Vatican City -- Prelates and religious dignitaries from around the world fill St. Peter's Basilica as a concelebrated Mass opens the Second Vatican Council on Oct. 11, 1962.

50 years of Christian-Jewish revolution: What we can all learn (COMMENTARY)

Vatican City -- Prelates and religious dignitaries from around the world fill St. Peter's Basilica as a concelebrated Mass opens the Second Vatican Council on Oct. 11, 1962.

Vatican City -- Prelates and religious dignitaries from around the world fill St. Peter's Basilica as a concelebrated Mass opens the Second Vatican Council on Oct. 11, 1962.

(RNS) Shortly before his death in 1904, Theodor Herzl had an audience with Pope Pius X, hoping to enlist Vatican support for Zionism, the reestablishment of the Jewish people's independence in its ancestral homeland.

Herzl records in his diaries that Pius told him he could not recognize the Jewish people as such because “the Jews have not recognized our Lord.” “We cannot prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem,” the pope said, “but we could never sanction it. If you come to Palestine and settle your people there, our churches and priests will be ready to baptize all of you.”

Pius wasn’t particularly hostile towards Jews. He was simply expressing the normative Christian approach down the ages that the expulsion of the Jews from their land was proof of divine rejection. The church, according to this view, was the new and true Israel, having replaced the old one -- the Jewish people.

Moreover, as the church father Origen declared, “the blood of Jesus falls on Jews not only then, but on all generations until the end of the world.”

This deicide charge was used to justify persecution of Jews for centuries, culminating in the terrible Holocaust. Indeed, the Protestant chaplain of the Nazi S.S., at his trial in 1958, declared that the Holocaust was the “fulfillment of the self-condemnation which the Jews brought upon themselves before the tribunal of Pontius Pilate.”

While Nazi ideology was secular and pagan, the "Final Solution" regarding the Jews was mostly implemented by baptized Christians in ostensibly Christian lands. Its implications and ramifications for Christianity were therefore profound.

There were, however, notable Christian heroes who stood out as exceptions. One was Angelo Roncalli, the papal envoy in Turkey and one of the earliest Western religious figures to receive information on the Nazi murder machine. He helped save thousands of Jews from their would-be killers and was deeply moved by the plight of the Jewish people. In 1958, Roncalli was elected Pope John XXIII.

(RNS) Pope John XXIII is carried on a papal throne to the opening session of the Second Vatican Council in 1962. Religion News Service file photo.

(RNS) Pope John XXIII is carried on a papal throne to the opening session of the Second Vatican Council in 1962. Religion News Service file photo.

Soon thereafter, he announced his intention to convene the Second Vatican Council to "update" the church and address critical issues. Many Jews and Christians saw this as a unique opportunity for the church to review its teaching regarding Jews and Judaism. Jewish organizations, the American Jewish Committee in particular, joined to advance this cause.

Although John XXIII did not live to see it, almost exactly 50 years ago, the council's "Declaration on the Relation of the Church to non-Christian Religions" -- popularly known as "Nostra Aetate" -- was released. Section 4, dealing with the relationship with the Jewish people, admonishes against portraying the Jews as rejected by God and as collectively guilty for the death of Jesus at the time, let alone in perpetuity.

It furthermore affirms the unbroken and eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people, eliminating in one stroke, as it were, any theological objections to the return of the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland and to sovereignty within it. The document categorically condemns anti-Semitism and calls for “fraternal dialogue and biblical studies” between Christians and Jews.

It took an additional 28 years for full diplomatic relations to be established between the Holy See and Israel, due more to politics than religion. In the meantime, Pope John Paul II had visited Rome's central synagogue, where he referred to the Jewish people as Christians' "dearly beloved elder brother," and he described anti-Semitism as "a sin against God and man." In 2000 he made his "jubilee" visit to the Holy Land, where he paid his respects to Israel's highest elected officials.

(It's worth noting that both John XXIII and John Paul II are now official Catholic saints.)

Since "Nostra Aetate," Catholic-Jewish relations have flourished. Indeed, there may be nothing in human history that quite parallels such an amazing transformation. A wondrous achievement in itself, the revolution in Catholic-Jewish relations also suggests something more universal about relationships between religious communities.

Rabbi David Rosen, the international director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, is the Jewish member of the board of directors for the King Abdullah Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue.

Rabbi David Rosen, the international director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, is the Jewish member of the board of directors for the King Abdullah Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue.

If one religion can go from seeing another as contemptible and condemnable, to one that is respected and beloved, it can surely serve as a model for humanity at large, declaring that no chronic neuralgic relationship is beyond transformation.

Jewish-Muslim relations today are a case in point. While they are inevitably affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, recall, however, that Islam had never denigrated Judaism in the way that Christianity had. We do not have to wait for a resolution of Middle East conflicts.

Everywhere, religious communities can overcome negative images of the other through positive engagement, purify themselves of prejudice, and contribute to the well-being of society at large.

(Rabbi David Rosen is the American Jewish Committee’s international director of interreligious affairs. He was a member of the team that negotiated the establishment of full relations between Israel and the Holy See.)


  1. Better late than never?

    Shame and embarrassment are powerful forces. Being instrumental in supporting mass murder tends to make one re-evaluate their position when such things are made public. Make no bones about it, Christian churches openly collaborated with the repression and mass murder of the Nazis (with one, sole exception). Nazi repression worked well with their long standing doctrines. The Catholic church openly supported Fascist regimes besides the Nazis ( Franco’s Spain, Croatia’s Ustasha, and Belgian Rexists).

