli-Arab conflict?

Check out this music video too by Israeli and Palestian musicians: In My Heart