    It has only been rather recent that the Catholic church admitted some level of culpability in the excesses of right wing dictatorships in Latin America. It took the end of the Cold War and about a decade of recrimination from the World Court (and Spanish Government) for them to finally take notice.

  2. The normal and heartfelt reply to Rosen’s hope that Islam will eventually get on the same road to reconciliation as Catholicism is “from your mouth to God’s ears.”

    But what made the Catholic turnaround possible were the clear words of canonical, ie Biblical, text — Paul the Apostle’s ringing affirmation of God’s eternal covenant with the Jewish people in the 11th chapter of his letter to, irony of ironies, the church at Rome. Also making that possible are numerous other texts in both the Old and New Testaments which say or presume the same thing.

    Only deep and tenacious anti-Semitism, smuggled into the church during its first few centuries, can possibly explain how the church missed Paul’s words and intent for the better part of 17 centuries.

    In contrast, there is no equivalent text in the Koran. You will find an occasional Muslim who will be unambiguously pro-Israel and pro-Jewish, and will point to an occasional passage in the Koran that is nice to the Jews, but no clear theme that runs so powerfully through it as you do in the Bible, both Old and New, nor any clear discourse like that of Paul which leaps off the pages as his does.

    Religious texts do matter within religions….as literacy spreads, they will matter even more. Given the content of Biblical text, this should continue to bode well for Christian/Jewish relations.

  3. Jack,

    A major question to be asked now, as well as in the future, is whether or not the nation of Israel will accept the millenial rule of Jesus, King of God’s kingdom or heavenly government (Daniel 2:44; Matthew 4:17) after the end of this wicked era (Matthew 24:14).

    The nation is still waiting for the Messiah, who made his appearance on earth, and whom most of them rejected (John 19:14,15).

  4. Well the Catholic Church has made considerable progress in its attitudes towards Jews, but many Protestant churches need a lot of work. Even some Churches that claim to love Jews want to love us out of existence like Fran.

    Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah for very good reasons. The idea that Jews rejected the “Messiah” has led to persecution of Jews for centuries. First of all the Messiah was supposed to be a messenger of God, not God. The coming of the Messiah was supposed to bring about universal peace and understanding. I shouldn’t need to say that hasn’t happened. I could go on with many other reasons why Jews rejected Jesus.

    There is also the depiction of the Pharisees in the “New Testament”, which is antisemitic. You can read Amy Jill Levine’s article in Sojourners on this subject.

  5. “In the meantime, Pope John Paul II had visited Rome’s central synagogue, where he referred to the Jewish people as Christians’ “dearly beloved elder brother,” and he described anti-Semitism as “a sin against God and man.”

    When will it ever end? I’m talking about Jews and Christians continuing this hideous Orwellian Zionist Double-Speak label thrown at critics of Judaism’s terrible racist ideology that produces our current Abrahamic war between Zionist Jews and Zionist Evangelical Christians and Muslims over the crime against humanity that is European Jewish converts allowed to invade and occupy Palestine which not any of them or their ancestors ever stepped foot on as homeland. I’m sick and tired of both Zionist Jews and American Christians blindly OK’ing Jewish crimes against humanity which is the genocide of Palestinian society to make room for European Jewish immigrants primarily. Zionists are committing CRIME, people, and you all think that’s OK? That is is OK for Europeans to pull another racist imperialist invasion of a non-European land and take it over for themselves alone? When are you people going to get morality that you claim your religions teach you? Well, they don’t. Neither Judaism or Pauline Christianity teaches morality when it comes to religious warfare of territorial control of believers. Anything goes to support the established and evil Jewish and Christian Zionist agenda that is pure racism wanting to get rid of the indigenous population to inflict a Jewish “history” that never was. Why don’t religious leaders tell the truth? Because they are political animals far more than spiritual people and will protect their political enterprises with lie after lie after lie.

    What as I prove that Judaism doesn’t have any spiritual authority at all as rabbis, and I include this challenge to rabbi David Rosen, do not know the historical origin of Judaism’s foundational word, “Torah”. They know only Hebrew propaganda about it’s origins as the truth pretty much destroys any Jewish claim of Torah exclusivity and thus the religion of Judaism falls flat on it face hiding historical truth from believers for 2500 years. And it worked as Pauline Christians never questioned Judaism’s tenets because Paul didn’t and Paul thought Christianity was a “branch” on the vine of Judaism when in historical fact it’s the other way around. Root Christianity which is astro-theologically based as the Celestial Torah is the real root of Christianity. We Jews have been put in charge of protecting and delivering the Celestial Torah spiritual information for the benefit of humanity while priests of Judah tried to keep it all for Jews alone and thus derailed God’s Plan until the advent of Christ began the spiritual correction.

    If Judaism’s rabbis cannot answer where their anchor word of Torah originates, you be assured they don’t know what they are talking about on other levels too. Same goes for Pauline Christians and Muhammad idol worshipers, all of these Abrahamic religions based on religious fraud, forcing believers to believe in fables and tall tales in order to keep priesthood political power alive and well screwing up our modern times with bad religious ideas that have no place in the 21st Century. We see what happens to social progress when another round of Abrahamic religious warfare gets going. Now we have Muhammadans dragging everyone back into the Middle Ages.

  6. Susan,

    Jesus acknowledged that he was the son of God before the Jewish nation, which they took as blasphemy (Matthew 26:63-65; Mark 14:61-64; John 10:24-39). Jesus is also referred to as the “Word” or spokesperson of God (John 1:1-3), his Father.

    Unfortunately, many “religions” today still advocate the Trinity doctrine which is not taught at all in the Bible.

    If you would refer to the prophecy of Isaiah at Isaiah 11:1-9, it is referring to the future messianic rule by Jesus, the King of God’s kingdom, which will take place in the near future.

    Time was needed to accomplish the entire purpose of God, including the establishment of God’s kingdom in the heavens and procuring the number of those “spiritual Israelites”, or spirit-anointed Christians who will rule with Jesus over man on earth, numbering 144,000, consisting of both Jews and Gentiles (Revelation 7:1-7; 14:1-5).

    In addition, Jesus foretold that the good news of God’s kingdom would be preached before the end of this wicked era (Matthew 24:14), which work is being done worldwide.

    I am totally against persecution of any of my fellowman; and millions of Jews suffered atrociously at the hands of the Nazis in concentration camps and lost their lives. Many of my own brothers and sisters (Jehovah’s Witnesses) faced the same outcome. But there is a marvelous hope of resurrection by God’s kingdom, through Jesus’ rule, that will bring them back to life on earth, to be reunited with family and friends (John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15).

    I would love to see the entire nation of Israel accept Jesus and his millenial rule when that takes place. However, everyone on earth, whether Jew or Gentile, will have the God-given free will to accept or reject it. It is a personal choice, not by force.

  7. Judging from the Catholic AND Protestant lovefest that greeted the release of Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” not all that long ago, I think you might be overestimating the degree to which Christians have abandoned the “deicide” narrative.

  8. Wait ’til my movie comes out, Yeishu ben Pantera, the Real Jesus Christ Story.
    Comes from the Talmud’s oblique and nasty commentaries on a Yeishu and other names used to describe someone with a biography amazingly similar to Jesus Christ’s. And in the Talmud’s account of the trial and execution of Yeishu and his five disciples (two names show up in the Gospels) for blasphemy, there are no Romans at all, Jews themselves alone have Yeishu stoned to death and hung on a tree as per Jewish law, an event Paul refers to in Gal 3:13 I think, Few Gentiles know about Yeishu and one has to wonder if some smarter Gentiles learning Hebrew and reading the Talmud didn’t get upset time and again as that “Holy Book” contains hate speech against Gentiles, Christ and Christians which pretty much is why Jews never liked Jesus Christ even though his teachings are constantly referred to by humanitarian writers and leaders. Judaism conducts religious warfare against Gentiles just as much as Christians conduct religious warfare against Jews. Muhammadans conduct outright old fashioned style religious warfare against everyone not a Muhammad idol worshiper. I suggest all Abrahamic religionists go back and take a historical and ethical look at that god of Abraham to see why Abrahamic believers constantly fan religious warfare one way or another. Worshiping war gods will do it. Yahweh was the Israelite tribal war god and Abraham’s god has so many Moloch characteristics as to be thrown out completely even if this burnt child eating monster decided to play mind fudge games with Abraham instead. Psychological torture isn’t morally acceptable either so chuck the whole phony gods business out the window of bad religious ideas. Just a suggestion..

    If you’re serious about wanting world peace..

  9. Fran, Isaiah isn’t talking about Jesus as the Messiah. You have to already believe in Jesus and read Isaiah backwards to find it there. I’m not going to comment on what the “New Testament” says as a proof text, because I don’t believe in it. It was written way after Jesus’s death by people who had no contact with Jesus. The writers of the Gospels had their own agendas.

    If you want all Jews to accept Jesus, you want all Jews to stop being Jews. It is a spiritual genocide not a physical genocide. You want Jews to voluntarily commit spiritual genocide. Don’t tell me you can accept Jesus and be Jewish because you can’t.

  10. Susan,

    There were many prophecies in the Old Testament about Jesus which were fulfilled in the New Testament. I understand that you do not believe in the New Testament, but I consider it as a complement or completion/fulfillment of the Old Testament, all inspired by God.

    It is possible for Jews to become Christian, just as it was for Saul, who greatly persecuted Christians and then became a Christian himself, the apostle Paul. I should have clarified that point in my previous post.

    However, as you mentioned above, if Jews do not wish to become Christian, then yes, they will remain Jewish in their faith, and unbelievers in Jesus, the Christ.

  11. Yes it is possible for Jews to become Christians, but they became Christians they were not Jewish as well. There are no prophecies that predict Jesus as the Messiah in what you call the “Old Testament” unless you read them all backward already looking for proof of Jesus as the Messiah.

    The word Christ means anointed. The Messiah is the anointed one, but the Messiah is not God or the son of God. Also, the Messiah was supposed to bring about an age of universal peace and brotherhood. That has not happened. I suppose Christians get around that by saying there will be a Second Coming. There is nothing in the “Old Testament” about a Second Coming.

    The word for repentance in Hebrew in teshuvah. All Hebrew words have 2 or 3 letter roots and the root of teshuvah is return. One can always return to God and repent to God directly. Jews don’t need Jesus as an intermediary. As a matter of fact we believe that God knows we are not perfect as does not expect us to be God just wants us to return to him completely. I should add that Jews don’t believe in original sin so we don’t need Jesus to save us from original sin.

  12. Susan, I’m Jewish and most definitely Christian, as was Yeishu/Jesus. You have been swindled by priests of Judah as have all Jews falling for Judah’s lies and Wizard of Oz mesmerization of believers with massive amounts of literature, priestly goo-gahs, glittery robes and the most manipulated language in the world, made to conform to Judah’s religious ideas and thus lose the Canaanite dialect meanings of the Hebrew language. In order to find key religious ideas in Bible to trace them back before Hebrews wrote their myths of origin, I had to use Arabic which is closer to Aramaic now and ancient Egyptian where so many “Jewish” religious ideas originated. Such as the Torah..

    You may or may not have noticed that I’ve been challenging rabbis, actually over a year now, to tell us the historical root of the major religious concept of Judaism, the Torah. None of them respond and if they can, they routinely censored my question and had me banned from Judaism discussions with of course lot’s of “anti-Semitism” slander thrown at me. Rabbis are afraid to answer my question because they don’t know the real etymology of the word “Torah” and I do. I have a presentation that explains how the Jewish Torah was derived from ancient Egypt’s religious cult which was based as most ancient religions were in structure, upon astro-theological construction, Priests of Judah divorced astrological linkage to their earthly Torah in order to prevent us Jews from finding out where they got their basic religious idea by stealing it from Egyptian religion. You don’t know any of this because rabbis don’t know it now but do know Judaism’s core beliefs cannot withstand either historical or moral scrutiny. Judaism has already fallen as Israeli archeology proves the Hebrew authors of the Torah/Tanakh were great story tellers and myth-makers, but truthful historians they were not at all as they fabricated the Jewish religion by reworking far more older pagan religious ideas into a Jewish tribal form, evidently to meld three different Canaanite tribes into one “Israel”, that name itself a complete lie in Hebrew, “he struggles with EL” is really the Hebrew priests of Judah capturing the three main gods of Egypt in the name, “Israel” – – Isis, Ra, EL. Moon, Sun, Saturn, each special to Egypt and EL the top God of Canaan as well. Judaism is packed with pagan god capturing tales because religious warfare is what Judaism is all about. Creating a platform for religious war with 98% of the human race branded, exactly like white supremacists brand all non-white races in their form of blanket racism, as “inferior” human beings, subspecies, and never to be allowed intermarriage with the Superior Ones.

    Judaism can’t be held as a moral or spiritual religion and why keep a racist cult neurosis going any longer by protecting Jewish cult against needed criticism? Why make future generations of Jews, kids accept a pack of ancient lies instead of telling them the truth about the origins of Judaism in religious theft, a common enough phenomena that there’s no dishonor in exposing the truth now, all religions do what Judah priests did only not all religions got the backing of a super power, Roman Empire, to spread their gospel. Pauline Christianity did and politically overpowers Judaism which is why Israel seeks and needs Evangelical Christian support to exist, to keep that lie going, the Eretz Yisrael racist one that seeks to replace Arab Gentile (not really) Palestinians with European Jewish convert descendants like you and me. Making Pals the scapegoat for European Gentile treatment of European Jews.

    Any way you look at it, Judaism has spawned its share of needless misery inflicted on Jews by selfish rabbis who won’t tell the truth. No real Torah knowledge in them, only Hebrew religious propaganda and lot’s of it to snow Jews who don’t bother to check what they’ve been born into.

    Christianity follows the Celestial Torah which is why it quickly overtook Judaism to become Gentile accepted as Judaism hides the true Torah as it replaced it with reworked pagan religious ideas claimed exclusive to Judaism when it never was. E.g. the foundational word “Torah” is not Hebrew at all but Egyptian derived. I teach Celestial Torah Christianity which is the world’s oldest religious symbolic system. It is even cited by Jewish priesthood as the Source of their earthly Torah and it is, but nothing like the way they’re makeover job done after there were virtually no ancient Egyptian priests around to counter the Jewish priesthood lies about the Torah’s origins. And of course attached to Pauline Christianity, this cover up has lasted up unto this very day.

    The challenge to rabbis to prove me wrong is always there but never accepted. They count on religious cult loyalty to ignore critics and keep the whole phony ball of wax going on and on to the next generations. I’ve woken up and I urge you and all Jews to do the same. Doesn’t mean losing tribal identity at all but does mean freeing ourselves of falsehoods and getting real with Gentile peoples who we really are who come from European Ashkenazim descent.

  13. The Passion was anti-Semitic at critical points, but fortunately that sailed over most moviegoers’ heads — because the most visceral, visual, and memorable moments featured the sadistic Roman soldiers beating Jesus. In fact, even when Arab audiences on the Arabian Peninsula saw the film, they were yelling out at the soldiers to stop the beating…and when the film had ended, they kept talking about how evil the Romans were. Not a word from them about the Jews, fortunately.

  14. Susan,

    If you don’t believe in original sin, then what do you attribute centuries of getting old and dying for the human race to? Just curious, and thanks for the info.

  15. Israel is beloved of The Lord and certainly should be by God;s people. Jesus told His disciples to preach the Gospel to every nation, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. God’s favor toward Israel is still operative. Why some don’t understand this is beyond me. They probably don’t read their Bibles. Jesus is the Promised Messiah of Israel who died for the sins of not only the Jews but for people of all nations. Receive God’s gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ/Messiah and turn away from sin and know God’s peace and joy. God Bless

  16. Mark,

    The Jewish nation today does not exercise faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, as evidenced by the posts of Susan above, who is Jewish. They would need to become Christians, as Saul did (who originally persecuted Christians), and then became the apostle Paul.

  17. Well, Fran, when, as prophesized, all the nations of the world attack Israel in the future and all hope appears lost, whoever shows up to destroy their armies and rescue Israel will be the real-deal Messiah. If it turns out to be Jesus, I somehow doubt that any of the brave defenders of Jerusalem on that day will turn him back.

    That’s the practical, common-sense answer to your question.

    The Biblical answer is the same. If Paul were walking the earth today, he would say, “well, duh.”

  18. Well, Stephen, being what you’d disparagingly call a “Christian Zionist,” I guess I am quite wicked indeed in your eyes for simply affirming that the Jews have the right to return to their ancient homeland and establish sovereignty there… well as to defend their state against those who would destroy it.

  19. Stephen, with all due respect, what you believe is neither Christian nor Jewish, but Gnostic, which is heresy against Christianity and hatred against Jews.

  20. The appeal of The Passion had almost entirely to do with the fact it was a “torture-porn” film aimed at audiences normally used to picketing such films. The anti-Semitic elements may have sailed over the heads of the usual audience, but it was pretty much the main topic of media buzz when it was in the theaters.

  21. The fact that all living things get old and die.

    What original sin did my various pets commit in ancient times?
    What about my houseplants?

  22. Larry,

    You do not provide a “reason” for why man grows old and dies, but God does, through his inspired words written by the apostle Paul:

    “That is why, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)

  23. Thanks so much for posting this article! As an author and historian writing a novel series based on the early development of the Judeo-Christian community and how a schism formed between the two, I find this article provides a great perspective on the history of Jewish/Christian relations! This is definitely worth a “Share” on my author’s page today!
    JB Richards
    Author of “Miriamne the Magdala-The First Chapter in the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series” and Content Creator for The Miriamne Page

  24. “You do not provide a “reason” for why man grows old and dies”

    Because all living things need to die. Why should one expect eternal life as a default. You know nothing in this world which is eternal in nature. You have to refer to supernatural mythology to find something which is never ending.

    Eternal life is extremely wasteful of earthly resources. You end up with increasing numbers of consumers with nothing returning back to the earth. Things don’t need a reason which refers to your book of Middle Eastern mythology.

    C’mon Fran, even Science Fiction was able to raise this issue Torchwood-Miracle Day).

    So did my goldfish or hamster enter a sinful life?
    How about my ferns?

  25. It certainly was the media buzz, which initially made me very reluctant to see the film. But having seen it, I can see why there were such deep divisions about the question of anti-Semitism in it. Among evangelicals, film-savvy people like Larry Poland were trashing the film for anti-Semitism, while other evangelicals who were not in the film business and who were just as sensitive to anti-Semitism as the film-savvy people had totally different reactions to the movie.

    In a sense, both were correct. It had actual anti-Semitic moments in it, but they were lost to nearly all movie-goers. Most people who saw it and who didn’t understand how films are made or about traditional theological symbolisms were genuinely puzzled by the charges. But those in the know understood exactly what Gibson was up to during those moments.

    As for the “torture-porn” statement, that’s Rolling Stone or Mother Jones or Village Voice lingo that really has no relation to the movie, which in depicting what Jesus went through, is a lot closer to reality than any prior Jesus movie, which neatly glossed over the gruesome horrors he endured. While much of it was difficult to look at, I had to keep telling myself that what I was seeing was the reality of what happened. The Romans were what they were, and this is how they often treated those they were about to crucify.

  26. Susan, I presume you’re referring to the famous Isaiah 53. Whoever its subject was, the writer clearly was thinking about somebody….ie an individual…..whoever he was. At one point in the chapter, the writer says that the subject was stricken for “the sins of my people.” That strongly suggests it was a literal person, no matter who the identity of “my people” is….because the whole chapter is about somebody who takes on the burdens of people other than himself. Thus it can’t be about the people taking on the burdens of the people. Thus, until virtually the modern era, most scholars of all stripes believed that the subject of the chapter was a person and not a collective….with most Jewish and Christian scholars believing it referred to the Messiah. Obviously, Jews and Christians differed on who the Messiah was, but both were once on the same page that the chapter was referring to the Messiah, whoever he was or would be.

    As for when the New Testament was written and who wrote it, modern archeology and Biblical studies has demolished the older view of the “higher critics” that that New Testament was written many generations after Jesus. According to William Albright, the foremost biblical archeologist of the 20th century, every book of the NT was written in the first century.

    As for the Gospels, there is compelling internal evidence that the writer of the Gospel of John had an intimate, insider knowledge of the goings-on of Jesus and his earliest disciples. There are numerous little details tucked away in that Gospel which clearly evidence that. The writer is thoroughly immersed in the geography and culture of early first-century Israel, depicting with eyewitness depth and perception an entire world of Galilee and Judea that was no more after the Roman conquest of 70 AD. So that places him in pre-70 Israel. He also goes on to depict at several points a rivalry between two of Jesus’ followers — Peter and John — and curiously gives us John’s perspective every time. For example, he tells his readers that during the trial of Jesus that Peter got into the high priest’s courtyard only because John “was known by” the high priest…..In other words, he was crediting John with getting Peter in since John somehow had an “in” with the high priest. (I suspect they were relatives.) As a further example, when the apostles heard that Jesus’ tomb was empty after his crucifixion and burial, the writer makes it a point to say that even though Peter looked into the tomb first, John had outrun Peter to the tomb. Finally, the Gospel of John ends with Peter showing a wee bit of jealousy over John. Taken together, these are pretty strong hints that the writer of the Gospel of John, traditionally considered the apostle John, was probably none other than him.

  27. Stephen, the question of what, if anything, the Talmud has said about Jesus has nowhere as clear-cut an answer as you think. One thing that is clear, however, is that neo-Nazi and Islamist hate sites love to claim that the Talmud says the worst possible things about Jesus….the other clear thing is that the vast majority of scholars reject their key claims.

    It is probable that the Talmud has said an occasional harsh thing about Jesus, but on the other hand, there is an unmistakable record of church leaders through the millennia saying extraordinarily hateful things about the Jews…..some of them strong enough for Adolf to have quoted with glee many centuries later. Martin Luther, for example, came thisclose to advocating the unthinkable.

    Stephen, are you saying what I think you’re saying about the death of Jesus? Are you really denying the unmistakable and pivotal Roman role?

    If so, I have lots to say in refutation. I’m not going to whitewash the role of Caiaphas, the corrupt high priest, but I’m not going to ignore that the final call was that of the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate…..the ball was in his court from start to finish. The Gospels depict a complicated dance between Caiaphas and Pilate, but in the end, Pilate was the one in charge who made the decision, albeit in typical, Pilate-like fashion. Lots of politics swirling in the background of that decision, politics going on in Rome as well as Jerusalem.

  28. On the New Testament’s claim that Jesus fulfilled numerous prophecies of the Hebrew Bible, there really are, logically speaking, two different ways at refutation….and each has its problems:

    First, deny that the prophecies cited are really predicting a coming Messiah, but in fact are something else and mean something else or

    Second, deny that Jesus actually did the things alleged in fulfillment of the prophecies.

    The first tacitly assumes that Jesus actually did the things attributed to him in the Gospels, which would be the reason the apostles would ransack the Hebrew Bible in the first place to try to find verses they deemed “prophecies” to fulfill such things. But to assume that Jesus actually did the things the Gospels said he did is to vouch for the veracity of the Gospels and hence their message….

    The second requires us to assume that the prophecies cited had a history in the Jewish community of being interpreted as foretelling a Messiah, which would be the reason for the apostles supposedly constructing the Jesus story as a way to show that he fulfilled them.

    In other words, the first objection requires us to believe the Gospel story is largely true, while the second objection requires us to believe the prophecies cites as being fulfilled were long recognized as Messianic prophecies.

    Either objection, in other words, has its problems.

    And the first is additionally problematic because most of the texts in question do have a history at the time of the writing of the Talmud of being considered prophecies about a Messiah.

    Bottom line, Susan, is that this is more complex than you may realize. That may be one reason both Christianity and Judaism have survived through time and are quite viable to this very day.

  29. To sum up, the two main objections or counter-arguments unwittingly end up saying either that the Gospel story is true and the disciples ransacked the Hebrew Bible for signs of it being foretold, or that the Gospel story isn’t true but the prophecies cited were bone-fide, recognized prophecies about a coming Messiah. Each objection thus becomes a potential apologetic for the very thing it seeks to refute — the truth of the Gospel story.

    This is what makes the long-standing debate so very interesting. The Gospel story is a lot harder to puncture than it first appears….from any perspective. Old slogans and mantras just don’t hold up very well under scrutiny.

    And that’s why the Gospel keeps spreading across the earth to this day.

    But it is also true that the view that the Jews remain God’s people is equally hard to puncture…..both the Bible and history say so in a dramatic way.

    And that ultimately makes Judaism inescapably relevant to this day and explains its resilience as well.

    Looks like Christians and Jews are “stuck” with each other and with each others’ narratives. Neither is going away…..probably because neither is meant to go away. To believe that one has made the apparent truth of either go away with their words would be like closing one’s eyes and believing that one is erasing the reality of the sun.

  30. Well, if you think about it, it’s hard to believe in sin without at some point smuggling in a belief in “original sin.” We can call it other names if we don’t like that one, but it’s all the same thing. To believe in Christianity or Judaism is to believe that human beings are not totally blank slates. Even in terms of simple good deeds, while people are born with an ability to do at least some good, their inclination is toward selfishness. The interesting thing is that people have to be taught and encouraged on a fairly consistent basis to do the right thing….as most parents will attest.

  31. Mark, Israel is the beloved of the Lord are words written by Jewish writers in their religious myths of origin. Please stop letting man-made religious ideas ruin Christianity which is pure of man-made agendas only in its Celestial Torah form. All the earthly variants, which Judaism is the original one, are man-made priesthood frauds and being fraudulent of course have brought untold death and misery into our world.

    All Christians must follow Jesus’ wisdom and “seek the truth that sets you free” of sin in religious form, e.g. the great sin of Yiddish Jews creating theri Yiddish colony of Israel that instantly made all Jews and Christians a target for Middle East Muslims, e.g., creating a Pope and world domination religion when Jesus told us clearly to never elevate any human being to “Father” or “Master” position dictating to all other human beings like the ghost of Muhammad does to all Muhammadan idol worshipers.

    Can’t let a false idol, which the Bible is as much as the Quran, both exposed now by historical discovery as complete frauds of ancient Jewish history and yet Bible and Quran idolators still believe every word is true. With this kind of cognitive dissonance at work in billions of Abrahamic believers, its no wonder we have a world at war (again) and will have such until intelligent Christians, Jews and Muslims start telling the truth about Abraham and serving a demented child-killer wannabe and his Moloch god.

  32. Stephen, you’ve been claiming to know the “real” meaning of the word Torah and that no rabbis know it for weeks now. I as an above-averagely-educated layperson and certainly any rabbi can tell you that Torah means teaching. So please, enlighten us with your knowledge as to the real etymology. If it’s as demonstrably nonsensical as your Isis-Ra-El theory (ancient Egyptians didn’t pronounce it that way, the Hebrew word is YISrael, Egyptian has basically no relation to Semitic languages, humans around the world have a finite number of simple sounds to make so you shouldn’t be surprised to hear them in various languages but you shouldn’t assume they mean the same thing), I could use the laugh.

  33. Fran, Judaism attributes death to the natural progression of life. It has nothing to do with humanity being collectively responsible for Adam and Eve’s sin.

  34. I don’t think it’s as complex as you’re making it out to be. Any OT text may or may not be talking about a messiah — that question can be answered whether you assume the Gospels to be true or not. Further, questioning whether the Gospel accounts happened can be done whether you believe the OT texts to be messianic or not. Very few Jews have any interest in puncturing the Gospel stories. We do, however, resent when we’re told that we don’t understand our own scriptures.

  35. “As for the “torture-porn” statement, that’s Rolling Stone or Mother Jones or Village Voice lingo that really has no relation to the movie, which in depicting what Jesus went through, is a lot closer to reality than any prior Jesus movie, which neatly glossed over the gruesome horrors he endured”

    That is a load of bunk. The film was made with a “gore film” sensibility when it came to those scenes. Using graphic imagery to shock the audience in an exploitative manner. There was more restraint and tasteful depictions of gore in the horror films of the period. People went to see it BECAUSE it was gratuitously violent.

    If the person on the receiving end was anyone but Jesus, the Christian crowd would be protesting the film as irresponsibly violent and cruel. It was marketing genius on the part of Mel Gibson.

  36. Well I think Susan was responding to Fran’s citation of Isaiah 11, which actually is universally accepted as messianic (“the lion shall lay down with the lamb”). As for Isaiah 53, it’s not true that there was ever universal agreement by Jews that the chapter refers to an individual who will be the messiah. Some interpretations were messianic, others were as varied as stating that seminal emissions were a good omen for a sick person (53:10, “he shall see seed”). Even the church father Origen in the 200s wrote that a Jewish opponent of his held as early as then that the chapter referred to the nation. I won’t bore everyone with parsing the Christological claims to Isaiah 53, it’ll be easier to just google it yourself. Suffice it to say we have our interpretations and we have ours.

  37. Garson, you are correct about unanimity, which is why I was very careful to say “majority” without saying unanimity. I believe that in Justin Martyr’s “dialogue” with Trypho, Trypho cites Isaiah 53 as referring to a collective, ie the nation, too. But again, he was not in the majority, at least in terms of scholarly opinion of his time, or of the millennium-and-half which followed.

    Note that I did not say that Isaiah 53 proves Jesus, because that would be a circular argument. It would be circular because it assumes the Gospel story is true. First it has to be shown to be true. I believe that can be done, but that’s another matter.

    So the issue is a lot more modest that that…it’s whether it refers to an individual, whoever that individual may be, or whether it refers to a collective, such as the nation, or something else. And again, most scholars on both sides of the fence, for most of the last 20 centuries, thought it referred to an individual, because a plain reading yields that conclusion.

    The argument that it refers to the nation is based on many of the immediately preceding “suffering servant” chapters, which indeed refer to the nation of Israel suffering, while doing the work of God. But again, the problem with applying that to Isaiah 53 is that within that particular chapter, the suffering servant is lauded for carrying the people’s burdens, infirmities, and sins, so in that instance, the suffering servant can’t be the people, or the statement would be pointless. Moreover, in the suffering servant chapters, there are interesting verses which refer to an individual as well as the nation. There is even a verse or two that appears to say both.

  38. Garson, even if we limit the discussion to the areas in which all sides agree, it is quite complex. People on all sides can argue otherwise, but their very arguments end up being self-refuting. For the better part of 20 centuries, thanks to the arrogance of Euro-Christendom’s belief in replacement theology, and its persecution of the Jewish people, complexities on all sides were swept under the rug. But today, where people have instant access to knowledge through the Internet and instants means of transmitting it to each other, it’s really a whole new ballgame for everyone. Both Christianity and Judaism are going to have to deal with the outcomes in the coming decades….and the only certainty I have is that when the dust has settled, the claims of both Christianity and Judaism will remain standing. But what will change will be how each one sees the other. Each side has its little fictions it has built up about the other that have little basis in objective reality.

  39. Stephen, all you’re really doing is making up your own religion, based on outlandish claims that are rooted in nothing — no historical claims or anything else that is capable of being verified or falsified in the real world. Meanwhile, you rely on the kind of old and discredited radical skeptical analysis of both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament — an analysis which violates the fundamental rules of historical evidence.

  40. Just to be clear, the Jewish interpretation I’m talking about sees the first verses of Isaiah 53 portraying the nation of Israel as suffering for the transgressions of the non-Jewish nations against it, not its own transgressions. The “people” are those other nations and speaking in the plural. Also, the Jewish interpretations through the centuries aren’t necessarily “scholarly” — I;’m talking about Talmudic, Midrashic, Targumic, etc. Not the Bart Ehrmans of that day.

  41. Fran, if you were Jewish, would you be likely to believe in a religious system that severed itself from its Hebraic roots more than 18 centuries ago, and then proceeded to claim that God disowned your own people in favor of itself?

    The first Christians were Jews who did not call themselves Christians. They simply believed that the long-awaited Messiah had come in the person of their rabbi, Jesus. Yet within a century or two of their time, the faith had become something quite foreign to Jews, and within three or four centuries, one had to literally leave the Jewish community to join the Christian community, in essence becoming a traitor.

    Would you have agreed to such terms if you were a Jew? If you loved your parents and family and community, would you have left them behind and joined their persecutors?

    That has been the sociological reality for the better part of 20 centuries. Does it make sense logically or theologically that the two had to become separate? No, not at all. But historically, that is what happened. And to talk about it as if it didn’t is to deny reality.

  42. In contrast to the past, today is, again, a whole new world, but to leapfrog over the past 20 centuries is impossible. Tremendous changes are afoot regarding all religions, but they must reckon with the past….and in the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, this is especially the case.

  43. The problem with identifying “my people” with other nations is that it forces you to say that Isaiah is speaking in the voice of other nations when he says “my people.” It’s not an impossible translation, but if the goal is to get to the intended meaning of the writer, it really is quite a stretch…which is why most scholars, Jewish and Christian alike, didn’t go there for many, many centuries.

    As for pre-modern scholarly Jewish interpretations, I agree that’s shorthand for the Jewish sages throughout the ages, not the Bart Ehrmans of today. But again, for many hundreds of years, even past the Middle Ages, the majority — not all but most — of Jewish and Christian scholars alike treated Isaiah 53 as referring to an individual, and a messianic figure in particular. The only real debate was who that individual was. And on that score, I agree that Isaiah 53 by itself tells us nothing about who that individual is. Again, in order to prove it’s Jesus, the first step would be to prove the veracity of the Gospels. But that’s the very issue about which people disagree….another matter entirely.

  44. Yes I did. As a longtime fan of old school exploitation films, I saw it from a less ecstatic POV. It was far more exploitative in its depiction of violence than most horror films of the era (the last 2 decades have not been kind to the horror genre).

    Bear in mind, Gibson was not afraid to exploit the same gratuituous gore sensibilities when the subject were the Mayans in Apocalypto. He got piloried for gore in that film, but praised for it in the Passion.

  45. Larry, the fact that living things die doesn’t mean they need to die, ie that it couldn’t be any other way. And if you think death is truly or ultimately natural, that certainly is not how people feel at funerals of loved ones. Sometimes you have to listen to your gut and to that of other people. And no matter how the mind seeks to rationalize, our gut tells us that there is nothing normal or natural about death, no matter how inevitable it is.

    AS to saying that nothing in this world is “eternal in nature,” that statement, if true, is eternally true, and thus contradicts itself. Truth is eternal, and by truth, I don’t mean anything specifically religious or not religious….but any factual statement.

    Eternity rests in people’s hearts and has to be drummed out of them through sophisticated rationalizations which seek to explain it away.

    Even certain longings that people have can’t be explained by simple reference to this world. Every desire normally has an earthly fulfillment. We physically hunger, and there is food to satisfy. We have sex drives, and that has its fulfillment. We thirst, and there is water to quench. But many people, if they are honest with themselves, experience a desire for something that finds no fulfillment whatsoever in this world. If there is a desire that finds no fulfillment in this life, consider the possibility that it was meant for fulfillment beyond this life. One of the greatest testimonies for the existence of God and a relationship to Him is that of countless people who say that desire, which found no fulfillment in anything else, found fulfillment in Him.

    For those of us who navigate life through our minds, that is hard to take. But it can’t be so easily dismissed. The reason I believe as I do is that I find the evidence for what I believe intellectually compelling. But even I would be lying if I said this was just an intellectual exercise for myself. It goes deeper than that….and I find to my shame that sometimes my intellectual pride gets in the way of experiencing Him, even as it argues in favor of Him.

  46. Well, Larry, you’re correct about Mel Gibson in that his movies tend to show lots of blood and gore, much of it unnecessary, but two things. First, in the case of Jesus, that, again, is what happened to him and it really needed to be portrayed, unlike in the prior Jesus movies where it was glossed over. And second, I find that the same people who regularly scold traditionally-minded people when they object to excessive violence in films are suddenly sounding like church ladies when the violence in question involves a religious movie involving a subject that actually did include a tremendous amount of blood and gore.

  47. Jack,

    Jesus acknowledged rejection by the Jewish nation when he told them:

    “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent to her–how often I wanted to gather your children the way a hen gathers her chick under her wings! But you did not want it. Look! Your house is abandoned to you. For I say to you, you will by no means see me from now until you say: “Blessed is the one who comes in God’s name!”

    Will they accept or reject Jesus and his millenial rule? That remains to be seen.

    The first-century Christian congregations were composed of natural Jews, including the apostles. An important event occurred on Pentecost 33 C.E., when God’s Holy Spirit was poured out on 120 who attended (Acts 1:15; 2:1-42). These were able to speak in different tongues, and 3,000 became believers. They formed the initial group of spirit-anointed, born-again Christians who would be a part of God’s kingdom or heavenly government (Jesus’ covenant of a kingdom with them; Luke 22:29).

    On Pentecost 36 C.E, that same invitation to be part of God’s kingdom was provided to Gentiles as well (Acts 10:1-48; 11:1), who also became believers and Christians.

    How do we know those natural Jews and Gentiles were considered as Christians?

    Acts 11:26 brings out:

    “After he found him, he brought them to Antioch. For a whole year, they assembled with them in the congregation and taught quite a crowd, and it was first in Antioch that the disciples were known as Christians.”

    When the apostle Paul was giving his defense for preaching and described his conversion to Christianity before Agrippa, Agrippa told Paul:

    “…In a short time, you would persuade me to become a Christian.” (Acts 26:28)

    Further, the apostle Peter wrote:

    “But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed but let him keep on glorifying God while bearing this name.” (1 Peter 4:16)

    Lastly, as Romans 2:28, 29 brings out:

    “For he is not a Jew who is one on the outside, nor is circumcision something on the outside, on the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the HEART by spirit and not a written code. That person’s praise comes from God, not from people.”

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